With around 160 kilometers of coastline, lots of lovely marinas with over 4,000 berths, and good weather conditions all year round, sailing Costa del Sol is an ideal experience for sea lovers.
With a rich sailing legacy, the province of Málaga has many different nautical clubs, sailing schools, and all sorts of tournaments and regattas available 365 days a year. So your sailing experience in the South of Spain can be as a student, a relaxed cruiser, or an experienced racer.
Read on to discover the treasures of Southern Spain’s coastline, plus Costa del Sol marinas and anchorages. If you’ve decided to leave behind Palma de Mallorca with its beautiful hotels, come sail with me in Southern Spain!
What do you need to go sailing in Spain?
If you’re visiting Spain for the first time, it’s a good idea to clear customs. The registration documents for the vessel as well as the passports of the crew members will be required. A certificate of competence, proof of the boat’s VAT status, a crew list with passport information, a radio license, and a certificate of insurance are all possible requirements when clearing customs if you want to go sailing Costa del Sol or anywhere else in Spain.
Although a Yacht Masters certificate (with translation into Spanish) or an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) are deemed adequate proof of competence to captain a UK (or other) registered yacht, the ICC is not recognized by Spanish flagged boats. Anyone living in Spain with sailing as a hobby must hold a Titulo de Recreo, a recognized Spanish qualification.
A boat that has paid or is exempt from VAT can apply for a “permiso aduanero”. Boats registered outside the EU that have not paid VAT may be brought into the EU for a maximum of six months in any twelve-month period before VAT is payable. By making previous arrangements with the local customs officials, this period may frequently be extended for more sailing Costa del Sol and other destinations.
In addition to the courtesy flag of Spain, foreign boats must display their own national maritime flag.
How to prepare for a vacation sailing Costa del Sol?
When sailing Costa del Sol, the following equipment should be considered:
- An SSB radio for weather predictions is necessary during your vacation sailing Costa del Sol.
- Good ventilation, because the summers are quite hot. It may be worthwhile to install more hatches if you’re planning to take your time when you visit Costa del Sol.
- A wind scoop over the fore hatch will be quite beneficial to cool down the interior of your boat.
- An awning or bimini top covering the cockpit is required to have some shade from the sun.
- A cockpit table is vital since one of the delights of sailing is dining alfresco during the warmer months.
- Mosquito coils and other insect repellants are essential. Mosquitoes can become a nuisance while sailing Costa del Sol, and you’ll want to keep them at bay.
- Plenty of sunscreen and a cap – the sun may be surprisingly intense when the boat is underway and you’ll want to avoid sunburns and sunstrokes.
Sailing conditions in the South of Spain
A steady easterly current of 1 to 2 knots runs through the Strait of Gibraltar, between the Costa del Sol and the coast of Northern Africa. At the western end of the area, there is also a considerable tide to consider: Gibraltar sees 1 meter at most. However, as you get further east, this decreases.
Here are some things to factor in when planning your vacation sailing Costa del Sol:
- There is an ancient adage that nine days of mild winds will be followed by a full-blown gale in the summer. Luckily, that’s not true.
- The Tramontana is a wind that blows from the northwest. It may be dangerous since it can come in as little as 15 minutes and reach gale force. It usually lasts for three days, although it can last up to a week.
- Another wind to watch out for is the Levante. This eastern wind can also blow at gale force for many days.
- Gibraltar receives 760mm of rain every year.
- Fog will be present on the Costa del Sol for roughly 4 days every month.
Summer temperatures can reach 35°C, while winter temperatures hover around 15°C.
Marinas and anchorages on the Costa del Sol
The remainder of this article focuses on Costa del Sol marinas and anchorages, from north-east to south-west:
Malaga, dubbed the City of Flowers, is a fascinating and attractive sailing destination. It’s accessible by foot from both harbors available here:
Puerto de Malaga
Puerto de Malaga is the main commercial and fishing port on the Costa del Sol. The downside is that it’s not really welcoming tourists (it’s supposedly only for club members). The port authority is said to be quite rude to newcomers, and even when they make a rare exception and allow you to stay for the night, the conditions aren’t the best for cruising boats. With no amenities and little protection, many sailors would prefer to avoid it.
The port is open to swells, so it’s not recommended to stop here when sailing Costa del Sol in southwesterly and westerly winds.
VHF/Radio channel 11. Max draft – 9.4 meters. Max length – 100 meters.
Real Club Mediterraneo de Malaga
Besides the commercial port, there’s the Real Club Mediterraneo de Malaga. It’s the only place where recreational boats are supposed to dock near the city while sailing Costa del Sol. But there isn’t much room for tourists, and the prices are high even outside the sailing season in Spain.
If you stop at the Real Club Mediterraneo de Malaga while cruising Costa del Sol, you’ll have access to electricity, water, showers, restrooms, and WiFi internet access.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 7 meters. Max length – 15 meters.
There are a few anchorages near Malaga, by Playa de Malagueta, El Bulto, and Playa de Huelin. All of them have sandy bottoms, and access to the bars and restaurants by the beach. El Bulto and Playa de Huelin even have docks for dinghies and access to water. But they’re less comfortable for sleeping aboard than the marinas – keep that in mind when you’re sailing Costa del Sol.
The Punta de Torremolinos anchorage on Costa del Sol offers a good holding in sand. It’s also pretty quiet and offers a good shelter from the westerly afternoon breeze.
Puerto Deportivo de Benalmadena
With almost 150,000 square meters over water, the Puerto de Benalmadena is a massive marina and a good place to rest while sailing Costa del Sol. While the surrounding region is dominated by high-rise dark buildings, the marina itself is pretty appealing.
There are around 200 business establishments, including stores, nightclubs, restaurants, and pubs. A sea life center is also available. On each side of the marina, there are nice beaches. The airport in Malaga is about 8 kilometers away.
Your stay at Puerto de Benalmadena includes electricity, water, showers, restroom, and WiFi internet access. And you can also refuel your boat here.
Avoid staying here in western gale winds and don’t stop on the southeast quay during south-western winds.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 5 meters. Max length – 30 meters.
Club Nautico Benalmadena
A huge and affordable Costa del Sol marina, Club Nautico Benalmadena has canals with a pier open to the public, with all sorts of restaurants, bars, and shops. It can get a bit noisy, so try asking for mooring outside the canals.
If you stop at Club Nautico Benalmadena while sailing Costa del Sol, you’ll have electricity, water, showers, restrooms, WiFi internet access, and the possibility to refuel.
Max draft – 1.75 meters. Max length – 11.89 meters.
The Playa de Fuente de la Salud anchorage is comfortable only when the sea is completely calm with a northern wind. Despite the sandy bottom, it’s unpleasant under all other conditions.
Despite a good holding in the sand bottom, it’s not recommended to anchor at Torrequebrada when sailing Costa del Sol, unless you didn’t find some other place to stop in the area. There’s not much to see, the water is cloudy and your boat will dance on the waves whenever a powerboat passes by.
Fuengirola is a good stop for supplies and anything else you may need. The town is quite active and noisy, and some cruisers found it disturbing when they were sailing Costa del Sol.
Puerto Deportivo Fuengirola
Puerto de Fuengirola is a small and welcoming Costa del Sol marina that provides excellent shelter. The beaches on either side of the marina are nice but they get quite busy in the summer.
One night in Puerto de Fuengirola includes access to electricity, water, showers, restrooms, and WiFi. It also provides the chance to refuel on arrival or before continuing to go sailing Costa del Sol.
I’ve read complaints that the marina is understaffed during weekends and they might not answer your calls. Be patient but persistent while contacting them via VHF/Radio.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 3.5 meters. Max length – 20 meters.
Club Nautico Fuengirola
There are lots of cafes and bars near Club Nautico Fuengirola, and you’ll also find some supermarkets around 10 minutes by foot. The showers and restrooms are small, but they’re kept clean. Besides that, you also have electricity and water included in the price, plus the opportunity to refuel at the gas station in the marina.
This Costa del Sol marina is well protected except from swells of over 1.5 meters coming from the east or northeast.
VHF/Radio channel 6. Max draft – over 3 meters. Max length – 13 meters.
Playa de Los Boliches, with black sand and cold water even in the middle of summer. You have a good holding in the sand, but the spot’s a bit rolly – there’s no protection from the swell or from the waves made by passing jet skis and powerboats. It can also get a bit noisy at night with various onshore parties.
Playa de San Francisco offers good protection, but it gets pretty crowded during the summer. There’s a lot of activity on the water during the day, and loud music until late at night, especially during the weekends. Some travelers sailing Costa del Sol found it calm and relaxing during the week.
Playa de Fuengirola has a sandy bottom at a depth of around 7 meters. It’s not spectacular, but it’s a pretty comfortable anchorage when there’s no swell at all. On the shore, there’s a tiny, well-stocked marina shop. You can go with your dinghy to the dock of the restaurant.
La Cala de Mijas
The town of La Cala is wonderful and it has lots of reasonably-priced restaurants. On the downside, the anchorage here is exposed on the east and west, and pretty rolly. However, the bottom is sand, so you’ll enjoy a good holding before continuing your vacation sailing Costa del Sol.
Marina Cabopino or Puerto de Cabopino is a charming, little harbor surrounded by Andalucian-style homes, a welcome contrast from the usual high-rise projects. The marina provides excellent protection. There is ver y limited room for temporary boats, so it’s best to contact the port authority ahead to make sure a berth is available.
Puerto de Cabopino is considered expensive by most people sailing Costa del Sol. However, it has electricity, water, showers, toilets, restrooms, WiFi Internet access, and a gas station.
Be careful when entering the marina: wait for the high tide if your draft is over 1 meter!
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 1 meter at the marina entrance. Max length – 12 meters.
Cabopino Beach is regarded as one of the greatest on the Costa del Sol, because of its beautiful sand. The anchorage by Playa de Cabopino is near the port and it has a depth of 4 meters, with a sandy bottom. It’s only protected from the north, but it’s very comfortable in calm conditions.
Puerto Deportivo de Marbella
Tourist complexes surround the little marina at Puerto de Marbella. There are beaches on both sides of the marina, however, they get quite busy in the summer. The town is worth a visit in and of itself. Don’t miss the city’s famed Orange Square, which is located in the middle of the city.
A stop here while sailing Costa del Sol offers you access to electricity, water, showers, restrooms, and WiFi, plus the opportunity to refuel and resupply.
During the summer, the marina can get rather noisy at night. Winds from the east, south, and southwest can cause significant swells in the port and lines may need to be doubled in such conditions.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 1.5 meters. Max length – 20 meters.
Marina la Bajadilla
Marina de Bajadilla is near downtown Marbella, close to beaches, shops, and restaurants. With low prices and friendly staff (though without marineros on duty at all times), it seems a good alternative to the central and noisy Puerto de Marbella while sailing Costa del Sol.
This Costa del Sol marina offers access to electricity, water, showers, and restrooms. It also has a gas station.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 2 meters. Max length – 13.95 meters.
Ensenada de Marbella is quiet at night, despite the jet ski traffic that may annoy you during the day. There’s a bit of rolling, with optimum protection only from the north. However, the holding is excellent on the sandy bottom, at a depth of 5 to 9 meters.
La Fontanilla and Marbella Playa are two other anchorages in the area. However, they’re very uncomfortable, with a poor grip, and it’s best not to spend the night there.
Puerto Banús has been one of the most popular luxury tourist destinations for fans of shopping, water sports, and beach activities since its inception in 1970.
One of the most well-known marinas in the world, Puerto Banús attracts more than 4 million visitors each year, who are drawn to its diverse gastronomic offerings, exclusive luxury shopping with more than 100 boutiques from the world’s most prestigious fashion houses, and enviable climate with more than 300 days of sunshine per year.
It’s not uncommon to see a celebrity or well-known person strolling through the streets of Puerto Banus after sailing Costa del Sol, enjoying a day of shopping at the world’s most luxurious boutiques, or hitting one of the nearby golf courses.
Puerto Banus also offers a diverse choice of water and land activities. Some of the activities available from Puerto Banus include embarking on the Bluefin Tuna Route, feeling the speed on the Ascari Circuit, spending an afternoon in Morocco, and viewing dolphins in Marbella.
Don’t miss the Puerto Banus Concept Store at Pantalán 2, a new boutique with a catalog of items inspired by luxury sailing, all limited edition and developed with sustainable materials in conjunction with significant national and worldwide luxury companies. Only the best for luxury sailing Costa del Sol!
A stay in this luxury Costa del Sol marina comes with all the facilities: electricity, water, showers, restrooms, WiFi Internet access, and a gas station. And if you don’t want to sleep aboard for the night, there’s a hotel to the west of the marina, open to berth holders.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 2.5 meters. Max length – 90 meters.
Anchorages between Puerto Banús and Estepona
Bora Bora anchorage is a nice spot, next to a beach and a restaurant on the shore. It gets uncomfortable with a southeasterly swell, but the holding in the sand should be fine.
Punta de Baños is an anchorage with a sand bottom that offers a good grip for your anchor. However, at high water, your boat will be in a constant, uncomfortable roll.
Atalaya Isdabe anchorage is near a beach, restaurants, a supermarket, and even a gas station, all accessible if you go with your tender ashore. On the downside, it barely has any protection from the wind or swells, so maybe don’t turn your stop here in an overnight stay. If you do have to stop for more than a few hours, you’ll have a good holding in the sandy bottom at around 5 meters depth, between the wooded area and the first buildings.
Playa del Saladillo is another anchorage you can use in case of need for a break. It has a sandy bottom, but like most Costa del Sol anchorages, it offers little protection.
Puerto Deportivo Estepona
Puerto de Estepona is a medium-sized harbor with a good atmosphere in the marina restaurants and bars. Located around 1.5 kilometers from the historic city, it’s a pleasant stop with helpful and friendly staff.
If you stop at Puerto Estepona, you’ll have access to electricity, water, showers, restrooms, and WiFi. And, though this Costa del Sol marina can be a bit expensive, at least you get a nice bottle of wine as a welcome gift.
VHF/Radio channel 9. Max draft – 3.1 meters. Max length – 35 meters.
The Estepona anchorage by Playa de la Rada has a sand bottom with a depth of 4 meters near the beach and behind the port. You can get with your tender on a dock and have a walk on the beach, eat at a restaurant, or refill your water supply. Be wary that it’s rolly even in calm conditions, with no wind or swell.
Playa del Cristo anchorage also has a sand seabed, with a good grip, and is protected from the west and north winds (even northeastern ones). It gets busy during the day but it calms down after 7 pm. Watch out for the rocky areas – some have lost their anchors in them!
Bahia de Estepona anchorage is another place to stop, although a bit too far to go to the historical center on foot. It’s protected from the west to the northeast and has a san seabed.
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