FORGET the hustle and bustle of Banus, the snobbishness of the Golden Mile and the hordes of tourists in Marbella centre… Head west instead to San Pedro de Alcantara.
Less showy, more refined, but equally well appointed, the West End of Marbella is the place for those in the know.
With a diverse food scene, wilder beaches and an old town oozing traditional Spanish charm, it’s the holy trinity that any visitor – or prospective buyer – would want from a Costa del Sol resort.
No longer the scruffy backwater of its sibling Marbella, San Pedro is nowadays developing into one of THE most exclusive places to buy on the coast.
Since the long tunnel underneath it was opened some years back it has developed leaps and bounds, counting on clever town planning, eye-catching architecture and a new found confidence only matched by the obvious affluence of its foreign locals.
It is perhaps hardly surprising given its location halfway between Marbella and Estepona and at the foot of the famous windy mountain road that takes tourists up to Ronda, with the exclusive enclaves of Madronal, Monte Halcones and La Zagaleta en route.
Right next door is the suburb of Guadalmina, where former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has a holiday home and where numerous footballers also hideout in summer.
And just a blink of an eye away is Puerto Banus with its Corte Ingles, English cinema and all the famous fleshpots.
But you don’t even need to venture that far if you are looking for something to eat.
This former fishing village has become a reference point for some of the best food on the coast as businesses and northern Europeans continue to flock here.
The eateries, including Albert and Simon, Savor and Macaao are among the best on the coast and a new restaurant opens by the week, it seems.
The noodles from the Japanese joint Inch are also amazing.
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 municipality, with the 40s and 50s seeing steady growth.
Everyday is another heyday for San Pedro as businesses continue to open and renovations get approved.
The Casco Antiguo yields a great lineup of cafes and bars and there are plenty of independent shops selling high quality fashions and shoes.
As a nerve centre for the Marbella area it also takes some beating with its own turn off on the toll motorway, a bustling industrial estate and a number of great independent schools, with Laude and Calpe being the top picks.
The town started its renaissance after some €100 million was invested by Marbella town hall on the now iconic snaking pedestrian walkway which winds over the main road.
A new skate park and ice rink were welcome additions to what has become a modern town with a traditional feel.
The best time to visit San Pedro is during its feria in October, the last to happen in Andalucia for the year (but I guess you will have to wait until 2022 now, as it has just finished).
And don’t think there is nothing cultural to visit…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.
The beach promenade features a great selection of chiringuitos, and there are also market stalls set up every weekend, with a selection of fashions and jewellery available.
Take a long walk to the west and you will reach the charming area of Lindavista, before hitting Guadalmina, which has one of the most exclusive golf courses in Spain and a lovely stretch of wild, rugged beach to wander down.
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.
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