WITH tourism tantalisingly close to returning, people across the country have been frantically searching for hotels along the Costa del Sol.
According to one company, activity soared by 142% on Saturday after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez vowed there would be a tourist season this year and told Spaniards and even international tourists to get planning.
In that spirit, I’ve taken the liberty of planning what I think would be the perfect way to spend the weekend in Marbella, one of the most popular destinations in the country.
Just 40 minutes west of Malaga’s international airport, it’s perfectly accessible and has so much more to offer than a good night out for the cast of TOWIE.
Stunning beaches, Michelin dining and historic sites make Marbella a seaside gem well worth a weekend visit.
If you’re coming from abroad and want to drive, Helle Hollis near Malaga airport is a safe bet for car hire.
Head to San Pedro de Alcantara, a once tiny fishing village which has been transformed into a dining mecca thanks to its increasingly impressive offer of bars and high-quality restaurants.
If you like to be in the centre and enjoy a certain buzz, head to Pub Charles for a pre-dinner cocktail – or two. Run by local celeb Jesus for more than 25 years, the staff really know what they’re doing and are generous with the snacks.
For dinner the options are endless. If money is no object and you want to go fancy, nip across the road to Savor, the newest kid on the block and a masterclass in tapas fusion. The menu features Asian and South American twists of some Spanish classics and will have you wanting a taste of everything.
There’s also La Bodega de Cantinero, a classic Spanish restaurant which always offers a unique dining experience. It has one of the largest and most impressive collections of sherries and owner and expert Alberto is always on hand to pour you a tipple in the professional venenciar way.
If you’re looking for somewhere quieter, head to Guadalmina Alta for the best steak on the coast at La Rosa. The Argentinian steak house has the highest quality meat around and are experts at wine pairing. For a pre-dinner drink head to the Rincon bar round the back, but be careful, their measures can prove fatal!
Time for some real R&R with a day at the beach. It’s best not to leave it to Sunday, as that’s when the Spanish typically head to the shores and things get extremely busy.
The decision is where to actually spend the day and that, as ever, will depend on your budget.
If you’re a towel on the sand kind of beachgoer, anywhere along the Marbella promenade will do, although next to the entrance to the port is a good spot. Palm’s Beach Bar offers good quality and fairly priced grub, with typical seafood options and other holiday menu items like burgers and salads.
If you’re wanting the full beach club experience, The Beach House in Elviria is a great spot to spend the day, with live music, comfortable beds and cocktails keeping everybody entertained.
It’s snack bar also has great smoothies and tasty smaller bites.
Closer to Marbella, Siroko beach club is also a happening spot which has got the formula right with good food and bed-side service.
After a full day on the beach it’s best to get home and get rested for the next day.
After breakfast, head to the old town and Plaza de los Naranjos, AKA Orange Square. The Moorish pueblo is just a five minute walk up from the world-renowned beaches.
At its heart beats Orange Square – named so for its abundance of orange trees – which has been nestled among quaint white houses and narrow streets since the town was re-conquered from the Moors in 1485.
An 11th century Arab wall still surrounds the square, while churches, its town hall and the Old Governor’s House all date back to the 16th Century. There are also lots of independent shops selling shoes, clothes, souvenirs and more.
Stop for lunch at the Pico Jimenez restaurant, which offers fine dining with stunning views of the old town.
If you’re a bit cash strapped, there are lots of other restaurants in and around the Plaza de los Naranjos and most serve good quality food.
Head back to the hotel for a siesta before glamming up and heading to Puerto Banus.
Sat between Marbella and San Pedro, it is a melting pot of the rich and fabulous – and the odd British hen do.
Stroll around the port and window shop designer labels such as Gucci or Prada – or spend a small fortune on a Rolex, anything goes.
Ogle at superyachts and Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis before stopping for a pre-dinner cocktail at the Astral. It is rather pricey but worth it for the experience, and a lot of effort certainly goes into creating those cocktails.
Alternatively head to the Sky Lounge, which also serves food, for stunning views of the port from its terrace.
The options for dinner are, again, endless. Picasso’s is one of the most famous around and often has a large queue outside. Its pizzas are to die for and are very reasonably priced, although if you hate loud places then maybe it’s best to avoid.
A bit before the port is La Sala, a firm favourite which offers live music and is a big hit with holidaymakers, as well as the odd Premier League football team who regularly stop by while training in Marbs. And don’t forget the incredible Breathe across the road, a bar and restaurant set in amazing Eden-like surroundings.
If you want somewhere exciting head to Meksian, the Mexican-Asian fusion hotspot which has become an instant hit. Its seven-course tasting menu is a firm favourite, featuring tempura with yuzu, spiced tuna tartar, steak on the stone, and mouth-watering tacos.
If you’re in the party mood, head to Babilonias for a post-dinner drink or two. Or if you’re going for a family vibe, get an ice cream and stroll the length of the port before heading back to the hotel for some much-deserved rest.