The most beautiful town in Andalucía? It’s some boast, but Benahavís might just well be. Tucked a few kilometres inland between Estepona and San Pedro de Alcántara, this quaint and picture-perfect pueblo is considered the gastronomic capital of the Costa del Sol, home to some of the finest restaurants found anywhere in southern Spain.
Benahavís is one of the richest municipalities in Spain thanks to the large number of high-end developments that surround the village. Golf resorts such as La Quinta and Los Arqueros belong to Benahavís as does La Zagaleta, an exclusive gated estate, home to some of the most expensive properties in Spain.
Putting that aside, the village itself is laid out in a typical Moorish style with narrow cobbled streets tightly packed with pretty white houses, small shops and an incredible array of restaurants. It is the high concentration of restaurants in such a small area that has given rise to the name ‘The dining room’ of the Costa del Sol.
What makes Benahavís special is its location. Situated just south of La Serrania de Ronda mountain range, surrounded by cork and pine forests and crossed by 3 rivers; the Guadalmina, Guadaiza, and Guadalmansa, it is an area of natural beauty.
Benahavís is highly sought-after as somewhere to buy property on the Costa del Sol, particularly among overseas buyers looking for a haven of peace and quiet within easy reach of Marbella.
Fantastic weather? Check: that’s a given – Benahavís is at the heart of the Costa del Sol and receives more than 300 days of sunshine per year. A classic slice of Spain that’s accessible and welcoming? Check: Benahavís is just seven kilometres from Puerto Banús and less than an hour’s drive from Málaga airport.
A destination that is both beautiful and peaceful? Check: the approach road to Benahavís sees you leave the coastal highway behind and weave past rolling plains that turn steadily into rocky cliff faces and then a plunging ravine. The road winds between sheer cliff face and clear drop down to the cool waters of the Guadalmina River, before the whitewashed, sugar-cube beauty of Benahavís appears before you.
The surroundings are evidently inspirational, as Benahavís is home to a thriving community of artisans, primarily painters, potters, and chefs. In addition to the art galleries and craft shops, Benahavís offers a brilliant portfolio of restaurants – from authentic pizzerias to classy haute cuisine establishments, robust grill-houses, and the ubiquitous tapas taverns.
There are three distinct areas of Benahavís, each highlighted by its own charm and character. The newer outskirts contain modern apartment complexes, sports facilities, hotels, and parkland; this is where an increasing number of expats are moving and making the most of the swift access to the coast. Most of the bars, restaurants, jewellers, and galleries are to be found in the heart of the town. The third area is the old residential part, where local Spaniards live amidst the undulating terrain and twisting streets; an area characterised by beautifully kept villas and townhouses, charming gardens, and gorgeous views.
Also, part of Benahavís municipality is La Zagaleta, considered the most exclusive residential urbanisation in Europe and located on the road from Marbella to Ronda in the former sprawling luxury mountain estate of Saudi entrepreneur, arms dealer, and Marbella socialite Adnan Khashoggi.
A mere 200 metres along the main road is an opening. Barely marked and steeply descending, one of the village’s hidden treasures lies some 30 metres below. Huge boulders, remnants from some ancient landslide or earthquake, lie strewn along the riverbed at the foot of the Guadalmina River valley. Some boulders act as a dam, creating deep and crystal-clear plunge pools, while others take the form of organic diving boards. So, don your swimsuit, leave those with a fear of heights guarding the towels on the grassy verge, and dive into the refreshing waters below.
Having banished the sedate image of Benahavís with that one giant leap into the abyss, the surprises just keep on coming. Hikers will enjoy the 360-degree opportunities to traipse up or down, and golfers will love the surrounding clubs (Benahavís has the highest number of courses per capita of any municipality in Spain).
While Benahavís might lack a couple of the comforts and conveniences of home, they’re all pretty close by. The Diana Park commercial centre is just a five-minute drive away, and other key needs such as bilingual schools, hospitals, supermarkets, and clothing stores are in Estepona and Marbella – a handy 15-minute drive.
As something of an open-air museum – the back garden and dining room rolled into one – Benahavís at dusk and through the evening offers untold pleasures. The absence of a nightclub or loud bar ensures the atmosphere remains camped in the “contented” sector, where residents and tourists of all ages instead turn their attentions to fine wine, great food, and good company.