Fuengirola or Benalmadena – which one should you choose?
If you’re looking for a quick answer from a local expert, you have come to the right place!
I am a local resident of Costa del Sol, and have been living in Fuengirola since 2020. I also know Benalmadena very well as I visit the town frequently.
As someone who lives in the area, I am able to offer detailed insights that will help you skip the tourist traps and offer an honest option about both of the cities.
Let’s skip to the chase, as you probably want your answer immediately, right?
Feel free to skip to the section that interests you the most.
Quick Guide to Help You Decide
Here is a short reference guide for a recommended destination for specific travel needs:
- Solo Travelers – both destinations
- Family trip – Benalmadena
- Romantic Break – Benalmadena
- Party Animals – both destinations
- Off Season Destination – Fuengirola
- Best Beaches – Fuengirola
- Foodie Trip – Fuengirola
- Retail Therapy – Fuengirola
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: City Overview
If you want to get familiar with what each city feels like, here is a short first-glance overview.
Benalmadena: Destination That Has it All
I would describe Benalmadena as a family-friendly coastal resort town with excellent transport connections, very good beach facilities and plenty of activities to keep you busy for a week.
Benalmadena can feel a little touristy and less authentic for those who only visit the coastline areas, but it has so much more to offer.
You’ve got lovely sandy beaches for soaking in the sunshine, plenty of seaside restaurants, a beautiful old-fashioned Andalusian village up in the hills, and plenty of attractions to keep you busy for a week.
If you’re staying in Benalmadena, you can easily walk to nearby Torremolinos or take a train to Malaga for a day trip. Benalmadena has all the facilities you need for the perfect holiday in the sun.
If I had to pick some downsides, I would say the beaches are not as extensive as in Fuengirola.
Fuengirola: The Expat & Summer Holiday Hotspot
Fuengirola is my hometown, so I know it much more than Benalmadena.
It is a densely populated traditional working town, with over 7km of well-maintained sandy beaches and lively nightlife. It has a large expat population, mostly from the Nordic countries, but also many Brits.
It is a winter holiday destination for people from Northern Europe, and in the summer, a trendy holiday resort for local Spanish people.
The main allure of Fuengirola is the sandy beaches and the promenade that lines the whole length of the coastline. Besides the Bioparc and its market days, Fuengirola lacks any other notable activities but makes up for it with great transport connections to other cities.
If you’re considering visiting Fuengirola in the summer months, prepare for many crowds (same as in Benalmadena). Fuengirola might be also of interest to those who are looking for music events – in the summer they run nearly 2 month long string of concerts with some well known names (this year Robbie Williams is coming too!)
Fuengirola is also known for some of the most spectacular Semana Santa celebrations (Easter tradition in April) and also the biggest Feria festival in the area (in October).
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Location
Both Benalmadena and Fuengirola are very close to Malaga Airport, and a drive or taxi journey will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
A local commuter train (C-1 Cercanias) connects both cities, and will get you to Malaga central in about 40 minutes from Fuengirola. It’s the most affordable way to make a day trip from both towns.
Fuengirola has four train stops on this line (Fuengirola train station, Los Boliches, Torreblanca & Carvajal), which there is only one in Benalmadena (Arroyo de la Miel).
Fuengirola also has better bus connections to other bigger cities.
If you’re planning to use public transport to explore other destinations, I think both cities are a good option as your base.
Transport Guides for Benalmadena
Transport Guides for Fuengirola
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Things To Do
I already mentioned earlier that Fuengirola doesn’t have as much to offer compared to Benalmadena. If you’re looking for a holiday packed with activities and options to explore, you’re better off staying in Benalmadena.
Things To Do in Benalmadena
- Visit Benalmadena Pueblo – the pretty old village up in the hills.
- Visit the Buddhist Temple with stunning views near the village.
- Stroll among the butterflies at Benalmadena Butterfly Park.
- Book a boat trip from Benalmadena Marina
- Visit Paloma Park and their extensive cactus collection
- Visit Castillo Colomares – the castle monument of Christopher Columbus
- Take a walk in Jardines de Muro and enjoy the views
- Visit the Bil Bil Castle
- Visit Sea Life Benalmadena with your kids
- Enjoy a day at the beach
- Take a trip with the cable car
- Plan a day trip to Malaga by train or bus
Things To Do in Fuengirola
- Explore the Sohail Castle
- Visit Bioparc Fuengirola
- Take a stroll through the old town of Fuengirola
- Go shopping at Miramar Shopping Center
- Spend a day at the beach
- Take a morning stroll on Paseo Maritimo
- Book a boat trip from the marina
- Visit the Saturday free market at Feria grounds
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Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Beaches
So which city has better beaches?
This one is easy – Fuengirola!
Benalmadena covers a large coastal area, and even though it officially has 10km of beaches, most of them are not accessible simply by walking from the town.
The most popular beach – Carvajal Beach – is shared with Fuengirola and gets very busy in the summer. It’s easily accessible from the motorway, but parking is pretty limited. You can’t walk there from the town, it’s pretty far – at least 1 hour walk from Benalmadena.
From the urban beaches, Playa de Santa Ana is very popular, although with limited capacity. It’s a short stroll away from Benalmadena Marina and has plenty of restaurants and facilities to choose from.
The other option is Playa Bill Bill, also accessible from the coastal promenade. The last urban beach, which is also accessible from the town is Playa Arroyo de la Miel (named after the old center of Benalmadena further up the hill).
Fuengirola beaches stretch for over 7km and are very well-serviced and maintained.
You can easily walk from one end of the town (Carvajal) to the other (Sohail Castle) and have uninterrupted access to the beach.
Each beach has a lifeguard station (brand new installed in early 2023), public toilets, chiringuito restaurants, sunchair rentals, water sport activities and plenty of space.
Despite how enormous the beaches are, they get pretty crowded in the summer. You get the best chance of finding a good spot if you arrive there early, around 9 am.
I have written a detailed guide about the beaches in Fuengirola which you can read below.
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Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Prices
If you’re looking for a cheap destination to stay in, I think both cities are, on average, in the same price range. Perhaps Benalmadena might be a little cheaper as you can get some good-value properties in the village up in the hills.
Benalmadena is also spread further from the coastline, translating to cheaper holiday apartments.
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Restaurants
This is a tough one as I struggle to find good places to eat in both cities, but obviously have far more experience with the culinary scene in Fuengirola.
If you’re planning to stay in Benalmadena and need a good restaurant option, my number one advice would be to stay away from the coastline and do not eat there.
I found some great local options which you can see in the article below.
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As it’s usually the case, the best places can’t be found on the coastline, and for your own sake just avoid Chiringuitos (beachside restaurants) at all costs (your wallet will also be happier).
You can find my local picks for the best restaurants and some generic advice in the article below.
READ ALSO >
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Accomodation
Where do you find the best places to stay?
That depends on what you’re looking for! Here is a quick recap guide to help you decide:
- Luxury Hotels: Fuengirola (Higueron)
- Mid Range Hotels: Benalmadena
- Cheap Apartments with beach access: Fuengirola
- Authentic Accommodation: Benalmadena Pueblo
- Villa with a Pool & View: Benalmadena Pueblo
- Budget Friendly Place: central Fuengirola (further from beach)
- Family Friendly: both cities have great options
Accomodation in Benalmadena
In Benalmadena, you have three areas where you could consider staying in:
This is the coastal area around the main promenade, which stretches for miles.
Benalmadena is quite spread out around the coastline, so even if the map says the hotel or apartment is in Benalmadena Costa, it may be closer to the borders of Fuengirola or Torremolinos, and quite far off from the center of the town.
Many hotels are just across the street from the highway, with not much around them.
Apartment selection is pretty limited in these areas, and those available have very high prices as most come with a sea view.
Arroyo de la Miel
Arroyo de la Miel (Honey Creek translated from Spanish) is the center of the town, just up the hill from the coastal area. It’s mostly comprised of old houses, cafes, restaurants, shops and small squares.
The hotels in this area are usually in the lower price categories, and you will also find cheaper apartments here as they are further away from the coast.
The old village of Benalmadena is further away from the main city, and you can’t get there by walking. It is higher up in the hills, offering stunning panoramic coastline views.
The village is a great place to find holiday homes with sea views, pool and even small boutique hotels. It’s much more quiet and authentic compared to the coastal areas.
Even if you stay in the village, you can get to the beach in less than 10 minutes by car.
Accomodation in Fuengirola
In Fuengirola, the most expensive accommodation options are obviously on the coastal promenade. These apartments have premium prices all year round; the same is true for the few hotels here.
The further you are from the beach, the cheaper your accommodation will be.
Below is a short reference guide for the different areas of Fuengirola.
Los Boliches is one of the most densely populated areas of Fuengirola, with high-rise apartment blocks covering the whole seafront promenade and stretching further inland to the city.
It’s also an area with the most popular beaches and the highest concentration of accommodation options in any budget. If you’re staying further away from the beach, you can still get there on foot in about 10 to 15 minutes walk, which will save you a lot of money.
The area is mostly flat, and everything is accessible by walking. There is an excellent availability of supermarkets, shops, and restaurants.
Torreblanca stretches up the coast into the hills, with mostly holiday homes or villas available for rent in the summer months.
You will find some nice holiday homes in here, but the pictures can be very deceiving. What looks like a short distance from the sea on the map may actually translate in a very high uphill climb each time you’re returning home from the beach.
Torreblance is built mostly on hills with narrow one way roads, so if you’re staying somewhere in this area, a rental car will be a must in most cases.
Mijas Costa is the area near the Sohail Castle which is generally a little more peaceful compared to the more central areas like Los Boliches.
The beaches are about the same, plus you will also find a dedicated dog beach here.
There is quite a bit of variety of properties in this area, but the unique selling points are the views and also the availability of very modern new built holiday homes for rent.
This area would be a good base for exploring with a car, since you don’t have to navigate through the city to get to the highway. A lot of the holiday homes in here are fairly remote, so it’s more quiet, but a rented car is a must.
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Seasonal Guide
As I mentioned already, both cities are blessed with sunny weather all year round.
During the high season, from June to September, the prices of accommodation are at their highest and you will struggle to find a free sunchair on the beach if you don’t get there in the morning hours.
The shoulder season in April to May and October to December is a much more pleasant time to visit, with plenty of sunshine around and much fewer people around.
If you’re looking for a winter destination break, my top tip would be Benalmadena in the months of April, May or October.
The most rainy months of the year are usually January to March.
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Nightlife
There is a good availability of bars and clubs in both cities, but I’m more familiar with the options in Fuengirola.
The nightlife scene in Benalmadena is scattered around the city, with a few famous locations that should be on your list when visiting.
The 24 hours square (Plaza Solymar) is one of the most popular locations with lots of nightclubs and bars to choose from, mostly frequented by younger crowd. If you’re coming for a hen party or a stag do, you will most likely find yourself in here.
The other options include Benalmadena Marina and Bonanza Square.
You will find the highest concentration of bars, pubs and nightclubs right after the Sould Park or the Fuengirola Marina. On the main road, you will find a number of them, and there are a few on the side of the marina facing the parking lot, although not great quality.
As you continue walking in the direction of Sohail Castle, you will hit the ‘Fish Alley‘ which is a 1km street lined with bars and restaurants, so you will get plenty of options there. At the end of it, if you turn right and continue up the road, you will hit the small square with the post office building with lots of tapas bars and restaurants to choose from. After that, you can get lost in the narrow streets of the old town and find new local establishments along your way.
Calle Francisco Cano in Los Boliches is another great place to walk and find lots of nice smaller bars.
I can’t finish this section without saying a few words about safety and drugs – it’s something that’s a big problem in Fuengirola, but Benalmadena is not far behind.
Unfortunately, I know of two stories of girls close to me who got their drinks spiked while on a night out. One of them ended up with a hospital visit and a police investigation.
If you’re heading out as a party of girls, especially young ones, you must be extremely careful who you engage with, and whether or not you should trust a stranger. Always watch your drink, DO NOT allow a stranger buy you a drink without seeing it poured in front of you.
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Day Trips
It would be a shame to visit Southern Spain without seeing what it offers – and the best way to do that is to plan a day trip!
There are several local companies offering day trips from both Benalmadena and Fuengirola.
These day trips usually have several stops along Costa del Sol, so both of the destinations are cover, and the last stop is in Malaga. After that, the bus will head to the direction of your final destination.
In the section below, I have linked the most popular local tours which stop in both cities.
If you prefer to drive and plan your own trip, I have detailed instructions for the same destinations – the articles are linked in the next section.
Day Tours from Benalmadena & Fuengirola
Caminito del Rey Tour – must see! Most popular natural attraction in the district of Malaga.
Full Day Trip to Gibraltar – cheapest day trip to Gibratlar. Does not include the guided tour.
Full Day Trip to Ronda & Setenil de las Bodegas – full-day trip for a great price, doesn’t include a guided tour.
Benalmadena Only: Day Trip to Caves of Nerja and Frigilliana – visit the spectacular caves and the ‘prettiest white village in Andalusia’
Full Day Trip to Granada – cheapest option, which does not include a guided tour (see below for a guided tour)
Full Day Trip to Granada with Alhambra Tour – see the spectacular Nasrid Palaces with skip-the-line tickets and tour guide.
Day Trip To Morocco with Ferry Crossing – if you fancy something out of the ordinary!
Plan Your Own Day Trip from Benalmadena
Plan Your Own Day Trip from Fuengirola
Fuengirola or Benalmadena: Frequent Questions
Here are some of the most frequent questions about visiting Benalmadena and Fuengirola.
How far from Fuengirola to Benalmadena?
How far is it from Fuengirola to Benalmadena depends on where exactly in each city you’re measuring from, but generally the distance is about 16 km.
Can you walk from Fuengirola to Benalmadena?
Yes, you can walk from Fuengirola to Benalmadena. The distance is much shorter if you walk from Carvajal (the end of Fuengirola) towards the start or middle of Benalmadena. I did this walk myself and it takes about 1.5 hours, depending on how fast you walk and how many stops you make.
There is a pathway along the main road, so you can walk safely next to the busy road and enjoy the beautiful views of the coastline.
How much is a taxi from Benalmadena to Fuengirola?
Taxi from Benalmadena to Fuengirola would cost between 10 euros up to 20 euros, depending on where in the city you’re travelling and at what time of the day.
If you want a more convenient and in most cases cheaper alternative, just use Uber or Bolt which is available in both cities.
Can you get a boat from Fuengirola to Benalmadena?
Yes, you can get a boat from Fuengirola to Benalmadena. It’s a local ferry service that runs a few times per day and you can buy tickets in advance here.
I hope this article exhausted all your questions about planning your trip to Costa del Sol. If there is something specific you want to ask, feel free to leave a comment below, and I will be happy to help.
Thank you for reading!
Southern Spain Travel Tips
BEST CAR RENTAL
To rent a car, I highly recommend Discover Cars, an award winning price comparison site for car rentals.
BUS & TRAIN TICKETS
To get the cheapest bus or train tickets, take a look at Omio to find the timetables and prices.
Local travel companies offer many day trip options from almost all the destinations in Southern Spain. You can check them out here.
I have been using booking.com for all my trips in Spain and abroad, and it’s the best place to book your hotel.
If you would like to leave your luggage behind to explore the city on your last day, you can use Radical Storage service, which lets you book luggage storage in all the destinations in Spain.
LOCAL SIM CARD
If you want to avoid surprising extra charges from your operator, you can use a service like Airalo, where you can buy digital packs for e-sim cards.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links – if you decide to book using one of the links, I will earn a small commission that helps me run this site. This is at no extra cost to you.