They don’t call it the Costa del Sol for nothing – the province of Malaga enjoys around 320 days of sunlight a year. This wall-to-wall sunshine can make for some pretty hot summers, but visitors to the region will find themselves spoilt for choice when choosing a spot for a refreshing dip.
Alongside its beautiful beaches, Malaga can also offer turquoise lagoons, crystal clear rivers and stunning natural pools. So grab that towel and get exploring, as we take you through some of the best places to go swimming…
1. Ardales Lakes
The rural village of Ardales is located in the countryside near Ronda, an hour’s drive from the city of Malaga. Ardales is known for its collection of stunning reservoirs – or embalses – which are dotted throughout the pine forests a mere stone’s throw from the entrance to the famous walking trail, El Caminito del Rey. These three huge lakes were originally created by a dam built across the Guadalhorce river gorge.
The vast emerald lagoons make for some wonderful freshwater swimming and are a popular picnic spot for families due to the shade provided by the surrounding woodland. There’s plenty of free parking on offer – if you get there early enough – and some decent local restaurants nearby where you can stop for a coffee before your morning swim (we’d recommend El Mirador which boasts spectacular views of the water from its large terrace)
For the more adventurous travellers out there, there’s also the option of hiring canoes or embarking on an inflatable obstacle course, located slap bang in the middle of the water at La Isla recreational park. La Isla also has a collection of barbeques amongst the trees if you’re in the mood for some open-air grilling. Just remember to take your rubbish home with you at the end of the day.
2. Río Chillar
Despite Nerja’s array of gorgeous beaches, families still flock to the river Chillar on the outskirts of town during the hot summer months – and it’s not hard to see why.
Accessible via walking trails running upstream through the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park, the crystal clear Chillar river culminates in beautiful natural pools which are perfect for a cooling dip after a morning’s exertion.
You can also opt to walk in the river itself to keep cool- providing you have the appropriate footwear (slippery stones and a fast moving current rule out flip flops).
The river walk takes you deep into the national parkland, where amenities are conspicuously absent. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of water and a picnic as you’ll certainly work up an appetite along the way.
3. Barranco Blanco, Coín
If tumbling waterfalls and abundant wildflowers are your thing, then the Barranco Blanco pools are for you. Set in the middle of the countryside near Coín, this walk cuts through dense vegetation alongside the Alaminos river, which opens up at intervals into natural pools – perfect for a refreshing plunge.
There’s also an impressive waterfall at the start of the route, providing you’re feeling brave enough to navigate the narrow access path leading to it. The waterfall cascades down a rock face into a deep natural basin, a popular spot amongst daredevil local teenagers for cliff jumping.
From June, the public car park at the start of the trail is only accessible to residents, so you’ll have to leave your car at the top of a steep hill and walk down. Local police often patrol the area and have been known to dispense hefty fines to those bending the rules. You have been warned!
4. Cueva del Gato, Benoajan
So named after its supposed resemblance to a feline’s face, the Cueva del Gato – or Cat’s Cave – is one of the most beautiful outdoor swimming spots in Andalucia. Situated just outside the sleepy town of Benoajan in the countryside near Ronda, the caves are easily accessible and make the perfect spot for a summertime picnic.
The swimming on offer is also second to none, provided courtesy of large, natural pools of crystal clear water. Due to its easy access and plentiful parking, the caves are a very popular spot for families, particularly during the summer months.
If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, we’d recommend getting there early before heading for lunch in nearby Molino del Santo. This lovely rural hotel boasts a shaded outdoor dining room and a fantastic lunch menu guaranteed to satisfy your appetite after a morning’s al fresco swimming!
5. Pedregalejo Beach, Malaga
If sun, sand and sea swimming are your bag, then Malaga had plenty to offer. Although the city beaches such as La Malagueta are prone to overcrowding during the summer months, a short drive east will lead you to the quieter local beaches of the smaller towns.
The neighbourhood of Pedregalejo- once a tiny fishing town- is the perfect spot for a family beach day. Its small, sandy coves are lapped with tranquil waters, making it an ideal location if you have young children. The town itself has a funky, bohemian vibe and the seafront is lined with a collection of quirky bars and restaurants, providing ample choice for a spot of lunch or an afternoon cocktail.
One of the most popular restaurants in town is the stylish Pez Tomillo. This large, airy restaurant specializes in innovative modern tapas dishes – such as oxtail stew with creamy mash or filo pastry wrapped king prawns – and has gorgeous sea views on offer from its upstairs dining room. Book a table here.
6. Playa Calahonda, Nerja
Some of the best beaches in Malaga Province can be found in the town of Nerja, a 50 minute drive east along the Costa del Sol. Nerja’s collection of gorgeous coves can be admired from the sweeping lookout plaza, El Balcón de Europa, which takes pride of place in the centre of town and is encircled on all sides by incredible views of the shimmering Mediterranean sea.
Descending the steps in the plaza’s left-hand corner will bring you to Playa Calahonda. This charming little cove is flanked by glimmering turquoise waters and overhung by jagged cliffs, making for some truly beautiful views. The swimming here is excellent and the beach’s transparent, clean waters are perfect for a spot of snorkelling, too.
Keep your eyes peeled for the rustic little fisherman’s cottage carved into the rockface at the end of the beach and usually guarded by a group of well-fed cats!
7. Swimming Pool Meliá Costa del Sol, Torremolinos
If your holiday accommodation lacks a pool, head down the coast to Torremolinos and check out the 4 * Meliá Costa del Sol Hotel. Providing you stop for lunch in the hotel’s restaurant, you’re welcome to make use of the swanky beachfront swimming pool, which comes complete with its own bar.
We can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon than relaxing on a sun-soaked terrace listening to chilled out tunes while sipping on a cocktail. You’ll also be treated to spectacular ocean views from the comfort of your sun lounger, as the hotel terrace directly overlooks the popular Bajondillo beach below.