Torremolinos was the first resort of the Costa del Sol developed into a tourist haven, but it fell into disrepair and disrepute over the years. It has re-emerged lately, growing more popular because of its variety of entertainment and amenities as well as its clean sand beaches. You can still visit many of the fresh fish bars first built in the 60s, sitting next door to upscale stores and boutiques. It is, however, one of the most touristy of the Costa del Sol towns, unable to shake the tourist influence from the mid-twentieth century.
With a lively nightlife, Torremolinos is very popular with younger tourists at the height of summer, but in the off-season it’s much more Spanish, friendly and welcoming and much less busy. People of all nationalities come here, particularly to the pedestrian streets of Calle San Miguel. This street is lined with kiosks and shops of all sorts, with restaurants interspersed between. At the bottom of the street you’ll find the beach El Bajondillo. Near this beach are the other beaches Playamar and Los Alamos to the left, La Carihuela and Montemar to the right.
The beaches are served by the waterside street Paseo Maritimo, and you’ll find it pleasant to stroll through here. La Carihuela, an old fishing village, is at one end of this stroll, and you can enjoy the homes with bougainvillea-draped patios where old men socialize and tell stories. In some ways, this village has been frozen in time. You’ll also find excellent beach bars and seafood restaurants here.
Torremolinos is also rich in public gardens, with over a thousand species of trees planted in the town from banana and magnolia to roses and azaleas. Forests with freshwater springs and places to barbecue are a nice reprieve from the unrelenting sun of the beach, and windsurfing, waterskiing, and even pedal boats offer excellent water fun.
History of Torremolinos
Like much of the Sun Coast, Torremolinos has been settled by a succession of civilizations: Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Arab, in addition to the Iberian Celts, and it has a rich archaeological history reflecting this. Solid proof of its prehistory was found in the form of 150,000-year-old bones, clay vessels, jewelry, and other human remains from the Neolithic age. Remains are often found in the caves that abound here. Saduce, a Phoenician town, was once located near here, though few traces remain. The Romans later built a wide causeway joining Cadiz with Malaga that ran through Torremolinos, almost reaching Playamar. Unfortunately, many of the remains from these days were destroyed by construction, rendering this history lost. A small Roman necropolis discovered in the 1990s may reveal some history, though.
In around 1300 AD, the Nazaris, a Muslim dynasty, built the Torre de la Defensa (Defensive Tower) in Torremolinos, later renamed Torre de Pimentel. The still-standing tower is 12 meters high, but its interior has been completely destroyed and the facade is cracked and threatens to collapse.
Torremolinos was first mentioned in a document referencing the water-powered “mills of the Tower”? (Molinos de la Torre), where the Catholic kings conquering Spain were encamped while beseiging Malaga. By 1502, Torremolinos was under the control of Malaga. You can still visit some of the old mills, like the Manojas mill, but they are poorly preserved. Many have become restaurants and other tourist attractions.
After that and before the tourism influx of the 20th century, Torremolinos was little more than a quiet village, existing peacefully through farming and taking advantage of the rich aqueous resources of the region. In 1949, the ship San Carlos shipwrecked off the coast of Ceuta, taking many of the men of Torremolinos with it; the sole survivor, Francisco Campoy, still tells the story, as well as a variety of sea stories, from his home in La Carihuela.
Attractions at Torremolinos
You can visit the remains of the old castle that used to rest at the top of Montemar, but it is truly ruins. Unfortunately, tourism was discovered early at Torremolinos, and many of the old buildings that we’d preserve today as historical monuments were transformed in the 1800s into restaurants, hotels, and other places of business; though the facades still exist, there is little to look at inside. You can, however, find almost anything you want for sale in Torremolinos’s shops.
Cucazorra, La Roca, El Remo, Los Nidos, Pez Espada, Cafe Central, El Manana, all are hotels and restaurants but also tourist attractions. They were among the first built when tourism spread throughout Torremolinos and bear the marks of history: Cafe Central played host to Boris Karloff and Frank Sinatra. Michener wrote Hijos de Torremolinos while staying in town here.
The Englishman’s Castle, named for its owner, a 19th century town hero, separates the eastern and western beaches.
Los Pinares surround you with pine, carob, and holm oak trees as you wander through the reserve on one of its three hiking routes. Natural springs and fountains dot the area. The nearby Canada del Lobo holds an educational nature hall, an observation tower, and a place for you to rest during the day.
Overall, Torremolinos is for two types of people: the young, who want to come and have fun in the exciting nightlife of Torremolinos; and those who want to experience the town’s dreamy, wistful atmosphere of times past.
Where to Stay
The Hotel La Roca is a must, if you have the money to spend; it’s both a historical monument and, today, holds some of the glamour of Torremolinos’s old days of tourism mecca. The Pez Espada is the first luxury hotel built here, and hosted many of the world’s elite in its heyday. Most hotels in Torremolinos, however, are of the three and four star variety, and it’s unlikely you’ll have a bad experience. Most have also undergone thorough renovations within the last several years, so you won’t find many antiquated facilities. Hotels here are modern, professional, and cater to tourists from all over the world.
Where to Eat
Torremolinos, with its longstanding, well-developed tourism culture, offers almost every imaginable dish of the Costa del Sol, as well as over 250 international restaurants featuring American, German, Scandinavian, Indonesian, and other cuisines. The beach restaurants, or chiringuitos, offer the most authentic recipes for the area, like paellas, coquinas, pescaito frito, salt-baked fish, and local-made gaspacho with fresh ingredients from just up the road. Be certain to try the roasted bell pepper salad, the adobo, and fish with ali-oli.