Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
Sotogrande has friends in high places. From musicians and A-list movie stars to former UK prime ministers – and even a royal polo fan or two – it’s been the luxury resort of choice for some of the world’s more discrete rich and famous types for many years now.
It’s an unusual place, too. It’s not a ‘town’ in the strictest sense of the word, but is actually a privately owned, and rather exclusive residential complex. As a result, it keeps itself to itself a bit, and can be just a little hard to get to know.
From golf to gastronomy via polo and playas, in our Sotogrande guide we’ve tried to lift the lid on some of its best bits – so you can really get the most out of your next visit.
Location & Getting There
First things first: where is Sotogrande? It’s about an hour’s drive from Malaga airport – if you take the Autopista rather than crawling along the old N340, that is. Gibraltar International Airport is even nearer at about 25 minutes by car. Driving from Sotogrande to Marbella only takes about 35 minutes.
Golf is always going to be one of the main draws for many visitors to Sotogrande. Which is hardly surprising given that there are no fewer than five golf courses to choose from in the immediate vicinity, and a couple of those are amongst the very best in Spain.
La Cañada and La Almenara are both excellent and suitable for high to mid-handicappers, while La Reserva, the Real Club de Golf and world-famous championship course, Valderrama, are really best left for only the most accomplished golfers.
(For more golf inspiration, see our pick of the best Costa del Sol golf courses.)
As the name suggests Playa de Sotogrande is the main beach, stretching away directly from the estate itself. For ease, comfort and a range of facilities, this is the place to head. It’s also home to the ultra-stylish and adults-only Trocadero Beach Club, which if you book in advance makes for a great base camp for the day.
On the other side of the port, Torreguardiaro is another good bet for a nearby strip of sand to stretch out on for the afternoon. Here, too, there’s a good beach club – Chambao – to try.
Ever so slightly further afield, Playa Guadalquiton is a wilder choice, and one of the quieter, less developed and more attractive stretches of sand you’ll find between Malaga and Gibraltar.
For something a little different – and a whole lot luxe-ier – the La Reserva resort (Lareservaclubsotogrande.com) is home to Spain’s first, and to date only, private beach. A manmade sandy lagoon in the hills above Sotogrande, it’s a spectacular spot (see the video below to get a flavour) that’s packed with facilities including paddleboards and kayaks if you fancy getting a bit of exercise.
With warm, shallow waters and shady chill out areas, La Reserva’s inland beach is ideal for families (although there’s also an adults-only pool) and it comes with a full complement of restaurant, bar and even a rather nifty beach boutique.
Sotogrande is at the far westernmost end of the Costa del Sol, and unlike most of the rest of the region, is in Cadiz rather than Malaga province. As a result, the beaches of the Costa de la Luz – which are some of the most beautiful in the whole of Spain – are just over the other side of the Rock.
Restaurants & Bars
In the heart of the port, Belgian-owned Mytilus (Plaza de Los Naranjos, 8) is one of the best restaurants in Sotogrande. In amongst a heavy meat offering (we can heartily recommend the Chateaubriand) delicious Belgian dishes like moules frites make an appearance.
Next door to the polo ground, La Cancha II (Haciendas de San Enrique, s/n, 11312 San Enrique de Guadiaro) is another of the area’s best places to eat, specialising in the finest Argentine beef in a gorgeous setting next to lush, green polo fields.
For something more relaxed, Inboca Gastrobar, PuraTapa (both of which are on the Avenida del Mar) and its sister bar down in the Marina, Bokana, are a few of the best places to head for tapas.
A little outside the resort, just up the road towards San Roque, La Finca (Ctra. Nacional 340, Km 127) offers some excellent Thai fusion cuisine in a pleasant courtyard setting.
In the summer, Sotogrande after dark is all about the beach clubs. The coolest hang-out of the moment is definitely the Trocadero Beach Club (pictured – Grupotrocadero.com). With loungers, large Moroccan lanterns, rugs, cushions and parasols set against a backdrop of seafront palms swaying in the breeze, it may well be the most Instagrammable spot in Sotogrande.
There are a few other options worth dropping into if you want to make the most of the cool sea air in the evenings. El Octogono (Paseo del Río, 0, 11310 Torreguadiaro) doubles up as a great place to play padel or tennis; Bunker Beach Club (Paseo del Parque, S/N) at the easternmost end of Guadalquiton is a lovely spot and often has live music on in the evenings; finally, up the other end of the resort on Torreguadiaro beach, Chambao (Playa Torreguadiaro, s/n) is another attractive place for drinks and sea views.
A couple of relaxed bars in the port worth checking out are The Hairy Lemon and Ké bar. A couple of real Sotogrande nightlife institutions – which are practically next door to one another in the heart of the port, handily enough – they’ve been the meeting place of choice for a quick bite, a drink and a spot of people watching for the sizeable expat community for years now.
From Monaco to Puerto Banus, where there are yachts there’s luxury shopping. And Sotogrande’s no different, with plenty of choice for a bit of light retail therapy.
The pedestrianised Blue Sotogrande shopping quarter is the place to start. Here, Itsomi (Local 14, Ribera del Marlin) does a lovely line in beachwear, jewellery and accessories, Patricia Darch (Local 32-33, Ribera del Marlin) is an interior design showroom and De Gruyter (Ribera del Marlin 35) is an ultra-chic furniture store.
El Mercado de Levante is a fab Sunday market of artisan stalls and interesting pop-up shops, which in the summer months also opens up on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
There are also a couple of nearby shopping centres to choose from in Mar y Sol and SotoMarket.
Other Things to Do
Golf, shopping and dining aside, Sotogrande itself is not exactly overflowing with things to do in the sightseeing sense of the word. Which is kind of understandable – it’s a luxury resort where people are supposed to come to kick back and relax, after all.
The surrounding area itself, though, is absolutely packed with sights and attractions. If you don’t fancy another day’s sunbathing, there are countless great day trip options right on the doorstep, from Gibraltar, Marbella old town or Ronda (see the day trip provided by tour company Tomaandcoe.com) or one of the beautiful nearby white villages like Casares (pictured above), Jimena de la Frontera or Gaucin.
A fishing trip is also a brilliant day out. You’re right at the mouth of the Mediterranean, where it meets the Atlantic, and the variety of fish you can catch ranges from swordfish and tuna to mackerel and even conger eel. Dean’s Charter Fishing (Deansfishingholidaysinspain.com) runs a tight ship and conforms to the required ‘catch and release’ regulations.
If that seems a little bit too much like hard work, you can charter a yacht for the day with Yachting Sotogrande (Yachtingsotogrande.com).
The absolute best way to see the Sotogrande resort is by a Mini Moke beach buggy. There’s a great company called The Jolly Mile (Thejollymile.com) where you can hire a cooler-than-cool Mini Moke and drive around visiting all the hot spots.
When to Go
As with the rest of the Costa del Sol, while it may be at its liveliest during the summer months Sotogrande’s very much a year-round destination. The weather is superb, with an average of +300 days of sunshine per year and winter temperatures that rarely drop much below the high teens or early twenties celsius.
A couple of dates do stand out, though. First: the polo. Sotogrande’s ‘other’ sport after golf is a big deal. The polo season runs from June to early September and takes place at the exclusive Santa Maria Polo Club adding a real dash of international glamour to the high summer months. (You can find out more with our Sotogrande polo guide.)
Another great time to be in Sotogrande is when the Sunset Valley Weekend festival (Sunsetvalleyweekend.com) is on. Taking place from 10-12 August in the Santa Maria Polo Club, the line-up tends to be 80s Spanish old favourites and 60-70s retro classics.
Where to Stay
There are undoubtedly some decent Sotogrande hotels to stay at. But we’re the Luxury Villa Collection, and we’re going to stick our neck out here and say that they’re not a patch on our handpicked selection of villas.
Villa Artea is a sleek, modern design villa that’s all clean lines, white-on-white minimalism and chic open-plan living spaces. Villa Karima (pictured above) is something else. A 16-bedroom pleasure palace of staggering proportions and a dizzying list of facilities, it’s more like its own self-contained luxury resort than anything resembling a standard ‘villa’.
Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 78708 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-12-02 11:31:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-02 11:31:07 [post_content] => Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting? Perhaps the best part of all is just how easy it is to get to...
Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.