Benalmádena lies on the Costa del Sol, between Torremolinos and Fuengirola. It has a population of 67,000 and has grown dramatically in the last 50 years as a result of tourism. Benalmádena is pronounced with the stress on the ‘á’. It is made up of three areas; Benalmádena Costa, Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena Pueblo.
Benalmádena Costa is a tourist resort, built up over the last 50 years along the coastal strip. This is where the discos, souvenir shops and the tourist bars are. The main road through the resort is Avenida Antonio Machado. There is a long beach and promenade. The marina has a large variety of bars and restaurants, shopping centre, the Sealife Centre, and is the starting point for sailing and fishing trips. The beaches continue beyond the marina to Torremolinos. In the opposite direction, the coastal strip extends towards Fuengirola with a series of smaller beaches and coves and the residential areas of Torrequebrada and Torremuelle. Slightly behind the seafront the Parque de la Paloma and the Selwo Marina dolphinarium and penguinarium are worth a visit. Between the park and Arroyo de la Miel is the fairground and auditorium, used for the annual feria (see below) and concerts.
Arroyo de la Miel (usually shortened to Arroyo) is where the locals live and, despite the tourists and recent expansion, it remains recognisably Spanish. This is the main commercial and shopping area of Benalmádena. The main street, which leads to the railway station is Avenida de la Constitucion. Towards the station is the Casa de la Cultura, where local events take place and exhibitions are held. Beyond the station are Tivoli World amusement park, and a cable car to the top of Mount Calamorro. On the lower slopes of the mountain there are extensive residential areas.
Arroyo de la Miel
Benalmádena Pueblo is the original settlement, several kilometres inland and is a typical picturesque Andalucían village, with good views down to the Costa. The Pueblo also includes more esoteric attractions such as the Museum of Pre-Colombian American Art, the Buddhist Stupa, the Butterfly Park and the Castillo Colomares folly. It retains a village atmosphere and has a multi-national community.
While tourism is the mainstay of the economy Benalmádena has all the usual facilities of a town of its size. As well as working in the tourism industry many of the locals work in the commercial, public and health sectors and service industries, whilst others commute to Málaga and neighbouring towns. While Brits make up a significant proportion of the tourists and the ex-pat community, particularly along the coast, there are significant communities from elsewhere such as Scandinavians and Irish. Benalmádena is also a popular resort for Spanish tourists and second-home owners and attracts visitors from all over Spain. This diversity means that it is not difficult to find places to suit individual tastes or to take part in Spanish lifestyle and culture.
Looking towards Castillo Colomares and the coast from Benalmádena Pueblo
A Brief History
Benalmádena is an Arabic (Moorish) name, thought to mean ‘son of the mines’ as there are known to have been iron ore and ochre mines in the area. However the Moors were only one of a series of peoples who occupied and lived in the area including the Phoenicians and Romans. Andalucía was the first and final Moorish area of Spain, and it is from this time that much of the traditional way of life and architecture in the region dates, from the major buildings in Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba to the layout of the white villages.
Another view of the Pueblo and the Tibetan stupa
Like most local villages, Benalmádena was built on a hill for defence from invaders, some way back from the shore, which was protected by a line of watchtowers (such as Torremolinos and Torreblanca). Due to fears of invasion, between the departure of the Moors and the 18th century the area was largely abandoned, after which, with social stability came agriculture and viniculture.
Casa de la Cultura, Arroyo de la Miel
Arroyo de la Miel was a small settlement founded in the nineteenth century around a paper-mill, the remains of which can still be seen next to the Plaza de la Tribuna.
Through most of the Franco years following the Civil War the area was impoverished, and many Andalucíans emigrated to Catalunya or Latin America. It was only with the opening up of the Costa for tourism in the 1960’s that the area began to prosper. As Benalmádena Costa was developed, Spaniards from poorer inland areas moved to the coast, followed in due course by the large ex-pat population.
The beach at the height of the season
Windmills Roundabout, Benalmádena Costa
Benalmádena is about 12kms from Málaga Airport, which has flights from all over Europe. A taxi from the airport to Arroyo de la Miel will take about 20 minutes and cost about €25-30.
The public transport option is to take the local train (destination Fuengirola – every 20 minutes) from the Airport station to Benalmádena-Arroyo de la Miel – journey time 20 minutes. Local taxis from outside the station are plentiful and cheap.
The local train runs to and from Málaga city, from where there are connections from Sevilla, Cordoba, Madrid and Barcelona. Benalmádena is also linked by regular bus services from Málaga, which has coach connections from throughout Spain and beyond.
Getting around Benalmádena
Parque de la Paloma
Click on this link for a map – ArroyoMap – which will help you find your way round Benalmádena Costa and Arroyo de la Miel, which is walkable for most people.
Along the coast road between Torremolinos, Benalmádena Costa and Torremuelle a frequent bus services is provided by routes 110 and 120. There is a regular bus service between Benalmádena Costa, Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena Pueblo (usually 2 journeys each hour, fare €1.55, Nos. 112/121/126). Another service (No 103) links the Pueblo and Arroyo with Torrequebrada, for the beaches to the west of the area.
A hop on – hop off open top bus runs from the marina in Benálmadena Costa to Tivoli World and the butterfly park at the Pueblo. Tickets are €15, the commentary is banal and is really only of any use for first-time visitors to get their bearings. A road train ‘Tren Turistico’ covers a similar route from the marina to Tivoli, is much more fun and costs €5.
Local taxis are plentiful and reasonable. The taxi ranks are marked on the map, and taxis showing a green ‘libre’ sign or green light can be hailed on the street. Taxis can be called on 952 441 545, and very rarely take more than a few minutes to arrive.
For a different perspective on Benalmádena, take the cable car (pictured) to the summit of Monte Calamorro. It leaves from the entrance to Tivoli World, a few minutes from Arroyo de la Miel station. There are tremendous views from the top, plus a café-bar, marked walking routes and birds of prey displays.
Drinking and eating
lunch by the beach – Torrequebrada
There are a huge number of bars and restaurants in Benalmádena ranging from the truly awful to the excellent. There should be something for everyone’s taste – what follows is only a guide to the main locations. We haven’t recommended anywhere here because peoples tastes are so different. Remember that the area attracts Spanish tourists as well as Brits and other nationalities, so you should be able to find somewhere that appeals in any part of Benalmádena.
In the centre of Benalmádena Costa the main focus is providing for the holidaymaker during the day and evening, then becoming the nightlife centre.
Local fish specialties – calamar (squid) and fritura malagueña (mixed fish)
In the day time the Marina has a wide selection of bars and restaurants, many slightly more expensive than average. At night the Marina combines upmarket restaurants with bars and clubs, attracting both tourists and locals from Málaga and around. Nearby, on the main road, nightlife centres around Plaza Sol y Mar, known by many locally as ‘24 hour square’, which attracts the youngest crowd.
All along the promenade either side of marina are many more places to eat and drink. One attraction is the selection of chiringuitas along the beaches, selling good value fresh fish and seafood. These continue as far as Castillo Bil Bil. Near there is a further group on Av. Las Palmeras and the main road. Further along, places are more spread out and some of them have excellent beach side locations around the smaller coves.
Between Benalmádena Costa and Arroyo is the main concentration of apartment blocks for holidaymakers and ex-pats, and therefore also the main concentration of bars and restaurants to cater for them – there are many British bars, those run by other nationalities such as Finns and Irish and of course Spanish bars. Around Plaza Nueva Bonanza (Bonanza Square) and the Jardines del Gamonal there is a wide choice, catering to many tastes, from breakfast bars, to local pubs, to sports bars and late night venues. Prices are cheap by British standards – be careful not to overdo it like Ted.
Steve’s home bar in this area is the Eagle Café-bar, opposite Minerva apartments, a friendly bar with good breakfasts and snacks. Daytimes only particularly in winter, but open into the evenings in summer.
Steve and Ted’s home in Benalmádena – Myramar Oasis
Arroyo de la Miel has a host of bars, cafes and restaurants serving the local population, both Spanish and ex-pats, and the tourists who boost the population in the main holiday periods. The vast majority are Spanish run, though some attract a mainly ex-pat clientele (particularly those with sunny terraces). There are places along all the main streets, Avenida de la Constitución and Calle Andalucía, in squares such as Plaza de la Mezquita and Plaza de la Tribuna and plenty others to discover around the back streets. Most are locally owned, though a few chain bars, restaurants and fast food outlets have moved in more recently. Most sell tapas, filled rolls and meals, some will provide a free small tapa with a glass of beer or wine, and are open all day from breakfast until late evening.
Benalmádena Pueblo has a similar selection of bars and restaurants, albeit on a smaller scale than Arroyo, both along the main road and in the village streets.
Throughout Benalmádena restaurants range from basic hamburger and kebab places to international cuisine to expensive upmarket options. Some of the Spanish restaurants specialize in the cuisine of certain areas such as Asturias, while modern bars specializing in an innovative range of tapas have appeared. Other cuisines are well represented including Italian, Indian, Chinese, Tex-Mex and Scandinavian.
Holidays and fiestas
The Three Kings arrive in Benalmádena Pueblo on 5 January – spot the sweetie
At any time of year you are likely to come across a Spanish holiday. In addition to the main national holidays, there are regional holidays and local holidays. Most shops, banks and public services close on the major holidays though supermarkets may operate restricted hours. Trains and buses operate a Sunday service.
The major Spanish holiday dates are: 1 January, 6 January, 28 February, Easter Thursday, Easter Friday, 1 May, Corpus Christi (end June), 15 August, 12 October, 1 November, 6 December, 8 December, 25 December.
More from the Three Kings cavalcade
The main local fiestas are:
* New Year, at Plaza de la Mezquita in Arroyo and the feria (fair) ground in the Pueblo. At midnight the trick is to eat 12 grapes during the bells, washed down with cava (shops sell small seedless grapes specifically for New Year) for luck, followed by live music and dancing.
* The arrival of the three kings (Los Reyes). The Spanish equivalent of Christmas is on the 6th January when the kings bring presents. On the evening of the 5th the three kings procession takes place in the Pueblo and Arroyo, where the kings scatter gifts and sweets for children.
* Easter week (Semana Santa). There are processions each night in either Benalmádena Pueblo or Arroyo (pictured). These are fairly small scale compared to Málaga, which is worth a visit – trains run all night during Semana Santa.
* Corpus Christi is celebrated in the Pueblo with streets covered in flowers and a procession.
* Feria de San Juan (St. John). San Juan Bautista is the patron saint of Benálmadena and festivities start on St Johns Eve (23 June) with fireworks, and there is a huge week long fair at the feria ground in Arroyo. See the pictures in the useful websites section below.
* Virgin del Carmen (mid-July). The virgin (patron saint of fishermen) is carried from the church at Bonanza Square (pictured) to the Marina, where it is paraded at sea, in a procession of boats.
* Feria Virgen de la Cruz in Benalmádena Pueblo during mid-August.
The Pueblo feria gateway
The main tourist information office is located in Benalmádena Costa, on Avenida Antonio Machado, by ‘24 hour square’ .
Daytime fun and games at the Pueblo feria
There is a frequent suburban (cercanías) train service from Benalmádena-Arroyo de la Miel to Málaga and Fuengirola. Fuengirola is a 15 minute journey and to Málaga takes 30 minutes.
The high speed AVE line from Málaga to Madrid and Barcelona has dramatically improved train services and reduced journey times. The line is also used by high speed trains to Cordoba and Sevilla. There are regional train services from Málaga to Sevilla, a suburban line to Alora, and daily services to El Chorro for access to the walk along the Caminito del Rey.
Local buses are cheap and fairly frequent. The local service extends to Mijas and Torremolinos. Along the coast there is a frequent service to Torremolinos and Málaga and roughly every half hour to Fuengirola.
For long distance journeys along the Costa del Sol to Marbella, Estepona, La Linea (for Gibraltar) and Algeciras, use the ‘24 hour square’ bus stop. Buses to the remainder of Málaga province, and nationwide, leave from Málaga bus station which is near to, and signposted from, Málaga (Maria Zambrano) railway station. There is an hourly express bus from Málaga to Granada and a regular express service to Sevilla
Coach tours are advertised locally in bars, exchange offices and the English language press. A popular option is a day-trip to Gibraltar, mainly for shopping, which is more convenient than using public transport. Day trips run to a range of places, including the major cities of Andalucía and to local events. Longer trips are available to cities such as Granada to Sevilla and also to Morocco.
The ferry to Fuengirola
Finally, check at the marina for boat trips for fishing trips and dolphin watching. A ferry service operates to Fuengirola several times daily.
Useful websites and apps
All sites mentioned are in English, or have an English language option.
www.disfrutbenalmadena.com The local council tourist information site.
For council services visit www.benalmadena.es .
www.andalucia.org is the Andalucian government’s tourist information site.
www.andalucia.com is a privately run site with extensive tourist information.
The Arroyo feria begins with a daytime romeria at the fairground site
LOCAL TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
www.tivoli.es Tivoli world amusement park
www.visitsealife.com/benalmadena/en/ The sealife aquarium in the marina
www.selwomarina.es The dolpinarium next to Paloma Park
www.telefericobenalmadena.com The cable car from Arroyo to Monte Calamorro
GETTING AROUND – PUBLIC TRANSPORT and TRIPS OUT
www.renfe.com Spanish railways (Renfe) nationwide timetables, fares and tickets website. Many cheap tickets are available only from this site. Click on Cercanías and then Málaga for local train times. Renfe schedules app for train times.
www.malaga.avanzagrupo.com Timetables etc for Avanza bus and coach services locally in Benalmadena and along the Costa del Sol. The Malaga Avanza Grupo app shows bus services in real time.
www.ctmam.es for all bus services in a wide area around Málaga. Info also on their Consorcio Malaga app.
www.city-sightseeing.com/en/18/benalmadena for the hop-on hop-off open top bus tour.
www.trenturisticobenalmadena.com for the road train trips around Benalmádena.
www.costasolcruceros.com for boat trips and the ferry to Fuengirola.
www.rubensexcursions.com Full day coach trips to Gibraltar, Andalucían cities and Tanger
www.daysoutandalucia.com Coach trips from Benalmádena to Gibraltar, destinations in Andalucía off the beaten track and to festivals and events.
On the evening of San Juan the streets of Arroyo are packed with street parties, then the fairground operates all night for most of the week
WEATHER IN SPAIN
The El Tiempo website www.eltiempo.es and ElTiempo.es app provide comprehensive and accurate daily and hourly weather forecasts and weather warnings for towns and villages throughout Spain.
www.elpais.com/elpais/inenglish Selection of articles from Spain’s best daily newspaper
www.surinenglish.com English language newspaper for the Costa del Sol.
www.euroweeklynews.com/ewn/news/costa-del-sol/ and www.theolivepress.es are the sites of other local English language newspapers.
Copyright © Text and photos are copyright Steve Gillon, 2020