When the package holiday boom exploded in the mid-80s, the Costa del Sol boasted a couple of pace-setters in Torremolinos and Fuengirola. While the former grabbed the headlines and forged itself something of a reputation for a cheap and cheerful way for Brits to experience their first taste of ‘abroad’, Fuengirola grew quietly, living in the shadow of Torremolinos. Slightly farther away from Málaga airport, huddled around an old Spanish fishing village and less ostentatious, Fuengirola’s baby steps as a tourist resort were taken with trepidation, particularly when compared to the confident strides its neighbour was making.
But just look at what Fuengirola offers. While parts of the town are undoubtedly a little shabby, the atmosphere is wonderfully intoxicating. Striking the right balance between expat convenience and Spanish authenticity, Fuengirola delivers an intriguing melting pot of cultures, where it is not uncommon to see British, Irish, Danish and German inhabitants not only cohabiting but mingling with the local Spanish and South American population, creating a cultural cocktail that is pretty much unique in the region.
While the fast food cafés so beloved of travelling Brits are highly visible, their numbers are more than matched by traditional tapas bars, classic chiringuitos, inviting Irish pubs and a fair collection of Scandinavian bars and eateries too. A look inside any one of the aforementioned establishments will also surprise – the clientele is equally diverse and eclectic, with both holidaymakers and locals at ease with one another, lending the entire town a warmth that is unusual for such an ostensibly transient destination.
Easily accessible, bathed in beautiful sunshine for pretty much ten months of the year, affordable and lively, Fuengirola’s reputation belies its undeniable charm. While Marbella is certainly easier on the eye, Puerto Banús has a more glamorous nightlife and Benalmádena is the more family-friendly option, Fuengirola’s everyman appeal is its main strength. Nowhere is too exclusive or financially prohibitive, the streets are clean, the people friendly and the commercial and cultural variety on offer is as good as anywhere else on the Costa del Sol. Chuck in a long beach, a wide promenade and some exceptionally well-priced properties, and you have the ingredients for a pretty fine place in the sun.