Testing rules changed. This was not a drill. I was now ready to get on my first plane of 2021. So where was still warm in October, a short flight in a mask, least hassle to enter, in budget and by the sea…. Hello Southern Spain.
I came to Marbella about 15 years ago and it wasn’t high on my list to return to. The world has so many incredible places to explore and I want to see as much as possible. (Except for Australia and France – they both feel like home. Maybe because I’ve lived in both but I will forever be drawn back to them). Last year was even more restrictive so the choices were limited but I embraced what was available and it took me to Lake Como, Kos and Gibraltar. The latter two were not on ‘the’ list. And all were truly wonderful experiences. Funny how sometimes less choice means you discover a slice of paradise you had overlooked! That was Marbs this year.
Known for Towie filming and the coined phrase, ‘no carbs before Marbs’ there’s the beach clubs to be seen at by day and the clubs to party at by night. I had been there and done that so dismissed Marbella every since. What a mistake. If you are sun chasing this autumn then I hope this helps you not to overlook the magical micro climate of Marbella.
Unlike last year, the procedures were simpler. There was a Spanish form to complete before flying and a new BA form but that’s probably as much to do with Brexit than Covid. You did have to upload your vaccine or test results so ensure you have downloaded the NHS app. Their form (below) also asks the purpose for your visit – I was so tempted to tick ‘special mission’. It was my first trip in 51 weeks… it felt like a special mission. I resisted!!
Arrival was simple. No queues (tho I heard I was lucky). Just needed to produce the QR code from the pre filled in form. I booked a taxi through Shuttle Direct for £50 to our hotel. They met us in arrivals and it took about 45 minutes. Simples.
After much research my heart was set on the Amare. Even though they didn’t have availability for the whole time. Reviews were brilliant and ticked all the boxes. Adults only with a less showy beach club than Marbs is known for, a pool, on the seafront, oh and of course it had a rooftop bar – the Belvue!
It’s a modern hotel with a lux feel and decorated with fabulous quirky art throughout – like a big boutique! Fellow guests were lovely and tended to keep themselves to themselves. It was an older crowd of 40+ though that could because it was term time – not just due to being an adults only hotel. Either way it suited us perfectly. We were shattered from a relentless year of work and were here to chill and sleep by the sea!
And the staff made sure you relaxed. They were some of the most diligent, hard working, kind and funny people I’ve met. Everything is communicated by ear pieces, nothing happens by accident but it appears seamless as if by magic. Their attention to covid rules and keeping us safe was paramount. They always went out of their way to make your stay the best it could be.
The rooms are scaled on amenities, size and view. We had the ‘Keep the Secret’ room simply due to availability. and this was all we needed. Sound system in built with a side sea view and balcony, super comfy beds and modern bathroom. Don’t have to ask for much more.
We spent most days here – dark sand and slightly rocky/ pebbly entrance to the sea didn’t stop me! Even if I was wiped out by a huge wave ruining any kind of dignity trying to gracefully stroll out! But the water and waves were too enticing not to go in!
They run a tight ship for the club – towel cards in exchange for service with a smile. The hard working team escort you to choose your lounger for the day, complete with another spray of the beds as they set you up for your lazy day ahead.
There’s quiet tunes played all morning and then a DJ most afternoons. Not imposing, loud or trying to encourage drunken day dancing. Just soft music that just adds to the holiday happiness.
Lunch at the beach club is open for non guests and would highly recommend. It’s beautifully set with all the holiday vibes you could wish for, oh and the food is pretty fantastic!
There’s also a lovely pool area (though being separated from the ocean for so long) I was firmly fixed on being at the beach. The pool beds operate in the same way as the beach beds though I had read some reviews of some towel wars! I didn’t see any of that happen. If you are eating at the beach club you get a sign to say ‘gone for lunch’ and no one touches your stuff. Equally without that sign and if you have been gone hours, the staff will remove it. Fairs fair for other guests.
This has to have its own mention. This was by far one of the most extensive offerings I’ve ever seen.
Everything you’d expect was there: bread, cereals, cold meats, eggs etc but then also everything I’d hope was too: eggs done your way, gluten free options and of course Cava! But then there was so much more… from raw honey blocks to piles of avocado. Reminded me a bit, of a smaller Club Med in how much choice there was. Oh and did I mention you can sit out on the terrace with palm trees and pool & sea view. Definitely one of the best breakfasts I’ve had.
The rooftop bar(s)
One of the reasons I chose this hotel was the ease of arriving and heading straight upstairs for sunset on their rooftop… and I was not disappointed. You don’t have to book but I’ve advice it.
Another great rooftop 10 minute walk away was the Virazon Rooftop Bar. Less boujee but magnificent mountain views and a stunning sunset.
The hotel as it was perfectly located to the old town and marina. Just a 10 minutes stroll along the promenade and restaurants lined the way. Perfect for less effort more relaxing.
It was equal distance to be able to potter into the old town – filled with eateries and shops. We ate a few times at the Plaza de Naranjos or also known as the Orange Square. All the places seemed lovely though the paella at Casa del Corregidor was particularly delicious.
If you walk further north from the square you hit more and more streets lined with restaurants.
And there’s a cute more healthy option at The Farm – very kitch and cute with its own community.
The old church is slightly south in a magical little square. I’d just advise taking time to wander these cobbled Spanish streets and explore every detail.
Back on the promenade, head down to Soleo beach club for a fabulous fish supper sunset by the sea.
And by the sea, I mean by the sea. Expect a little sea spray as the waves lap just below. You might even see a mermaid! Magical place.
I’d also recommend the Harbour Bar & Restaurant – quite old school with the best views of you request a front facing table. I would not recommend the harbour/marina area otherwise unless shots shots shots and tacky bars is your thing. Which it once was mine so I’m not knocking it. If partying is what you want then I would recommend! For us this trip was definitely R&R. Well B&B … bubbles and the beach!
If you Uber across to San Pedro you will find a more more chilled authentic spanish town. Far less about the body con dresses and contouring of neighbouring Peurto Banus and more seaside vibe. The promenade at is lined with market stalls and beach restaurants. The only reason I ventured this far was for a fabulous lunch at Kala Kalua Playa that a dear friend arranged. Lynne and I met on Insta with a shared love for travel, fabulous lunches and bubbles.
When I started this site and then Insta for it, I had no idea what awesome people I’d meet – I think they call it an unforeseen consequence and a truly glorious one at that. Throughout lockdown Lynne would post a picture of a lunch setting usually on a beach, inviting anyone to join. And something really special happened. It provided friendship, escape, virtual travel and so much laughter by all the comments we would all collaborate on. So it was just wonderful to finally get to enjoy lunch with her, in person, on a beach! And as she is a travel journalist she knew where to go. Check out her insta if you want more info on this area or many other places round the world.
A cab ride away back towards Marbella is the infamous home to the players of the world, the crazy cars and incredible yachts. Shops at the port are reminiscent of Cannes sea front and there’s bars and restaurants to pose at a plenty. If the bubbly beach clubs are your thing then La Sala by the Sea and Ocean Beach club are a must. By night you need Pangea, Breathe and Tibu – all with rooftops! Though not open as much out of season and being a chilled trip I forgo reliving my 20s!
However one that is definitely part of the Peurto Banus scene with wow marina views, still open and perfect for a sunset drink was Benabola Sky Lounge.
We also stopped for a drink at Astral Marbella. Which I’d recommend just for the loo’s!
You can then walk the beachfront on golden mile back towards Marbella. Half way along you’ll find a string of famous restaurants at Puente Romano such as Bibo and Nobu. I opted for El Chiringuito Lit by fairy lights with the sound of crashing waves it was an easy evening of natural entertainment. Then a short cab / Uber took us back to the hotel where our rooftop or bed awaited!
This was a surprisingly superb Spanish trip but as I couldn’t stay at Amare the whole time I wanted, was in the area, it’d been 51 weeks since my last plane trip… why just have one holiday. So rather than head back to Malaga airport, I headed for holiday part 2. A little city pit stop in Malaga itself. Again not somewhere I’d have chosen but awash with rooftop bars, sightseeing and shopping all in Picassos birth place! It felt foolish not to… click here for details of that trip.