The Costa del Sol is one of the most perfect locations in Europe for a hugely diverse range of leisure activities. Its warm climate, miles of beaches, high rugged mountains, and unspoilt interior allow the area to offer every kind of sport and activity you could wish for.
The Quiet Life
For those seeking more tranquil activities, there are numerous clubs to join from Bridge, Chess and Dominos, to Bowls, Snooker, Pool and Darts. English bars along the coast also hold quiz nights for the regulars. For keeping fit, why not join a yoga or aerobics class.
Many foreigners' first aim when they arrive in Spain is to learn the language. There are many schools and private tutors throughout the area to choose from, at various prices. Anyone seeking to further their education or learn a new skill such as computing, are also catered for, again, a variety of schools and classes exist in english.
Andalucia boasts many Nature Reserves and National Parks, abundant in rare flora and fauna. Some of them are only a few minutes drive from the coast. Just north of Malaga is the Flamingo lake, where one of the largest populations of Flamingoes in Europe live. All through the region, a careful eye will pick out eagles, hawks and buzzards, colibris, bee-eaters and hoopoes. The spanish lynx also lives here, a rare but marvellous sight, along with wild boar, wolves and a variety of reptiles. Lesser known are the large number of beautiful lakes and rivers in Andalucia, helping to support these rare creatures - as well as the humans. Wild terrapins and turtles live here too. Nature Reserves and Parks are becoming more and more important in Spain, as the country realises the importance of its natural assets. A gentle walk or long trek through these areas can be a rewarding experience.
The gentle Mediterranean is the perfect venu for watersports, although some non motorised activities are sanctioned on some of the Lakes. Jet Skis, motorboats, aqua-paragliding, pedalos and water-skiing are popular fun along the whole coast. Fishing boats with or without crew can be hired from most of the marinas for a days game fishing, or just sit back and a trip out to see the dolphins. Scuba diving, windsurfing and sailing are also popular as the calmness of the sea is perfect for beginners. West of Gibraltar, the spanish coast hits the Atlantic - here, there is a little more wind and much higher waves, so surfing is the name of the game !
Cycling is a very seriously taken sport in Spain, and Andalucia is no exception. There are many clubs from amateur to professional status for road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, endurance and fun tours. The weather, variety of landscapes and new and old roads are making the area a popular destination for cyclists from all over Europe. Furthermore, parts of the Eastern Costa del Sol are now chosen by olympic athletic teams from all over Europe for winter break training courses, or warm weather training in the summer. Training courses on offer include triathlon, iron man, long distance running, and mountain biking to name but a few. Tennis and Squash are available almost everywhere, and there are various karting tracks and quad biking centres for those wishing to wear a helmet when its 95 degrees.
Otherwise known as the Costa del Golf, this region has a plethera of courses from very good to world championship quality. You're never too far away from a course, and you can even buy property close to the greens. Prices vary from place to place, but are generally reasonable. If you find yourself making up a foursome with a film star, you know you paid a lot for your green fees.
If you're looking to jump out of a plane, or hang on a frame under the large kite after jumping off a high ledge, then this is the place for you. Hang gliding, paragliding and parachuting are common place, and in summer you really don't get stopped by bad weather ! If you want something around you while 3000 feet up, why not take flying or gliding lessons. Failing that, a more sedate balloon trip over the countryside will do nicely.
If you'd rather watch everyone else running around, an evening at Malaga F.C. is for you. Malaga is proud to boast its " premier league " team, and if lucky with tickets, you'll get to see them play Real Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia. Basketball is also big business in Spain, and again Malaga offers the chance to see top quality professionals play.
Golf tournaments and celebrity matches also provide good entertainment, along with world championship watersports like power boating and jet skiing. If its the 3.30 at Newmarket you're missing most, console yourself with a trip to the race course at La Cala, Mijas Costa.
Yes, you can even ski here. About two hours drive from the beaches takes you to the Sierra Nevada. High, snow capped mountains offering a full ski resort at reasonable prices. You really can ski in the morning and be on the beach in the afternoon. Estacion Sierra Nevada is one of the best equipped in Spain, with modern hotels, 45 marked runs, 20 ski lifts, long distance trail, and 266 snow machines, just in case. Minimum altitude 2,100m, maximum 3,300m.
It is also well worth mentioning the appeal the area has for artists. Artists from all over the world come to this region to paint its beauty and experience the special light here. Many of them stay for long periods, and some never leave - The Andalucian lifestyle lends itself very easily to the Bohemian.
Days out and Trips
Gibraltar is about 1.5 hrs drive from Malaga. A fascinating place steeped in history. A day out here means shopping in english supermarkets, Marks and Spencer, and real english pubs. If you have time after all that, a visit to old battlements, Europa point ( the southern most tip of Europe ) with its views over the Straits of Gibraltar and Morocco, the apes at the top of the rock and a walk through St. Michaels cave should keep you busy. Concerts are often held in this cave too. The Rock is a warren of caves and passages, mainly used by the military, and is said to contain hospitals, food stores and massive accommodation in case of attack or seige. A little closer to home is Malaga itself, with its superb shopping centres, marinas, beaches and fully working port. The city offers castles and cathedrals, parks and gardens and numerous museums including the birthplace of Picasso.
Another city well worth a visit is Granada, most notable is the Alhambra, a perfectly preserved palace and water gardens left over from the Moorish occupation. For a day out in style a trip to Puerto Banus near Marbella is a must. Here, you'll experience the worlds top brands while shopping in the exclusive stores, see some of the largest private yachts anywhere, and be able to compare the different shades of red on Bentleys and Rolls Royces.
There are many, many white villages to visit in Andalucia, and in fact there are special routes to travel from one to the other - each area specialising in different produce. In La Axarquia you will find Wine routes, Olive Oil routes and Citrus routes - each village in the route producing its own unique tastes, for you to sample. Each village and town has its own Fiestas, normally a religious or produce related celebration or party, that can last from one day to a week.
For shows and concerts, there are numerous venues and locations, some indoors, some outdoors - notable exceptions are places like the Cuevas de Nerja - the Caves of Nerja where concerts, ballet and Flamenco festivals are regularly held. If Flamenco is what you're after, you'll normally find something, somewhere, all the time. However, best are the impromptu perfomances by locals in the typical spanish bars, and during Fiestas.
If theres no time for scuba diving or hiking in the hills in search of a lion, you can always pop into one of various zoos, wildlife parks, and sea life centres.
Finally when you've done all of the above, you'll need to cool down, spend a day at the Aqua parks of Torremolinos or Fuengirola or Velez-Malaga - fun for all.
There is no end to the number of bars and restaurants in the province. Catering for all tastes for all nationalties, along the coast you'll find a restaurant serving exactly what you want, in the style you want to eat it. For a taste of real spanish cuisine, head towards spanish bars and restaurants on the coast, or better still go into the cities, or out into the country - here you will probably find the menu only in spanish, but if you order wrong, the price won't hurt. Tapas bars are a must on your visit, often before your main meal - stop into one and order a bite sized amount of their speciality - ensalada de pulpo ( octopus salad ) or tortilla ( omelette hot or cold ).
Bars and restaurants stay open well into the night in Spain, allowing you time to talk, eat and enjoy your evening at your leisure - after all, that's what it's all about.