Spain’s Costa del Sol holds enduring appeal for British families after sun, sea and sand, not to mention top tapas, historic towns and vibrant culture. Harriet Mallinson based herself at Wyndham Costa Del Sol resort to explore the region for a weekend.
Below falls a cavernous drop and above towers a craggy and majestic rock face, making me feel every inch as though I’m on a Tolkien-esque quest as I tentatively inch forward over the suspended wooden walkway.
The Costa del Sol in southern Spain may be popular for those seeking to fly and flop but lazing in the sun isn’t all this neck of the woods is good for – as my walk along the Caminito Del Rey proved.
Adventure on land and at sea in Andalusia
Yes, the 8km journey through this mighty gorge can seem pretty daunting when you look at pictures, especially if heights give you the heebie-jeebies, but this adventure is well worth embarking on during a trip to Andalusia if you’ve got older kids (it’s suitable for eight years old and over) and are keen for beautiful views, impressive rock formations and a healthy dose of exhilaration.
With a little luck, you might spot such highland birds as Egyptian vultures, griffon vultures and golden eagles or wild boar and Iberian ibex. Oh, and it’s not half bad for topping up the tan.
Sounds like too much of a challenge? Why not hop aboard a yacht to feel the Mediterranean sea breeze whip through your hair and admire the coastline from afar? If the weather’s right you can enjoy a swim stop at a cove and tuck into a picnic onboard – Swallows and Amazons go on tour, you might say.
Costa Del Sol’s big cities for culture and history
Alternatively, head inland to explore the charming towns of the region. Marbella may be associated with no carbs and glitzy shops, but the Old Town of this coastal city is delightful to wander around with its whitewashed buildings adorned with blooming bougainvillaea and winding streets.
It’s the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs, from designer gifts to tacky fridge magnets, and relax in one of the cafés in the main piazza, munching on some traditional tapas.
For exceptional Spanish food (as well as a splendid cathedral, Moorish Alcazaba and modern art galleries), I heartily recommend a visit to Málaga, further along the coast, and its famous restaurant El Pimpi opposite the ruins of a Roman theatre.
Tremendous tapas amid the celebs
The pancake-like fried aubergines liberally drizzled with a honey sauce here are as mouthwatering as they come and doubtless an excellent way to encourage the little ones to get in their five a day! The patatas bravas have a kick, but are among the best I have ever had and the Manchego cheese was terrifyingly moreish.
Heads up mum and dad, whatever you do here, don’t order the sangria – our waitress looked positively horrified by my request for the famous Spanish drink, clearly betraying my tourist status. Top tip – do as the locals do and order a tinto de verano instead.
El Pimpi itself is bursting with character thanks to the huge aged sherry barrels, old posters of local festivals and photos of the many celebrities who have frequented the restaurant. Its ownership is imbued with fame, too – actor Antonio Banderas co-owns the joint and has an apartment next door. Why not get the kids excited with a pre-holiday viewing of The Mask of Zorro?
Travel back in time off the beaten track in Andalusia
Want to feel like you’re on your own historical escapade? Head off the beaten tourist track and visit the lovely town of Álora. The ruins at the top of the Old Town are super to walk around (can you come up with your own tales of what happened here?) and the panoramic views are excellent.
Back in the town itself, locals fill the cheerful piazza, merrily sipping on coffees under the morning sun (warning – order an English tea at your peril in southern Spain, the combination of a tea bag, boiling water and milk seems to baffle even the best establishments). Residents show no sign of needing to dash off to join the rat race; it’s easy to see why so many Brits are eager to make the move over to Spain!
While I do advise brushing up on some basic Spanish phrases before you head to the Med if you’re planning to travel into the countryside (always an excellent way to pique children’s interest in a foreign language outside of the classroom), staff at hotels in the Costa del Sol do speak very good English.
Where to stay in the Costa del Sol with kids
We stayed at the Wyndham Costa Del Sol which houses four family-friendly brands of hotels and suites. The resort has something of a village atmosphere which makes it feel very relaxed. Although I’m most taken with the little train which ferries guests around (there are cars too if you really want to feel VIP) – both of which are free.
Kids are superbly well catered for here which makes it very appealing to families visiting the Costa del Sol. There are two entertainment centres in the Wyndham resort catering for ages four and up. They’re free of charge too, and offer activities ranging from cupcake decoration and arts and crafts to nerf gun games and football.
Teens’ needs are met thanks to a zone with chunky beanbags and PS4s and over 16s can also join in on some adult activities as well such as archery, air rifle shooting and water sports (if hanging with their parents isn’t too mortifying).
One Team Marina, as the kids’ club is called here, is based next door to Safari Restaurant and stays open later so children who grow tired of adult conversation at dinner can go off and play with their new-found friends in safety.
Tuck into tasty Spanish food with a view
Parents, you’ll be glad of this element of freedom, not only is the crowd-pleasing food here tasty (the paella is delicious and definitely feeds more than two) and the cocktails pleasing (the martinis went down far too easily) but the enchanting atmosphere, complete with live singers, rustling palm trees and twinkling lights in the beams of the jungle-themed interior, makes it very easy to while away the evening hours.
My personal favourite restaurant in the resort was chic Italian eatery Mediteranneo which boasts stylish decor with gold accents, live music and views over one of Wyndham’s 12 pools as well as the sea beyond. The food was top notch too. I tucked into a sumptuous creamy Burrata starter and a tasty main of beef medallions with cacio e pepe. And for dessert, I can highly recommend the almond cake or chocolate mousse – perfect for any young budding gourmands!
For more casual eats there are bars by the pools during the day – do try the club sandwich if you stop at Sunrise. Sports bar, Beak and Trotter, serves up fun, finger food and plenty of chicken. There’s also an on-site pizzeria, and Sam’s Pantry sells fresh local-made cakes, sandwiches made on site, pastries and good quality coffee as well as supplies like hams and chocolate.
We called at El Rancho for breakfast which offers a variety of classic breakfast options along with a wonderful variety of fruit (why not pinch a few to snack on later in the day?). Don’t miss the traditional oil and blitzed tomato topping – slather it on toasted crusty bread to ensure the perfect start to your day.
Exciting excursions on a Costa del Sol family break
There’s also a vast lawn and activity area where children can play – all overlooking the sea, Fungierola Castle and the brooding Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. The beach is only a stone’s throw away from the resort too.
Indeed, the Wyndham resort is well placed for exploring stunning Andalusia and offers a wealth of excursions to make life easier for families. Step back in time at the jaw-dropping Alhambra outside Granada or soak up some flamenco in the beautiful city of Seville. Meet the famous monkeys of Gibraltar and climb the Rock. Or jump aboard a jeep safari to explore the real side of the region and get that adrenalin pumping.
Enjoy poolside fun and relaxation
As for where you’ll rest your head when the day’s adventures are done? Accommodation options at Wyndham Costa del Sol are vast so you’re bound to be able to find the best room or suite for your budget and needs. We stayed in a seafront suite in the Wyndham Residences Signature Collection which is family-friendly but retains an exclusive vibe thanks to the choice of pools and jacuzzi minutes from the room.
It’s elegant yet homely thanks to the kitchen, living and dining areas – ideal for those who sometimes want to stay in for a low-key family meal and relax in privacy. The rooms are all stocked with a welcome pack, too. We were greeted by a veritable smorgasbord, from wine and juice to crisps and biscuits.
White Company toiletries add a splash of luxury and the white towels and robes are very soft indeed. Moreover, an en suite for the main bedroom – in addition to a family bathroom – makes stays with kids much easier.
Our accommodation led directly out onto a terrace studded with loungers, white cabanas and palm trees – perfect for lounging and catching up on that book while keeping a close eye on the little ones.
Beyond, the Mediterranean glistens in the sun as though a celestial hand has cast a fistful of glittering diamonds onto the surface. It’s easy to see where the Costa del Sol – Sunshine Coast – got its name.
Planning a family break on the Costa del Sol
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Málaga take from 1 hour, 50 minutes year round.
Where to stay
Family Traveller stayed at Wyndham Costa del Sol situated 26 minutes drive south of Malaga Airport.
What to do
A guided tour of El Caminito del Rey is a great way for families with older kids to dare one of the world’s most daunting walks.
Marbella Yacht Charters offer mixed and private charters as well as sunset cruises.