The mild winter climate and almost-guaranteed summer sunshine make this stretch of Mediterranean shoreline, known as the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun), a year-round destination. From the harbor city of Algeciras, it stretches east to the port city of Almería. Sandwiched in between is a steep, rugged coastline set against the Sierra Nevada. You'll find poor-to-fair beaches, sandy coves, whitewashed houses, olive trees, lots of new apartment houses, fishing boats, golf courses, souvenir stands, fast-food outlets, and a wide variety of visitors.
This coastal strip, quite frankly, no longer enjoys the chic reputation it had in Franco's day. It's overbuilt and spoiled, though you can still find posh sections (including Puerto Banús, with its yacht-clogged harbor).
Today, frankly, the coast is better for golf than for beaches. The best resorts are Los Monteros (tel. 95-277-17-00) in Marbella, the leading course; Hotel Atalaya Park in Estepona (tel. 95-288-90-00); and Golf Hotel Guadalmina in Marbella (tel. 95-288-22-11). To learn more, pick up a copy of the monthly magazine Costa Golf at any newsstand. Many golfers prefer to play a different course at every hotel. Usually, if you notify your hotel reception desk a day in advance, a staff member will arrange a playing time.
Water-skiing and windsurfing are available in every resort, and all types of boats can be rented from various kiosks at all the main beaches. You don't have to search hard for these outfitters -- chances are they'll find you.
From June to October the coast is mobbed, so make your hotel reservations in advance. And keep in mind that October 12 is a national holiday: Visitors should make doubly sure of reservations at this time. At other times innkeepers are likely to roll out the red carpet.
Many restaurants close around October 15 for a much-needed vacation. Remember, too, that many supermarkets and other facilities are closed on Sunday.