Article by Victoria Wood, a freelance writer and mother of three based in Marbella.
Having raised three children of my own here on the coast, I have had plenty of experience in finding things to do for kids. Lately there seems to be an influx of new places opening, especially trampoline parks. But more on that later.
I personally prefer to avoid indoor play areas due to them being such efficient breeding grounds for germs, and the acoustics are enough to push a parent over the proverbial edge, however, they are excellent for a rainy day or a play date if your home doesn’t accommodate more than a couple of children, or if you just need a couple of ‘hands free’ hours! Thankfully, due to the fortunate positioning of our Mediterranean location, we are able to take advantage of the outdoors most of the year round and we are therefore blessed with an abundance of alfresco activities to partake in with the youngsters.
The following is a range of the best options on offer for various ages, most of which I have tried and tested personally (well, my kids have anyway).
The trend, as I mentioned before, for trampoline parks, has hit the Costa del Sol. There are now three between Málaga and Estepona. Altitude in Málaga is by far the best equipped and is situated in a shopping mall which could keep parents occupied if the children happen to be old enough to go unsupervised. If you live far enough from Málaga that it isn’t likely you’ll make the journey, there are two slightly smaller versions which are still great fun for kids of all ages. Costa Jump in San Pedro has recently reopened and there is a brand new one Estepona named Super Jump.
If you’re kids are feeling adventurous and aren’t too afraid of heights this is a brilliant activity for all the family (ages 6 – 65 and 1’15metres upwards). Situated in just outside Elviria Marbella Aventura Amazonia is an obstacle course set up high in the pine trees. The kids will need to be able to operate the equipment so it isn’t suitable for very young children, however there is a play park and various difficulty levels to accommodate all ages. The instructors teach them how to use their harnesses and then they are given free rein to follow the courses up in the tree tops. This is a great outdoor activity, good exercise and a perfect place for a birthday gathering. http://www.aventura-amazonia.com/
Well this is an obvious one but from spring to autumn the beaches in this area are the perfect place to take children out for a few hours. If you’re at the sand munching phase or in nappies it can take its toll on a parent to sit at the beach but still you have all that natural entertainment at your fingertips. Calm waters, golden sands and plenty of choices. You’ll never have to look far on any beach for a place to grab a bite to eat so it isn’t essential to bring your own lunch, and everywhere welcomes children. If you are looking for a bit more from your beach day you can head to the sands near Torreguadiaro where during peak season they have a huge floating playground a few metres out at sea. Very popular with children from eight and above. They’ll be kitted out with lifejackets but if they’re not strong swimmers it’s best that an adult goes along.
TAKE A HIKE
There are countless places to venture off up into the hills and take a good hike. Bring a picnic along and you’ve got yourself a healthy, active day out enjoying the incredible landscape that is on offer here. An excellent option is to attempt to climb La Concha from the Refugio del Juanar. Depending on age and ability, the time frame can range from an hour to five or six hours, all hanging on how far you get! If you make it to the top the views of Marbella and way beyond are incredible and it’s such an exhilarating achievement for kids. Read our recent blog on “The ascent of La Concha, Marbella’s landmark mountain”.
TUUR is a company that offer family canyoning experiences. Starting as young as age six, the whole family can enjoy this outdoor experience all year round. The beginner’s level location is here in Benahavís, if you choose to progress on to more difficult canyons there are more places in Málaga and Granada as your experience grows. But to start with the one in Benahavís is really good fun, and safe for all ages.
INDOOR PLAY PARK
If you are inclined to venture to an indoor play area then there are a few good ones on offer on the Costa del sol, my favourite has got to be Mundo Mania near Cancelada. Mainly because there are more food options for parents than at most indoor play areas, but also because there is also a decent outdoor area with a mini water park for summer days as well as the extensive indoor area.
Based in the Puerto Marina in Benalmadena, Prison Island is an adventure park suitable for all ages. If you’ve ever heard of the TV shows ”Fort Boyard”, or the “Crystal Maze”, you’ll know what the idea is. You are basically locked inside prison cells and have to pass the challenges as a team to be able to move on and win points along the way. You’re up against the clock so the tension gets high!
You can head to Bahia Plaza, Los Barrios or Puerto Marina Benalmadena to have a go at laser tag. A very popular birthday activity, laser tag is a team game played with infrared ‘laser’ guns. If you get ‘shot’ your suit will warn the rest of the players and once your team are all shot, the game is won by the opposition. So it’s a team sport generally played in darkened, indoor arenas that are kitted out with plenty of neon and obstacles. Fun for all ages.
There are a few good places to visit the cinema in and around Marbella where you can watch films in their native language – also known as V.O.S.E, or V.O. – meaning it is shown in the original version with Spanish subtitles. The most local to Marbella, and with the most films shown in their original format, is the Cine Goya in Puerto Banús. You can also venture out to Fuengirola’s Cinesur in the Miramar shopping mall cinema, or the Odeon Multicines Bahía Plaza in Los Barrios or stay local to Marbella at the Cinesur on the Paseo Maritimo.
There are some beautiful parks in the Marbella region. My favourite for variety have got to be Parque Nagüeles and Los Tres Jardines, San Pedro, which are both beautifully kept and extensive, so much so that you really feel far from the surrounding towns.
Fuengirola is home to the theme park Tivoli World which offers a great range of rides and attractions for children of all ages. They also often have live music, events and dance shows. Open on various days from April to November, but open full time during peak season – July to mid-September, Tivoli is definitely worth a visit and don’t expect to get out of there quickly!
For the younger kids I would suggest heading to the Zoo in El Castellar. This is a smaller, more informal type of zoo where the keepers are at hand to help you learn more about the animals and more often than not will let you pet some of them. We have had the strange and rare pleasure of petting a tiger cub, a lion cub, a young lynx, a honey bear and sat in the cage with the lemurs. There is also a small enclosure with a range of farm-type animals that you can handle carefully. If you want a more rigorous day out then head to Selwo in Estepona where you can see a wider range of animals as well as taking the safari-style jeep tour for a bit of off-roading in ‘Africa’. There’s also a surprisingly decent zoo smack bang in the middle of Fuengirola town. Bioparc is a great spot for getting away from the hustle and bustle and has a great range of animals and attractions.
There are plenty of places to find horse riding for children in and around Marbella however there are a couple of local favourites: Centro Hipico El Repique, Marbella and Pony Club Villacana are well-loved spots for taking care of kids of all ages on horseback. Read our recent blog “Marbella for Horse Lovers” for more ideas.
The water parks in Mijas Costa and Algeciras are both great fun for all the family but if you’re going to spend the time, and the money, on taking a day on the slides then I would recommend making the trip to Torremolinos’ Aqualand. It has by far the best entertainment for all age ranges and adrenalin needs with twelve big slides and plenty of fun for little ones too at Kidzworld.
Heading out to sea during the hot summer months is always a welcome respite from the heat. You can book a half day (2 hours) or full day trip of Dolphin spotting with Born to be Wild. These Dolphin tours depart from the Blue Dolphin Beach Club in Estepona and you get to drive your own speed boat (4 people per boat). Looking for a quicker trip you can simply take the Fly Blue catamaran and cruise from Marbella port to Puerto Banus, and back again. It only takes 20 minutes each way and the views of the coastline are wonderful.
There are literally so many activities on offer in Marbella that this blog would be too long if we were to list them all. A great website for family activities is https://www.marbellafamilyfun.com/ where you can find tips on things to do, after school activities, special events and much more. Have fun!