San Pedro de Alcantara: How to enjoy yourself in Costa del Sol, Spain
Marbella? No thanks, San Pedro is where it's at! Want to head to where the locals hang out, away from the rest of the tourists? Great - me too. I'm not a fan of hordes of people, and want to get a feel for 'real places' rather than the glossy places made to appeal to most holidayers.
San Pedro de Alcantara was ideal for this - it's about 10 kilometres south of Marbella, but still within walking or biking distance if you do want the best of both worlds. We spent five days relaxing on the coast, so here's my must-do's in this gorgeous part of Spain!
About San Pedro de Alcantara
Like I said above, if you are wanting to get away from crowds and the overpopulated poolsides of Marbella and Puerto Banus then book a place to stay in San Pedro. It's more of a locals town, and some of the people we encountered surprisingly didn't speak much English. Mostly though English is well spoken, and it's easy to get what you need. The main feature of the town is it's Central Plaza with it's gorgeous yellow church (St Peter of Alcantara) and the main street filled filled lovely shops and restaurants. It is surrounded by the Sierra Blanca mountain range, so whichever direction you look in there are stunning views.
This is a real thing and the Spanish people take it very seriously! Between 2 and 5 pm (ish!) nearly all of the shops shut and everyone heads to the beach or out for a snack. The only places that stay open are the cafes and restaurants, the supermarkets and the very few stores that want to take advantage of the tourists that are still wandering around. Micky and myself aren't morning people so quite often got caught out by the siesta - you have to do your shopping in the morning or later in the evening. Take advantage of the midday heat and head to the beach or go for a wander down the promenade, Then you can keep shopping and eating later on as most places are open until around 9pm,
If you follow along on my social media, you may have picked up that I am a wee bit obsessed with finding new cafes and restaurants. For me there's not much that tops chilling out in a new cafe, enjoying delicious food and fresh coffee or drinks. Plus I'm an avid people watcher so cafes are perfect for this! San Pedro has some great cafes, and we tried to test as many as possible while there. I highly recommend Cafe Origen, which serves up organic meals, coffee and treats. It's a nice setting to watch locals and other holidayers pass by, plus they have cute plants that all have names! Another goody is C'est La Vie for lunch - way too delicious! You could spend a week here and try new places every meal, and there's no shortage of options for traditional Spanish tapas too.
Our time here was hot and sunny, so perfect beach weather! The beach isn't quite as nice as Puerto Banus and Marbella as it's a bit stoney and the water had a bit of seaweed in it but it is a lot less crowded than the others. Take a towel and head down to the right if you want to tan your ta-ta's, or pay a fiver for one of the luxe beach beds.
Who goes on holiday and goes to the gym? I never thought it would be me, let me be honest. But the whole reason we went to Spain was because our local gym do two trips a year to get some sun and pump some iron (should I have hashtagged that? Haha). We had some gruelling workouts over at UP Fitness, so if you have a few too many cocktails or burgers, head here and get rid of them! They have classes you can join in on, and it's on a rooftop overlooking the town so be prepared for the warmth - you will probably get a tan at the same time! If you are after some healthy tucker to fuel you along the way, then head to the Gym Junkie Cafe for amazing protein smoothies, pancakes, salads, steaks and more. I highly recommend the burgers - they are as big as your head and just AH-MAY-ZING. The owners are super nice, and love to chat too.
San Pedro is pretty central to a lot of other really nice destinations, so if you have time then consider hopping on a bus or renting a car to explore for a day or two. We caught the bus for the half hour trip to Estepona (again, try not to time it for siesta time or it's a ghost town!) and spent the afternoon admiring the stunning city. Estepona has a lovely beach as well, and there is also a bullfighting ring in the middle of town too. If you head up past this you will find super pretty houses covered in colorful planter pots - great photo opportunities!
Gibraltar is an hour by car from Estepona, and is a mix of Spanish and English history. Climb up the Rock of Gibraltar, see the roaming Barbary Macaques and get your history fix in the Seige Tunnels.
Marbella Old Town
Although Marbella is known for being a glitzy, glamorous destination, there is a little more to it if you dig deeper. We biked all the way from San Pedro to Marbella, and spent an afternoon nosying around Old Town which I would say is a must see in this region. It is a rabbit warren of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, galleries and houses, with whitewashed walls and colorful flags, plants and garish material covering windows and entryways.
When I say rabbit warren - I mean it! We continued to find new alleyways and places tucked away out of sight, it was magical to just keep turning corners and seeing new places to photograph.
Richie Rich in Puerto Banus
If you are after glitz and glamour, then look no further than Puerto Banus. Wander along the waterfront and admire multi-million dollar yachts, super cars, designer stores and people parading wealth. Get a photo with a lamborghini or Ferrari, and have a fancy meal in one of the many waterfront restaurants - or just look in from the outside like we did! I've heard that people pay BIG money to drive their supercars down the short street, so you can be assured to see people flashing their cash in whatever way they can!
Where to stay
There is no shortage of places to stay in San Pedro and Marbella, it totally depends on what you want - there's lots of hotels with pools and restaurants, or cheap hostels and everything in between as well. We chose to stay in a BnB in San Pedro and it was perfect. Hostal Alicia was tucked away on a quiet corner of the middle of town and had a cafe downstairs that served up a yummy typical spanish breakfast - toasted bread with oil and tomatoes. Rose, the Irish owner was so incredibly helpful and went above and beyond to keep us happy and settled during our stay. The room was airconditioned, simple and comfortable and we can't wait to go back! If you are after somewhere relatively simple but lovely for a lot less than the swanky hotels, this is all you need.
So, have I convinced you to head to San Pedro? It really is a gorgeous Spanish town, and I loved the mix of authentic Spanish living with casual tourist spots. It's super easy to get used to the life here, and I can't wait to test more of the Spanish life.