Extending across rolling Andalucian countryside between mountains and sea, Benahavis is the lesser-known, sophisticated neighbour of Marbella; a captivating destination for golfers, foodies, luxury…
Marbella is a historic town and much more. The broader area of Marbella covers well beyond the town itself, extending from between Estepona and San Pedro de Alcantara in the west, inland up to Benahavis, and along the coast to Cabopino in the east.
Here we look at Marbella’s best neighbourhoods including Benahavis (this is it’s own district but it’s so close to Marbella we wanted to include it too). There is so much to see and do in Marbella and all within easy reach but depending on your priorities, it can be a minefield knowing where to stay. So, hopefully this will help you distinguish one area from another when choosing your next luxury private villa holiday on the southern Mediterranean coast.
This sprawling residential development, one of the largest in Marbella, is known locally as “Golf Valley”, as it is home to numerous courses: Aloha, Los Naranjos, Las Brisas and La Quinta Golf Clubs.
Where is it? Nueva Andalucia sits to the north of Puerto Banús, starting from the A7 coast road and stretching north to the AP-7 toll highway, and bordered on the west by the Rio Verde.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? As you’d expect from such an extensive residential area, on-site amenities are good. You’ll find an excellent range of shops at Centro Plaza shopping centre, close to the A7, plus others at La Campana. There are numerous restaurants in the neighbourhood, covering many international cuisines and catering to all tastes.
Quiet residences close to Puerto Banus
Situated in the heart of Golf Valley, and backed by La Concha mountain, this development is well-located for both Las Brisas and Aloha golf courses, with properties lining the fairways – the latter is one of the best-established golf clubs in the area. Aloha Pueblo is a pretty village with traditional style townhouses covered in bougainvillea, as well as bars and restaurants.
Where is it? Leave the A7 at the Puerto Banus exit (175). Aloha Golf is just 3km from Puerto Banus, while Marbella is 8km away.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? There are many shops and restaurants in Nueva Andalucia, as mentioned above, but Puerto Banus is very nearby too, with its designer boutiques and beach clubs.
Golf in the shade of La Concha
Also enjoying a prime location sitting in Nueva Andalucia’s renowned golfing area, and bordered to the west by the Guadaiza river, Los Naranjos is a delightful residential development. Named after an orange grove, the golf course whose name it bears was designed by the highly respected Robert Trent Jones Sr.
The development consists of white apartment blocks and villas, surrounded by lush lawns and shaded by tall palm trees.
Where is it? Located to the west of Aloha Golf, close to the AP7 toll motorway (exit 172). Leave the A7 at the exit 174. Los Naranjos is just 5km from Puerto Banus, while Marbella is 10km away.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Nueva Andalucia has a good selection of food shops, bars and restaurants, while Puerto Banus with its smart restaurants and international brand names and designer fashion boutiques is nearby. The nearest beach is Playa de Cortijo Blanco.
Glitzy playground for the international jetset
Built in 1970 by Jose Banus, this renowned development in Nueva Andalucia is centred around a 900-plus-mooring marina full of super-yachts and high-performance sports cars. Its reputation as the favoured destination for the rich and famous draws the glamorous crowd.
The most celebrated area after Marbella, Puerto Banus has buzzing nightlife, good beaches (Playa Nueva Andalucia, Playa de Levante and Playa del Rio) and beach clubs, such as Nikki Beach, Ocean Club and Sala by the Sea; and enough designer boutiques (think Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes), both in the marina itself and in shopping malls nearby, to keep even the most dedicated retail maven happy. For foodies, there are plenty of gourmet restaurants offering varied cuisines, as well as elegant bars.
Where is it? 6km west of Marbella, close to Nueva Andalucia.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? There are plenty of shops within the development itself and in nearby malls, as well as a branch of the department store El Corte Ingles, and you can buy food supplies in Nueva Andalucia.
This elegant avenue runs parallel to the coast, connecting Puerto Banus and the western part of Marbella town. The two iconic hotels, Hotel Marbella Club and Puente Romano are located here. The refined boulevard is lined with leafy green areas and flanked by exclusive properties on both sides. To the south lie beachfront villas and apartments while to the north, palatial mansions lie hidden in large private grounds. The beaches along this stretch of coast are some of Marbella’s best.
Las Lomas De Marbella Club
Classic charm near the iconic hotel
As its name suggests, this development is set on the hills behind Marbella Club, the iconic hotel that originated the town’s fame back in the 1960s.
The 35-hectare private estate next to the Golden Mile consists of plots for independent villas, and 11 complexes of apartments and townhouses with an Andalucian village feel, including features such as cobbled streets, plazas with fountains, and wrought-iron balconies. The largest residential estate, measuring 200,000m2, belongs to the Saudi Royal family.
You can play golf and tennis, and Puente Romano has superb restaurants including Dani Garcia’s Bibo and Leña.
Where is it? Close to the A7 coast road – take the Puente Romano exit. Marbella old town is 7 km away.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Nueva Andalucia, with its shopping centres, is within easy reach (3km), as well as El Corte Ingles department store, and the designer stores and gourmet restaurants of Puerto Banus (4km).
Well-established villas near Marbella’s Golden Mile
This residential area of Marbella has an unbeatable location, on the Golden Mile. Its villas and apartment complexes are built on gently sloping roads, lined with mature trees. The more long-standing villas are built on large plots. Nagüeles is located between the A7 and AP7 roads, in the area to the east of the Arroyo de las Piedras stream.
The Nagüeles Quarry is famous as the venue for the Starlite festival, where international pop stars play in a season of open-air concerts every summer.
Where is it? North of Marbella Club hotel, on the other side of the A7. Next to Las Lomas de Marbella Club.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Marbella old centre is 5km away. The nearest beaches are Playa Casablanca and Playa de la Fontilla.
North from Marbella historic town centre there are two neighbourhoods that are very established and have great proximity to the beach, nightlife and the countryside: –
Marbella Sierra Blanca
Very desirable, above the Golden Mile, with fabulous views
Named after mountains behind Marbella, the highly prestigious and sought-after gated community of Sierra Blanca enjoys an elevated position at 300m, with spectacular views of both the Golden Mile, and across the Mediterranean to Morocco. This area is also known as the hillside Golden Mile and has opulent, high-end properties – large villas with extensive grounds in contemporary, Andalucian and Moorish styles. Protected by the mountains from cold winds, the area has a subtropical micro-climate which means that the temperature is always pleasant – never too hot or too cold.
Where is it? North of the AP7 inland toll road (exit 182). Sierra Blanca is just south of Cascada de Camojan.
Proximity to shops and restaurants?Easy access to Marbella town centre (4km) via the AP7 and A7 highways for shops and restaurants; La Cañada shopping centre on the AP7 (exit 186) is 5km away. Fontanilla beach is 3 km.
Cascada de Camojan
EXCLUSIVE mountainside estate, close to nature
Situated right next to Sierra Blanca, this development is considerably smaller but even more sought-after. It is at the limit of the built-up area, so you have access to mountain trails for hiking and enjoying nature, surrounded by the scent of wild thyme and rosemary. This estate is named after a waterfall, and is bordered to the east by Arroyo de Guadalpin stream.
Villas in Cascadas de Camoján are large and luxurious, enjoying secluded spots nestled within pine woodland, yet offering fabulous sea views. This is the location for ultra-luxurious mansions with owners desiring privacy.
Where is it? Directly bordering Sierra Blanca, lying to the north-east, off exit 182 of the AP7.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Marbella centre is 5km away via the AP7 and A7 highways for shops and restaurants; La Cañada shopping centre on the AP7 exit 186 is 6km away. Playa de la Fontanilla is the nearest beach (4km).
This part of Marbella town runs along the coast from the casco historico (old centre) to La Cala de Mijas, the next town to the east.
Near a beautiful beach and pretty marina
This development lies just to the north of the A7 road, at the far eastern end of Marbella, where neighbouring Calahonda starts. The gold course is extremely scenic, with pine-covered hills and sea views.
Cabopino Golf is within easy reach of Cabopino family-friendly beach (3km), which is quieter than the beaches near Marbella old town, with shallow waters ideal for little ones to paddle safely. The next beach along to the west is Playa de Artola, backed by sand dunes covered with vegetation, and reached by a wooden walkway which crosses the dunes – look out for Torre Ladrones Moorish watchtower. This part is more secluded, a perfect setting for a naturist beach.
Another attraction of this part of Marbella is the picturesque Cabopino marina with boats and yachts of all sizes, less glitzy than Puerto Banus. You can find small bars and restaurants here. Those who prefer a more adult scene will enjoy the celebrated Nikki Beach bar at the Don Carlos Hotel, 6km from Cabopino Golf.
Where is it? The development is located just off the A7, at the Cabopino exit.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Sitio de Calahonda and La Cala de Mijas (7km), just along the A7 to the east, have shops and supermarkets. Marbella centre is 13km away.
Stay right on the beachfront, and enjoy five-star facilities
This development is all about the prime location – right on the beachfront, one of the few to enjoy this distinction. Part of the five-star GL Los Monteros Spa and Golf Resort, this leafy development has frontline beach villas on good-sized plots, as well as high-end apartments and townhouses. The hotel was originally built in 1962, making it one of the most long-standing, and its restaurant was the first hotel restaurant to receive a Michelin star in Spain. Another first – its golf course, Rio Real, was the first to be created in Marbella, in 1965.
Famous guests have included Julio Iglesias, Sean Connery and Melanie Griffith. This development comprises various estates and complexes, including Los Monteros Playa and Las Brisas. Los Monteros is bounded to the east by Arroyo Siete Revueltas stream, and on the west by Rio Real golf course.
Where is it? Between the A7 coast road and the beach, 6km east of Marbella old town.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Sleek beach club, La Cabane, at the eastern end of Playa Los Monteros, was the first such establishment to open in the world. You can find several restaurants on this beach, where Antonio Banderas’s house is located. The nearest shops are in Marbella old town centre and La Cañada shopping centre (6km).
Golf Rio Real
Marbella’s first golf course, close to the beach
Located close to the AP7 toll motorway, this estate is name after the river that passes through it, the Rio Real. The properties are grouped around the west, north and north-eastern borders of the golf course, Marbella’s oldest, which opened in 1965 as part of the Los Monteros estate. The course right down to Los Monteros beach. The course has plenty of mature trees, offering much-needed shade, and the Rio Real Golf Hotel offers tennis courts, a clubhouse and a restaurant.
Where is it? Between the A7 (exit 184) and AP7 (exit 186), across the coast road from Los Monteros – Rio Real is to the north of the coast road, whereas Los Monteros lies to the south. Marbella old town is 5km away.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Marbella old town is an easy drive away, with La Cañada shopping centre 6km away on the AP7 (exit 182).
New Golden Mile
This is the stretch of the Autovia del Mediterraneo (AP7 coastal road) between San Pedro de Alcantara and the eastern part of Estepona. So not the whole of the New Golden Mile is in Marbella. It has excellent beaches, such as Playa Gualdamina, and the long Playa del Saladillo, and top-end hotels such as the Ikos Andalucia and Kempinski Hotel Bahia. You can follow a new coastal path, Senda Litoral Estepona, which runs parallel to the road.
Ok, ok, the area below is in Estepona district not Marbella but it’s only 9.9km from San Pedro de Alcantara, Marbella which is closer than Estepona at 12km away. We’ve included it as it’s so close to Marbella and certainly has a Marbella neighbourhood feel.
Two championship golf courses on your doorstep and often sea views
Situated in a secluded private valley, overlooking a lake fed by the Arroyo Taraje stream, this development (named after the Flamingos Golf Course) is part of the luxurious Anantara Villa Padierna Palace Benahavis Marbella Resort. The five-star GL hotel, designed in Italianate style, with opulent interiors, gleaming marble and elegant tree-lined walks, hosted Michelle Obama on her visit to Andalucia back in 2010.
The Golf Club features three courses (Flamingos and Alferini are both championship courses, while Tramores is a par-64 executive course, which features a golf academy). As well as sports facilities, there are restaurants, spa, and beach club. The resort is located just a few km from San Pedro de Alcantara.
Where is it? Just off the A7 coast road, between San Pedro de Alcantara and Estepona. 12km to Puerto Banus and 21km to Marbella. Strictly part of Benahavis in Estepona but close to Marbella beaches.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? The nearest shops and restaurants are in San Pedro de Alcantara and Estepona – this development is equidistant between the two coastal towns. Playa Saladillo is the nearest beach.
Benahavis is a pretty and historic town of whitewashed houses, situated inland from the coast on the southern slopes of the spectacular Sierra Blanca, part of the Serrania de Ronda (Ronda Mountains). At 400m above sea level, the town is just 7km from the Mediterranean, between Marbella, Estepona and Ronda.
This area is the ideal destination for golf lovers, with 12 golf courses (including those of the estates mentioned below) within its terrain, which is traversed by three rivers: the Guadalmina, Guadaiza and Guadalmanza. Benahavis also offers excellent dining options, and the coast with its beach clubs and shops is within easy reach.
Where is it? Benahavis is located to the north-west of Marbella, on the A7175 – take the San Pedro turning (exit 172) off the AP7 motorway. From the A7, turn off at Guadalmina, between Estepona and San Pedro de Alcantara.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Benahavis has restaurants and shops, including a Mercadona supermarket. See our Benahavis restaurant guide here.
The three prestigious private estates we list below are part of Benahavis district, but form part of the perceived greater Marbella area:
Marbella’s most desirable yet discreet gated community
This secluded development, one of southern Europe’s most exclusive, is set within large private grounds in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca mountains at 400m. Its almost 900-hectare estate consists of 250 extensive plots (at least 4,000m² each) built with exceptionally well-appointed properties, mostly southwest oriented. Several of the world’s rich and famous have homes here, though they keep a low profile.
The villas at La Zagaleta are the most expensive villas in the region, with facilities as impressive as you’d expect for this top cachet. To the owners of these mansions the development offers two 18-hole golf courses, a clubhouse, racquet club (tennis and paddle) and an equestrian centre. La Zagaleta is sometimes referred to as the ultimate country club. As well as these sporting facilities, there is also a private heliport.
Where is it? North-east of Benahavis, just off the A397, to the west of this road linking San Pedro de Alcantara on the coast with Ronda. It is on the opposite site of the road from El Madroñal, which lies to the east of the A397, and north of Los Arqueros. La Zagaleta is 14km from Puerto Banus and Marbella is 23km away.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? Benahavis has restaurants and shops, including a Mercadona supermarket, but a more luxurious selection can be found in Marbella and Puerto Banus. You can also order food using La Zagaleta’s services.
A quiet mountainside retreat with PRESTIGIOUS villas
This gated country estate in the mountains above Marbella, with pine and oak forests, wildflowers (madroño is a madrone tree which is a sweet fruit) and the river Guadaiza, dates from the 1950s. El Madroñal is a blissfully peaceful place, yet just a few minutes’ drive from the buzz of Banus. All properties enjoy spectacular views of the Mediterranean, across to the Rif mountains of Morocco.
The villas in El Madroñal are as sumptuous as you would expect in such a high-end development, magnificent and spacious, with well-tended gardens and plenty of parking.
Where is it? North-east of Benahavis, just off the A397, to the east of this road linking the coast with Ronda. It is on the opposite site of the road from La Zagaleta, which lies to the west of the road, and north of Los Arqueros. El Madroñal is 10km from Puerto Banus, 17km from Marbella.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? The nearest shops and restaurants are in either Benahavis, or for a wider selection, Nueva Andalucia, including El Corte Ingles, or Marbella itself.
Backed by mountains and overlooking the sea, with varied types of property
This estate is situated further down the mountain, on the lower slopes of the Sierra Blanca. Stretched in a narrow estate that sprawls down the hill, Los Arqueros is made up of 17 separate “communities” of spacious apartments and townhouses, varying in size, each with its own character. The oldest is El Alto, enjoying an elevated position, while the newest are contemporary Unico and sustainable Botanic. All have beautiful, landscaped gardens and swimming pools (some of which are heated), and parking for each property.
The Golf Club boasts a championship course designed by legendary Spanish player Seve Ballesteros. In addition to golfers, other sports lovers are well catered for, with tennis, paddle and squash courts, and a gym, while families will love the bowling alley, plus a club house restaurant and bar.
Where is it? South-east of Benahavis, close to the AP7 coastal motorway (exit 172). Los Arqueros is 8km from Puerto Banus and 18km from Marbella.
Proximity to shops and restaurants? At Los Arqueros Shopping Village you will find shops, restaurants and bars.
All in all each of these neighbourhoods are luxury locations with beaches, mountains, nightlife and golf plus a fantastic climate. As a jumping off point Marbella is a convenient place to do day trip into Andalucia or even Morocco.