photos and story by Ed Walsh
Torremolinos, one of the many famed municipalities composing Spain’s autonomous “sunny coast” community of Andalusia, may be the gayest city you never heard of. Located on the southwest corner of the country, this city has more than three dozen gay bars and nightclubs. Locals claim Torremolinos has the most gay venues of any Spanish city outside of Madrid and Barcelona. This gay playground is also the only town in Europe with a major airport. The Malaga, the third busiest airport in Spain, is just 10 minutes away from the heart of Torremolinos.
This area’s always-abounding nightlife is comparable to Costa del Sol’s annual climate, which averages 324 days of sunshine per year. Mild winters, warm springs, warm falls and hot summers complement this paradise known for being a major destination of the rich and famous.
The first stop for most visitors to Costa de Sol is Malaga. With a population of nearly 600,000, it is the largest city in the region and best known as the birthplace of Spain’s most acclaimed artist Pablo Picasso. Packed with the prolific painter’s works, the Museo La Casa Picasso is one of the most visited attractions on the coast. Malaga’s Cathedral is known best for having just one steeple. After 250 years, the construction ended in 1782. The second steeple was never completed, but today Malagans are happy with their distinctive landmark nonetheless.
MARBELLA AND PUERTO BANÚS
What began as a small fishing village in the 1940’s, Marbella since blossomed into one of the most popular resort destinations of the international jet set. The super-rich lifestlyes of which are clearly evoked in neighboring Puerto Banús, where an ultra-chic array of shops showcase wares on par with that of the multimillion-dollar yachts docked in the adjacent luxury marina.
However, the Old Town distrcict is wonderful window into Marbella’s less extravagent past. With narrow streets and white buildings, designed to minimize the sun and the heat during the hot summer months this old city is a great palce to spend a few hours in the early evening.
For gourmet food, and one of the best restaurants in Costa del Sol, make a reservation at La Meridiana. Regarded as Marbella’s finest dining, the restaurant is set in a Moorish/Arabian style building surrounded by a garden and a decorative pool. This eatery offers outstaning dishes all prepared with the freshest local ingredients available.
RONDA AND MIJAS
Ronda is another Costa del Sol treasure not to be missed. It is one of Spain’s oldest towns. It is on a mountainside nearly 2500 feet above sea level and has a population of 40,000. It takes about 45 minutes to drive the winding road into town from Torremolinos. The views along the way are of spectacular– white Andalucían villages, the signature of this region. The town’s emblematic symbol is the bridge over the gorge that separates the two sides of the city. (It is a mini-version of the Grand Canyon).
Eleven miles west of Torremolinos, the charming city of Mijas lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Known for its Sunday Bullfights, this town has the best and most spectacular views of the coast. A visit to the Mijas Wine Museum will reveal the wine history of the region. A quick stop at the historic circa building from1839 for tapas and drinks is recommended.
WHAT TO SEE
Travelers opting to tour the coast via a morning Mediterrranean sailboat cruise, will not only be afforded breathtaking views of The Rock of Gibralter (on a clear day), but may also find themselves making port in a different culture on a different continent. Being able to reach Morocco in under an hour, visitors can spend the day sight-seeing in Casablanca—the city where Bogart’s Blaine told Berman’s Lund, “Here’s looking at you, Kid.”— and make it back to Spain in time for dinner.
WHERE TO STAY
Located in the heart of Malaga, minutes away from the city’s gay nightlife, Room Mate Lola Hotel is a good place to hang your sombrero. It is also Spain’s first gay-friendly hotel chain.
The Marbella Club Hotel and the Hotel Puente Romano are among the finest resort hotels in Europe. They are situated along the “Golden Mile” of Marbella, between the Old Town and Puerto Banús. Unlike most European hotels, the rooms are quite spacious and most include balconies or patios overlooking the ocean. Amenities include tennis courts, pools, a gym and aspa. Rates starts at $200.
If you really want to splurge, stay at the Villa Padierna Hotel, part of the Ritz-Carton chain. Rates start at $280. Fifteen minutes from downtown Marbella, the Melia La Quinta Hotel offers luxury stay at bargain rates. Starting at $144 per night, this gay-friendly eatable; isment is one of the best deals in town. For about $40 more, guests get two hours in the spa plus lunch.
Located next to gorge’s arched bridge, the Paradore Hotel in Ronda is one of the best in the Paradores chain. Rates run from $175 per night. Guests can save some dinero by staying at the Hostal Guadalupe in Torremolinos. Rates start at just $45, and it’s the only gay hotel in Costa del Sol.
With more than two dozen gay bars, nightclubs and a few saunas, the gay village known as Nogalera claims controll over 80% of Torremolinos’ nightlife. Everything here gets moving after 1a.m., and Home nightclub is the hotest spot in town. For those looking to get frisky, an expansive dark room is on site. Another late-night mega club is Passion, with room for over 2,000 club goers. The early set can check out El Gato Lounge, which opens at 7 p.m. and touts the “biggest gay terrace” in Torremolinos.Café El Atrio opens daily at 8 p.m and is mixed with gay guys and girls. Bear bar Bacchus is open daily from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Anfora is the lesbian place to be, only on weekends from 10 p.m.- 2:30 a.m. Malaga also supports active gay life. The Elarmen bar is busy earlier in the evening. It attracts mostly gay men and some lesbians. The Reinas bar hosts a late-night, gay-male crowd and it’s open all night.
There are three gay beaches in Costa del Sol. The most popular is Cabopino Beach. It’s in a nature reserve, near the five-star Don Carlos Hotel between Marbella and Calahonda. Gays tend to hang out in the far end of the clothing-optional beach below bushes overlooking the shore that attract an adventurous crowd. The Poseidon Beach is a nude beach, about a 15-minute’s drive from Cabopino Beach and right in the center of town. The Guadalmar Beach is located between Torremolinos and Malaga. It is also clothing-optional. Overall, Cabopino has an older crowd. The crowd tends to skew younger at Poseidon and Guadalmar tends to be more mixed.
For more information visit www.spain.info