Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol’s Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

On our last “real” morning in Spain (the next day would only be a travel day back to London), our day began with a little misadventure at the bus station in Málaga. If you remember from Friday’s post, the whole point of staying in Málaga was so we’d be in close proximity to Nerja, a town on the Costa del Sol with some of the prettiest beaches in Spain. We just had to figure out how to get there.

Our plan was to buy three return tickets to Nerja on the bus leaving at 10am, but when we arrived at the station, we realized it wouldn’t be as easy to do that as we thought. The other bus stations we’d navigated and bought tickets from on our trip were tiny little things, but Málaga’s station is much, much bigger with so many kiosks that I wasn’t at all sure where we were supposed to buy our tickets. It took us so long to find the correct kiosk, and of course the one we needed would have the longest queue, that we missed the 10am bus and had to wait an hour and a half for the next one to arrive. (In case you’re wondering – it’s the Alsa bus that will get you to Nerja from Málaga!) Luckily, we were on a direct bus, so we made it to Nerja at 1pm on the dot. Would it have been easier just to stay and enjoy Málaga’s beaches again for the day? Sure. But we would have missed seeing this…

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Pretty incredible, isn’t it? A series of sandy coves surrounded by the Sierra de Almijara mountains and gorgeous turquoise waters – Nerja is a gem! Albeit, a not-so-hidden one. From other accounts of Nerja I’d read, I was expecting something a little more secluded, but Nerja in the busy season is about as secluded as Cancun on spring break. (Minus the drunken parties, but still with plenty of topless ladies – don’t look too close at the people in these pictures!)

The weather couldn’t have been any more perfect – blue skies and barely a cloud in sight. Actually, that was our entire Spain vacation. Four cities and nothing but sunshine for all five days of our trip. We don’t get forecasts like that in London.

We started by trying to find an open spot on the beach to take up residence for the next few hours, but the task proved more daunting than we first expected. Not only that, because we were arriving so late, there were no longer any open umbrellas or sun-beds to rent. Beginning to feel a little frazzled and our day had only just begun, I happened to look down from where we were standing. Below us was a collection of craggy rocks rising out of the water with beaches that looked a lot more isolated behind them. We decided to check it out.

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Much better. It was like having our own little private beach, except for the people walking through it to get from one beach to the next. We even had our own natural umbrellas – the rocks stretching above us provided plenty of shade, which is probably why no one else wanted to be in this section of beach. (I’m in the 1% of white girls on the planet that actually prefers my skin to be pale.)

While Lexie and Cory ran off to climb rocks and play in the waves, I laid my towel down in our cave-like den and got my iPod out. From where I was sitting, I could see the mountains to my left and a seemingly endless ocean before me that wouldn’t meet land again in this direction until it hit Africa. Nerja may not have been the quiet, remote beach I was expecting, but it still had the best scenery I’ve ever been able to gaze at from the comfort of a beach towel. We were really happy to be here!

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

After going non-stop for three days, this relaxing pace of ocean-gazing, wave-splashing, and tapas snacking was one we gratefully fell into. The hours began to slip away much quicker than I would have liked. We even had a few visitors of the canine variety for awhile. While their owners went for a swim, they sought refuge in our cave. I think they found the waves a little intimidating. To be fair, Lexie did, too. We had experienced much gentler waters in Málaga, but here in Nerja the waves were much stronger and, given our spot next to the rocks, were pretty loud and scary. Lexie didn’t mind our temporary companions one bit, and was happy to take a break from the water and keep them company up on the beach!

Just like the day before, I spent a total of 22 seconds in the cold water before deciding my cave was where it’s at, and I didn’t move again until the tide began to rise and we got washed out of our shelter. No worries, though – we simply found another cave on higher ground with an even better view of the ocean. I may have outgrown my desire to spend hours laying out and and watching my skin turn an unnatural shade of red, but I will never grow tired of seeing and hearing the ocean.

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

And, of course, there was another attempt to make a sandcastle and this one had one heck of a moat, but it was no match for the tide that eventually washed it away. (But hey – our castle is still standing!) During the course of making it, Lexie was the designated water girl, catching water in her cupped hands and bringing it back to the castle. Clearly this is not the most expedient way to make a sandcastle, but what’s the alternative when you have no buckets? I don’t think she minded the trips to the water so much as the topless ladies getting in her way as they crossed paths on the way back. On her last trip, with a dramatic sigh she exclaimed, ‘That was like the fourth time I almost ran into boobs today!’ One of those sentences you don’t hear every day…

Almost five hours at the beach and with our second shelter suddenly at risk of disappearing under water, we took that as our cue to go and caught a bus back to Málaga. The next day we’d take a high-speed train from Málaga to Seville, a taxi to the airport, a plane to Gatwick, a train to Victoria, the tube to Chiswick, and a bus to our house (did you catch all that?), and our Spain trip would be over. It was very hard saying goodbye to Spain with its colorful world, fantastic weather, and vivacious culture. I hope to get back again someday in the future, and hopefully it won’t be another four years before we see the ocean again either!

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Nerja, Spain: The Costa del Sol's Not-So-Hidden Gem

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  • Nerja
    June 14, 2018 at 12:07 PM

    Nerja is an amazing place. It is one of the destinations in the South of Andalusia that we recommend visiting. Thanks for this nice post that I just discovered.

  • rorybore
    November 15, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    That is one very crowded beach! but I think those views might be worth it. although I do like your beach “fort” area better I think. LOVE the flip flop shot!

  • Emmymom
    November 5, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    That is such a beautiful spot! Sounds like an awesome day. It has to definitely be in the 80’s for me to want to get in the water at the beach, as yeah otherwise it is just too cold. That is pretty dang funny what Lexie said, that is definitely nothing I have experience at the beach in California.

  • Mandy Southgate
    November 5, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    I’m not sure I could survive so long without seeing the sea. Both Stephen and I get restless and find we’re unable to make any other travel plans until we’ve had our seaside fix. I miss the Indian Ocean in South Africa – the Mediterranean sea is so tame in comparison.

    Your photos in this post are just gorgeous. Perfect beach time pics!

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 7, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      I have only been in the Indian Ocean in Bali where it sounds like the waters are completely different than they are in South Africa. In the area of Bali we were in, the waters were warm and definitely very tame. We even had trouble boogie boarding because the waves weren’t strong enough!

      • Mandy Southgate
        November 8, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        We have two oceans around SA – the warm Indian Ocean in the east and the cold Atlantic in the west. The ocean definitely isn’t tame on either side though – great surfing waves.

  • Anna R
    November 5, 2014 at 3:28 AM

    So beautiful! Nerja was actually my first international travel destination – my parents took me there when I was 13. But I don’t remember the beach at all! I do remember visiting a nearby town called Frigiliana that was completely white and absolutely adorable.

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 7, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      Someone else mentioned Frigiliana to me after they heard we were going to southern Spain, but we didn’t get to see it on this trip. It sounds beautiful. I love the clusters of white cities in Spain – they photograph so well against the bright blue skies!

  • Leonie
    November 5, 2014 at 1:17 AM

    Looks so nice there x

    Leonie ♥

  • Sara Louise
    November 4, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    I wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing that either! It looks like it was definitely worth a bit of a hassle :)

  • Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    November 4, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    It does seem like a gem! I’m very jealous of all this sun! xx

  • Katrin
    November 4, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    What a beautiful place! I am glad you had such a great trip, I surely enjoyed reading about it. And I would not mind the company of the cute dogs either, that is for sure. :) I also prefer my skin to be pale, we have that in common. ;)

  • Veronica
    November 3, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    Ugh. As if I wasn’t envious enough, you had to go an throw in the forecast and the puppy dog! Cruel!

    So so pretty. Spain (outside of Ibiza) is definitely on my wish list.

  • T. Lennie
    November 3, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    What a beautiful beach! And I love that grey ruffle sundress you are wearing!

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 7, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      Thank you! I got it from Victoria’s Secret years and years ago, but I still love it! It’s my favorite cover-up!

  • Robert
    November 3, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Nerja is a great little town, isn’t it. I’ve some friends that have a house in Frigiliana, which is just north of Nerja, at the foot of the mountains. I don’t know if you visited or heard of it while you were in Spain? Anyhow, it was so great to be reminded of time spent there through this post, particularly when it’s so dreary here in London today! I wish I was there now! :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 7, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      Actually, I think the only reason I’ve heard of Frigiliana is because you mentioned it to me at some point! But no, we didn’t visit on this trip – it was pretty packed already spending 5 days in four different cities. I’ll have to make sure we stop through on our next trip, though!

  • Jess {JessOnThames}
    November 3, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    What a GORGEOUS trip. Can’t think of anything better than puppies on a beach with views like those! (PS – Lovely to meet you on Saturday!)

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM

      It was so good meeting you, too! Hopefully we’ll run into each other again sometime soon! :)

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    November 3, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Looks like a nice place to hang out for the day!! Love those views!!

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    November 3, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    I’m beginning to wonder if it every rains in Spain ;) I love that you found such a nice little are to just hang with your family and relax! If I close my eyes I can almost imagine what the Spanish sun feels like again!

    • Robbie
      August 12, 2018 at 4:43 AM

      Yes, it does rain in Spain. Head further north from Nerja towards Antequera, you will love this town. Over 300 places of worship, including cathedrals, castles, towers, churches. Its a wonderful and historic town with ancient pre-historic burial grounds called the Dolmens. If you want rain; head north.