The One Place Everyone Goes

By: Rudi Van Der Zalm

Extending from Nerja in the east to Sotogrande in the west, the Costa del Sol now enjoys good road communications between the various main towns along the coast. This enables a couple from Marbella, for example, to visit the Cervantes in Malaga and later savour some traditional tapas in the historical city centre. Or a group from Torremolinos to join the carousing along Fuengirola's promenade.

In theory, that is because generally not everyone likes to venture far from their borne territories - be it because no one in the party is willing to volunteer for driving duties and thus not drink (the Coast's public transport facilities are ample and efficient during the day and early evening, but non-existent after midnight, except for taxis) or simply because they are happier remaining on familiar ground.

There is, however, one exception: Benalmadena, and specifically the port and Plaza Solymar, which have become the favoured and trendy night-life choices for young people (and young at heart) from along the entire Coast.

Barely 15 years ago, the port was just that: a port, or marina, inhabited by yachts and sailors. Residents and visitors were able to take a leisurely Sunday stroll along the beach from La Carihuela, or down from Arroyo de la Miel, wander among the handsome maritime vessels and dream of pulling up anchor and sailing off to the Caribbean - before waking up, returning to reality, looking for a kiosko for a rejuvenating ice-cream, then moving on up to Benalmadena Costa for more substantial refreshment.

Much has changed. First, the new apartments took shape, then a few bars, restaurants and shops opened. Next came the special attractions such as Sealife - and gradually more apartments (all tastefully designed in commune with the seafaring atmosphere of the area), bars, restaurants, shops and la movida. Benalmadena Port became the in place to go on a Friday and Saturday night - and even on the weekdays in summer. And for those who occasionally wanted a small change of scene (though not location) there was always the Plaza Solymar 24-hour square on the main road through Benalmadena Costa, a popular leisure area that heaved with weekend revelry even before the port came into existence.

If this all sounds a little exhausting for those with less frenetic tastes, it must be said that the port - and Benalmadena Costa in general - is not just about noisy nightclubs and discotheques after-hours. There are piano and flamenco bars for dancing. Live jazz bars and other music bars where you can relive the 60s or 70s. Or terrace bars where you can sip on a beer or cocktail while indulging in that favourite Spanish pastime: watching the world go by. And then, of course, there are the town's other entertainment amenities a little further afield.

In Arroyo de la Miel, on the way up to Benalmadena Pueblo, the Tivoli World amusement park has become a Costa del Sol institution - and not just for the children. The rides and attractions are unrivalled anywhere on the Coast, but Tivoli offers much more. Live stage performances at the western and Andalucian plazas are held throughout the afternoon and evenings, and many of Spain's finest singers and groups have performed in the amphitheatre.

Then, for a little more refined entertainment, there is the Torrequebrada Hotel and Casino, back on the coast road towards Fuengirola. This exceptional tourist complex, the only five-star hotel in the area, offers multiple services in the style of Las Vegas grand hotels. The magic of the Sala Fortuna, where you can sample a marvellous dinner while the flamenco and international stage-show bursts with life around you. And the casino itself, with machines that tempt your luck and a variety of other games of chance: roulette, poker, blackjack. In a word, then, in Benalmadena you will find truly everything that you could possibly want to make that evening special and memorable.

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