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The coastal region of Andalusia in Spain is a popular vacation destination thanks to its wonderful natural features, good food and vibrant culture. Although the region of Nerja has the best snorkel spots in Southern Spain and the coastline around Marbella, Fuengirola and Estepona have mainly sandy beaches, those who like underwater activities will also find some great spots to discover Mediterranean marine life in the Alboran Sea. This article is here to showcase 7 excellent Costa del Sol snorkeling beaches to visit.
Best snorkeling beaches in Costa del Sol
Punta de los Nabules is one of the most beautiful beach sections of the Costa del situated in the Puente Romano Golden Mile area. The impressive views of La Concha Mountain in the background and top hotels, restaurants and beach clubs found in the area make this location very popular among celebrities and wealthy people. But Punta Nabules is not only an exclusive coast section but also one of the best places to go snorkeling in Marbella.
The snorkeling area starts at the Playa de Nagüeles wooden pier (the pier in front of the Marbella Club Hotel which is an exceptional Golf Resort & Spa) and stretches to the rocky area in front of Puente Romano. The underwater landscape is characterized by large rocks and fine gravel providing home to various species.
This beach is easily accessible from the promenade that runs along the coast between Marbella and Puerto Banus. It has all kinds of services such as bars, beach gear rental, showers and also lifeguards. Note that due to boat and watercraft traffic in the area, carrying a signaling buoy while snorkeling at Punta Nabules is highly recommended.
Playa de la Yuca
If you are staying in Benalmádena or visiting this charming little Andalusian town and want to spend a nice day or a few hours at a nice snorkeling beach, you need to drive a little south on the coast where fantastic rocky beaches can be found with transparent waters. One of the best spots for some underwater exploration is Playa Las Yucas, which lies just 15 minutes drive from the center.
Since Yucas Beach is stony, it is not popular among sunbathers, but this is just a benefit for snorkelers since fewer people visit it. A little drawback is that it is a little cove not a wide, long beach like most Costa del Sol beaches, so it does get easily crowded in summer, but if you come here out of the main season, you will find peace and tranquility.
There are restaurants, cafeterias nearby and an on-site beach bar that make this location a convenient choice for those who don’t want to carry much stuff. You can rent sunbeds and hammocks too. Free parking is available right on the N-340 road, moreover, there are several bus stops within walking distance if you decide to come by public transport.
Benalmadena Costa offers luxury accommodation just steps away from Playa de la Yuca.
Playa Penón del Cura
Penon del Cura is a long, rocky beach right after Fuengirola, just about 7km south of the city center, but officially it belongs to Mijas. It is a popular spot among local fishermen but also among those who look for a quiet place to sunbathe and enjoy the refreshing waters of the Alboran Sea.
Thanks to the stony bottom, Playa Penón del Cura is an excellent spot to go snorkeling in the Costa del Sol. Grab your gear and swim around the rocky outcrops where you will be able to observe a variety of fish, sponges, algae species, and you might even spot an octopus!
The drawback of this spot is that you need to be very lucky to find ideal conditions for snorkeling here; first, this beach is not protected by rocks so there are high waves when it is windy; it is pretty noisy because it is just next to the Autovia del Mediterraneo and parking is difficult in the high season. But if you come here on a calm, quiet day, you’ll enjoy this beach!
Ramada Residences by Wyndham Costa del Sol is a splendid complex of spacious apartments and villas not so far from this beach.
Playa de La Sal
Located between Estepona and Manilva, the coastline of Casares is perfectly rocky so it is a great choice for those who want to go snorkeling in the Costa del Sol. The beach of La Sal is situated next to the Torre Salto de la Mora watchtower which is a very outstanding element of the coast here reminding visitors of historical times. You can also access this snorkeling site from Playa de las Piedras de la Paloma, the long sandy beach just next to Playa de La Sal.
The best area to snorkel is right in front of the watchtower where you see many rocks in the water. The large boulders underwater are covered with algae and attract a variety of species into the area including bigger shoals of fish, therefore often spearfishermen come to hunt here. They usually swim where the water is deeper, so if you stay around the rocks, you can safely discover marine life.
There is also a nice restaurant on site, Restaurante Bahía Beach Casares where you can try a traditional paella while enjoying fantastic sea views.
A wide variety of apartments is available to rent in the nearby La Perla de la Bahía Urbanización. Our favorite is the PRIMERA LINEA just 2 minute walk from the beach!
Playa de las Conchas de Manilva
Playa de las Conchas lies within a 20-minute drive from Estepona, just on the outskirts of Manilva. It is part of a very long, wide rural beach area along with Playa de Tubalita so it never gets too crowded, not even in the high season. Thanks to the easy water access, gradually deepening water and clean shoreline this beach is suitable for kids too. With an on-site toilet and shower, this is a very convenient place to spend a nice day outdoors enjoying the Mediterranean Sea.
The beach is made of fine gravel, therefore the water is beautifully clear and thanks to the orientation of the coastline, usually there is no strong wind or high waves here. To access the beach, you can leave your car in the big and free parking lot at Urbanization Playa Paraiso.
The snorkeling area is on the right of Chiringuito Tubalitas where there are boulders and rocks. It is marked on the map as Cala de la Sardina and often the beach is referred to as Playa Sardina. You can see many fish in this little cove when swimming around. This is a popular spot among spearfishermen too, but usually they do their activity further out where the water is deeper, but you should be careful when they are also around.
Also, I must add that you might even see dolphins here since they regularly pass through the area! They do not come very close to the shore, they use to appear around the buoy line so if you go out kayaking or paddleboarding, you might get closer to them, but you can spot them from the shore too when they jump out.
Should you wish to stay in this area during your Costa del sol snorkeling vacation, check the Paloma Beach Sea View which is a modern-designed apartment with all amenities you need for a perfect stay!
The Punta Chullera Beach is part of the Manilva Beaches Ecological Reserve (Reserva Ecologica Playas De Manilva), a protected coastline with extensive areas of artificial reefs where a wide variety of Mediterranean marine species can be observed. Fine pebbles and attractive rocky outcrops ensure crystal waters making this beach excellent for snorkeling and underwater fishing.
The snorkeling area runs all along the shore between Punta Chullera and the neighboring Playa de los Toros beaches. You can enter/exit from both beaches and even from Playa de Cala Sardina which is another fantastic (and easier to get to) place to spend a great day enjoying the sea!
Punta Chullera lies next to the A7/N340 coastal road at KM138. Parking is free, but it is limited. There are some chiringuitos serving simple beach snacks and drinks, and it is possible to rent sunbeds/umbrellas too. Due to its clear waters, convenient parking and comfort amenities, this coast section is very popular in summer and can be crowded during the months of June, July and August. However, if you come here when it’s not high season anymore, it is an ideal spot ideal to relax and snorkel.
Playa de la Alcaidesa
One of the most impressive beaches of the Costa del Sol is the beautiful coastline of Alcaidesa. It is not only beautiful thanks to the spectacular view of the Rock of Gibraltar in the background, but the fine sand and calm waters make it family-friendly too. To access it, you have to enter Alcaidesa urbanization which has a barrier, but it opens automatically as you approach it.
The main reason why I like this beach is that it is so big and wide that it never gets crowded (I visited it several times in the peak tourist season and there were always free spots to have privacy), it is easy to find parking (and it’s free) and most of the times, it is sheltered from strong winds.
Snorkel in the rocky areas; however, it is less to see than at other beaches on this list, but you still can spot some nice fish. Also, I must add that the water here is usually colder than at beaches up norther on the coast since this beach is the closest to the Strait of Gibraltar where the fresh water if the Atlantic Ocean enters the Mediterranean, so be prepared and bring a wetsuit if you are planning to stay longer in the sea.
Just a 5-minute walk from the beach, La Alcaidesa San Roque is a new beachfront accommodation equipped with everything you need!
What to see when snorkeling in the Costa del Sol
Snorkeling in Spain provides you with the possibility of discovering the Mediterranean reefs and a variety of marine species. The Alboran Sea – this is how the part of Mediterranean Sea is called between the Iberian Peninsula’s coast and north of Africa – has some of the highest biodiversity in the Mediterranean. Although there are no impressive coral structures like in the tropical or subtropical oceans, you can still see extensive meadows of Posidonia Oceanica, various algae species, sponges, anomeones etc…
The most common fish species to see here are breams, wrasses and damselfish and groupers, but you can see scorpion fish too. However, you need to be careful with this one; this species is hard to spot because it is camouflaged and buries itself in the sand. Therefore, wearing beach shoes is recommended when wading in the water.
Moray eels, invertebrates, sea slugs, octopus, cuttlefish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and sea stars. There is also a variety of jellyfish to be seen in the area and due to rising water temperatures, jellies are more and more frequent on the Andalusia coast during the summer months.
Most species are not dangerous and have mild or no stings; for example, the huge Medusa Rhizostoma Luteum is not dangerous to humans, but the small, purple Pelagia noctiluca (Mauve Stinger) can cause severe pain and allergic reaction for those who have sensitive skin, so make sure to learn how to treat jellyfish stings in case you got stung by one.
Snorkeling Tours Costa del Sol
If you want to join an exciting boat trip, check out these options:
Fuengirola Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Trip
On board a 50ft/15m yacht cruising along the beautiful Fuengirola coast, you will get a chance of spotting dolphins in their natural habitat. After this extraordinary adventure, there is a swim/snorkel stop at Torrequebrada Beach. An array of snacks and chilled beverages served along the cruise takes this excursion to the luxury level!
Marbella Sailboat Cruise & Drinks
This sailboat cruise takes you along Costa del Sol’s most famous shoreline. What’s more, you can see migrating marine mammals including bottlenose dolphins, ocean sunfish, bluefin tuna, and sea turtles that frequent these waters. When a magical encounter happens, you can even jump into the water using the provided snorkel gear if you want to better observe the creatures! While on board, you will be served cold drinks and delicious snacks.
Estepona Dolphin Watching Sailboat Cruise
Soak up some sun, search for dolphins, and jump into the area’s clearest waters by signing up for this sailboat tour! Venturing out from Puerto de Estepona, you will be taken along beautiful coves and pristine beaches of Estepona’s coastline. Soft drinks, beer, and wine are also included.
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