Spanish holiday makers have been keeping this beautiful coastline to themselves for good reason – move here for dramatic scenery, glorious sunshine year-round and authentic Andalucían charm.
The Costa Tropical is a beautiful stretch of Andalucían coastline located in the province of Granada. The least well-known of the Costas, this coast was named after the abundance of tropical fruit it produces. Fruits such as chirimoya, mango, kaki, níspero, papaya, guayaba, and avocado are grown here, thanks to the subtropical microclimate which sees over 320 days sunshine a year and an average temperature of over 20 degrees. The scenery is dramatic: rugged cliffs, hidden coves and broad beaches of fine golden sands are backed by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, meaning you can go skiing and visit the beach on the same day. Olive and walnut groves blanket the foothills, while almond, cherry, and cypress trees fill the air with their heady fragrance.
Several of the beaches in this area (Playa Granada, Carchuna, and Torrenueva) have won blue flag awards for their excellent facilities, cleanliness, the quality of their seawater, and variety of sea life including protected marine life. The Costa Tropical is home to some amazing fish species, not to mention whales, dolphins and mollusks. If you want to view these animals up close in their natural habitat you can book a guided scuba diving expedition, offered at several locations along the costa.
With such warm, clean waters it’s no wonder water sports such as these are so popular – whether its diving, paragliding, surfing, or simply messing about on boats, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities in breathtaking surroundings here. Head to the local towns of Almuñécar (La Herradura), Salobreña, Motril, Castell de Ferro and La Rábita to take part in these sports plus golf, tennis, squash and horse riding.
The towns themselves are worth the visit – these whitewashed coastal villages ooze romance and authentic Andalucían charm. Almuñécar and its neighbouring village, La Herradura, are overlooked by the Moorish Castillo de San Miguel. Here, you can explore narrow, winding streets which take you past little shops and tapas bars, most of which will give you a free tapa when you order a drink. Spanish holidaymakers often skip dinner altogether and just head from bar-to-bar picking up a few tapas at each.
If all that free tapas means you end up having a few too many to drive, there’s no need to worry, as buses run regularly from Almuñécar Bus Station, including daily buses to Málaga, Granada and Almería as well as towns on the coast. If you wish to go further afield, Granada, Malaga and Almeria airport are all around 1 hour away.
Guide to towns on Costa Tropical (Granada province)
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life – explore beautiful reefs and ruined galleons, or laze about on La Herradura’s unusual black sandy beaches.
On Granada’s Costa Tropical, you will find La Herradura, a whitewashed town overlooked by the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Situated at the eastern end of a striking bay, this quintessential Andalusian town offers some very dramatic scenery. Cast your eyes towards the bay, where waters the colour of oxidised copper lap at black sand; glance skywards to discover the velvety black folds of the Sierra Nevada, rising majestically above the horizon like a sleeping giant.
This area possesses one of the most beautiful bays in southern Spain, so it’s not surprising to discover it’s a favourite of residents of Granada, who retreat here in the summer to escape the city. To the rest of the world, however, this stretch of coast is still relatively obscure – great news, if you are looking to buy here.
Head to the beautiful palm-lined promenade, where you can admire the full-scope of the scenery, including two promontories, which extend outwards like a pair of arms welcoming the Mediterranean Sea into the bay. Almost half a millennia ago, the bay beckoned 25 Spanish naval galleons to their ultimate ruin, and their remains can still be found in its beds. As a result, the area has become a hot spot for scuba-divers, who flock from all over the world to explore the reefs and the wreckage.
La Herradura is home to people from all over the world, but Spanish people make up the majority of the population. There is plenty of community spirit, with a number of charities operating in the town and a free local newspaper for residents featuring local news, ads and features.
The main town is mostly comprised of modern apartments and townhouses. If you prefer older style properties, venture out to the rural surrounding areas, where you can find traditional fincas and cortijos.
The town itself is well supplied with shops, bars and restaurants, so you are within walking distance of the essentials you need for daily life. The neighbouring town of Almunecar is just over 10 minutes away in the car and has several large supermarkets.
There is a regular bus service which travels from La Herradura to Marina del Este and Almunecar. The A-7 highway is around 5 minutes from the town centre and will get you to Malaga airport within an hour.
There are a number of small clinics in the area. For larger doctors’ practices and hospitals you can head to nearby Almuñeca.
Cost of Living
La Herradura offers great value for money, with affordable property prices, low living costs and excellent quality of life.
This town has bags of bona fide Spanish charm, a sub-tropical climate and an abundance of outdoor activities for explorers young and old.
Almuñécar has a fascinating historical past. This is very much in evidence in the Old Town, an attractive mix of typical Andalusian houses, bars, shops and al fresco restaurants among its small squares and steep, winding lanes. Founded by the Phoenicians who set up a fish curing industry here, it has a working Roman aqueduct, the medieval Castle of San Miguel, an architectural museum in a cave house; a Columbarium (a family pantheon) and the remains of a Phoenician fish salting factory.
Situated on a hill between two rivers and backed by the glorious Sierra Nevada mountains, the town is short on flat building land, so there are no large apartment blocks like those one the Spanish coast. Combine that with the pale grey, shingle-sanded beaches, you get a different type of tourist. The rocky outcrops, small coves and headlands are popular with divers, the cliffs of Maro Cerro Gordo are popular with hikers and the river Rio Verde is great for canoeing. You can ski in the winter and bathe in the waters of Playa de San Cristobal in the summer.
There’s an alternative vibe to some of the beach bars that thrum with lifelong into the summer nights and thriving art galleries in the mostly pedestrianised town.
The subtropical climate and verdant valleys are home to a cache of tropical crops from mangos to avocados and kiwis to figs. Many of which feature in the local cuisine, with cactus ice cream and almond desserts regional specialities.
There is an established expat community in Almuñécar, a mix of mostly British and Scandinavians. Although the high season is abuzz with tourists, the town significantly quietens down from October to April.
This is a town for lovers of traditional, whitewashed villas. Great value apartments are available in nearby urbanisations like the Costa Banana, which is only 10 minutes’ walk to the centre of town and 15 minutes’ walk to the beach of San Cristobal.
There is a post office and police station in town and plenty of choices of banks, gyms, playgrounds and supermarkets. Olivares on Calle Mariana Pineda stocks international supermarket brands and the indoor municipal market sells local produce between 9am and 2pm Monday to Saturday.
Málaga airport is closer than Granada airport but both are about a 90 minute drive. Both towns and airports are accessible by bus to and from Almuñécar town centre.
Centro de Salud de Almuñécar Medical and Health Center and Centro de Salud La Herradura are the Health Centre options. There is a 24-hour emergency service at Intermedical Suarez Saavedra Almuñécar. You’ll find bilingual doctors at the Vithas Salud Almuñécar private clinic.
Cost of Living
Produce is in abundance here, so eating out and purchasing groceries is much cheaper than Northern Europe. Housing, food and personal care (pharmacies, hairdressing, cosmetics etc.) are even better value than Málaga or Marbella, for example.
In Salobreña you’ll find the perfect alternative to the Costa del Sol. A real Spanish seaside experience, you are within striking distance of cultured Granada and the astonishing Alpujarras.
There aren’t many places in the world where you could be eating sardines barbecued on the beach for lunch and enjoying après ski in a world championship resort in evening, but Salobreña is one such location. Situated less than an hour from Granada and the Sierra Nevada ski resort, this picture postcard town of the Costa Tropical is perfectly situated and completely stunning from every angle.
Approach through a countryside dominated by sugar cane fields and you see the whitewashed town rise up in front of you. Climb the cobbled streets, past houses bedecked in colorful flowers and you eventually reach a stunning Moorish castle which offers views across the five beaches as well as the attractive modern developments around the seafront.
Salobreña has a permanent population of 12,500 people, swelled at weekends and holidays by visitors from Granada and the surrounding area. Its proximity to the city means this is a predominantly Spanish town, although you will meet people from all over the world with international buyers comprising around 9% of the property market.
You’ll find a variety of housing in Salobreña, with villas, apartments and townhouses in the historic old town offering great views of the sea at reasonable prices. Beneath the great rock are attractive modern developments mainly comprised of low-rise apartment blocks, many right next to the coast.
Along with usual variety of supermarkets and gift shops, Salobreña hosts The Zoco de Artesanos, a craft market, whilst in the Parque de la Fuente are twice weekly night-time markets. This is a great place to stay fit with Los Moriscos Club de Golf to the south east and a water park in neighboring Almuñécar. Divers and casual snorkelers can even explore an artificial reef off the Peñon rock which is home to some remarkable sea life.
Granada is the nearest big city, at around a 45-minute drive and with its own airport, while Malaga is about an hour to the west. There is no bus station in town, but a bus stop by the tourist office will connect you with the major towns of the region
There is a public health center along with several private dentists and pharmacies. You’ll find the nearest hospital in Motril, a 15-minute drive.
Cost of Living
The Costa Tropical is generally slightly cheaper than its busy neighbour, the Costa del Sol. Bear in mind that winters here aren’t always quite as warm as you’d imagine and energy prices in Spain are not as cheap as many would like!