If you’re planning a family holiday on the Costa Tropical you’ll find plenty of things to do in Almuñécar. This charming town on the coast of Granada has plenty to explore thanks to a rich history dating back to Phoenician times. It is also home to a number of blue-flag beaches and is well-known for its seafood restaurants and lively tapas bars. Visitors can also enjoy many outdoor activities including golf, cycling, scuba diving and skiing or use the town as a base from which to explore some of the great sights of Andalucía such as the Alhambra Palace. In this article I’ll suggest some of the main things to do in Almuñécar to help you plan your perfect holiday.
Visit Almuñécar’s Historical Attractions
Almuñécar has a rich history dating back to 800BC when the Phoenicians established a port and fish salting operation. This activity was further developed by the Romans who also left their mark on the town with the construction of an extensive network of aqueducts. The Moorish influence on Almuñécar dates back to the 8th century when sugar cane and tropical fruits were introduced to the region. The architecture of the town’s castle is largely of Christian descent but bears testimony to all these civilizations.
The Historical Sites Which Deserve A Visit Include The Following:
Castillo de San Miguel: This castle stands on a hill overlooking the town of Almuñécar and its coastline. A fort was first built here by the Phoenicians in the 7th Century BC and was further developed by the Romans in the 1st century BC. Under Moorish rule it was heavily fortified and was popular with members of the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th Century. The castle was largely rebuilt under King Carlos III in the 18th century when it served as a defense against pirate attacks.
It was heavily damaged during the Peninsular Wars of the 19th century when British naval attacks liberated it from occupying French troops. It was later used as the town’s cemetery until major restoration work began in the 1980s. Today, visitors can tour the castle and learn more about this fascinating history. And if you’re in town on August 15th for La Fiesta de la Virgen de la Antigua you’ll see amazing fireworks from the castle during what is Almuñécar’s biggest festival of the year.
El Peñon del Santo: El Peñon del Santo is a hill overlooking Almuñécar’s town centre beaches. As well as offering great views along the coast towards Marina del Este, it is also home to a statue of Abd-ar-Rahman I who landed in Almuñécar in 755 and founded the Emirate of Cordoba.
Roman Aqueducts: The Roman aqueducts in Almuñécar date back to the first century AD and were developed extensively to provide fresh running water for fish salting and curing during Roman rule. The aqueducts remain in good condition and are still used to irrigate small fruit plantations which grow avocados, mangos and chirimoyas along the Rio Seco valley.
Parque Majuelo: This botanical garden is located just off Avenida de Europa near the Castillo de San Miguel. The park features an impressive range of tropical and subtropical flora and the well-preserved remains of a Phoenician fish salting factory dating back to the 4th century BC. Visitors can also explore artisan workshops and enjoy a drink at a shaded bar.
Visit The Alhambra Palace In Granada
If you do nothing else during your time in Almuñécar the one excursion not to miss is the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Commonly referred to as ‘the Jewel of Moorish Spain’ the Alhambra attracts over two million annual visitors and is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions. Be sure to order Alhambra Palace tickets in advance as they sell out during busy periods. The Alhambra was a palace, a citadel, a fortress and home of the Nasrid Dynasty (1238-1492). Together with the Mezquita (Great Mosque) of Cordoba, the Alhambra is one of the most widely known of all Islamic works of art.
Getting there from Almuñécar is an easy 50 minute drive. Just head east on the A-7 motorway following the signs for Granada. As you approach the city take the exit marked “Alhambra / Sierra Nevada”. You’ll soon be approaching a tunnel which you should go under in the left hand lane. Go around the roundabout shortly after the tunnel and take the exit going up the hill. Ignore anyone who tries to offer you a parking space continuing on until you reach another roundabout – the parking is the 2nd exit. P2 is usually the best bet.
If you’re relying on public transport then you can get from Almuñécar bus station to Granada bus station on one of the regular services but Granada bus station isn’t well located for access to the Alhambra Palace. You’d still need to take another bus (3 or 33) into the centre then make your way up the Alhambra Hill.
Visitors who want to travel further afield and see the great Moorish cities of Córdoba and Seville should take a look at our Almuñécar Spain Travel Guide.
Visit The Nerja Caves, Frigiliana And Marina Del Este
Nerja Caves: Driving west from Almuñécar along the A-7 motorway you take the first exit for Nerja and follow the signs to the “Cueva de Nerja“. These spectacular caves are the town’s main tourist attraction which attract hundreds of thousands of annual visitors. The caves were only discovered in 1959 when a group of boys from the neighbouring village of Maro climbed through a small hole where they were playing and stumbled on one of Europe’s finest cave structures. Although not on public view, cave paintings have been discovered which are believed to be 20,000 years old.
Every June there is a Festival Of Music and Dance held in the auditorium in the first cave which provides a magical backdrop to ballet, classical music and singing. Top names have performed there including José Carreras and Monserrat Caballé and with limited seating ticket purchase is essential. We recommend enquiring about tickets well in advance. Details are usually available at the website of the Festival de la Cueva de Nerja.
Frigiliana: After visiting the Nerja Caves get back onto the A-7 motorway heading west then exit on the MA-5105. Follow this winding road up the Sierra Tejeda for 7km to the delightful white village of Frigiliana. Although occupied by many foreign residents nowadays the village has retained its undoubted charm and is well worth a short visit. Park at the entrance to the village then take a stroll up the hill where you can sample the local wine at one of the terraces with stunning views back down to the coast.
Marina del Este: After driving back down the hill from Frigiliana, don’t take the motorway back to Almuñécar. Instead, get onto the old N-340 coast road and enjoy the stunning scenery beyond the quaint town of Maro. Beyond the exit for La Herradura you’ll see a sign for Marina del Este which is well worth a visit. This marina is a popular choice for holiday rentals and is home to a number of stylish bars and restaurants. This is a popular location for scuba diving and the Playa de los Berengueles beach is a good spot for snorkelling.
Play A Round Of Golf At Los Moriscos In Motril
The nearest course to Almuñécar is the 18 hole Los Moriscos Golf in Motril. This flat course was originally designed as a 9 hole course back in 1974 by Manuel Pinero yet recent developments have extended it to 18 holes. The course lies right next to the sea and has beautiful views up towards to nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. Tropical vegetation bordering many fairways ensures a fairly unique round of golf.
The next nearest course is beyond Nerja at Baviera Golf near Caleta de Velez. It is suitable for all levels of players and offers marvellous views of the mountains and the sea. Continue 15 minutes further along the motorway and you’ll reach Añoreta Golf which was the first course to be built in the area east of Malaga city. It’s a demanding course but is suitable to all level of players providing a varied round of golf. Both these courses were designed by Jose Maria Cañizares.
Once you go beyond Malaga you’re into the Costa del Golf, one of the world’s great golfing destinations.
Go Skiing In The Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is Europe’s most southerly ski resort. To get there just head east along the coast from Almuñécar towards Motril then follow the signs for Granada. From the motorway as you approach Granada city take the exit marked “Alhambra / Sierra Nevada”. You’ll soon be approaching a tunnel which you should go under in the right hand lane. Immediately after the tunnel is a filter lane that takes you up the mountain.
From Almuñécar to the ski village of Pradollano (2100m) will take you about 1½ hours when there’s no traffic. On mornings when the slopes are all open and there are many skiers heading up to the resort this will take longer. If you’re heading up there during a heavy snow fall you will almost certainly need snow chains which can be purchased on the way up.
The ski resort reaches a peak at Veleta (3394m) from where skiers can see across the Mediterranean to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco on the clearest of days. In theory the resort could be open from the beginning of December until early May but in practice this varies every year as snowfall becomes increasingly unpredictable. The official Sierra Nevada website provides information about current conditions.
Go Scuba Diving Along The Costa Tropical
With visibility of up to 30 metres and summer water temperatures of 14°C to 29°C the waters of the Costa Tropical are ideal for scuba diving. One of the best diving locations is the area around La Herradura to the west of Almuñécar. This town is located in a natural bay which is sheltered from the wind making it an ideal location for diving.
The bay is also surrounded by rocky cliffs which provide an excellent habitat for a variety of marine life including octopuses, moray eels, groupers, and many different types of colourful fish. The area is also home to several wrecks that make for exciting dive sites.
Numerous PADI dive centres are located in Almuñécar, La Herradura and Marina del Este which offer the beginner’s open water diver course locally. The same companies will take qualified divers out to some fascinating local dive sites.
Discover The Mediterranean As It Used To Be At Playa De Cabria
Playa de Cabria is a quiet beach located to the east of Almuñécar’s main town centre, beyond the headland where the Hotel Playacalida dominates the skyline. This sandy beach is often overlooked by visitors to Almuñécar, making it a great place to escape the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet. While there are only a couple of nice restaurants located on the beach, Playa de Cabria offers stunning views of the Mediterranean sea and surrounding hillsides. The crystal clear waters make it a great spot for swimming, and the beach is relatively unspoiled, providing a unique and authentic experience for beach-goers.
Casa Antonio (Playa de Cabria): For many years this has been my favourite place to eat in the Almuñécar area. Located on a relatively undeveloped beach on the eastern-most part of town dining here feels as though you’ve been transported back to Mediterranean tourism of the 1960’s. More than twenty years since my first visit to Casa Antonio I still find myself attracted here for a lunchtime paella and cold beer because the atmosphere of this secluded beachside community is unequalled.
Tito Yayo (Playa de Cabria): This restaurant stands is the first one you’ll come to as you walk from the car park. It’s a more upmarket option with an impressive selection of paella and seafood dishes. Having said that I still head for Casa Antonio for its supreme location.
Take A Drive Out For Lunch
El Capricho in Otivar: This place is an absolute gem and well worth the short drive along the valley and up the hill to Otivar. I’ll even tell you what to order! Their speciality is ‘Pollo a la Manzana’ which is roast chicken with baked apple and it is delicious. You need to call them at least three hours before arriving to order the dish which is served on their huge sun terrace with salad and chips.
El Chambao de Joaquin in La Herradura: This unique restaurant located right on the beach at La Herradura is a mere 10 minutes drive from Almuñécar in the direction of Malaga. It is one of the area’s longest established locals where you can enjoy fresh fish dishes every day as well as Argentinian steaks and pasta dishes. Their most famous dish is the giant paella that is cooked on the beach at 2pm every weekend and on public holidays.
Do A Crawl Around The Tapas Bars Of Almuñécar
There are many tapas bars around Almuñécar. Here are a few centrally located ones to get you started:
Bodega Francisco (Calle Real 15): Walking through the tiny streets of the old town towards the town hall square you’ll stumble on this typical old cellar type bar. Behind the bar are wooden sherry barrels and the walls are covered with bullfight posters and work by local artists. An atmospheric locale with a fair selection of tapas on the menu and a good spot to sample some local wines.
Lute y Jesús (Avenida de Europa): Lute y Jesus is about two thirds of the way up the Avenida de Europa from the sea and this bar is busy from morning to late at night. The service is good and the food excellent. The menu del dia is not available all day and most of the tables are given over to meals in the evening. Through the day the tapas are excellent and the fried fish is recommended but you may have to wait for a table as this is a very popular place.
Mesón Mari y Miguel (Avenida de Andalucia, 18): Very popular tapas bar/restaurant in the town centre which mainly attracts locals who know about Miguel’s legendary grilled meats cooked on a wood fire barbecue.
Go To A Flamenco Show
The best known place around Almuñécar to see flamenco dancing is at Venta Luciano which is about 3km out of town along the Jete/Otivar road. They have a charming venue overlooking the valley where they have been hosting all inclusive flamenco evenings including drinks and barbecue for more than 30 years. It’s a good idea to arrange a return taxi trip there so that you can enjoy a few sangrias with the show. More information at the Venta Luciano website.
Go To The Almuñécar Friday Market
Every Friday Almuñécar hosts an open-air market in the car park adjacent to the main N340 road, opposite the Lidl supermarket. This popular weekly market attracts both locals and tourists who come to browse the many stalls selling clothing, leather bags, ceramics, kitchen equipment and fake football shirts. If you want to buy and gifts or souvenirs, this is the place to do it. In addition to the Friday market, there’s also a flea market held in the same location on Sunday mornings which sells all kinds of tat.
Cool Off At The Aqua Tropic Water Park
Aqua Tropic is a popular saltwater waterpark located at the end of Playa de Velilla in Almuñécar. During the summer months it is packed with locals and visitors who are seeking a fun and refreshing way to beat the heat. The waterpark features a variety of water attractions and activities for all ages including water slides, wave pools and children’s play areas. There are snack bars on-site and easy access to bars and restaurants nearby. For up-to-date information on pricing and opening hours take a look at the Aqua Tropic Almuñécar website.