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The sun beats down on blue-flag beaches from El Pinillo to El Faro. There's a buzz about the Paseo Marítimo, where Spanish fish grills meet tapas restaurants. Brilliant yachts bob in the harbor, champagne flutes clinking atop deck. The parks have royal palms, the Old Town is all whitewashed pueblo cottages and Andalusian craft galleries. Welcome to Marbella, a resort that's come to encapsulate the good-time life of the Costa del Sol.
Sat at one end of the so-called Golden Mile, this vibrant town caps off perhaps the most popular length of shoreline in all of Spain – nay, Europe. Chic villas, beautiful condos, and sumptuous hotels run all the way down to Puerto Banus to the west, most boasting views of the Med and access to soft-sanded yellow beaches of their own. Days can be whiled away sunning on the coast, tasting fine-dining Spanish cuisine, exploring the hidden alleys of Plaza de los Naranjos or golfing in the manicured resorts that clutch the sides of the nearby sierras.
And talking of the sierras, Marbella tour guides are always at hand to help you break away to the mountains when it's time for a fix of nature. Not far from the glitzy marina is a land of rustic pueblos blancos (white villages), olive forests, eucalyptus woods, and breathtaking horse-riding trails.