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Guide to the Costa Tropical

The Costa Tropical lies to the east of the far better known Costa del Sol on Spain's southern coast. Tourism has started to take off here in recent years but this stretch of coastline is still a world apart from the high rise resorts of its coastal neighbour.

The Costa Tropical owes its name to the sub-tropical climate which makes it unique in the whole of mainland Spain. The exceptionally mild winters and long, hot summers allow for the cultivation of all kinds of exotic fruits normally associated with Caribbean countries. The fruit plantations here produce everything from papaya and avocadoes to bananas and mangoes. The region even boasts Europe's last sugar producing factory (preserved as a reminder of the days when sugar cane was the area's main source of income).

The three resorts of the Costa Tropical are

  • Almunecar - at the western end
  • Salobrena - in the middle
  • Motril - to the east

None of the three tries to compete with glitzy Puerto Banus or action-packed Torremolinos. But they offer a plentiful supply of good beaches and more of a taste of the 'real Spain' than you'll find in most of the Costa del Sol resorts these days.

Because of the good climate, this is a year-round tourist destination. Holidaymakers who visit out of high season can still enjoy the area's numerous cultural attractions, the many marked trails in the mountainous hinterland, some beautiful botanical gardens and a wide range of sporting activities.

In the summer months there's plenty of day and night time entertainment as long as you're not looking for mega night clubs and cheek by jowl amusement arcades. The kids (and young at heart adults) will enjoy the Aqua Tropic water park at Almunecar; there's some wonderful scuba diving to be enjoyed along this stretch of coast and summer nights bring some great traditional fiestas down at the beachfront.

In July there's a free international jazz festival on the beach in Almunecar, a week long fiesta in honour of the town's patron saint in August and the not to be missed Fiesta de San Juan in June when many locals (and a few well oiled foreigners!) plunge into the sea at midnight.

All of the three resort towns are awash with delightful tapas bars, many of which still follow the age-old tradition of offering a free tapa (a snack such as cured ham or some local cheese) with every drink.

And each town is steeped in history, proudly preserving the many legacies of the Moorish invaders who held sway here for hundreds of years until being ousted by the Christians at the end of the 15 th century.

The charming old quarters of both Almunecar and Salobrena are crowned by ancient Moorish castles. In August Salobrena's 10th century Moorish stronghold hosts a major flamenco festival attracting top performers for a breath taking display of an art form which, many would say, is the very essence of Spain.