Almuñécar Spain: The Hidden Gem of the Costa Tropical

Almuñécar lies on the coast of Granada some 90km east of Málaga Airport and 80km south of Granada on a small stretch of coastline known as the Costa Tropical. The town is a year-round holiday destination thanks to its subtropical climate which ensures over 300 days of sunshine per year. It has a good selection of accommodation, five blue-flag beaches and plenty activities to keep the whole family entertained.

The town also has a good selection of lively tapas bars and some fine restaurants where you can enjoy the local cuisine during your stay. A particularly good date to be here is 15th August when La Fiesta de la Virgen de la Antigua is celebrated along the coast. This is the biggest night of the year in terms of annual festivals in Almuñécar which culminates in a stunning firework display which can be watched from all the central beaches.

Almuñécar Spain: Dates back to Phoenician Times
This Phoenician Fish Salting Factory in Parque de Majuelo (Almuñecar) Dates Back to the 4th century BC

Historically, Almuñécar dates back to Phoenician times when it became an important port specialised in fish salting. This industry was further developed by the Romans who also established an impressive network of aqueducts running along the Río Seco. These aqueducts together with the remains of the fish-salting plant and the Castillo de San Miguel are the town’s main historical sites. Some of Andalucía’s great historical attractions are accessible from Almuñécar including the Alhambra Palace in Granada which is less than an hour’s drive away. For more information see our page about the Best Things to Do in Almuñécar.

The Costa Tropical is also a great destination for taking part in all kinds of outdoor activities. These include playing golf at Los Moriscos in Motril, scuba diving in La Herradura and even skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter months.

How to Get to Almuñécar

Car Hire: The best way to get to Almuñécar is to rent a car at Málaga airport then drive 90km east along the A7 motorway. There are two exits for Almuñécar: the first is “Almuñécar Oeste” which takes you down to La Herradura; the second is “Almuñécar Este” which meets the N-340 coast road in Taramay to the east of town. Zest Car Rental is a reliable car hire provider at Málaga Airport.

Taxis and Private Transfers: Taxis are easily available from Málaga Airport but cost at least €120 each way. For this reason we’d strongly recommend the car hire option provided you’re confident enough to drive abroad. Some companies offer pre-booked private transfers for this route at similar prices to taxis.

Direct Airport Bus: There’s a single airport bus which departs from a bus stop less than 100metres from the arrivals exit of Málaga Airport. It departs from the airport at 2.30pm and arrives in Almuñécar at 4.15pm. There are more bus services from Málaga City to Almuñécar but you’ll need to take the bus or train to Málaga bus station and meet a connecting service. The journey takes around 1½ hours and times are shown on the Alsa Bus Website. There are no train services to Almuñécar. There’s a taxi rank outside Almuñécar bus station where metered taxis will take you to your final destination.

Where to Stay in Almuñécar

Local tourism is very much geared towards the Spanish market so Almuñécar hotels are generally quite small compared with the enormous structures that dominate the skyline of the Costa del Sol. These include:

Hotel Helios (Paseo San Cristóbal 3): Well located along San Cristobal beach to the west of Almuñécar with lovely walks along the seafront into town.

Hotel Almuñécar Playa (Paseo San Cristobal): Located at the town end of Playa San Cristobal this hotel is in an ideal position to give you access to one of Almuñécar’s main beaches and you are a short walk to the old centre.

Hotel Suites Albayzín del Mar (Avenida Costa del Sol, 23): This elaborately decorated hotel is on one of the main entrance roads into town. Easy access to Almuñécar’s main attractions but a little sterile for a hotel in a beach location. Okay for a short stay.

Hotel Playacálida (Urb. Torre Galera): Overlooking the beaches of Playa Cabria and Playa Calabajio (aka Galera), some 3km east of the town centre, this hotel has a fabulous infinity pool looking out to sea. Nice, chilled out bar/restaurants on Cabria beach are ideal for a quiet night out from the hotel.

Hotel Casablanca (Plaza San Cristóbal, 4): Long established hotel just below the castle to the east of Playa San Cristobal this is a place of character which would be fine for a stay of a couple of nights.

If you prefer self-catering accommodation you’ll find plenty availability of apartments in Almuñecar which are located close to the town’s beaches. Some apartment complexes include communal swimming pools. For something more exclusive you could splash out on an exclusive villa in Almuñecar equipped with a private swimming pool.

Best Beaches in Almuñécar

Although there are in the region of 25 Almuñécar beaches and coves stretching from Cabria in the east to La Herradura in the west there are only a few main ones that you’re likely to come across during your stay. The beaches have fine grey sand rather than the golden sand of the Costa Blanca or the Cádiz coast. However, their quality is beyond reproach with eleven Blue Flag beaches along the Costa Tropical of which five are in Almuñécar. Here is a summary of the best beaches in Almuñécar.

Almuñécar Beaches: East of the Town Centre

In Taramay, to the east of town, my favourite beach is Playa El Tesorillo which is a charming spot overlooked by an ancient watchtower. The water goes deep quickly and it’s a nice place to swim whilst the Chiringuito Uha is a great spot for a cold beer and a good selection of seafood dishes. Just to the east beyond the Hotel Bahia Tropical is Playa Pozuelo which is much shallower for entering the water so is more suited to young children. Viña del Mar is a popular spot for lunch overlooking the bay.

Across the rocks from Playa Pozuelo is Playa Calabajío (aka Playa Galera) which is shallower still with palm trees for shade so ideal for children. However, there are no facilities apart from a high end restaurant on the beach. Further east beyond the headland where the Hotel Playacalida dominates the skyline is Playa de Cabria where you’ll find a quiet beach with a couple of nice restaurants.

West of Playa El Tesorillo is Playa Velilla which is one of Almuñécar’s main beaches catering mainly to all the people staying in the numerous apartment blocks running along the coast road here. It ends at the Aqua Tropic waterpark where Playa Puerta del Mar begins. This is the town’s main beach which runs as far as El Peñon del Santo, the large cross below the castle in the town centre.

Almuñécar Beaches: West of the Town Centre

On the other side of the cross is Playa San Cristóbal which runs all along the front of western Almuñécar until it becomes the small but charming bay which is known as Playa de Cotobro. All along Velilla, Puerta del Mar and San Cristóbal there are plenty bars, restaurants and shops. Beyond these main beaches of Almuñécar the next beach of note is Playa del Muerto which is recognised as a nudist beach.

Playa de Berengueles is just beyond Marina del Este where you’ll find the lively Marina Playa beach bar and access to scuba and snorkelling. Playa de La Herradura is a 2km long, horseshoe-shaped bay which is a quaint resort in its own right.

Finally, the isolated (semi-nudist) beach at Playa de Cantarriján is worth a mention as it’s tucked away at the bottom of a steep hillside. Shuttle buses run up and down to the beach from the parking just after the Cerro Gordo tunnel on the old Málaga road. It has a restaurant in the summer months.

Top Things to See in Almuñécar

Castillo de San Miguel

Almuñécar’s castle is right in the town centre overlooking the main beaches. Its origins can be traced back to a Phoenician fort from the 7th century BC which was rebuilt in the 1st century BC under Roman rule. However, it was under the Moors that the castle was heavily fortified and was used as a short break destination by the rulers of Granada’s Nasrid dynasty.

Things to do in Almuñécar
El Castillo de San Miguel – Discover the Long History of Almuñecar

Under Christian rule the castle took the name of Almuñécar’s patron saint and served as a major defence over the coming centuries against threats to the town from pirates. British naval attacks against Napoleon’s forces during the Peninsular War caused major damage to the castle after which it fell into disrepair. It then served as the town’s cemetery until major restoration work began in the 1980s. Today it is one of the town’s most visited tourist attractions.

El Peñon del Santo

This rocky outcrop separates Playa Puerta del Mar from Playa San Cristóbal in downtown Almuñécar. Visitors can walk to the top for great views along the coast in both directions. At the bottom of this hill is a statue of Abd al-Rahman I who landed in Almuñécar in 755 and later went on to establish the Emirate of Córdoba

Roman Aqueducts

Fresh running water was crucial for the operation of the fish salting and curing under Roman rule so the Romans developed an extensive network of aqueducts which date back to the first century AD. These aqueducts remain in good shape in various places as they run for 6km up the Rio Seco valley. They were further developed under Moorish rule for agricultural purposes and it’s incredible to see that four of the five original Roman structures are still being used to irrigate the small fruit plantations along the valley. La Carrera Aqueduct is the nearest aqueduct to town behind the Carbonell DIY shop.

More impressive is the Torrecuevas Aqueduct which is about 3km from Almuñécar along the road along the valley towards Jete and Otivar. The Rio Seco Aqueducts are the most impressive though not the most accessible. You can walk along the river bed for about 750m from town to see them or take the Jete/Otivar road out of town turning sharp left after the school from where you can see them at the end of that street.

Parque El Majuelo

El Majuelo Park is a botanical garden which stands in the shadow of Almuñécar’s San Miguel Castle just off the Avenida de Europa. It is home to more than 180 plant species from around the world and an archaeological site with the remains of a Phoenician salted fish factory dating back to the 4th century BC. The park also hosts various cultural events such as music concerts including the Jazz en la Costa Festival and an annual tapas fair.

Festivals in Almuñécar

Almuñécar’s summer festival programme begins on June 23rd with San Juan which is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks, and beach parties. Another significant event is the Virgen del Carmen Festival on July 16th which honours the patron saint of sailors with a procession of fishing boats. The highlight of the town’s festival calendar is the Feria de Almuñécar in August which is a week of events including music concerts. It ends on August 15th with a spectacular fireworks display which attracts thousands of visitors to the town. There are more festivals in Almuñécar throughout the year.

Best Things to Do with Children in Almuñécar

Tropical Bird Park

The “Loro Sexi” tropical bird park is a popular attraction for children. Located at the eastern side of Playa de San Cristobal the entrance is just opposite the steps leading up to the giant cross of El Peñon del Santo. The park is home to over 1500 birds including many tropical species. It’s no wonder that the apartment overlooking the park is always for sale considering the noise generated by their feathered neighbours!

Aqua Tropic Water Park

During the summer months this saltwater waterpark at the end of Playa de Velilla is a popular venue for locals and visitors alike. You can check the latest prices and opening hours on their website at Aqua Tropic Almuñécar.

Shopping in Almuñécar

Friday Market: Almuñécar’s Friday market takes place on Paseo de Blas Infante which is next to the main road through the town. Its many stalls sell a wide variety of goods including leather goods, shoes, textiles, ceramics, clothing and music. It is a popular weekly attraction for both the local community and visitors ensuring that it’s almost impossible to park your car in town on a Friday morning. There’s also a flea market on this same site on Sunday mornings.

Old Town: If you just fancy a wander around a few local shops head for Paseo del Altillo then go down the steps to Alta del Mar. Here you’ll find the streets of the old town winding their way to the town hall square at Plaza Constitución which is a lovely place to stop at one of the outdoor cafés. Continue on then take a right to Plaza de los Higuitos which is another lovely square with terrace bars.

Almuñécar Nightlife

Whilst evenings in Almuñécar tend to be a fairly laid-back affair, there are a few lively areas at weekends during the summer months. Plaza Kelibia is a popular square in the old town which is surrounded by tapas and music bars. It’s a good place to sit outside with a few tapas before heading over to Bar Jabeque on the seaward side for late night drinks. For a younger crowd the place to go late on a Friday and Saturday night is known as Los Bajos del Paseo at the end of Playa Puerta del Mar. Here there’s a selection of loud music ‘copas bars’ at beach level.

During the summer months there’s also an open air disco next to the waterpark at the end of Playa Velilla called Aqua-Noche. Apart from these options you’ll find a fair selection of decent restaurants in Almuñécar and a wide selection of Almuñécar tapas bars that make for a good ‘tapas crawl’.

Restaurants in Almuñécar

Mar de Plata (Avenida Mar de Plata, 3): Located in the side street next to the Almuñécar Playa Hotel, just off Playa de San Cristobal, this is one of the best restaurants for fish dishes. One of their specialities is ‘Lubina a la Sal’ which translates as Sea Bass Baked in Rock Salt. Meat dishes at Mar de Plata are also very good with the lamb and steaks highly recommended.

Arbol Blanco II (Playa de Velilla): Right next to the waterpark at the end of Playa Velilla this open-air restaurant with views out to sea serves lovely fish and meat dishes.

El Chaleco (Avenida Costa del Sol, 37): This restaurant at the top of Avenida Costa del Sol, near the main N-340, is one of Almuñécar’s more upmarket establishments. It serves excellent French inspired dishes.

Meson Francisco II (Calle Alta del Mar, 12): Located amongst the narrow streets of the old town with an outside terrace this is a very popular restaurant amongst visitors. There’s a good selection of tapas-style dishes to share as well as substantial main courses such as the honey roast lamb which is to die for.

Los Geranios (Plaza de la Rosa, 4): Just down the steps from Paseo del Altillo, this is a charming, family-run place with an upstairs dining room overlooking the square. Their evening ‘a la carte’ selection offers a good selection of popular dishes served in a welcoming environment.

Restaurante Asia (Calle Larache, 2): Just opposite the Lidl supermarket and the Friday market area in the town centre is this very good Chinese restaurant. Excellent food and an incredibly cheap lunchtime menu of the day with very efficient and friendly service.

Another eating option is to take a tapas crawl around some of the bars around the town centre. You’ll find a few suggested venues on our Top Things to Do in Almuñécar page. LINK

Outdoor Activities Along the Costa Tropical

The Costa Tropical offers a great selection of outdoor activities including the following:

Golf: The Costa Tropical is home to the Los Moriscos Golf Club in Motril which offers stunning views of the sea and mountains from its fairways.

Cycling: The hinterland of the Costa Tropical with its challenging climbs and stunning scenery make it a popular destination for cyclists. there are plenty routes to choose from for both mountain bikers and road cyclists. Cycling fans may well know Carlos Rodríguez Cano from the INEOS Grenadiers team. He was born in Almuñécar in 2001 learning his trade in these hills. Bike rental is available in Almuñécar.

Go Road Cycling From Almuñécar
Take Your Bike Into The Mountains From Almuñecar

Skiing: It may come as a surprise to many visitors but skiing is an option from Costa Tropical during the winter months. The Sierra Nevada ski resort is just a 90 minute drive from Almuñécar. The resort offers some excellent ski runs catering to skiers of all levels.

Scuba Diving: The Costa Tropical’s clear waters make it an ideal location for scuba diving. There are dive centres in Almuñécar and La Herradura appropriate dive trips for beginners and advanced divers.

Paragliding: For those who crave an adrenaline rush, paragliding is a popular activity in these parts. Thermal conditions along the Costa Tropical attract paragliders from all over Europe during the autumn and winter months. They take off from specific places in the hills of the Sierra Almijara, inland from Almuñécar, and often land on the town’s beaches.

Paragliding on the Costa Tropical
Try Paragliding From The Mountains Inland From The Cosa Tropical

Hiking: The hiking trails inland from the Costa Tropical offer some stunning views of the coastline and the mountains. Popular routes include the Cerro Gordo trail and the Rio Verde trail. There are more challenging hikes nearby in the hills of the Alpujarras and in the Sierra Nevada National Park which reaches 3,482 metres at Mulhacén.

Best Day Trips From Almuñécar

Almuñécar is a great base from which to explore some of the great cities of Andalucía. Here are some of the best day and overnight trips:

Granada: One of the most popular day trips from Almuñécar is to the historic city of Granada which is located just an hour’s drive inland. The city is known for its stunning Alhambra palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the 13th century. The Moorish architecture of the Nasrid Palaces and beautiful Generalife gardens are a must-see for any visitor to the city. Other main attractions include the Albaicín neighbourhood and the Cathedral of Granada.

Málaga: Another great day trip from Almuñécar is to the coastal city of Málaga, which is just over an hour’s drive to the west. Málaga is known for its beautiful beaches, charming old town, and world-class museums. The city is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso whose museum is one of Málaga’s main attractions. Other highlights include the Alcazaba fortress, the Roman Theatre, and the Cathedral of Málaga.

Córdoba: The Moorish city of Córdoba is about a 3-hour drive from Almuñécar so an overnight stay is recommended. Its main attraction is the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba which was originally built in the 8th century under Abd al-Rahman I. It is considered one of the most impressive examples of Islamic architecture in the world. Other main sights include the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a fortress-palace that dates back to the 14th century and the Jewish Quarter which is home to a beautiful synagogue and a network of winding, narrow streets.

Seville: The drive from Almuñécar to Seville takes the best part of four hours so an overnight stay is essential in a city with so much to see. Seville is home to the charming Barrio Santa Cruz neighbourhood which epitomises the atmosphere of the Andalucían capital. The city’s main tourist sites include the Alcázar de Sevilla, a former Moorish palace and the Catedral de Sevilla which is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The stunning architecture of the Plaza de España which was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 is another must-see attraction.