Coastline West: Estepona, Sotogrande, La Duquesa
Big enough so you can enjoy other people’s company, but well preserved in its spirit so it’s still traditionally Spanish, Estepona is one of the few coastal towns that has maintained its character while all the facilities for tourism, culture, leisure and enjoying life are here: hotels, restaurants, cafes and tapas bars, bodegas, bars and nightclubs, a wonderful marina, a 3 km long promenade, 17 beaches and 8 golf courses. The spirit of the town is friendly and casual, the prices are affordable – with some luxury exceptions, which are nice from time to time, even just for the sake of variety. Estepona has the sea at her feet and the mountains all around, a fine-sandy beach with clear, shallow water, sheltered from the wind (it faces west) and offering amazing sunsets over the rock of Gibraltar, a horse-riding center and its very own impressive Safari Park – Selwo Aventura – where as many as 2,000 animals from all five continents live in semi-captive environments. No wonder its so popular, mostly with families. And whilst it doesn’t have the glitz and glam of Puerto Banus, you will not go to bed at 22.00 out of boredom either: it’s nightlife has enough options to keep you out of the house, from late dinners with Flamenco shows (ore even Celtic music!) to bars and discos (well, yes, karaoke included). The housing options here are practically limitless: detached houses, town houses, apartments in gated communities, all vary in location, price and looks, so one’s tastes must be really particular in order not to be met.
In a totally different register form the casual Estepona, Sotogrande is the largest privately owned residential development in Andalusia, and it is where some of the richest and most powerful families of Spain have summer homes. What was originally a gated community in the municipality of San Roque, turned into one of the most luxurious urbanizations – in 2006 it was featured in The Times, as having the most expensive homes in Europe. Layout-wise its a 20 square kilometers stretch from the Mediterranean Sea, back into the foothills of Sierra Almenara mountain range, providing contrasting views of sea, hills, cork forests, the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco. Built like a port – or more like a city on the water – Sotogrande is a wide display of up-market houses and apartments with mooring places under the windows and it is well-known for its architectural diversity: with styles varying from the traditional Andalucian to mid century modern, all the way through 21st century design and even more unusual designs, including moorish/mudejar style homes and even a Swiss chalet. If that wasn’t enough, it has a river – Guardiarro – an Estuary, artificial lakes, a Natural reserve wild park with wildlife, a top class Marina, a Polo club, incredible beach bars and restaurants and 5 golf courses, including the world famous Valderrama. A true magnet for the jet-set families – with their children usually enlisted in Sotogrande International School – Sotogrande is an unique experience for residents and visitors alike.
To say that La Duquesa is low profile would not be at all far from the truth, since people who only visited the coast never heard of it, and this applies to some of the permanent residents as well. But in fact, it has one of Costa del Sol’s best marinas – Puerto de la Duquesa – vast amounts of unspoiled natural scenery and authentic local character, while sharing the fantastic climate and all the excellent services and infrastructure of the rest of the Costa del Sol. Easily reachable in just an hour drive form Malaga airport, La Duquesa feels like miles away from the busy resorts packed with noisy holiday makers. Closer to the Ocean, it benefits from a more dramatic landscape with Mediterranean vegetation mixed with the oceanic one and its practically surrounded by wide beaches, fully equipped with fine sand, sun beds and many chiringuitos. Less traffic than in the rest of the areas, attractive promenades surrounding the port with a variety of restaurants, bars and cafes, an extensive range of spacious apartments, residential complexes with shared pools and gardens, modern villas, highly rated international schools and the charming La Duquesa Golf and Country Club. Add the bonus of still being able to find half-deserted beaches in proximity – a rare treat considering all the touristic hype, and maybe La Duquesa deserves a second look (and thought) when looking for a place to reside, be it permanently or part-time.