EXPLORING SPAIN: Málaga, Marbella, and Puerto Banús

Exploring Spain
Our view in the morning

On an overcast October morning, we continued cruising and exploring Spain while onboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral and I noticed that we weren’t alone in the port of Málaga. This definitely wasn’t my first visit to Málaga. I cruised out of this port a few years earlier, which is what made me first fall in love with and start exploring Spain.



Transfer to Marbella and Puerto Banus

Exploring Spain
View from the ship in Málaga

While we weren’t participating in an organized tour, we were using the ship’s transfer service to walk around Marbella and Puerto Banus. Because of our early departure, we were up in time to watch the sun rise over the Costa del Sol that morning.

Exploring Spain
Map of the route we took from Málaga to Marbella to Puerto Banus

Here’s a map that shows the distance from Málaga to Marbella and Puerto Banus. In between both areas is the charming city of Mijas, which I’m hoping to visit on my next trip to Spain.

TSG Tip: Did you know that if you don’t want to do anything other than to sunbathe on a beach while in port, all you have to do is walk a few minutes off the ship toward the lighthouse? Here you’ll find a sandy beach where you can soak up as much or as little of the sun as you like.

Sunrise Over Málaga

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Welcome to Málaga

Time came to disembark and start our day first of exploring Spain with stops first in Málaga and then Marbella and Puerto Banus.

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Balmoral

We walked off the ship toward our coach and I couldn’t help but notice how pink the sky was overhead.

I wish I had known the sailor’s warning:

Red sky at night; sailors delight.
 Red sky in the morning; sailors warning

The red sky indicates that storm system is moving to the east and rain is on its way and we would soon see this for ourselves soon enough.

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Málaga

I couldn’t believe how beautiful the sky was on this morning and how quickly the shades of colors changed in only a few minutes in the early part of our drive out of Málaga.

Exploring Spain
Málaga
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Rainbow

Then in an instant the skies opened up and it was raining. But for the rainbow overhead, I was skeptical about having a good time with the rain, but before I could think about it too much, we arrived in Marbella.

Marbella

History

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Manhole cover in Marbella

Marbella is located a comfortable distance between Málaga and Gibraltar and is situated in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca. This small city is roughly 44 square miles and has a population of around 140,000. Maybe it’s this reason that it’s a popular destination for the wealthy, celebrities, and now cruisers. Without any real plan for the city, we decided to walk through Casco Antiguo or the Old Town first.

Exploring Spain
Plaza de los Naranjos

It’s been said that the history of Marbella goes back as far as the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC. Later, Marbella was home to many including the Visigoths, Vandals, Byzantines, and Romans, but most notably the Moors. In the 10th century the Moors constructed the walled city or Alcazaba including a castle and moat. In 1485, the Moors were conquered by the Spanish Catholic Monarchs and Marbella became part of Spain. Changes were then made to how the city looked and one of the changes made was to the Muslim Medina, which was torn down and is now the main square that you see above, Plaza de los Naranjos.

Casco Antiguo

Exploring Spain
Marbella

The narrow streets in Casco Antiguo are paved with cobblestone with intricate detail and designs. All of the buildings in this area are in various shades of white, many with wrought iron balconies.

After wandering the streets of Casco Antiguo, we literally tripped upon a crowd visiting one of the largest attractions in the city, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Encarnación. This church was built in 1505 and the oldest church in Marbella.

TSG Tip: Not into architecture or churches? Try to look for the ten bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali, one of Spain’s most influential artists, on the Avenida del Mar.

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Casa consistorial de Marbella

Nearby is the Casa consistorial de Marbella, which is a historic building built in the Renaissance style in 1568 by the Catholic Monarchs. Today you’ll find the town hall or Ayuntamiento of Marbella here. Notice the sundial at the top of this building, which I first thought was a clock.

Exploring Spain
Marbella

At the front of the building is a memorial plaque written in Old Spanish. The plaque commemorates the 1485 conquest of the city by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille against the Moors as well as the establishment of the city’s water supply in 1632.

TSG Tip: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were the some of the first celebrities to call Marbella home. Modern day celebrities who have visited and/or own homes here include George Clooney, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren, and Julio Iglesias among others.

Coffee Break

What do you do in such a historical plaza? If you’re like me then you go to Costa Coffee to seek shelter from the rain. We met up with one of the couples from the ship, Sue and Mick, and we all enjoyed a couple of minutes of respite from the bad weather.

A few minutes walking outside of the Old Town and it looks like any other modern city with assorted businesses like shops, restaurants, and cafés. Sue decided to pop into this pastry shop and I couldn’t resist taking a few pics. Then, of course, the rain began yet again.

Exploring Spain
Waiting for our coach

Did I mention that I decided to get sick on this cruise and luckily there was a pharmacy right where the coach dropped us off. I purchased some cough lozenges and throat spray as my cough was so bad I had already started losing my voice. We waited with others next to the building to avoid getting soaked and soon we were back on the coach and headed for Puerto Banús.

Puerto Banús

Exploring Spain
Torre de Puerto Banús (Tower of Puerto Banús) with 18th century naval iron cannon from the last siege of Gibraltar

Welcome to Puerto José Banús, which is usually referred to Puerto Banús, a luxury marina and shopping area by property developer José Banús in 1970. At only 37 acres in size in surface area, Puerto Banús has over 5 million visitors yearly so clearly they’re not coming to sit on dry land exclusively.

Exploring Spain
Puerto Banús

Let’s just say that on a sunny day this is where you’d want to be to be seen, to see others, and to enjoy great food, drink, and to people watch. With berths for 915 boats and luxury yachts, you’re bound to see someone rich and famous or at least someone in something fancy on the water or on land. Yes, you’ll definitely see Ferraris and Lamborghinis while you’re here.

TSG Tip: Here’s how I know how this place is pricey. We sat down at a little restaurant and took a peek at the menu where a simple cocktail like a rum and coke was €18.

Exploring Spain
Side street in Puerto Banús

While I could’ve gone shopping on “The Golden Mile,” where you can shop at stores like Bvlgari, Versace, Gucci, among others, I preferred the somewhat quieter side streets. Quickly checking real estate in the area, I noticed that property ranged from €129,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment to €18,000,000 for an 8-bedroom detached villa for sale. Maybe you’d be interested in a summer home here?

Exploring Spain
Puerto Banús

The rain continued and all we wanted was a place to sit down and not spend all of our money.

TSG Tip: Looking for something interesting to do for free? Go in search of more Salvador Dali sculptures like the three-ton rhinoceros statue known as Rinoceronte vestido con puntillas (Rhinoceros dressed in Lace).

Beer Break

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We stopped for a beer in Puerto Banús

Luckily for us we found an inexpensive place to sit and grab a beer. Even though we ended up sitting outside in the rain, it was still fun. As a result, that’s what I call making the best of every minute when you’re traveling.

Exploring Spain
Puerto Banús

We had about 1 – 1 1/2 hours in Puerto Banús, the same as in Marbella, and so we waited under the cover of a small kiosk for our coach to return us back to the ship. But for the rain soaked day, we did have fun. While I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say though that we would have enjoyed both cities more if it hadn’t rained.

Back to Málaga Cruise Terminal

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Entrance to Málaga cruise terminal

Another hour’s drive and we were back at Málaga Cruise Terminal where we could finally get out of the rain and into some dry clothing.

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Entrance to Málaga cruise terminal

I love the design of the cruise terminal as these posts support what looks like sails. Although you can’t tell here, the “sails” are around the posts, but allow water to come out around them. While you may still get a little wet, it does provide cover for rain as well as sun.

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Inside Málaga cruise terminal

Inside the cruise terminal I had a little flashback to when we were boarding our cruise on the Adventure of the Seas a few years ago. Those shiny floors are still as shiny as they were a few years ago.

Exploring Spain
Inside Málaga cruise terminal

Signage inside the terminal is both in Spanish and in English so no excuses for not understanding if you lose track of time while shopping.

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Málaga cruise terminal

On this day we were the only ones using this part of the terminal so it was like a scene from The Walking Dead. Sorry but every time I see something that looks abandoned I naturally think zombie apocalypse.

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Shops inside Málaga cruise terminal

If you didn’t have time to shop while you were off the ship, no worries as there are a few stores inside the cruise terminal.

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Escalator to ship inside Málaga cruise terminal

Finally, after we browsed through a few shops, we followed the signage back to the ship.

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Signage inside Málaga cruise terminal
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View from ship toward Málaga

I stopped to take a few pics of Málaga before having to show my cabin card to ship’s security. Bye Málaga!

Final Thoughts

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View from ship toward water
The takeaway from all of this is that if the weather in a port isn't great, that doesn't mean the port itself isn't. Click To Tweet

My experience of Málaga as a cruise ship port was completely different then when I stayed in Málaga before a cruise. Because we’ve always talked about our trip to Málaga as one of our favorite pre-cruise stays so I’m so glad that this wasn’t my only encounter with Málaga as I can see how it might have affected my opinion.

The takeaway from all of this is that if the weather in a port isn’t great, that doesn’t mean the port itself isn’t. There’s no way to truly plan for inclement weather other than to bring an umbrella along, so always try to look past the bad weather for your travel silver lining. Nobody wants to travel with a Debbie Downer, which is why you should always remain optimistic to enjoy the best possible travel and cruise adventures possible. As for me, I love Spain in sun or the rain and had a great time in port.

Do you have an upcoming cruise to the Costa del Sol with stops in Málaga, Marbella, or Puerto Banús? Share your thoughts below and don’t forget to check out the rest of the Travel Shop Girl website.

3 thoughts on “EXPLORING SPAIN: Málaga, Marbella, and Puerto Banús

  1. What is the Ensanche Historico/historic extension in Marbella? Why is it called that way and what do you get there?

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