Fuengirola is quite a rare thing: In many ways it’s an ordinary Spanish coastal town, even though it’s right at the centre of the Costa del Sol. There are lots of tourists of course, and a sizeable population of expats, but this hasn’t altered the Spanish feel of the place.
Fuengirola has welcoming plazas, promenades and parks, and plenty of restaurants that serve local specialities like grilled sardines. Added to these are big-hitting attractions like the Bioparc Feungirola, a humane zoo that the little ones will adore. You’ve also got three Blue Flag beaches, so everything is in place for an easy holiday in the sun.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Fuengirola:
1. Bioparc Fuengirola
Nobody likes to see unhappy animals confined to cages, and you definitely won’t get them at this first-rate family attraction.
Both animal and visitor are brought closer together at the Bioparc Fuengirola.
For visitors this means adventurous pathways through recreated tropical forest, with real vegetation and water features like waterfalls.
For creatures like crocodiles, gibbons, pygmy hippos, lowland gorillas, Malayan tapirs and Borneo Orangutans it means ethical enclosures without bars.
In the summer you can book a “moonlight visit” to get glimpses of nocturnal animals that would normally be hiding or asleep during daylight hours.
Tickets are available online: Bioparc Fuengirola General Admission Day Ticket
Most resorts would be happy to have one beach awarded the Blue Flag.
Well, Fuengirola has three! So there can be no doubt that the standards of hygiene and the amenities provided are top-notch.
Starting in the south is Playa de Fuengirola, the resort’s main beach that runs up to the marina.
Soft sand, smooth waters and beach bars with delicious tapas are what you’ll find here.
Boliches-Gaviotas is in the quieter part of Fuengirola, has a gentle curve and is marginally broader.
Joggers, cyclists and roller-skaters will make their way along the Paseo Marítimo in summer.
Finally there’s Torreblanca, which is quieter still and strikes a nice balance between seclusion and useful facilities like water sports centres and food kiosks.
3. Plaza de la Constitución
Fuengirola is a typical Spanish town, in that most people live in apartments and when they want to enjoy the sun or meet friends they simply head for public spaces like Plaza de la Constitución.
You’ll see plenty of Fuengirola’s older citizens here, chatting on benches below pergolas with a dense cloak of vines to provide shade.
On the square is the Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, a whitewashed church that holds occasional concerts.
You can take a peek inside, or do a bit of shopping on the streets that branch off the square.
At night this will be one of your destinations for tapas or a sit-down meal.
4. Water sports
Fuengirola has its own marina, which is great news if you want some marine-based fun in the Mediterranean.
As for what you get up to, the range of activities is almost endless.
There are a couple of companies based in the marina providing parasailing, tubing, wakeboarding and water-skiing for people in need of a rush.
If you’re after a more tranquil time you can go on a cruise out into the mirrored waters of the open sea to spot dolphins, or even go all out and charter a yacht for a day or two.
For those who know how to swing a club it would be unheard of to come to the Costa del Sol and not play at least one round.
Mijas Costa nearby has nine courses, most of which are private clubs that still accept pay and play golfers.
If you need to blow away the cobwebs, most have full practice facilities and driving ranges.
If you’ve got a low-ish handicap then Miraflores is the one for you, with a island green on the 15th.
La Siesta would be good for beginners and dormant golfers; it’s a forgiving nine hole par-27. And for families Fuengirola has an adventure golf course with 18 ingeniously-designed holes.
6. Miramar Shopping Centre
Fuengirola has one of the largest shopping malls on the Costa del Sol.
At the height of summer you may want to flee from the sun to somewhere air-conditioned for a couple of hours.
All the better if there’s a wide choice of shops and restaurants on hand.
Superdry, Primark, Mango and H&M are here, as well as Spanish high-street mainstays like Oysho, Bershka and Pull & Bear.
If you’re in need of a bit of grown-up time then you can bring the little ones to Isla Miramar for a while where they’ll be in the care of specialist staff organising fun activities the whole day.
7. Sohail Castle
This bulky coastal defence was built by the Córdoban Caliph, Abd -ar-Rahman III in the 10th century as a citadel with a watchtower.
During the Peninsular War in the early-18th century the castle was a base for Napoleon’s French Army, repelling a siege and helping to defeat a British corps in the Battle of Fuengirola in 1810. If you can brave the steep walk you can enter the castle and climb up to the gun positions for vistas of the resort.
The bailey is empty, and serves as a grand auditorium for concerts on certain summer nights.
8. Costa Water Park
If you’re with little guys who have ants in their pants and are bored of Fuengirola Beach, you could get one-hour passes for this floating playground, in the shallow waters a few metres from the shore.
They’ll be fitted with lifejackets and will be supervised while they climb, run and slide around an inflatable adventure course.
The Water Park is perfectly safe, and shuts down when the red or yellow flags are up.
After an hour tearing around this playground kids may not be quite so fidgety for the rest of the day!
9. Food and Drink
The Málaga Province specialises in many of the dishes that people consider to be typically Spanish.
This goes for deep-fried fish and seafood tapas.
So pescaíto frito, calamares and chipirones (fried baby squid) will appear on the menu at most beachside bars (chiringuitos). Also local are espetos, sardines skewered and grilled over a wood fire, often in a pit made on the beach.
Gazpacho is another favourite in this part of southern Spain, and actually has Moorish origins.
It’s a room-temperature vegetable soup made with tomato, garlic and cucumber.
10. Sould Park
Tucked between the marina and Paseo Marítimo is something for Fuengirola’s littlest visitors.
Sould Park is a mini amusement attraction with games and rides for kids up to about eight or nine.
All with a jungle and desert island theme are carousels, bumper boats, a small Ferris wheel, as well as large bouncy castles, trampolines and inflatable slides.
For bigger kids there’s a “Play Zone”, with air hockey and skeeball.
Parents who need a breather can take a moment at the cafe-bar with outdoor seating.
11. Finca del Secretario
You may need a few minutes to find it, but lost behind the new developments close to Los Boliches station is a Roman archaeological site dating to the 1st century.
It was discovered in 1987 and excavations have been taking place since 1991. The most striking part for a casual visitor is what’s left of the baths.
You can make out the underground heating system in great detail from the viewing platform.
The trendy “El Jazzy Bar” is part of the complex and you can get a good look at the whole site from the window or terrace with a beer or mojito in hand!
12. Castillo de Colomares
In the hills between Funegirola and Benalmádena is a castle that looks like the bold Castilian fortresses and palaces from the renaissance.
It was built to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America, but only dates to the 1980s and 90s.
It’s the work of a local businessman and just two bricklayers, and is a homage to Spain’s national architecture, with a bit of byzantine, romanesque, Moorish and gothic design thrown in.
Definitely worth a photo is the large portal with a twin pointed arch and carvings of the Catholic monarchs and their coat of arms.
Next-door, the big resort of Benalmádena is a few minutes in the car or 20 minutes on the C1 train.
There are a handful of tourist attractions to seek out, as well as a beautiful old village set back from the coast.
The best option for families is catch the cable car to Mount Calamorro.
On the 15-minute journey you’ll ascend more than 700 metres, for what are probably the best views in the entire Costa del Sol.
At the top there’s a restaurant, while you can watch falconry demonstrations and follow your curiosity along the trails that weave through the mountains.
14. La Carihuela
Linking the seafront of the neighbouring resorts of Torremolinos and Benalmádena is a long esplanade paved the whole way with a geometric mosaic.
It’s worth making the brief trip up the coast to see it for yourself.
Whether you’re lazing on the beach by day or going out to dinner at night, La Carihuela will be part of the experience.
It’s used by locals as much as tourists and has a friendly, cosmopolitan ambience.
There’s a mind-boggling choice of restaurants of all descriptions, as well as Spanish chiringuitos (beach bars) loved for their pescaíto frito (fried whitebait), and if you’re on the hunt for the perfect patch of beach you can use this walkway to weigh up your options.
15. Mijas Pueblo
Just ten minutes inland, but more than 400 metres above sea level is the gorgeous little town of Mijas.
Clinging to the mountainside is a sea of whitewashed houses and a hint of what the Costa del Sol looked like – well, before it was the Costa del Sol.
The best view of the wonderful townscape can be had from the terracing of the Plaza de Toros (bullring): On a sunny day the walls of the houses are bright against the dark browns and greens of the soaring mountains behind.
Spend a couple of hours poking around the old streets where ceramics are still made and painted by hand in the traditional Andalusian style.