There’s nothing more relaxing than leaving the gloomy British weather behind for a few days of sun, sand and sea air. Last December, me and my family did just this, with a pre Christmas mini break to the Spanish hotspot of Marbella. This was my first visit to Marbella and I was excited to discover whether the city; famed for its celebrity visitors and luxurious lifestyle, lived up to its hype. As I was holidaying with my parents and my little sister, parting at Nikki Beach wasn’t on the cards, so I was intrigued to see what Marbella and its surrounding areas had to offer as a family holiday destination.
We were lucky to be staying at the beautiful five star Kempinski Hotel Bahia, with its own small private beach bordering the back of the hotel and amazing facilities on-site. Unfortunately it was a bit too cold for us to dive into the outdoor pools, but the indoor pool, although small, was ideal for a quick swim. The hotel also has a gym, sauna, steam and relaxation room for guests, in addition to a luxurious spa. We indulged in some treatments at the spa during our visit and I enjoyed a full body scrub and a facial. The spa is on the expensive side but the body scrub was honestly the best treatment I’ve ever had at a spa. Destined to help rid you of old skin cells, the treatment was active but still relaxing, with a much needed massage to finish. The hotel was decorated subtly but beautifully for Christmas and it was novel to be getting into the Christmas spirit while relaxing in the sun.
The bedrooms were as comfortable and elegant as the rest of the hotel and led out onto a large private balcony. With views of the hotel’s outdoor pools and beautiful tropical gardens, the balcony was the perfect place to watch the sunset with a glass of Cava in hand.
I would definitely recommend the Kempinski Marbella, but the the only negative for us about the hotel was its location. Situated next to a main road, towards the Estepona side of Marbella, there was nowhere exciting to explore within walking distance of the hotel. When you’re on holiday, it’s great to be able to walk in the sunshine to a nearby town or discover new restaurants a short walk away. At the Kempinski, you do need to hop in a taxi to get to most places outside the hotel and central Marbella is a short drive away. Saying that, there’s several taxis queued up and waiting outside the hotel so it’s not too much of a hassle.
I’m not ashamed to say that one of the highlights of a holiday for me is definitely the food. I love indulging in big breakfasts and delicious dinners out and letting all thoughts of dieting go for a few days. The breakfasts at Kempinski Bahia had every food you could wish for, with buffet style cooked breakfasts, eggs freshly made any style to order and tables full of fresh fruit, juice and pastries. Any breakfast table that has both pancakes and champagne is a winner in my eyes and the Kempinski service couldn’t be faulted.
We didn’t stay at the Kempinski for dinner as we prefer to leave the hotel and find new restaurants while we’re exploring. However, I imagine the dinners at the hotel would have been just as impressive as the breakfasts.
The main highlight of the holiday for us all was a trip to nearby Gibraltar, which borders Spain. It was strange to be officially leaving Spain on the other side of the passport controlled border and entering the British territory of Gibraltar. The towns were full of British stores, including Topshop, Marks & Spencer and MAC Cosmetics, which was heaven for MAC lovers, with 30% cheaper prices than Britain. I took full advantage of this saving and expanded my make-up collection with a bit of a MAC splurge- you can see what I bought in my MAC Haul.
The views over Gibraltar were simply breathtaking and the famous Gibraltar rock is an impressive greeting to the territory. Gibraltar airport is right in the centre of the busy town and it’s certainly interesting to watch the planes land as the traffic is held back just a short distance away. I’d definitely recommend walking or driving until you have an elevated view of Gibraltar, watching the multi-coloured boats in the water and having a clear view of the mountainous countryside is well worth the effort.
You can’t visit Gibraltar without making the journey up the mountain to see the beautiful wild groups of monkeys named Barbary Macaques. The monkeys are the only wild monkey population in mainland Europe and live on the ‘top of the rock’ of Gibraltar. You can walk up to see the monkeys but it’s much easier and quicker to travel with an official guide. We were taken up to see the monkeys for a great price in our own private minibus and the lovely guide was able to tell us lots of fascinating information about Gibraltar and the monkey population.
Watching the wild monkeys of Gibraltar was certainly my favourite part of the entire holiday and if you’re visiting Marbella, a trip to nearby Gibraltar to see these amazing creatures is a must do. It was fascinating to watch the monkeys interact and to see the adorable baby monkeys up close in such a beautiful setting. The monkeys are one of the top tourist attractions in Gibraltar so they’re used to seeing lots of people daily and are happy to let you watch from a short distance away.
Gibraltar is also known for its stunning caves and for a small fee you can explore some of them. The cave above, named St. Michael’s Cave has been cleverly transformed into a concert hall, where I imagine the acoustics are amazing. We also visited the Great Siege Tunnels on the Upper Rock of Gibraltar, which operated as a unique defence system for Gibraltar in the 18th century.
Estepona beach is another beauty spot well worth a visit and is just a short distance from Marbella. Our December visit meant we were met with some creative Christmas themed sand art and the skill of this craft is amazing to see in front of the bright blue sea. We enjoyed some delicious meals in Marbella and the port in Marbella’s centre has lots of great dining options.
A short plane ride away, Marbella is the perfect holiday destination if you’re looking for a luxurious break in the sunshine coast of the Costa Del Sol. I’ll definitely be returning to Marbella with friends to fully explore the beach parties, the glamorous shops of Puerto Banus and its infamous nightlife, but there’s still plenty of family friendly activities on offer. We had the perfect short trip away and there’s definitely a lot more to Marbella and its nearby towns than beach parties and nightclubs.