Countless physical pursuits and world-class wellness options place Marbella top of the league for sports and health, says Peter Ellegard.
Marbella’s warm microclimate and year-round sunshine make it an outdoor sports paradise.
From tennis, horse riding, paddle tennis and football to water sports such as sailing and scuba diving, visitors who like to keep active while on holiday or want to take a sporting break are spoilt for choice. There are also numerous indoor sports facilities to help burn off the calories and keep fit as well.
The destination is a magnet for visiting golfers as it boasts the highest density of golf courses in Spain. Within the municipality there are 14 golf courses, comprising eight golf clubs with 18 holes, one with 27 holes, two with an 18-hole course plus a nine-hole layout and three venues offering nine holes.
Around half of Marbella’s golf courses are located in its famed Golf Valley, 7km south-west of the city centre and close to Puerto Banús marina. Other facilities are east of town, with Golf Rio Real the closest 18-hole course to its centre at just 4km away.
Wherever golfers choose to play they will enjoy top-class golf courses, many of them with panoramic views of mountains and the Mediterranean, in addition to being able to savour post-round drinks or a meal in well-appointed clubhouses.
Golf first arrived in this area more than 60 years ago when the Guadalmina South course opened in 1959, making it the second oldest course on the Costa del Sol. Completely refurbished since then with the addition of a par-3, nine-hole course, it forms part of a 45-hole complex together with Guadalmina North, which was added in 1972.
Three of Marbella’s courses were designed by legendary architect Robert Trent Jones: Real Club de Golf de Las Brisas, which has hosted the World Cup of Golf on two occasions and the Spanish Open three times, as well as staging the Mediterranean Open since opening in 1968; the nearby Los Naranjos Golf Club course that opened in 1977; and Marbella Golf and Country Club, which first welcomed golfers in 1994.
Another course to have seen championship golf is Aloha Golf Club; it hosted the Andalucian Open, part of the European Tour, in 2007, 2008 and 2012.
Some courses are part of resorts, so guests can stay in on-site hotels and play literally on their doorstep. Among them are: La Quinta Golf & Country Club, designed by Antonio Garcia Garrido and former World Cup champion and Ryder Cup player Manuel Pinero, and part of La Quinta Golf Resort; Hotel Guadalmina Spa & Golf Resort, with its two 18-hole courses; and the Río Real Golf & Hotel. Its golf course was designed by the famous Spanish gof architect Javier Arana and opened in 1965. Guests staying at the upscale Marbella Club Hotel and Resort have exclusive use of its Dave Thomas-designed golf course, set in the hills 20 minutes outside of Marbella.
Visitors really are spoilt for choice with the likes of Cabopino Golf, Greenlife Golf, Magna Marbella Golf, Santa Clara Golf, Banús Executive Golf and Santa María Golf counted among Marbella’s many fantastic courses.
Besides golf, Marbella offers visitors six horse-riding centres, 20 nautical centres, 13 tennis and paddle clubs, four diving centres, nine football pitches, four marinas, ten sports centres and 32 gyms.
Health and well-being
With most four-star and five-star hotels having their own spas, in addition to numerous day spas, beauty salons, specialist clinics, weight-loss centres and preventative-medicine facilities, Marbella ranks as one of the top health destinations in Europe. Its favourable sunny climate, calm atmosphere, relaxing beaches and fresh sea air also aid rehabilitation and recovery.
Whether visitors want a mindfulness break, a detox, yoga and Pilates sessions on the beach, an indulgent escape, a pampering treat or just the chance to recharge their batteries, few destinations match the variety, quantity or quality of Marbella’s offerings. Choose from Thai, Ayurvedic, Reiki, Mediterranean, thermal, homeopathic, hydrotherapy, reflexology, aromatherapy or thalassotherapy treatments and more, besides Turkish hammams, Japanese baths, Finnish saunas, herbal steam rooms, massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Some of the world’s most famous spa and wellness brands are represented in Marbella, too.
Backdropped by the mountains of the Sierra Blanca, the coastal city of Marbella has it all: sun, sea, sand, historic remains, delicious Andalucian fare, accommodation to suit all budgets and many sporting delights. As our guide, produced in association with the Tourism Department of the Marbella City Council, proves: Marbella is one of Spain’s most beloved cities, with good reason. Read the ABTA Magazine Guide to Marbella in full here.