West of Málaga – or more correctly, west of Málaga airport – the real Costa del Sol gets going, and if you’ve never seen this level of tourist development, it’s quite a shock. These are certainly not the kind of resorts you could envisage anywhere else in Europe. The 1960s and 1970s hotel and apartment tower-blocks were followed by a second wave of property development in the 1980s and 1990s, this time villa homes and leisure complexes, funded by massive international investment. It’s estimated that 300,000 foreigners now live on and around the Costa del Sol, the majority of them British and other Northern Europeans, though marina developments such as Puerto Banús have also attracted Arab and Russian money.
Approached in the right kind of spirit, it is possible to have fun in resorts like Torremolinos, Fuengirola and, at a price, in Marbella. But if you’ve come to Spain to be in Spain, put on the shades and keep going at least until you reach Estepona.