How exactly Estepona, just a short trip down the coast from Marbella on the busy Costa del Sol, has managed to hang on to its pretty, authentic Spanish charm is something of a mystery. But, despite several (it has to be said, tasteful) developments along the waterfront, kept it it most certainly has.
The old part of town is still an enchanting network of narrow cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings decorated by colourful flowers in pots. In short, Estepona is something of an oasis of authentic Spanish charm, in a wilderness of tourist development along Spain’s popular Costa del Sol.
Get a Taste of Andalucía
But this is not to suggest that the resort does not know how to look after its visitors. With a range of excellent restaurants, hotels and beach clubs, the tourists who venture here will find traditional Spanish hospitality served with a modern luxury twist.
When I travel to a country, one of the things I enjoy most is sampling the local food so, for me, one of the most refreshing elements of a holiday here is that you can actually enjoy really good quality Spanish, and particularly Andalucían cuisine.
I’ve eaten at a lot of great restaurants in and around the town, from small family-run establishments specialising in great Spanish home-cooked food to those offering a grand gastronomic experience, and I’ve come up with a list of my favourites for you to try.
For delicious Spanish seafood with a view, try El Palangre. Set slightly uphill in the old town, its shaded terrace benefits from the most fantastic views across the rooftops and out to the Mediterranean.
Don’t expect elegant, dainty dishes – this restaurant specialises in traditional, wholesome Spanish fare with an emphasis on fresh local seafood. Dishes include octopus, prawn and monkfish kebabs, as well as white prawns from Huelva.
Address: CalleCristóbal Colón, 20, 29680
Tel. +34 952 80 58 57
At the Healthouse Las Dunas, set on the beach to the east of town, you can experience a truly unique gastronomic experience in the Healthouse restaurant (formerly known as El Lido). This is healthy food created in a totally new, innovative way by two-Michelin starred chef Andoni Luis Aduriz.
Trained under Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, Aduriz has created a menu which not only celebrates healthy ingredients but elevates them to new fine-dining heights. Be warned though: they take healthy eating extremely seriously here, so there are no alcoholic drinks or drinks with added sugar served at the restaurant.
If your meal has inspired you to take better care of your body, then why not spend the afternoon pampering yourself in the five-star spa here? (I did, and blissful doesn’t even begin to cover it!)
Address: Hotel Las Dunas, Carretera de Cadiz, 29680
Tel. +34 952 809 400
Set right on the promenade overlooking the sea, El Pescador is the perfect place to lunch after a morning on the beach. Fresh local fish is delivered daily and prepared in the traditional Andalucían way, and the shaded terrace is beautiful spot to sit and people-watch.
The food here is a cut above other local seafood restaurants with a chef who trained under celebrity chef Marco Pierre White. My personal recommendations from the fantastic menu would be the seafood salad, followed by the restaurant’s speciality Arroz Negro (black rice paella with cuttlefish) – delicious!
Address: Av. España, 1, 29680
Tel. +34 952 80 43 93
Alcaría de Ramos
The family run Alcaría de Ramos is set in a traditional Andalucían villa looking down over the Mediterranean. The kitchen, although now staffed by his sons, is still presided over by José Ramos Torres, who was the first Andalucían chef to be awarded the Spanish National Gastronomy Prize.
The food here is traditional and hearty, so think big plates of excellent fresh seafood, served with authentic Spanish flare. Dishes include:
- Seabas in ginger oil with pineapple sauce and sundried red peppers
- Vol-au-vent of boned guinea fowl in red wine sauce
- Iberian pork steak carpaccio with black pudding
Address: Urbanización El Paraíso, N340, Km 167, Andalusia, 29680
Tel: +34952 886178
How to Get to Estepona
Getting to Estepona couldn’t be easier, with regular flights from the UK flying in to Málaga airport offered by a range of budget and premium airlines. Avoid the tourist throng queuing for taxis at the airport by booking a Shuttle Direct airport transfer online before you set off. That way, a driver will be in the Arrivals lounge to meet you and take you directly to a comfortable executive car which will take you the rest of the way to Estepona (the drive takes just under an hour).
Where to Stay:
Villa Padierna Palace Hotel G.L. – The stunning five-star Andalucían resort Villa Padierna Palace Hotel G.L. is set between Puerto Banus and Estepona and offers the ultimate in luxury accommodation including its own 18-hole golf course, spa, pool and gardens.
Healthouse Las Dunas – Look after yourself body and soul at the five-star Healthouse Las Dunas. Healthy food and healthy living have never looked so opulent as in this effortlessly stylish adults-only health hotel on the beach.
Senator Banus Spa Hotel– For a contemporary twist on luxury holidays, try the stylish, modern Senator Banus Spa Hotel. With its own spa, outdoor pool and gardens as well as an excellent à la carte restaurant, this is a great, indulgent choice.
About Shuttle Direct:
The leading provider of private and shuttle transfers in Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct is the most comfortable and convenient way to get from the airport to your luxury accommodation and back. Simply book a private executive car online before you set off and your own personal driver will greet you at the airport when you land and sweep you away to your five-star hotel.