MARBELLA, Spain - Costa Del Sol golf is fine, sure. From Valderrama and San Roque, to the many other courses.
But what makes the Costa Del Sol such a worthy golf vacation destination is the plethora of things to do off course.
Here is an 18-point guide on how to spend your day off the golf course in the Costa Del Sol.
1. Ronda city tour: From Marbella, you can head about an hour up into the mountains to the historic city of Ronda, home to an Old and New Town on opposite sides of a canyon connected by an incredible roman bridge, the "Puente Nuevo."
2. Puerto Banus: If you're staying at the Hotel Andalucia Plaza Hotel, you're just a 500-meter walk under the N340 highway into the heart of Puerto Banus - where a strip of bars, clubs and restaurants stay open late.
3. Hit the beach: There are a number of great beaches along the Costa Del Sol, from Puerto Banus to resorts in Marbella. The best golf resort for that is the Guadalmina Resort, which not only has beachfront access but two holes playing along the Mediterranean.
4. Shopping: You're never far from some shops in the Costa Del Sol. Malaga, of course, has plenty of shopping both in the city center and in malls on the perimeter (like outdoor Plaza Mayor off the A7), while Puerto Banus features designer brand name shops and smaller boutique outlets and tourist shops. Marbella's old town has little shops, or check out a massive El Corte Ingles for everything you could ask for under one roof.
5. See a bull fight: There are countless bullrings in Andalucia. Malaga province has 16 and Marbella even has two, but the most famous is in Ronda, which has its own museum open daily if you miss a fight.
6 and 7. Visit Grenada and Alhambra: From Malaga, it's about an hour-long drive to Grenada, one of the northern cities of Andalucia. Here, the traditional tapas bars serve free food while you drink, and the old quarter is worthy of a stroll. Grenada is also home to Alhambra, a historic village overlooking Grenada; it's full of gardens and Arabic and Andalucian architecture. It's Spain's most visited attraction, so get your tickets in advance.
"They're very strict about how many visitors they let in at a time," said local tour guide Frederico Abril. "Some groups will show up and wait in line for three hours and get turned away and have to come back the next day, so I would definitely recommend booking a ticket in advance."
8. Malaga city tour: Malaga is the Costa Del Sol's largest city. Spend a day exploring the old town and the wealth of historic tapas bars like El Pimpi, which serves its own Malaga sweet wine.
9. Take a spa day: After a few days of golf, you'll want to give your muscles a day off. Many of the hotels on the Costa Del Sol have a spa, but none are better than at the incredible new Finca Cortesin Resort, home to two massive pools, numerous baths and a snow room.
10. Casino Marbella: If you're looking to drop some coin on the tables, head to the Casino Marbella, adjoining the Hotel Andalucia Plaza just across the street from Puerto Banus, where they have both slots and table games, including a poker room. Be sure to bring your passport if you're a first-timer or you'll be turned away (as with most casinos in Europe). There is a €5 cover for non-hotel guests.
11. Marbella Old Town: Few historical city squares are as quaint and charming as Marbella's "Orange Square," which dates back to the 15th century and is filled with flowers and orange trees. It's the centerpiece of an old town you could get lost in for hours strolling the narrow, walking-only streets.
12. See a football match: Malaga has a Spanish Premier League soccer team, Malaga C.F., which plays out of La Rosaleda Stadium in the city.
13. Pablo Picasso Museum: Opened in 2003, the new Picasso museum in Malaga showcases more than 200 pieces of sculptures, drawings and paintings from throughout his creative life.
14. Go sailing: Marbella is home to numerous leisure ports, none bigger and more famous than Puerto Banus, but Marbella Leisure Port is also nearby. A variety of cruises also leave daily from Malaga.
15. Visit the Rock of Gibraltar: Once considered the end of the known world, this famous rock is full of sights. Take a cable car up for some wonderful views, and even see the barbary apes that live atop the rock - Europe's only wild apes.
You're going to eat like a king in Spain. For gastronomic enlightenments it's best to have a guide who can show you the best spots in Malaga to dine. One guide in particular is Sergio Rifugio of Cooking Holiday Spain (www.CookingHolidaySpain.com), a man who is passionate about his food and drink. He offers a variety of ways to get the best out of Andalucian gastronomy:
16. Cooking classes: Sure, you're going to enjoy your food while in the Costa Del Sol. But it's quite another thing to actually bring some tricks of the trade home. Learn how to make a variety of tapas and Andalucian dishes.
17. Tapas tours: There is an endless supply of ways to enjoy tapas in Spain. La Campana in Malaga specializes in fried fish and is always packed. Or head to Marbella's Taberna Del Pinxto, which brings a variety of dishes on sticks. You pay at the end of the night by showing the bartender your sticks.
18. Sherry- or wine-tasting tour. Ronda has a dozen organic wineries that have sprouted up over the last decade or so. Or head to Jerez, home to makers of Sherry, a wine made with local white grapes.
April 6, 2009
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