Costa Tropical Guide

By Matt May

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Largely overlooked by tourists, and considerably less developed than neighbouring Costa del Sol, the Costa Tropical is an area of Andalucian coastline which has an idyllic climate, wonderful beaches and some of the most compelling scenery in southern Spain.

Costa Tropical is the name given to the coastal strip of the province of Granada in Andalucia. Costa Tropical begins to the west of Almeria, and ends in the east at the resort of La Herradura. Much of the coastline of Costa Tropical is not as geared to tourism as the Costa del Sol; partly because of the distance from Malaga airport, and partly due to the less developed coastal access roads. However, if you are looking for a European holiday destination with a blend of spectacular beaches and scenery, warm weather and attractive seaside resorts which cater for tourism but haven't been overly-developed, the Costa Tropical is worth exploring as a holiday option. Calahonda beach in January

A large proportion of the Costa Tropical coastal strip is still used for growing produce such as peppers in huge polytunnels and greenhouses, or avocados and olives on the undulating hillsides which lead down to the coast.

Prices tend to be a little cheaper on the Costa Tropical than the Costa del Sol, so if you are looking for a value for money beach holiday then the area is worth considering.

The eastern side of Costa Tropical is less developed than the west, again mainly due to accessibility, with many of the small coastal towns producing revenue from farming rather than tourism. As you head west, towns such as Calahonda have long, sandy beaches where you won't have to fight for space, even during the busy summer months.

The beaches of the Costa Tropical are often stoney, or a mixture of sand and stone, but the stones are smooth meaning that the beaches are ideal for children. The sea of the Mediterranean in much of the Costa Tropical has a gentle slope, so the water doesn't get deep too quickly which is ideal for kids.

Costa Tropical Resorts

Below is a guide to some of the main resorts of the Costa Tropical.


San Cristobal/La China beach at Almunecar

For a lively resort which is ideal for families, Almunecar is a good choice as a base. There is no shortage of Blue Flag beach space at Almunecar, with Puerta del Mar beach in the town centre lined with clubs, bars and restaurants. The beaches at San Cristobal / La China at the western side of Almunecar are somewhat less developed, but easy to walk to from the town centre.

There is a very attractive promenade at San Cristobal beach (Paseo de la Caletilla), which has some of the beat kept trees and flowers o the Costa Tropical. La China beach overlooked by the impressive Castle of San Miguel is at the most up-market end of the town, and has a very attractive promenade with wonderfully maintained sub-tropical flowers.

For families with children, Aqua Tropic water park on the sea front is walkable from the town centre. The park is open from June to September and is priced at just under €20 for adults and €15 for children for the day. See the AquaTropic Water Park website for more details as there may be special family offers available.

For something different the Bonsai Garden Museum in Almunecar has an impressive collection of trees set in ornate surroundings.


If you prefer a very quiet resort then Calahonda in the east of the Costa Tropical is the perfect destination to escape the holiday crowds. The small town is a good couple of hours from Malaga Airport, so a car is almost a necessity. The large beach has a very shallow gradient so is perfect for children, although some areas are stoney.

The sea water is also a little warmer in Calahonda than to the west, so you can swim on warmer days during most of the year. There is a bar/restaurant on the beach where you can escape from the sun, and the small town is walkable from the beach in 5 minutes.

La Herradura

La Herradura beach

La Herradura to the west of the Costa Tropcial is another quiet resort with a huge sandy beach. Many of the beaches have dark-coloured sand which appears at first glance to be dirty, but the colouring is due to the dark colour of the rocks in the area. The beach at La Herradura is flat and sandy, and is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants.

Playa Cantarrijan just to the west of La Herradura is small beach situated in an idyllic location, and is mainly frequented by locals. There is a very popular restaurant (Restaurante la Barraca) located on the beach. Parking here is limited in the summer. This beach is a renowned nudist beach, so may not be suitable for everyone.


The largest resort in Costa Tropical is the town of Motril. Appearances can be deceptive, and when viewed from the N340 coast road, the towering apartment blocks and hotels which line the seafront are a bit "off-putting". However, if you are looking for a lively resort, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants then Motril is worth considering. Motril is also ideal if you want to visit the city of Granada which is less than an hour drive in land.

Things to do in the Costa Tropical

The calm, blue waters of the Costa Tropical are very popular with scuba divers, with a number of diving centres located across the region in towns such as La Herradura. Both beach diving and reef diving are possible in Costa Tropical.

Fishing is also very popular along Costa Tropical coastline - take a look in most of the harbours and you will see swarms of large fish swimming in the clear waters. You can hire fishing tackle locally if you don't want to bring your own, and fishing day trips are available at most of the major resorts. Paseo de la Caletilla at San Cristobal/La China beach

For golfers there are not many courses on the coast of Costa Tropical, but Los Moriscos Golf Club at Motril offers year round golf from around 70 euros for 2 players. Rates are cheaper after 16.00. Other popular activities include bird watching, cycling, climbing, pony and horse riding and trekking, all forms of watersports and walking.

If you have children, there is a water park at Almunecar on the beach front. It isn't the most spectacular in Andalucia, but will keep the children happy for a few hours.

Getting around the Costa Tropical

By Car

The E15/AP-7 is a non-toll motorway which follows the coastline of Costa Tropical from Almunecar (La Herradura side) to Malaga in the west. The road isn't the fastest due to the undulating nature of the terrain, but generally the road isn't that busy which means you can usually get from one side of the region to the other in around an hour. From Almeria to Almunecar the motorway is replaced by the slower, mainly single-lane N340.

Public Transport

There are no train stations on the Costa Tropical, so local buses are the best option to get around if you don't have a car. There are regular buses to and from Malaga Airport to Almunecar and most of the main resorts run by Alsa. Alsa buses also run to the Costa Tropical from Almeria Airport via Almeria.

Getting There

There is no airport in the Costa Tropical, so there are 3 choices of where to fly to depending where you are staying. Malaga Airport in the Costa del Sol is around 1 hour by car from the western edge of Costa Tropical and Almeria Airport is around a 1 hour drive to the east. Granada Airport is around 45 minutes to the north, but is a small airport and doesn't offer a huge choice of flights.

Below is a quick guide to help you choose the most suitable resort in Costa Tropical: Costa Tropical coastline view from the E15

  • Beaches - Almunecar, Calahonda, La Herradura
  • Diving/Snorkelling - Almunecar, El Herradura
  • Families - Almunecar, La Herradura
  • Golf - Motril
  • Historic - Salbrena
  • Nightlife - Motril
  • Peaceful - Calahonda, La Herradura
  • Scenic - Salobrena
  • Shopping - Motril
  • Up-Market - Almunecar (La China beach area)
  • Walking - Salobrena