Regional Guide for the Costa del Sol

This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor at Guides.Global (francine.carrel@guides.global).

It was written on 4 May 2016. The law and practice in Spain change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

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The scope of this guide

This guide takes a quick look at the facts and figures of the Costa del Sol.


The Costa del Sol is a length of coastline in Andalusia, stretching from Manilva to Nerja - with Rincon de la Victoria, Torre del Mar, Velez-Malaga, Algarrobo, Torrox, Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Mijas Costa, Fuengirola, Marbella, San Pedro de Alcantara, and Estepona in between.

It's hugely popular with expats. Over 200,000 foreign residents currently live on the Costa del Sol - and that's not counting the many thousands who spend months of the year there whilst remaining resident in their home countries.

For more information about Spain in general, please see our Country Guide to Spain.

The basics

The Country: Spain ( España)

Adjective: Spanish ( Español)

The Nationality: Spanish ( Español)

The People: Spaniards (Españoles)

Time Zone: UTC+0

Currency: Euro

Currency Code: EUR

ISO International Country Code: ESP

Internet Domain: .es

Telephone Dialling Code: +34

The geography

Though best known for its beaches, the Costa del Sol has a variety of geographical features: cliffs, sand dunes and the Malaga mountains. This means that the region is great for walking - check out TripAdvisor's list for some ideas.

In 2015, 21 of 29 beaches on the Costa del Sol were awarded a Blue Flag, which looks at " water quality, safety and access for all".

The people

The population (and the foreign population) of the Costa del Sol is a constantly shifting one.

Registered population: Around 500,000

Foreign population: Around 30%

The high population of expats means that you shouldn't have a problem finding a community to relate to if you do decide to relocate to the Costa del Sol. See our Useful Websites and Contacts for the Costa del Sol guide for more information.


Sunny and warm through most of the year. See our Guide to Climate in the Costa del Sol for more information.


The healthcare system on the Costa del Sol is high-quality and cheaper than in much of Europe. The region is well serviced by hospitals and healthcare centres. See our Guide to Healthcare in the Costa del Sol for more information.


The standard of education in Spain as a whole, and certainly on the Costa del Sol, has improved immensely over the past few decades. You will find many options for your child on the Costa del Sol, from local schools to international schools. See our Guide to Education on the Costa del Sol for more details.


Andalucia is traditionally an agricultural-based economy - olives, citrus fruits and livestock - but tourism and retail now dominate the region (see below).

The 'tertiary sector' (services) now accounts for around 70% of the economy and employment in Andalucia, compared to just over 50% in 1975.

The real estate sector, of course, took a huge hit during the global recession, but it is still important to the region and ties in with the huge amount of foreign visitors and expats.


The Costa del Sol is a huge hotspot for tourists: Andalucia sees around 30 million each year and the Costa del Sol accounts for over 35% of that. Tourists came mainly from England, France and Germany; but Scandinavia and Ireland also have a good showing.

Tourists visit the area partly to see the mix of new and old: classic white villages and venerable bull-rings stand alongside modern bars and restaurants. The region is also steeped in culture - Picasso was born in Malaga, and the city boasts excellent museums and impressive architecture.

What keeps tourists of all ages and nationalities coming back to the Costa del Sol, though, is the climate. Over 300 days of sunshine per year makes for an almost guaranteed holiday in the sun.

Culture and food


Reflecting the rest of Spain, the Costa del Sol is overwhelmingly Catholic. Even the smallest towns and villages go all out for religious celebrations, which beautiful parades and processions. See our Guide to Religion on the Costa del Sol for more information.


UNESCO recognised the Mediterranean diet as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010 - and it's certainly a big part of life in Spain. Andalucia and the Costa del Sol are no exception to this.

As you would expect, seafood is a huge part of the Costa del Sol's culinary offerings. Andalucian food is influenced by Arabic and Jewish contributions, as well as the obvious Spanish influences. Pescaíto frito (little fried fish) is a very popular dish (see below).

costa del sol fried fish
By Tamorlan - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7245957


The Costa del Sol is a surprisingly varied area, offering towns and villages from the traditional to the super-modern.

Although you won't find many people going to church every Sunday, religion still has a huge impact on the cultural calendar and the architecture of the region. Traditional tapas and seafood is plentiful but you won't find it difficult to make reservations at a Chinese restaurant. The area caters to tourists and expats alike, but many shops and businesses still keep traditional hours with a break in the afternoon.

The Costa del Sol is a region that you have to visit extensively before deciding to live there. For some people it's perfect; for others, another part of Spain may be more suitable. Whatever the outcome, the process of deciding should be enjoyable.

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
The Climate on the Costa del Sol
What to expect from the weather throughout the year
climate in Spain
The Currency on the Costa del Sol
The euro - historical figure and how it fits in Spain
currency in Spain
Healthcare on the Costa del Sol
The quality of healthcare available on the Costa del Sol - and how to access it
healthcare in Spain

You may also want to read:

 Description Link 
The Andalusian economy
A brief overview by Guia de Andalucia

Readers' Comments


Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel

4 May 2016


This guide was co-authored by John Howell (Email: John.Howell@Guides.Global or John@jhco.org. Web: www.jhco.org or www.Guides.Global)

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