5 natural pools & waterfalls in Sierra de las Nieves


Nothing beats an icy cold plunge in one of nature’s fresh-water spa’s after a long, hot hike. The warm late spring and hot summer months here on the Costa del Sol are mostly placated with swimming pools and beach days, but within the Sierras that surround and protect the coast, are some of the coolest natural pools and waterfalls within two hours of Marbella.

Charco de la Virgen Río de los Caballos

Article by Sophie Gatward-Wicks

There are so many that could be listed, but in this article we are focusing on the top natural pools of the Sierra de las Nieves national park, who’s southern border can be visited in the hills behind Marbella. Boasting a whopping 93,930 hectares (362.7 square miles) of protected land within its boundaries, this mountain range is a tapestry of rich biodiversity, culture and adventure. And thanks to its great hydrological wealth from numerous rivers, springs and underground aquifers, you can enjoy clear, refreshing mountain water to bathe and swim in.

Many of these lagoon and waterfall locations close to the coastline can get fairly busy during peak tourist months. So if you’re wanting a quiet location to collect your thoughts, then the earlier you arrive, the higher the chance of having the place all to yourself.

El Barranco Blanco

MA-3303, km 4, 29100 Coín, Málaga, Spain
35 mins | 32 km from Marbella

Barranco Blanco” translates to “White Ravine”, likely derived from the colour of the limestone rock formations in the area. This natural enclave situated between the towns of Alhaurín El Grande and Coín is fed with water coming from the Alaminos river. This river, colloquially known as the river of Las Pasadas, flows all year round, with its source in the mountains of Mijas, and is the main tributary of the Fuengirola river. The gorge which forms the Barranco Blanco features several waterfalls, all cascading into natural pools with smooth rounded boulders where the water collects, making this the perfect place for a picnic.

El Barranco Blanco, Alaminos river.

Charca de las Nutrias

Charca de las Nutrias, 29680 Estepona, Málaga, Spain
35 mins | 28.9  km from Marbella

Charca de las Nutrias, also known as “Pozo de las Nutrias,” which translates as “Otter Well,” is a natural pool named after the otters (nutrias) that inhabit the area. Fed by the Río Castor, this body of water provides a great swimming opportunity in a popular hiking area. Located in the municipality of Estepona, it is considered one of the more accessible lagoons, though you still have to walk upstream and navigate large rocks and boulders to find it.

The centre of the pool can be up to a couple of metres in depth, perfect for a proper cold water plunge (though don’t jump from the rocks, as this is dangerous). It is well worth following the river bed from here to discover even more rock pools. 

Charca de las Nutrias, Rio Castor

If you are interested in visiting the pool, follow this link to read about the route on Wikiloc. 

Baños Romanos de la Hedionda

Baños romanos de la Hedionda, 29690 Casares, Málaga, Spain
36 mins | 45.7 km from Marbella

The famous Hedionda Roman baths located in Casares are a natural spa that hold over twenty centuries of history. Free to use, the waters have been sought after for millenia, due to their topical health benefits. Their high sulphur content is considered medicinal by some, though admittedly not the best smelling element in nature (for those who aren’t familiar, it’s a bit like rotten egg). Not exactly a cold water plunge either, these baths sit at a comfortable 21ºC (69.8ºF) throughout the year, ideal for those who don’t appreciate a temperature shock. The site was declared an “Asset of Cultural Interest”, and it’s easy to see why. It’s truly amazing to witness just how much is still around from the 1st century.

According to ancient sources, these sulphurous springs were very popular among both the Romans and the Arabs. There are stories claiming that Julius Caesar himself took to the waters on a regular basis to cure himself of a skin infection when he was a governor of southern Spain.

Roman Baths la Hedionda, River Manilva.

Exploring the areas surrounding the main baths you’ll find many other natural pools, architecturally interesting bridges, old aqueducts and irrigation ditches, as well as the Manilva River. Across the river, there is even a waterfall and larger swimming area (when rainfall has been generous), so if you’re wanting to do a longer walking trail with more swimming, you can follow the river until reaching the “Charco de la Paloma” – “Pigeon Pond”, and if you’ve still got energy, further down from the Pigeon Pond is a place called the “Charca del Infierno” – “Puddle of Hell”, who’s tricky rocky path connects the two pools and forms a popular 8 km circular walking route.

Charco del Canalón, Río Verde

Charco del Canalon, 29611 Istán, Málaga, Spain
50 mins | 28.2 km from Marbella

The “Río Verde” or Green River supplies the water for the La Concepción reservoir, which supplies many of the towns along the Costa del Sol. The Río Verde passes through the municipality of Istán, a village with a rich water heritage. 

There are many great areas of stunning natural beauty following the Río Verde, one of which is the popular “Charco del Canolón” or “Canal Pond,” which is accessed from the Istán village, past the sports centre and heading along the track that crosses the source of Río Molinos. Conveniently the majority of the route can be done via car, making a shorter journey on foot of about 2.5 km, which goes parallel to the river. For the official footpath posted by the Istán town hall, visit.

Following the left bank of the river, you are able to enjoy terraced orchards, pine trees, junipers and a cork oak forest to name just some of the remarkable lush vegetation along the route. This walk gives you plenty of areas to dip-in before you even reach the pool, making it a fun and comfortable trip on a hot day.

Charco del Canalón, Rio Verda
Charco del Canalón, close to Istán

Charco de la Virgen Río de los Caballos

Sendero Charco De La Virgen, Diseminado Diseminados, 246, 29109 Tolox, Málaga, Spain
51 mins | 39.8  km from Marbella

Along the course of the Río Caballos (River of Horses) in the village of Tolox, a picturesque spot known as “Poza de la Virgen” is a well-known haven. Crystal clear waters pool at the base of a tall waterfall, cascading in the shape of a horse’s tail, where it gets its local nickname “Cola de Caballo” – “Horse’s Tail.” The natural pools in this area and waterfalls such as La Rejía, have been known to dry up in summer if there has not been much rainfall in the previous months.

Charco de la Virgen Río de los Caballos

Just after the rains in spring is the best time to visit, and a recommended trek is the popular route numbered: PR-A-282. This is a circular walk known as the “Sendero de la Cascadas” – “The Trail of the Waterfalls” which leads you under the stunning Rejía waterfall, which has a drop of 51 metres. La Rejía waterfall has been quoted in the Sur in English as being the most spectacular waterfall in the Sierra de las Nieves park, so when it is flowing ferociously it’s an absolute must-see.

Follow the route on Wikiloc

The Rejía waterfall

The Rejía waterfall

Living close to the Sierra de las Nieves National Park

Vista Lago Residences is located in the 200-hectare estate of Real de la Quinta. The estate borders the protected UNESCO biosphere reserve area surrounding the national park. Being so close to a National Park is great for homeowners in Vista Lago, not only for the obvious attraction of a national park within a very easy driving distance, and all that means for hikers, explorers and general nature lovers, but for those for whom increased investment value is important. Quite simply, the closer a property is to a national park anywhere in the world, the more valuable it becomes.

For more information on Vista Lago Residences, visit our information page. You can call our Sales Team on (+34) 951 12 72 42 or email them on: