Quite apart from its beaches, shopping malls, sports clubs and spas, the Costa del Sol has lots of leisure options aimed at the whole family.

Many a big city has a zoo or aquarium; rural areas are endowed with theme and safari parks; and forest and beachside resorts often come with survival courses, aqua parks and similar family fun entertainment options. But guess what, our region ticks just about every box you’d normally have to travel far and wide for, from admiring wild animals and sea life to immersing yourself in adventurous pursuits or splashing about on big water slides.

So, if you want a change of scenery from the shopping mall, the beach or the golf course, and have filled your tummy with tapas for now, why not discover just how much variety is on offer within a half-hour radius of Marbella? There is actually too much for the pages of a single feature, so we have taken a selection of just some of the top attractions available close to you. What’s more, they are perfectly suited to this time of year!

Bioparc Fuengirola

Originally opened in 1978, this zoo has a long track history in the region, but was redeveloped into a true eco-experience some twenty years ago – and the process is on-going. Unlike a conventional zoo, the animals are housed in spacious enclosures that skilfully recreate their natural environment and climate, allowing them to roam free and interact in the normal way. The park, which also features a café and a charming gift shop, is split according to the different continents – from the savanna of Africa and the unique woodlands of Madagascar, to the jungles of Asia and the Americas, the steppes of Eurasia and North America, and also the unique habitat of the Pacific Islands.

It’s a wonderful experience of natural immersion close to an urban centre and, true to its name, the Bioparc has excellent credentials in caring for its residents as well as engaging in conservation and breeding programmes. In a world where natural wildlife is under extreme threat from hunting and habitat loss, zoos like this play an important conservation role as well as offering a great deal of educational fun and an opportunity for the little ones to appreciate earth’s natural variety in all its glory.


Selwo Marina Benalmádena

If you’re into sea life, Selwo Marina offers the aquatic equivalent of the Bioparc. Situated just a little further east on the coast, this sea world attraction in the Benalmádena marina is also conveniently close to shops, restaurants, cafés and beaches.

Like Bioparc Fuengirola, Selwo Marina prides itself on its facilities, its treatment of the animals and above all, its eco credentials – of course not forgetting the fact that it also offers lots and lots of entertainment for children and adults alike. Again, the educational element is important, so Selwo Marina sees creating respect and understanding of sea life as its mission.

The motto is therefore: ‘Discover, learn and have fun`, and that’s something most of us would sign up for. The conservation work done here is not only important but also highly relevant in a coastal setting such as this, but if all of this goes over your head and you just want to have fun, look out for the aquariums, meet the penguins and dolphins, swim with sea lions (if you dare) and be thrilled by exotic bird demonstrations.


Aqualand Torremolinos

All that water could make you itch for some diving and splashing of your own, and if you and/or the kids get the urge, there are several aqua parks to choose from on the Costa del Sol. Perhaps the largest and most well-known of all is Aqualand in Torremolinos, a little before the turn-off to Plaza Mayor.

It remains a classic summer fun experience, and one free of sandy feet and scary waves. That said, the 30 slides offer quite some variety themselves, ranging from scary adults-only, adrenalin-rush kamikaze rides to gentler water slides for those who like fun without vertigo or exertion.

Set in a parkland environment of 70,000m2, complete with cafés, ice cream stands and convenience shops, this is classic unadulterated family fun for a different kind of summer sun day out. If you’ve been, check out the new slides, cascading rides and children’s water games. The park is open from May 20th to October 7th, and yes, there actually is a slide called Kamikaze and it’s the highest in Europe!


Aventura Amazonia Elviria

Also a firm favourite with families is Aventura Amazonia Marbella, the largest adventure park in Andalucía and situated just 500 metres from the beach in Elviria. Set within a beautiful umbrella pine forest for which this part of Marbella East is known, it offers a total of 99 challenges in the trees, including 26 ziplines to be found within six different adventure circuits. These range from beginner to advanced, with names such as MiniKids, Kids, Explorador, Jungla, Aventura and Deportivo giving one a pretty clear indication of their level. In addition, there are also three training circuits, so set yourself free and imagine being a rookie Marine trainee – go on, I dare you!

Naturally, it’s all safe and comfortable, with the proper supervision and professional harnessing equipment such as new CliC-It carabiners in the safety packs that visitors are given when emulating Tarzan, Jane and Rambo in the forest. Feel free to yodel as you zip from tree to tree; the fun, free way in which to let the inner child in you out, while you also get good exercise.


Prison Island Benalmádena

No, we don’t have our own Alcatraz, but unlike that famous prison in San Francisco Bay this adventure park is suitable for all ages and actually encourages you to ‘escape’. Mind you, Prison Island – which is based on the TV-series Fort Boyard – doesn’t make it easy for you, so you’ll have to work as a team and hatch your plan to feel like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Work to overcome challenges against the clock and you get points that tally up to freedom and an exhilarating ‘Mission Impossible’ experience. Prison Island is a year-round fun park in Benalmádena’s marina that is ideal for groups, schools and also corporate team building.

It’s a little bit like paintball, but less focused on shooting and more on teamwork, climbing, strategising, running, dodging and generally having fun and seeing just how crafty you are.