While Coronado is a vacation destination that rivals many around the world, residents seeking adventure, history and beauty should consider a trip to the southeast region of Spain. Andalusia, Spain has a limitless number of excursions and day trips you can take no matter where you choose to make your “home base.” We chose Marbella to call home for five wonderful nights (I would recommend seven for those planning a trip). Marbella has many similarities to Coronado, fabulous beaches, quiet neighborhood streets, and a nice downtown area, but it also has a lively nightlife in Puerto Banus, incredible mountains surrounding the beach and a Bull Ring that is home to the public market. One could take time to relax and stroll to the beach and along the boardwalk the entire week; but there is so much to do in the nearby area, prepare to take on the Spanish highways and roundabouts as you explore the region. Here are a few MUST DO excursions you can take that are just a short drive from Marbella.
- Canyoning and rappelling. For the adventurer, don’t miss the Team4You canyoning tour that starts in Benahavis, just a 10 minute drive from Marbella. You will find yourself immersed in a river, jumping from cliffs, rappelling over waterfalls and walking through aquaducts built hundreds of years ago. This was by far the favorite activity for my two boys, ages 11 and 13, and they have been asking to do it again ever since. Also available are more advanced canyoning tours for experienced hikers, but this was just right for us.
- La Alhambra!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and something that should not be missed, La Alhambra was the military facility, palaces and gardens built by the Moors in the 13th century. Alhambra is about a two hour drive north of Marbella, but it is a beautiful drive and well worth the effort. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be sure to purchase your tickets in advance on their website (well in advance, as they sometimes sell out weeks prior). We enjoyed walking down the old cobblestone streets, seeing the beautiful manicured shrubs and bushes on the way to the old military site, the Alcazaba. The fortress is the oldest part of the Alhambra built by Mohammed I. It also was the home of Mohammed II until the palaces were completed. We climbed to the top of the arms tower, which was used to communicate with the surrounding city. We then made our way to the Nasrid palaces which were beautiful with ornately carved ceilings and doors, fountains everywhere and courtyards throughout.
- Gibraltar – Less than an hour south of Marbella you can cross the border into Gibraltar and make your way to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar via cable car. Don’t forget your passport and again good walking shoes as the hike down is well worth the effort. As you climb the 462 meters to the top you will enjoy breathtaking views of Southern Spain, the Mediterranean and if you are lucky a glimpse of Northern Africa. You may be surprised at the top when you come face to face with the Barbary Macaque, the local monkeys that live on the rock. We had a Mac jump into our cable car as we were about to begin the journey. It was a thrill for the boys and gave me quite a start. As we continued to the top we had to navigate past a few other large Macs that were waiting to steal food from unknowing tourists. There is a nice cafe at the top where you can grab lunch and enjoy the breathtaking views. As you hike down the rock be sure to climb the Mediterranean steps, stop in Saint Michael’s cave and cross the suspension bridge. If you aren’t too tired, continue on to the tunnels and batteries, or just make your way back to town and relax with the English speaking friendly residents.
- Ronda. Again, less than an hour away you will find another beautiful little town, home to the oldest Bullfighting Ring in Spain. You can cross the beautiful Puente Nueva (the New Bridge) and hike down to take in the view from the canyon below. This was near the top of my list of places to visit, but with only five nights we were too worn out to make it to Ronda. That said, everyone I talked with while planning this trip said it is well worth a visit.
- Caminito Del Rey (The King’s Little Pathway). An hour northwest of Marbella you can take a guided tour of a hike along the side of a cliff more than 100 meters above the canyon and river below. With breathtaking views and an education on the history of the region, this hike should make your list if you have the time. The building of the path began in 1901 as a means to bring in supplies between the hydroelectric power plants at Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo. King Alfonso XIII crossed the walkway in 1921 for the inauguration of the dam Conde del Guadalhorce when the pathway was just one meter wide and over 100 meters above the river below (with no railings). Bring bathing suits and take a dip in the beautiful lake that sits just beyond where you park. Get your tickets in advance here.
Spend your downtime lounging on the beach, but beware that the water is as cold as it is in Coronado so don’t expect warm water swimming on this trip. The water is crystal clear and refreshing and the experience feels a world apart from Southern California. That said, you can enjoy some reminders of home with the jacaranda trees, the bougainvillea and the palm trees lining the streets. If you need to get away but love Coronado, this is the place for you!