TO label San Pedro de Alcantara as Marbella’s younger, quieter and more reserved sibling would be to do it a disservice.
It is today a town with its own strong identity, something which is becoming more apparent as the years go by.
Bustling along its slick, modern boulevard, it is also heaving with diners flocking to its excellent mix of restaurants.
It’s hard to imagine how San Pedro was once a microscopic village, very much in Marbella’s slipstream.
Founded in 1860 by army general Don Marquez Manuel Gutierrez de la Concha, residents of the surrounding towns and villages first flocked here for agricultural work.
The Civil War slowed production but soon work began again and San Pedro started to take shape as a bustling multiplicity, with the 40s and 50s seeing steady growth.
Everyday is another heyday for San Pedro, as the town consolidates, businesses open and renovations get approved.
Casco Antiguo, San Pedro’s centrepiece, yields the plethora of cafes and bars you’d typically find in the Old Towns of the Costa we’ve all come to know and love.
And San Pedro’s doesn’t disappoint, with abuelas regularly seen chatting on benches among gorgeous shrubbery and newly installed water features.
Venturing south, it’s impossible not to appreciate the seamless integration of colour-coordinated homes, roads and plant life.
And when it comes to food, this once tiny village will leave you spoilt for choice.
For traditional – and fair priced – tapas, hit La Bodega on Calle Lagasca, which has been serving everything from boquerones to fresh prawns, jamon, meatballs and more for the past 25 years.
Nearby El Siete, too, is a fantastic family run Spanish restaurant which offers one of the best prawn pil-pils on the coast.
I headed for somewhere newer and a bit pricier at El Guino, situated on the boulevard.
The selection of food was diverse and tasty, offering everything from top-end fish to hamburgers and chips.
For those not afraid to splash the cash, head to Trattoria L’Impronta for an Italian taste bomb.
The Beef with Foie Gras in Madeira sauce may have been a strange choice at an Italian restaurant but definitely the right one.
There is also a selection of vegetarian and vegan food.
Meanwhile, Savor, on Calle Andalucia, is one of the latest restaurants to arrive on the San Pedro scene and it is a masterclass in fine and modern dining – the perfect spot to treat yourself or a loved one.
Finally, don’t miss one of the town’s best kept secrets at La Cocina de La Abuela on Plaza Vistalegre, a traditional Cordoban hotspot with melt-in-your mouth pig cheeks and one of the best black puddings going.
While the gastronomy continues to rival nearby Marbella, the council is also putting every effort in to ensure the town is both practical and picturesque.
It comes after some €100 million was invested by Marbella town hall on the now iconic and unique curly pedestrian walkway which winds over the main roadway, while just before the last row of cafes towards the beach, there’s a huge playground with a pendulum swing that even I was tempted to have a go on.
The ice rink and skate park are also welcome additions to what has become a modern town with a traditional feel.
Another €85 million was also put towards forming a tunnel – which directs traffic underground – and a car park to cope with the peak summer months.
However there’s no better time to visit San Peds than during its feria in October, the last to happen in Andalucia for the year.
Indeed, winter is coming, so there’s a need for a final huge blowout while the sun is still shining.
Hungarian expat Zoltan Kiss should know.
He’s lived here for 14 years and manages Bar Ramirez, right next to the town hall.
“You have places like Estepona and Marbella, but there is a perfect happy medium here,” he told me over a cana.
“I think you find the younger generation tend to head to the other places.
“It is almost always calm here. That is until the end of this month, when the feria arrives.
“During the day, it’s like it always is, tranquil and peaceful – but at night, it’s party, party, party.”
Despite San Pedro’s somewhat tranquilo reputation, it still has its quirks:
I learn former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar is often seen in jogger shorts panting around Guadalmina Baja, accompanied by a team of bodyguards.
There is also the unofficial town mascot, a mammoth-size pig which can be seen every Sunday, roaming through the streets, snorting along to the claps and shouts of the locals.
History can be found here, too.
The Roman baths, watchtower and the intriguing Paleo-Christian burial site, Vega de Mar, are a must for history buffs.
I take a walk to the coast and to my surprise, the beaches are yet to be tainted by the swarms of chiringuitos and street sellers, although I’m told there are market stalls set up every weekend, with a selection of fashions and jewellery available.
I watch the vast golden sands being licked by the gentle purring of the blue sea and can’t help but feel at peace. Blissful.
In many respects, San Pedro really is the perfect destination, a modern town which has firmly held onto its Spanish identity while not becoming too overdeveloped.
If anyone has any doubts that this town can rival its closer and glitzier neighbours, tell them it’s too late, it has already out-charmed the lot of them.