Costa del Sol Part 2: Exploring Malaga and Torremolinos and the Hotel Ritual Torremolinos

In my last post, I covered how I got to and from the Costa del Sol.  Here, I’ll cover what I actually did there.  I actually had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anyone personally who had been to Torremolinos, and I had heard some horror stories that the Costa del Sol could be filled with loud, boorish Brits.  I knew there was at least some gay life, but I wasn’t sure quite the extent. Well, it was great.

My flight got me into Malaga’s airport at around 8am on Friday, so I knew it was unlikely that I would get into my hotel that early. But the hotel is halfway between the center of Malaga and Torremolinos, so I took the very easy train on the 15-minute ride to Torremolinos first to drop off my luggage, then turning back around and heading back into the city to explore for a bit.

Early morning in Torremolinos


I ended up spending a few hours in Malaga, but to be honest, four hours of sleep and American time probably kept me from fully enjoying. But I did do a lot of the main sights. The Cercanias (commuter rail) ends at the Centro Alameda, on the right bank of the Guadalmedina River that divides the city. Pretty much all the tourist sights are in the older part of the city, on the left bank. So, I walked right over the dry bed, and meandered for a fifteen-minute walk.

Crossing the river into the old city

The city was quite pretty, and despite it being only about 10am and May, the streets were starting to fill with tourists.  I started at the famous Café Central, right on Plaza de la Constitucion. While the view is great, the service is…lacking. The outdoor seating area was packed and you have to just kind of jump on a table and hail waiters down. I did have a perfectly fine half-order of churros and coffee, though.

Plaza de la Constitucion

Cafe Central

With a bit more caffeine, I meandered through the old streets a bit.

Exploring Malaga

I made my my way towards the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress built on a hilltop. It was pretty crowded with tour groups, but I still enjoyed a short visit walking around. The climb isn’t that steep, and there’s not a whole lot to see, other than the views in all directions.  I had originally intended to also go to the even higher Castillo Gibralfaro, which is a long, hot walk, or a busride, but I was already feeling exhausted.  So, instead, I just wandered down to the waterfront.

Roman theater ruins

Views from the Alcazaba

Views from the Alcazaba

Views from the Alcazaba

Atop the Alcazaba

The Alcazaba

There are a lot of good museums in Malaga, including the Picasso Museum Malaga and the Malaga Museum. I didn’t go into any, but did check out the outside of the Malaga branch of Paris’s Centre Pompidou.  The museum itself is underground, but above ground is a large colorful cube.

Centre Pompidou Malaga

Further east of where I was, the waterfront is beach, but I was only on the part that was a tourist/shopping harbor, Muelle Uno.  On the way back into the town, I walked through Parque Malaga, which is really just a long skinny park slash promenade that runs between the city and the waterfront. It turned out it was Senior Citizens’ Week or something, so there were some shows and activities, which were a bit of a trip.

I then went back up through the old town, past the big Malaga Cathedral, or the Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga, and grabbed some gelato, before meandering down Calle Larios, a pedestrian-only walking street, and then heading back to Torremolinos.

Malaga Cathedral

Calle Larios

Hotel Ritual and Torremolinos

I was torn between staying at the Hotel Ritual, an adults-only, gay-oriented hotel, or the Melia Costa del Sol, which is a nice hotel right on the beach.  I ended up staying at the Ritual, which was a great choice – and not expensive at all, $232 for three nights with a coupon on Cheaptickets. It was not sleazy at all like some gay hotels could be, but was social and great for a solo traveler.

The room was fairly basic, but clean, modern and large.  There were two twin beds bushed together, and a long desk/dresser.  There was a small fridge, as well as a microwave, stovetop, and tea/coffee kettle setup.

Seaview room at the Hotel Ritual Torremolinos

The highlight of the room was the small balcony overlooking the ocean and the pool area.

View from my room, Hotel Ritual Torremolinos

View from my room

The main pool area is a big highlight of the stay; I was always able to get a chair, but there were always people there.  There was also a bar out there- though prices were quite high. I ended up chatting with a lot of folks – mainly Brits and Germans – and getting tips for nightlife.

Poolside at the Hotel Ritual

Poolside at the Hotel Ritual

There is a second pool and bar on the roof, which is small and is a nudist area.  The views (of the city and the ocean) were great.  There’s also a small gym, a barber shop, and a beachwear boutique, plus a restaurant I never tried.

Views from the rooftop at the Hotel Ritual

The hotel is about a six-minute walk from the Plaza de la Nogalera, where the train station and a lot of bars and restaurants are.  There are a number of restaurants close by the hotel, as well as a few convenience stores, although the whole town is easily walkable. Getting to the beach is a bit of a schlep, as you have to walk down a long set of stairs. But that applies to most accommodations except those like the Melia that are right on the beach.

The town of Torremolinos

The stairway to the beach

The walk to the beach isn’t that long, about 10 minutes down the stairs to Paseo Maritimo, the oceanfront street. There are a lot of subpar restaurants right on the water, which I would recommend skipping. (I had some half-frozen roast chicken at one.)  It’s a really nice walk along the promenade, though, especially south of the town.  I also got some excellent gelato at Nonna…each day I was there. I also had okay lunches at the Eden Beach Club, which is actually owned by the same people as the Ritual. There’s a restaurant there, and you can also order food to beach chairs available for rent, which was a nice way to pass the afternoon.

The beach in Torremolinos

Playa in Torremolinos

In the evenings, I had two really good meals.  One was at Casero la Comida, which was delicious Mediterranean food.  I lucked out and got the only table that wasn’t reserved when I went early, so make a reservation! Another night I ate at El Laurel, right by the Ritual, which was quiet on a Sunday night, but had a really excellent fresh fish dinner.

As for nightlife, it was pretty darn good. There were a lot of gay bars, ranging from the early evening cocktail-type, to cruising bars, to dance clubs.  Most of the bars were in a shopping center-like complex near the Plaza de la Nogalera, and had a lot of outdoor seating and drinking areas where people congregated.  I spent most of my time at Ritual Copas – also owned by the same company as the hotel.  As a guest of the hotel, I got a free drink there every night with a punch card, which was a nice way to start the night.  I found the nightlife on par with, or dare I say better, than Sitges.

I had thought about doing a daytrip to El Caminito del Rey, a beautiful hike/walk about an hour drive from Torremolinos, but the guided tours would have been a very long day. Gibraltar is also only about 90 minutes away by car, and that would have been cool to explore, as would other places like Ronda or Marbella. Next time, maybe I would try and squeeze that in, but with late Spanish nights dancing and drinking, I was glad to spend my days poolside and beachside.

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