The four prettiest ports on the Costa del Sol


The Costa del Sol, renowned for its beautiful beaches, sun-drenched climate and vibrant lifestyle – also happens to harbour some of the prettiest ports in the Mediterranean.

Puerto Banús, Marbella at sunset

Article by Sophie Gatward-Wicks

Puerto Banús, Marbella – The crème de la crème

A celebrity hot spot since the 70s, Puerto Banús certainly takes the lead in terms of prestige. Developed by the renowned Spanish architect José Banús Masdeu, with pure Andalusian charm in mind, it was conceived as a luxury marina and shopping complex. Now boasting the highest concentration of luxury brands per square metre in Europe, there are over 100 high-end boutiques lining its streets, including Dior, Hermés, Versace, Gucci and Bvlgari among others. 

Aerial view of PuertoBanus

Declared a Centre of National Tourist Interest and awarded the Gold Medal for Tourist Merit, Puerto Banús is not only as pretty as a postcard, but endlessly exciting. Between catamaran rides, yacht charters, scuba diving, banana boat rides, deep sea fishing and water skiing to name but a few of the daytime adventures, the night comes with its own delights. With trendy nightclubs such as Pangea, Cavalli and News Cafe, the moonlight brings a blend of glitzy glam and timeless mystery to the ambience, accompanied by a generous pouring of the perfect dirty martini.

A frankly epic offering of restaurants, cafes and bars can also be enjoyed throughout the day and into the early night, a top favourite being the reservation-free Italian restaurant– Picasso, and too many others to name drop. The bragging rights don’t just end at the gastronomy, as the 915 berths for yachts are often occupied by the likes of Superyachts such as Lady Haya; the 64.6-metre Japanese motor yacht and Palumbo Taiba; the 55.7m Italian-designed custom motor yacht.

There are places, and then there are ways of life, and in Puerto Banús you’ve got it all: The high-life, the night life and the good life.

Sotogrande – The Venice of the Costa del Sol

Sotogrande Port and Marina, officially named Puerto Deportivo Sotogrande

Walking through the entirety of this marina for the first time is like a never-ending discovery. On the west side, the colourfully painted buildings and accommodating café-bars welcome you with a friendly yet chic atmosphere, whilst on the east side you begin to think you may be entering Spain’s rendition of little Venice on the water. With bridges crossing the waterways and seemingly as much greenery as there are luxury apartments, sauntering through this port is a delight for the senses.

Being one of the most prestigious marinas in the country, the leisure services are plentiful as expected, offering the most exclusive nautical sports tourism in southern Europe. Boasting 1,382 berths, an eclectic mix of restaurants with health-forward menu options, and every feasible amenity just a stone’s throw away, it really has an all-in-one appeal for both holiday makers and residents. There is even a Sunday Market tailored to suit a high-end clientele featuring art, artisanal produce, hand-crafted goods and boutique clothing.

Sotogrande Port and Marina, officially named Puerto Deportivo Sotogrande

Sotogrande Port and Marina, officially named Puerto Deportivo Sotogrande is a real slice of peaceful paradise. A charming retreat flanked by sandy beaches and wooden walkways, it’s apparent that no expense was spared in its development. Inaugurated in 1978, the marina’s frontline was further developed in the 1990s, and the addition of the quayside apartment blocks known as the Riberas, remain some of the most sought after properties in the area today. The Club Maritimo is a popular sailing club where you can charter a yacht, sailboat or vessel of your choosing, and in Summer there is a free boat taxi service that ferries people across the marina. Such fun!

Benalmádena – Cosmopolitan glamour meets Arabian nights

Winner of the ‘Best Marina in the World’ award, this bustling port is one of the main attractions of the Costa del Sol, but as busy as it is, it has still continually been awarded the European Blue Flag for its excellent service and clean waters since 1987. Each year, the marina holds an ecological day, bringing together several dozen divers to clean the depths of its waters.

With 1,100 berths and a sophisticated offering of bars, clubs and restaurants, there’s a lot more on offer here than just the usual water sports, dining and shopping activities. The marina also boasts its own Sea Life Aquarium, and next to this is Planeta Explora, a science museum experience and exhibition centre tailored for children aged 3-12 that incorporates leisure, learning and fun. There is also a nautical centre: Centro Náutico, built for sailing enthusiasts to meet, dine and participate in sporting events.

Benalmádena marina at night.

Sprinkled with plenty of tapas bars, there is a fabulous selection of Mediterranean cuisine to enjoy whilst looking out over the glistening water, admiring the boats in the harbour. Being as lively as it is, the atmosphere in this port is one of cosmopolitan glamour. A diverse range of cultures have converged in its unique architectural design, pioneered by architect Eduardo Oria, along with civil engineer Jaime Dioni.

With influences of Arabic, Indian and, of course, Andalusian construction style, the port is as pretty as a painting, and its unique features have led to its international recognition. Another notable feature of the renowned architecture are the islands of houses. Built in the mid-90s, these residences give the illusion of floating on the water from certain angles, and represent a unique construction characteristic of the Costa del Sol.

Puerta La Duquesa – The locals favourite hidden gem

This port’s quaint charm and smaller size in comparison to other marinas make it seem more of an escape, a serene and relaxed leisure spot, and favourite amongst the locals. Just 30 minutes west of Marbella, Puerto La Duquesa feels like it’s miles away from the throngs of holiday-goers, and has managed to retain a truly boutique appeal ever since it was first built in 1980. 

Puerta La Duquesa Marina

Known as the “best kept secret on the Costa del Sol”, La Duquesa port features classical Andalusian architecture; a timeless aesthetic with its white façades, gentle arches and terracotta roofing. The medium-sized marina accommodates 328 boats, ranging from fishing dinghies to palatial yachts. Here, old and new berths mingle, juxtaposing the brand new and snazzy with the weird and wonderful, which makes for an interesting maritime viewing.

Despite its lack of nightclubs, the port still enjoys lively evenings, with people perambulating from restaurant, to karaoke bar, to quieter cocktail bar before closing time. The tri-directional reflections bouncing off the dark blue water drape the evenings in an undeniably romantic light, and make this setting one of the prettiest ports, and places on the entire Costa del Sol.