A way of life … is the perfect slogan to describe Marbella. Its name alone conjures up images of cosmopolitan restaurants and glitzy beach clubs, that the tourists, investors and celebrities find so hard to resist.
A short 10-minute drive from Aloha Hill Club, Marbella has come a long way, once a humble fishing village, today it is one of the world’s most sought-after postcodes. The town was transformed in the 1950s by Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe who opened the iconic Marbella Club Hotel on the stretch of coast that became the Golden Mile.
Marbella is much more than blue skies, pristine sandy beaches, sunshine and glitzy hotels and beach clubs. There is also a beautiful marina, one of the longest beach promenades in Europe and of course the charming Old Town. It is easy to lose yourself whilst wandering through the cobbled streets of traditional homes, restaurants and tiny boutiques. If you are looking for the typical tourist experience head to Plaza de los Naranjos to dine under the dappled shade of the orange trees.
The prince wanted to make Marbella a glamorous star-studded resort and it worked… today it even counts Michelle Obama as a fan.
Just 10 minutes from the Aloha Hill Club, you’ll find the iconic Puerto Banús. Designed to rival St. Tropez and Monte Carlo, the marina opened in 1970 with a lavish party where the glitterati were serenaded by a young Julio Iglesias. Over the last 50 years it has become the must-do destination for over 5 million visitors per year, tempting celebrities, royalty, tourists and expats alike.
The marina is quite something, super yachts gently sway on the water, offering a glimpse into another world for those enjoying the view over a drink or meal in one of the many portside restaurants, cafes and bars. When the sun goes down it really comes to life, many of the nightclubs are world famous, Aqwa Mist, Tibu, Pangea and Ocean Club Marbella all have star pulling power. If you like to shop you will not be disappointed. A leisurely stroll along the quayside stores provides plenty of opportunities to splash some cash on designer labels. Just a few minutes’ walk from the beach you’ll find El Corte Ingles, Spain’s most famous department store and the Marina Banús shopping mall. With so much to offer, it is no wonder that property is in short supply.
An extremely popular area designed in the style of a traditional Andaluz village, the land was developed by Jose Banús, the architect of the famous marina, to create a desirable residential suburb directly above Puerto Banús. Starting at the bullring (a fantastic venue also used for concerts and events), the area includes expanses of natural countryside, lakes and of course spectacular mountain and sea views as far as Morocco.
This highly desirable corner of Marbella also has the highest concentration of golf courses in Europe and is often referred to as ‘Golf Valley’, making it a magnet for Spanish and international golfers alike. Yet, there is much more than golf to recommend the area. Just a short drive from the Aloha Hill Club you can visit the charming ‘pueblo’ or check out the many restaurants, salons, gyms, independent shops and boutiques, many of which can be found in the main shopping area at Centro Plaza. Every Saturday between 10.00-15.00 there is also a colourful market selling everything from ceramics to spices.
By design, Nueva Andalucía’s close proximity to Puerto Banús means that within minutes you can be in the port, shopping until you drop, enjoy a portside drink whilst marvelling at the super yachts and when the sun goes down sample the world-famous nightlife.
If you travel 15 minutes to the east of Marbella town centre, you’ll find Elviria, an upmarket enclave with a relaxed cosmopolitan feel, popular with European expats. Divided into two halves by the coast road, on the mountainside there are vast expanses of countryside and numerous golf courses and on the beachside you are within a stone’s throw of the global beach club phenomenon and celebrity hotspot that is Nikki Beach (Marbella) and the 5-star Don Carlos hotel, as well as some of the most beautiful beaches on the Costa del Sol.
Relatively small yet a truly tempting corner of the coast, it is surprising that there are so many restaurants, including the Michelin starred El Lago, hotels, bars and chiringuitos. If you are planning to indulge in a fantastic meal, a day on the beach or enjoy some star-spotting at Nikki Beach, it is all possible and with easy reach of the Aloha Hill Club. Those who enjoy retail therapy can take advantage of La Cañada, a huge shopping mall packed with popular Spanish and international brands all under the same roof.
Sports and outdoor activities are also well catered for by the Hofsaess Tennis Academy, the Don Carlos Tennis Club and there’s even a zip wire, while the surrounding countryside of forests and rivers makes for fantastic hiking, cycling and pony trekking. Alternatively, as the sun goes down you could just find a spot to sit down and relax as the fishermen cast their lines and the waves gently lap the sand.
If you are looking for the perfect picture postcard location, Benahavis should be at the top of your to do list. Affectionately known as the ‘dining room of Andalucia’ due to the incredible number of bars and restaurants on every street and plaza, there is also the Moorish Amanhavis boutique hotel with its charming garden restaurant. Take a stroll around the pretty winding streets of whitewashed homes splashed with colourful flowers to get a real sense of the famed laidback Spanish lifestyle.
There’s also a numerous of small boutiques and the David Marshal gallery where you can pick up stylish original silver sculptures. Benahavis is also a favourite amongst international celebrities, attracted by the natural beauty and also the security offered by the stunning private estates nestling in the landscape that forms La Zagaleta.
The private estate is purported to be the wealthiest enclave in Southern Spain set against a natural backdrop of oak forests, lakes and river views. It is surprising to realise that you are only a 10-minute drive inland, with Marbella and The Aloha Hill Club to the east and Estepona to the west. Close to all of the action on the coast yet almost in another world.
It would be difficult to imagine a more iconic town than Mijas, it is the epitome of what we all consider to be a traditional white village. Yet this is only half of the story, the town of Mijas has two distinct halves, there is the Mijas Pueblo high up in the mountains and also Mijas Costa comprising the popular beach resorts of Cabopino, Calahonda, Miraflores and Riviera del Sol.
Mijas Pueblo is picture postcard pretty, surrounded by countryside and golf courses and it is synonymous with fiestas, festivals and the traditional donkey taxis. Every street is bursting with gift shops and restaurants and yet it has managed to retain its charming character with a good balance of the old and new.
If you’re interested in history there’s plenty to see, such as the Church of the Immaculate Conception using elements of a 17th century castle and pilgrims flock to visit the Grotto of the Virgin de la Peña where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a group of children and the most famous attraction is the Mijas Wine Museum.
During the summertime on Saturdays it’s possible to take a free guided walk through the countryside, allowing you to really soak up the beautiful surroundings. It is worth a visit for the spectacular Mediterranean views alone.
If you fancy a trip along the ‘other Costa del Sol’ as the western side is affectionately known, you come across a lovely little marina and golf community that is Puerto de la Duquesa. Although not too far apart geographically and sharing the same blissful climate, this side of the coast is much less developed and has bags of character and natural scenery.
Just 30 minutes from Marbella and the Aloha Hill Club, the area is blessed with seemingly endless Blue Flag pale sandy beaches and the port is popular for sports and outdoor activities. Offering full marina services, boat trips, scuba diving and wake boarding. History buffs can take a short walk to the small fishing village called Castillo de la Duquesa (from where the marina takes its name) where there are unexcavated Roman ruins.
Eating, drinking and nightlife opportunities are all present in abundance. There is also a fantastic array of cafes, bars and restaurants offering all types of international cuisines. From Thai and Indian to Spanish including superb local fresh fish. Golf aficionados may be interested to know that La Duquesa Golf and Country Club is designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. The famed courses at Alcaidesa or Valderrama are just a little further towards Gibraltar.
Sotogrande is one of the most sought-after destinations in Spain, created by a wealthy American to provide his vision of the perfect luxury lifestyle of golf, polo, upmarket residences and a marina. No detail has been overlooked, pedestrianised walkways are teeming with shops, from boutiques to banks, bars and restaurants. The marina offers everything you could possibly require, from water sports, sailing clubs, moorings, utilities and security, and if this is not enough there are 12km of pristine sandy beaches to enjoy.
Located 45 minutes’ drive from the Aloha Hill Club, at the far end of the Costa del Sol where the Costa de la Luz begins, this enormous privately owned development spans some 20km, running along the coast from Gibraltar right up to the Sierra Almenara mountains. The all year round sunshine and spectacular golf, mountain and sea views spanning as far as Morocco are just part of the magic.
Golfers will be familiar with Sotogrande’s world famous Valderrama Golf Club, host to the Ryder Cup amongst others. There is also a long-standing reputation for attracting well-heeled visitors and residents, such as the European and UK royal family, former prime ministers Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar who has a second home on the Costa del Sol.