If you’re trying to decide whether to stay in Benalmadena or Torremolinos during your next stay on the Costa del Sol, this article is for you. Both are coastal towns and beach resorts located on the Costa del Sol in the Spanish Province of Málaga, both extremely popular with large numbers of visitors.
The beach resorts of Benalmadena and Torremolinos are adjacent to each other, yet they have different feels. Benalmadena is more of an international resort with a highly touristy and vibrant marina area, as well as an uphill town center with many restaurants and bars. Torremolinos has an authentic local town and nice beaches with good year-round local nightlife. Closer to the Benalmadena limit, however, the Carihuela beach is very popular with international tourists.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: what travelers say
- Torremolinos town is more traditionally Spanish than Benalmadena, with narrow pedestrian streets and small shops. Benalmadena (coast) is more of a beach resort with an attractive marina and restaurants, shops, and bars located around it.
- Benalmadena and Torremolinos are connected by a long, 5-mile promenade. The Torremolinos border with Benalmadena is roughly at the marina. Anywhere along the beach promenade is a convenient location to stay at if you don’t mind walking.
- Travelers generally find the beaches better in Torremolinos whereas Benalmadena has better nightlife. Benalmadena is typically more animated outside the summer months due to the marina with its bars and restaurants.
- In Torremolinos, however, the beach of Los Alamos has chiringuitos (beach bars) that offer some live activity at night year-round especially on weekends.
- La Carihuela beach is the old coastal part of Torremolinos located along the beach promenade between Torremolinos town and the Benalmadena marina (a 10-min walk). It has many shops and traditional fish restaurants, chiringuitos (beach bars) and cafés.
- Benalmadena has a very English feel with Brit-style nightlife, football parties, and fish & chip places. Torremolinos is more of a Spanish working town (though still multicultural) with local restaurants, tapas bars, and shops. La Carihuela is very Dutch and English.
- In summer months the area is very popular with partygoers and teenagers who come for drinking and clubbing. However, the partying typically doesn’t not start before midnight and concentrates around the marina and Benalmadena’s 24-hour Square. The area is very safe.
- Seasoned visitors often recommend choosing a place on the Torremolinos side of the Benalmadena Marina, where the promenade is the nicest and you have easy access to Benalmadena, La Carihuela, and Torremolinos.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: access & transportation
The Costa del Sol area has a reliable and affordable public transport system. It is easy and cheap to get to the area from the airport either by train or by bus.
To get to Benalmadena, simply catch the train at the airport to Arroyo de la Miel, a town area inland and uphill from the marina, from where you can take a quick taxi to your hotel on the coast.
There is a train runs along the coast from Malaga to Fuengirola, with stops in both Benalmadena and Torremolinos. Train ride generally take 10 to 20 minutes depending on your stop.
There is also a good bus service that connects all the places on the main road parallel to the coast. Most trips won’t cost more than one euro.
At any rate, Benalmadena and Torremolinos are so near each other you can easily walk from one to the other (20-30 minutes) or catch a short bus ride.
Taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel in Benalmadena may cost around €25 to €28 depending on the time you arrive. Taxis charge extra for late at night and on Sundays and public holidays.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: vibe & people
Most places along the coast don’t stay open during winter and only open again in March with the exception of Benalmadena which does show more signs of life during the off-season.
Benalmádena with its high percentage of British expats offers a distinctly British experience. If you are after a more Spanish adventure, then choose to stay in Torremolinos – the town has close historical links with Málaga City and has a real Spanish feel to it.
On the other hand, if you want good nightlife and be near the 24 Hour Square and also Bonanza Square, you should try to book a hotel on or near the Marina.
Benalmadena is the ideal family resort with great activities for the whole family, while Torremolinos is tops for eating out.
From Benalmeda you can walk to Arroyo de la Miel, which is more inland and uphill from Benalmadena, where things are more traditionally Spanish. Benalmadena Pueblo is also a nice, white-washed Spanish village further inland from the beachfront area.
Up the hill from Carihuela Beach you’ll find Montemar, which is within easy reach of the main center of Benalmadena’s center) and the promenade.
If you are planning to visit Benalmadena as a family, including in the summer, there are many suitable hotels that are not in the vicinity of bars and nightclubs.
The beach in Torremolinos is some distance away from the town center. On the beach itself you’ll find the usual chiringuitos – hut-style restaurants.
La Carihuela Beach has a relaxing atmosphere and is popular with the young and old. Towards the east, you have a Spanish fishing village where you can enjoy traditional cuisine. The western side is crowded with British and Irish tourists. The whole area has great beaches and a vibrant nightlife. It is an easy 40-50-minute walk from there along the promenade to Torremolinos itself, and a 20-min stroll to the Benalmadena Marina.
La Carihuela and the adjacent Montemar area have a wonderful atmosphere, but keep in mind that the place quietens down in the off-season. Nightlife comes to a standstill during January and February. For this reason, some tourists choose to stay in Arroyo de Miel in Benalmadena (a nice working town) when they visit in the off-season.
The Bajondillo area of Torremolinos beach area has the feeling of a Spanish resort.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: sights & attractions
Every beach activity you can think of is there all along the coast from Benalmadena to Torremolinos. If you are prepared to travel inland, you can also enjoy golf, water parks and go on a cable car ride.
The Crocodile Park in Torremolinos is worth a visit to learn more about these fascinating prehistoric creatures.
In Benalmadena, the popular 24 Hour Square is a thriving hub of nightclubs, discos, and bars. Paloma Park is a large park with pleasant walking paths and playgrounds.
There is a SeaLife Center aquarium down by the marina, and the Selwo Marina dolphins park a bit further down the coast. A cable car trip up the mountain offers spectacular views of the Costa del Sol. Benalmadena also has the Tivoli World theme park, a bio park, a zoo, and two aqua parks. The area also has an open-top Hop-on Hop-off bus tour.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: food & nightlife
The promenade between Benalmadena to Torremolinos offers beautiful scenery and a multitude of cafes and bars to relax in.
The Carihuela area is famous for both its beach and cuisine, especially seafood. The restaurants in this area range from high-end to budget. The Marina in Benalmadena is a popular hangout or younger couples. Near the marina is where the partying concentrates.
People on the Costa del Sol (and in Spain) don’t really go out until 10 pm. After dinner time, the beach bars of Torremolinos, the marina, and the 24-hour square area in Benalmadena all come alive with music and shows after midnight until morning.
The Torremolinos town uphill from the beach has some good cafes and bars in San Miguel Square near the train station, as well as some excellent places for dining. The best tapas places are found in the town center, where Spanish families stroll in the evening. Street artists and shows are not allowed in the center to preserve peace for the residents.
The town itself does not have a lot of nightlife (except for a few lively bars), but the Los Alamos beach area a couple of miles from town has lively late-night beach bars which can get very crowded, especially on weekends.
Travelers find the best restaurants (including Michelin ones) are in the Bajondillo beach area, closer to Torremolinos town than Carihuela – the latter also has some beach chiringuitos offering a nice classic Andalucían lunch.
As mentioned, the main areas for nightlife in Benalmadena are the Marina, 24-hour square, and around Ibenza Square for cheaper drinks.
Near the Ibenza Square are many sports bars where Welsh rugby fans go to watch the games, e.g. the Heart of Wales bar. These bars have a friendly atmosphere and owners and affordable drinks. The Bali hotel’s bar is also very popular year-round. There are also many more bars and pubs in Arroyo de la Miel further uphill from the beachfront.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: lodging
If you are planning a trip to Torremolinos and Benalmadena the obvious place to stay is near the Marina in the vicinity of the Sol Timor Hotel. That way you’ll be within walking distance of both towns.
Anywhere on the La Carihuela beach area would also be a great choice. If you choose a hotel in this area, don’t go for an all-inclusive option. It doesn’t make sense in a tourist area like this that is resplendent with a variety of top dining options.
Travelers frequently recommend the following hotels, particularly if you want to avoid steep hills and want easy access to both Benalmadena and Torremolinos: Mac Puerto, Las Arenas, Hotel Betania, Los Patos, Palmasol, and Sunset Beach.
If you don’t mind navigating a steep hill, the Benalmadena Palace is also recommended, though you can’t walk from there to Torremolinos or Fuengirola – you’ll have to catch a bus.
On and near the Benalmadena Marina, Hotel Alay, Best Triton, and the Riviera are very well-rated.
Other traveler recommendations include the Doramar apartments (lower budget), Hotel Best Siroco, and Hotel Bali. These hotels are in a good position within walking distance from many restaurants and bars on the Marina.
The Riu Nautilus is frequently recommended due to its central position, practically in La Carihuela and only a 10-minute walk from the Benalmadena Marina – and a 30-minute walk to Torremolinos along the seaside.
Sol Aloha Puerto is also centrally located near Carihuela and Benalmadena Marina. It has nice landscaped gardens and a pool, spacious rooms with a sea view or Marina view, and friendly staff. It’s located close to the restaurants and chiringuitos, including a few Brit bars. It has lively but not rowdy atmosphere, with guests from all over the world, including Spanish tourists. It’s within walking distance to the center of Torremolinos.
Another well-rated hotel on the border with Benalmadena is the Sol Timor. It has one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and studio apartments. The apartments are also set in a garden with a nice pool and a direct gate to the promenade. It’s only a 6-7 minute walk to the marina.
Other good frequently-mentioned options near the Marina include the Barracuda, Buensol Apartments, Ecuador Park, Amaragua. The Mediterraneo Hotel, located right on the beach in the center of La Carihuela, offers a more authentic Spanish experience.
Closer to Torremolinos center, the Don Paquito Hotel, a 4-star hotel near the beach, is also recommended as a good choice.
Near the town’s train station, the Cervantes offers a good all-inclusive option with a pool, sauna, and gym.
Benalmadena or Torremolinos: day trips
From Benalmadena or Torremolinos, it’s easy to get to the other resorts of the Costa del Sol by train, e.g. Fuengirola which has more of a town feel than Benalmadena.
The same train line also quickly takes you to Málaga which is a lively and attractive city with lots of attractions, including the old town, the nice marina area, and the beachfront promenade. Malaga has great museums, beautiful monuments, and attractive gardens, as well as a vibrant nightlife with countless restaurants and pubs with quality tapas or flamenco, all concentrated in the highly walkable city center.
(1) Featured: “SPAIN 003” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Pat Neary
(2) “SPAIN 164” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Pat Neary