Defined by Merriem-Webster’s Spanish-English dictionary as ‘temporary wood constructions on the beach selling drinks and ice cream’, these days most chiringuitos are better appointed while continuing to offer the simple charms of chargrilled sardines or a great paella and sangria, enjoyed with the sand in your toes and the sea breeze in your hair.
You can find them almost anywhere there’s a beachfront promenade. There are stylish wooden beach chirnguitos along the wide promenade that links Torremolinos to Benalmádena Port; in Fuengirola most are concrete structures above the beach, with one or two exceptions (in Marbella you can find both kinds, complete with tropical greenery) while the Balinese-style thatched chirnguitos on Estepona’ town’s beach showcase one of the world’s largest cactus collections. For poshed-up versions, check out the chic Polynesian-style Tikitano Beach, between Marbella and Estepona, and The Beach House, Elviria, both fine dining restaurants for lunch and in the evening. Some chiringuitos are institutions, like Eddy & Marisa’s, fronting the Coral Beach Resort, all gracious Ionic columns and Lloyd Loom armchairs. And that’s only a taste of what’s on offer.
Beach Clubs are a great way to expand your circle of friends in a sociable, sun-kissed daytime setting, and Marbella is spoiled for choice. Most beach clubs that dare to call themselves such will have a cocktail bar, bbq/restaurant and chilled music until sunset. Victor’s Beach, off Marbella’s Golden Mile, serves up food and music with an Afro-Caribbean theme; Buddha Beach near Banús, billed a ‘boutique club’, has a typically tropical setting with a circular pool, al fresco restaurant and luxurious loungers.
For castaway charm, Mistral Beach, a short walk west, is renowned for its fresh seafood, massage, group fitness activities and thatched sunbrellas shooting cooling jets of water vapour from their tops. For a hip vibe from day into night there’s San Pedro’s Polynesian-themed Bora Bora, Estepona’s Sonora Beach which oozes boho chic and, in Sotogrande, the polo set gather on the manicured lawns at El Cucurucho, which has four pools, an ice cream parlour and bakery. East of Marbella, Bono’s Beach at Costa Bella offers Balinese beach beds and themed fiestas through high season, Max Beach at Mijas Costa boasts a panoramic deckboard terrace overlooking a small cove and in Fuengirola you’ll find a fun crowd at Bikini Beach, right on the sand with great views of Sohail Castle.
BEACH CLUBS PLUS
Nikki Beach, next to the Don Carlos Hotel, has set a new benchmark in sophisticated beach clubs that takes them way beyond sociable places to sun-worship. Instead of sun loungers and sangria, think stylish white four-poster daybeds and champagne on ice (all the better for enjoying their massage service), trendy cuisine prepared by top chefs, served poolside (from seafood and sushi to fusion and fresh salads), out-of-this-world cocktails and cool summer sounds, not forgetting energy-charged party nights with famous live DJs playing that funky music right on until the wee small hours.
Haute chic haunts in the same mould include Ocean Club, west of Puerto Banús (famous for its massive pool, cool vibe and fantastic food) and Puro Beach at Laguna Village, a Balinese-style commercial centre sheltering designer boutiques and restaurants beneath its thatched roofs. Top hotels also have their own elegant clubs (The Marbella Club, Puente Romano and Don Carlos hotels, to name but three). Expect to pay more at such clubs but, if you like celebrity spotting and a sexy vibe, they’ve got the plus factor (and you get a fluffy towel thrown in). Best don your Raybans and designer bikini to look the part!
WORDS BY Belinda Beckett