Just over a week ago, I returned from a complimentary vacation on the Costa del Sol. I’d been invited to stay at the Santa Cruz Suites, which form part of California Beach Resort at Club La Costa World in Fuengirola. A resort holiday isn’t my usual scene – mainly because I usually travel solo – but I decided to take them up on their offer as it would give me the chance to see a part of Spain I’d never been to before, and to experience a new style of travel.
Of course, the promise of a jacuzzi in my bedroom may have swayed me slightly too…
Club La Costa World is a huge enterprise with hotels and real estate in the UK, USA, Turkey and Austria, as well as Spain. California Beach Resort is actually part of a group of Club La Costa World resorts on the Costa del Sol, which together provide access to 21 swimming pools, nightly entertainment, an eclectic mix of activities, and thoughtfully designed luxurious accommodation.
Built into the hillside a few minutes’ from the sea, the suites at California Beach Resort are designed in a smart architectural style using shades of white and terracotta. A lot of thought has gone into their construction so that each apartment has the best possible view and receives plenty of sunshine.
CALIFORNIA BEACH RESORT
California Beach Resort comprises both the San Diego Suites and the slightly newer Santa Cruz Suites.
While their location is ideal for European tourists seeking sunshine and affordable airline fares, the immediate vicinity might not fulfil everyone’s expectations of the ‘sunshine coast’. The standard for accommodation along the Costa del Sol is to build a large complex just behind the massive coastal highway, and most of these do not come with beach access. What sets a resort apart is its ability to provide a comfortable and peaceful atmosphere in attractive settings where all of your needs are catered for, and CLC World does this exceptionally well.
Once settled in its homely hospitality, you could easily spend your entire holiday on the premises, but it would be a shame to miss out on the beautiful historic cities, olive tree plantations, mountainous scenery and adventurous water sports that make Andalusia such an exciting place to explore.
Club La Costa World takes security very seriously. Not only are the streets patrolled by 24-hour uniformed guards, but suites come with key card access and alarm systems. When inside the apartment, you can use an additional chain lock, and a safe is provided for your valuables.
Housekeeping will normally visit midweek to clean your suite from top to bottom, but for a small fee you can request that they come more frequently. To help protect the environment, they will only replace used towels, and most trash is recycled in colour-coded bin bags.
BEDROOM WITH JACUZZI
To say that the Santa Cruz Suites are luxurious would be a massive understatement. No expense has been spared when it comes to the inclusion of state-of-the-art mod cons and practical yet aesthetically pleasing designs.
My bedroom came with its own jacuzzi, huge washroom and powerful shower, as well as a selection of towels and bathrobes. An electronic shutter came down over sliding patio doors so I could walk straight out onto the balcony during the day, yet sleep uninterrupted by the bright morning sunshine if I needed a lie in.
There’s plenty of storage space, as well as handy items like a washing machine, ironing board and iron. The whole apartment is also fitted with a temperature-control unit.
LOUNGE AND KITCHEN
If you want to cook for yourself, you can pick up basic supplies at the small store in Zacs First Avenue. There’s also a grocery store within the Marina del Sol Resort nextdoor, a roadside garage and shop about 15 minutes’ walk along the highway to Fuengirola, and plenty of larger supermarkets in the city centre.
Suites contain virtually every appliance you could think of, including an oven, microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge/freezer and dishwasher. My fridge even came stocked with complimentary bread, milk, juice, soft drinks, eggs, butter, biscuits, beer and wine!
If you’d like to stay in but can’t face cooking, another option is to order takeaway pizzas from Safari restaurant and, for the perfect pyjama party, DVDs are available to rent from Zacs First Avenue.
Despite the indulgent nature of the suites, it’s likely you’ll spend more of your time appreciating the Spanish weather from your balcony.
CLC World have taken measures to ensure that each suite comes with plenty of outdoor space. Many rooms have poolside views and some have outdoor jacuzzis. There’s space for outdoor dining or simply lying back in a lounge chair admiring the palm trees, water features and occasional soaring eagle.
Blue towels are provided for outdoor use and you can also take these down to the poolside loungers.
DINING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Within California Beach Resort, there are two great restaurants: Safari, and Sunset Bar and Restaurant. At both, the waiters are very attentive, food is served as quickly as the dish allows, and everything is of the highest quality. Reservations should be made in advance, especially at Safari.
Safari has plenty of outdoor and indoor seating and is located beside the pool of the Santa Cruz Suites. The atmosphere is laid back and the menu extensive. Listed in five languages and served from 6:00 pm until 10:30 pm, you can choose from over a dozen starters, followed by pasta and rice dishes, fish, meats or vegetarian, and a large selection of desserts. The meals start from around €10, reaching a maximum of €25 for the fillet steak. There’s also a detailed code so you can determine whether or not your meal will contain one of 14 common ingredients that can cause allergies. A buffet breakfast is prepared here between 9:30 and 11:30 am, and a snack menu is served from 12:30 until 4:30 pm.
Sunset Bar and Restaurant is located within the clubhouse of the San Diego Suites. The menu is more limited and a little pricier too, but the experience a little more indulgent. It’s surprising, then, that this is also the location for a schedule of evening entertainment, including tribute acts, karaoke, magic shows and traditional flamenco dancing. If you’re looking to have a romantic evening, plan to be finished by 9:30 pm, but if you want to join in the fun, this is when it starts! There’s also a happy hour here Monday to Saturday from 6:00 until 7:00 pm.
SPORTS AND RELAXATION
Guests staying at California Beach Resort receive complimentary access to a fitness centre, which is quite small, but contains a good variety of machines. There’s a backroom where scheduled exercise classes are held, as well as changing rooms with lockers. Exercise classes include stretching, pilates, yoga and tai-chi, and are held at 10:00 am on weekday mornings, while additional pool-based sessions take place just after 1:00 pm.
There’s a massive selection of fun activities to get involved with, such as archery, air rifle shooting, poolside bingo, mini golf, dance classes, pool, darts and table tennis competitions, and even paintball. For the little ones, a mini club provides arts and crafts, swimming pool games, cake decoration classes, pirate parties, cinema nights and mini discos.
Also located within the fitness centre is a reception desk where you can book spa treatments. Various types of massage are on offer, including Swedish holistic, circulation, sports, Indian head, and back massages, while reflexology, hot body treatments and a range of facial treatments are available too. They also have a salon offering hair styling, manicures, pedicures, masks, wraps, scrubs and waxing. Appointments (all day Monday to Friday) should be made in advance.
Your nearest city is Fuengirola. While the first 15 minutes of your walk into town are right beside the highway, you can then cross over a footbridge and follow a pleasant seaside promenade for another half an hour or so to reach the port, train station and city centre.
En route, you’ll pass a picturesque castle, cross over a footbridge and have plenty of opportunities to detour onto the soft grey sands of the Playa del Castillo. If you can manage to get a permit, you can even make use of the ‘barbeque boats’ that line the beach.
For food, there are some great tapas restaurants in the square behind the post office. At night, bars with outside seating stay open until the early hours. Many have a British theme, but more authentic offerings are not too hard to find.
The booking office inside the reception of the San Diego Suites, ‘Zacs First Avenue’, has a plethora of information on local activities and excursions in Fuengirola. An agent is on hand to answer any questions and to take bookings. You can also ask to be put through to them from your room if you dial the operator first.
Popular day trips include Seville, Granada, Gibraltar and Tangier, as well as the gorgeous hillside town of Ronda, where you can take a tour of the bullring or join a wine-tasting experience.
For the more active tourist, there are jeep and self-drive buggy safaris, scuba diving experiences, sailing trips and dolphin-watching tours.
CLC World frequently advertises discounts if you book multiple tours through them, so keep an eye out for further details in your welcome pack, or inquire at the booking desk.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
There are various ways to reach CLC World from Málaga airport. The easiest is a taxi, which should cost you around €45 and take about half an hour. The cheapest is to take a train to Fuengirola (€2.70; 40 minutes; departing roughly every 20 minutes), followed by a bus along the highway (or a taxi for around €10 if that’s too complicated!). On your return, you might be able to hop aboard an airport bus (€8.50) arranged by the resort. However, there needs to be sufficient demand (minimum 20 people) for it to run, and it only does the journey twice a day. Reserve this in advance if you’re interested.
Within the resort itself, there’s a small train, which visits all of the main points of interest (restaurants, receptions, shops, sports facilities, etc), as well as porters who can deliver your luggage to your suite. The reception desk can easily arrange for a local taxi to take you anywhere you’d like to go, or you could book yourself on a day trip to a particular destination and use your free time to explore. When using taxis, be aware that they charge around 25% extra on weekends.
The centre of Fuengirola can be reached on foot in about 45 minutes, after which, anywhere between there and Málaga is accessible by train.
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