Pro Tips to Vacation Like a Local on the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is a top tourist destination, but if you are looking for a bit of local flavor, we’ve got that too! How to live like a local in the south of Spain.

Spain’s Costa del Sol is famous worldwide for it’s beautiful weather, stunning beaches and delicious food. It makes for a perfect sun break in the winter months, in the spring we celebrate Holy Week with impressive processions, for the summer you have the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and in the fall it stays warm well into October. The Costa del Sol truly is a year round destination and the number of tourists that flock here is a testament to that. But, is it possible to have a more authentic holiday? We think so! What follows are ten tips to live like a local on the Costa del Sol.

Going to the beach on the Costa del Sol
Foto (by-sa) Hernán Piñera

Head to the beach early and stay late.

Locals on the Costa del Sol take full advantage of the beach during the warm summer months. We tend to wake up, pack a picnic lunch and grab our sun umbrellas. It is an all day affair often including the whole extended family. Of course, the sun is quite strong, so it’s important to pack the sunscreen, drink lots of water and rent a sun umbrella. After all, no one want’s to start their holiday with sunburn!

Have lunch at a chiringuito.

The beachside restaurants along the Costa del Sol are called “chiringuitos” in Spanish. While the word translates into “snack bar” or “drink stand,” these restaurants are much more. In many cases it’s the best place to get fresh seafood right on the beach. When you order, keep in mind it’s family style and a “ración” is a portion to share amongst four or five.

Foto (by-nc-nd) de El Boquerón Viajero

Spend a day in the mountains.

One of our favorite places to go on weekends is the mountains of Málaga. As you drive away from the coast, the mountains offer spectacular views, beautiful trails and a perfect spot to get away from the crowds near the beach. The mountains are one of the things that make the Costa del Sol a perfect destination; no need to choose between sea and mountains.

Embrace the siesta.

The stereotype in Andalucía is that people are constantly taking a siesta. That isn’t quite true; we have to work during the week. However, the siesta is necessary on a weekend afternoon after a big lunch and the heat of the sun. It’s too hot to be out shopping and even if you are on the beach you’ll see people taking a doze in the shade.

Tapas on the Costa del Sol
Foto (by-nc-nd) de El Boquerón Viajero

Go for tapas at night.

In Spain we have our big meal in the middle of the day and at night dinner tends to be a bit lighter. Tapas are the perfect way to get a bite to eat along with a glass of wine or a cold beer. The locals usually have a favorite bar and if you are going for the true tapas experience, the idea is to have one bite at the first stop and then head on to a new bar. That way you get to try more bars and more tapas. It’s always clear someone is from out of town when you see them order a long list of tapas and hunker down for the night!

Speaking of cold beers…

The culture of craft beers is starting to grow in Spain; but on the Costa del Sol most people order a “caña.” This is a small glass of ice cold beer meant to be consumed quickly to cool off during the summer. It’s by no means the best beer you’ve ever tried; but it does the job. That said, a local would never think of ordering a pint unless they were in an Irish pub. We prefer multiple little glasses as it keeps the beer cold and fresh.

It is important to have a fan on the Costa del Sol
Foto (by) Nacho

Invest in a Spanish fan; and USE it!

Spanish fans are more than just a fashion accessory; it is a necessary tool to keep yourself cool on the Costa del Sol. While air conditioning is common in cafés and restaurants, there are many occasions (i.e. waiting for the bus, standing in line to buy bread, sitting on a terrace enjoying a glass of sangria) where a fan comes in handy. There are fans for every price point and they come in every color. My mother-in-law has a drawer full for every occasion.

Give the anchovy a chance.

People from the province of Málaga are known as “boquerones.” This is the name for the anchovy fish; but before you conjure up memories of salty pizza and nicoise salads, these boquerones are prepared very differently. We enjoy our white anchovies pickled in vinegar and drizzled with olive oil or lightly fried and eaten whole. My personal favorite is when they butterfly the fish, marinate in lemon and then lightly fry them. It’s the perfect dish to share with the aforementioned cold caña.

You cant miss the festivals and fairs on the Costa del Sol
Foto (by-nc-nd) de El Boquerón Viajero

Participate in local fairs and festivals.

If there is anything that I have found to be consistently true living in Spain, it is that the Spanish know how to have a good time! On the Costa del Sol there are fairs and festivals in every town no matter how small and it’s always a great chance to dance, soak up a bit of the culture and almost always enjoy some delicious food and drink. If you are here in the month of August, Málaga holds its yearly fair and you can party from noon until dawn in the center and at the fairgrounds. The same goes for Holy Week, tapas competitions, flamenco and wine harvesting festivals.

Enjoy the moment.

I think the best way to “live like a local” on the Costa del Sol is to truly live in the moment. The Andalusians are famous for welcoming you and making you feel right at home (regardless of language barriers.) This is a place for living in the moment, enjoying everything to the fullest and truly appreciating the beautiful Costa del Sol. Locals work hard, but when they are relaxing; they do that full on as well. There will be time for worrying later!

Old Town Marbella is a gorgeous place on the Costa del Sol
Foto (by) Nick Kenrick

If this sounds like the kind of vacation you are looking for, (and let’s face it who isn’t looking for gorgeous beaches, stunning mountains, delicious food and friendly locals?) consider the Costa del Sol for your next getaway.

The Costa del Sol has beautiful streets
Foto (by-nc-nd) de El Boquerón Viajero


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Abby Roule
I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, USA. I've lived in Reading and Pittsburgh (PA), in New York City for 6 years and in Spain for 5 years (in Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona, and now Málaga). I designed Rusko!
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