As one of the first destinations to be developed on the Costa del Sol, Torremolinos gives you all the things that attracted holidaymakers in the 1950s and 60s: There are superb beaches that continue in an almost unbroken line for tens of kilometres, blessed with a summer season that runs from as early as Easter through to October.
Golfers can get to a course in minutes, there are plenty of attractions that the kids will love and an endless choice of restaurants for eating out. On top of all that you can get to all sorts of interesting places in the car, from typical Andalusian villages to an outlandish karst landscape without equal in western Europe.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Torremolinos:
Torremolinos alone has seven kilometres of seafront with six main beaches, and there are many more if you continue down to Benalmádena.
The most lively and colourful stretch is Playa de Bajondillo, right next to the resort’s big hotels and apartment blocks and with abundant amenities like restaurants, sun loungers and parasols.
If you prefer a bit more peace then go up the Paseo Marítimo towards Playamar and Los Alamos where the resort’s sprawl starts to thin out but there are still conveniences like beach bars and sun lounger rental.
2. La Carihuela
This is Torremolinos’ former fishing district, and even though most traces of the old industry are gone the neighbourhood hasn’t lost any of its charm.
Just in from the promenade there’s a small grid of quiet streets where bougainvillea climbs the walls of low-rise houses.
At the beachfront you’ve got a long walkway that connects with Benalmádena and has pretty much any sort of restaurant and bar you can conceive of.
Most establishments here are open-fronted, so you can gaze out at the moonlit Mediterranean over a plate of pescaíto frito.
3. Jardín Botánico Molino de Inca
Pack a picnic for a trip to this park on a rise a few minutes into the countryside from the resort.
Although surrounded by scrubland the gardens are lush and cool, partly because they’re at the source of a natural spring.
These spring waters feed all sorts of ornamental features, like ponds, streams and fountains.
There’s also a small maze in the park, at the centre of which is a 50-metre-high Norfolk Island Pine tree.
This is just one of 110 different plant species, including an olive specimen that is 1000 years old.
Take a few minutes to potter around the restored flour mill, also powered by the spring and in full working order.
4. Parque La Batería
Just back from La Carihuela is a spacious and well-kept park next to Torremolinos’ train station.
Parque La Batería has fresh lawns, palms and toparies next to wide and regal boulevards, as well as a number of surprises that will keep you and your family occupied for a little while.
There’s a pond where you can hire a row boat for a while, a gorgeous wrought iron pavilion and a carousel for small children.
Climb the “mirador” to look past Torremolinos’ apartment blocks to the Mediterranean and back at the mountains in the hinterland.
As the name might tell you, the park is on the site of the city’s former battery, and its early-18th-century gun positions have been kept as memorials.
5. Crocodile Park
At the entrance this animal attraction will look like a Saharan fortress, of the kind you’d expect to see in Timbuktu.
Within there are trails that curl through tropical vegetation next to pools that are crawling with some 300 crocodiles.
In one resides Big Daddy, the largest crocodile in Europe, weighing almost 600 kilograms.
The crocodiles are pretty inactive until a handler steps into the enclosure, so it’s a good idea to wait for a live demonstration.
Guests who pay a little more at the gate can have their photo taken with a baby crocodile in their arms.
6. Casa de los Navajas
In the early 20th century Spain’s medieval Moorish-style architecture (Mudéjar) was back in fashion.
For a great example of this neo-Mudéjar design climb the steps to this bold mansion, which sit next to the beach at Playamar and was built by the wealthy local businessman Antonio Navajas: It’s like the Great Gatsby meets the Alhambra.
Now, almost century after it was built the house has been renovated and is open to the public.
Get a good look at the mosaics on the facade, and the furniture and fittings that fuse the Spanish renaissance with art deco.
The second floor of the house was designed as a terrace and coastal lookout with sublime views of the Mediterranean.
7. Calle San Miguel
Climbing sharply from the beachfront at Bajondillo is Torremolinos’ lively shopping area.
Calle San Miguel is a pedestrian street with restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and some Spanish high-street brands like Stradivarius and Pull and Bear.
There’s also a branch of the Catalan bakery chain, Granier to tempt you inside for a croissant or donut.
If you cross Calle Casablanca and continue along Calle Santos Arcángeles you’ll reach Plaza San Miguel, a pretty square with wrought iron lanterns and the small baroque Church of San Miguel that you can enter for a quick peek.
If you can swing a club you’d be remiss not to visit the Costa del Sol and not play at least one round of golf.
As one of the first places to attract tourism in the region, Torremolinos also got the Costa del Sol’s first golf courses.
Parador de Málaga Golf is a slice of history in that respect, dating back to 1925. This seaside course continues to earn good reviews from players, and has reasonable green fees, especially if you show up before 10:00 or after 16:00. Much newer and just right for beginners is the Miguel Ángel Jiménez Academy with a nine hole par-3 that should also test experts’ approach play.
9. Other Family Attractions
Torremolinos and its close neighbour Benalmádena has more than enough things to do to ensure that all members of the family get the most out of their holiday.
Next to the marina in Benalmádena is the Sea Life Aquarium, where little ones can hold starfish and crabs, and observe creatures like sharks and rays even before they hatch from their eggs.
Aqualand is a water park and the ideal solution to beach fatigue, with 30 slides and pools, while Tivoli World is the Costa del Sol’s premier theme park, boasting more than 300 rides, shows and amusements.
10. Benalmádena Pueblo
On some days all the noise and activity of the seaside may get a bit overwhelming, and this is when you can escape to one of the traditional hilltop villages in the region.
Benalmádena Pueblo is the closest to Torremolinos and is a pleasure.
The houses are all white, save for the terracotta roof tiles, and the pavements are laid in a fetching chequered pattern.
Many homes decorate their walls with mounted plant pots in which geraniums create bursts of colour.
For lunch or a drink, make your way to Plaza de España, which ringed with orange trees that shade the restaurants’ outdoor tables.
11. Benalmádena Cable-Car
Just a few minutes away is the cable-car station that connects Benalmádena with the summit of Mount Calamorro, 771 metres above the sea.
On the way and at the top you’ll be rewarded with the most far-reaching views of the Costa del Sol.
On clear days you can see all the way to North Africa from here.
The company that operates the cable-car has also placed a handful of attractions at the top.
The Valley of the Eagles is included in your ticket and puts on demonstrations with eagles, falcons and vultures.
You’re also free to ramble along almost three kilometres of trails traced by wild herbs like thyme, lavender and marjoram.
12. Butterfly Park
Like the Crocodile Park in Torremolinos, this attraction is in a building that looks a little out of place on the Costa del Sol.
The Butterfly Park is set in a Thai-style temple, with dragon statues out front and authentic blue roof tiles brought all the way from Thailand.
More than 1,500 butterflies from 150 different species fly freely inside the building, which is maintained at 80% humidity and temperatures between 24 and 29°C. The creatures also reproduce on site, so you’ll be fascinated to see their full life-cycle, from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis.
At only 25 minutes the region’s capital is an easy day out and has much more than a day’s worth of attractions and experiences.
Any visit should start with the Alcazaba, a lofty fortress-palace and one of Spain’s greatest pieces of Moorish heritage.
You don’t need to return to sea level right away as the Gibralfaro Castle, also Moorish, and the city’s marvellous Roman theatre are both on high ground.
You can spend the rest of you visit indulging in a spot of shopping or immersing yourself in Málaga’s culture, on the trail of the nascent Pablo Picasso or appreciating 20th-century design at the Automobile and Fashion Museum.
14. Food and Drink
The Costa del Sol may not be known for its winemaking, but around an hour west of Málaga is the Ronda wine region, where the high altitudes create the right conditions for colombard, chardonnay, macabeo, and sauvignon blanc grapes to thrive.
The crianzas and blanca joven wines they produce pair wonderfully with seafood, and especially the fried tapas (chipirones, pescaíto frito) popular in Andalucia.
Torremolinos has a restaurant mentioned in the Michelin guide; El Botijo Carihuela serves traditional Spanish country food, with lots of grilled meat and dishes like roast suckling lamb.
15. Torcal de Antequera
Get on the AP-46 at Puerto de la Torre and in less than an hour you’ll be in one of Europe’s most astounding karst landscapes.
The 17-square-kilometre Torcal de Antequera is full of weird and wonderful limestone landforms weathered into columns and etched with strange linear patterns.
Once you reach the Visitor Centre you’ll get info on the three walking routes in the park: Red being the most difficult but climbing up to a scenic lookout at 1,340 metres for amazing vistas.
The Torcal de Antequera also has its own microclimate, allowing 30 orchid species to flourish and attracting wildlife such as ibexes.