Hotel California, Malaga
This old gem is just east of Malaga’s town centre, beyond the bullring, in an avenue of once-grand villas. Playa Caleta, the main city beach, swings around the bay, a block in front, though modern high-rises cause you to play hide and seek with sea views. Behind the bottle-green facade of the Hotel California time-warped splendour awaits, with its marble lobby and grand staircase leading to 24 en suite rooms. All are different in size and outlook, some with balconies, while its eclectic style mixes exposed brick and downlighters with fireplaces, stained glass and 1960s furniture. You can have breakfast in the large dining room or out on the patio. The family owners, led by Modesto Antiñolo, are particularly charming.
• +34 9 5221 5164, hotelcalifornianet.com. Doubles from €66
Hotel Rio Abajo, Mojácar
In the last few years Mojácar has morphed into a summer party town, but peace awaits at this pretty casita hotel, tucked down a turning off the coast road. Flanked by a reed-filled lagoon and low-rise apartments, it is smack on the windsurfers’ beach, and you can usually swim here too. The attentive owners, Manolo and Paloma, keep the palm-dotted garden and pool in good shape, along with an alternative spirit. The 19 whitewashed rooms have ceiling fans and plenty of paintings; ask for the family room (number 204), if you have children. Spectacular sunrises over the sea are included, while breakfasts and bar drinks are extra.
• +34 9 5047 8928, rioabajomojacar.com. Doubles from €50
Hotel El Dorado, Carboneras
Film buffs should love the kitsch Hollywood stylings of this hotel, which is awash with gilded statues, columns, marble and chandeliers. Dedicated to the 1960s cinematographic heyday of Almería, the nearby provincial capital, it is plastered with location photos from Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago and The Three Musketeers, which were all filmed round here. The hotel opened when Carboneras was just a fishing village, despite the celebrity comings and goings (John Lennon once stayed in the house next door). With wonderful sea and headland views, a pool and large restaurant, it has 30 classically furnished rooms, which vary in outlook but are all spacious.
• +34 9 5045 4050, eldorado-carboneras.com. Doubles from €60 B&B
Hotel Las Palmas, Carboneras
This slickly designed hotel is a complete surprise on the southern end of the beach by the fishing harbour. Ana Vicente, the bubbly owner, signed up a Sevillian architect to create a 10-room family hotel, with dazzling white walls and floors, designer furniture and art on the walls. The restaurant-bar spills outside through glass doors to a wide terrace but best of all are the three top-floor family suites with huge decked terraces, sun-loungers and sweeping views. A 10-minute drive away is the dramatic, naturist beach Playa de los Muertos.
• +34 9 5045 4306, laspalmas-hoteles.es. Doubles from €70 B&B
Hotel Doña Pakyta, San José, Cabo de Gata natural park
San José is the biggest resort in the wild Cabo de Gata natural park but Doña Pakyta could not be closer to the sea; a short staircase leads you straight down to the sand. Inside, you find fresh white walls, wicker furniture and spacious sitting areas to contemplate fabulous views across a bay framed by huge windows. Be lulled to sleep by the waves in one of six rooms opening on to a broad terrace above the beach, though cheaper rooms in an annexe also have balconies and partial sea views. Disappointingly, the restaurant, with its blinding lighting, lacks atmosphere, but San José has plenty of other dining options. The hotel will organise picnic lunches, four-wheel-drive trips and horseriding.
• +34 9 5061 1175, hotelpakyta.es . Doubles from €65
Hotel Las Calas, Agua Amarga, Cabo de Gata natural park
Agua Amarga borders barren spaghetti-western territory, but this low-key village packs in some cool bars, restaurants, bohemian residents and fishermen. Beside a headland of troglodyte caves at the southern end, this attractive hotel makes a perfect beachside retreat. The 10 compact rooms are cosily furnished with satellite TV, air conditioning and skylit bathrooms; six have terraces with sea views and two larger ones accommodate extra children. Come morning, trot out for a swim, then relax in the shade the front garden’s pergola, before heading for the owner’s seafood restaurant, Los Tarahis, just steps away.
• +34 950 138016, hotellascalas.es. Doubles from €82 B&B
Hotel Family, Agua Amarga, Cabo de Gata natural park
French couple René and Michèle Bellavoir and their son, Marc, have created this small hotel, set back from the beach, at Agua Amarga’s tranquil southern end. A direct path leads straight to the water’s edge, though the hotel has a pool and lovely garden, so you may not want to move. As its name suggests, it is family-friendly with two rooms big enough to accommodate children. All are quaintly furnished with decent shower-rooms and air conditioning, plus most have balconies. Generous breakfasts and delicious home-cooked dinners can be taken in an intimate dining room or larger restaurant.
• +34 9 5013 8014, hotelfamily.es. Doubles from €70 B&B
Hotel Cala Chica, Las Negras, Cabo de Gata natural park
The Cabo de Gata is going upmarket at Las Negras, an enclave of visitor facilities on a long sweep of dark volcanic sand backed by stark mountains. The 26-room Cala Chica – baby sister to the spa-hotel Cala Grande that looms behind – has smart Spanish-contemporary style, a large pool, mountain and sea views and airy rooms, some with heated Jacuzzis on the terrace. It is not directly on the beach, but a few minutes’ stroll down the main street brings you there. The friendly hotel staff will prepare packed lunches for escapades into the hills or hikes along coastal paths.
• +34 9 5038 8181, calachica.com. Doubles from €72 B&B
Hostal Peña Parda, La Herradura
La Herradura is an attractive, laidback town sloping down to a crescent-shaped, shingle beach on the Costa Tropical, just east of the more famous Nerja. Backed by a breezy 2km-long promenade, the calm water is perfect for swimming, while sunken galleons are a huge draw for scuba divers. There is no cheaper or friendlier place to stay than the Peña Parda, a 1960s classic that faces the beach at the peaceful, western end. Don’t expect high style – though the 18 rooms have sunny yellow walls and ceiling fans, some with large terraces. Downstairs a large bar-restaurant flows outside, serving succulent lamb, seafood and paella.
• +34 9 5864 0066, no website. Doubles from €44
Hotel Sol Los Fenicios, La Herradura
The renovated Sol Los Fenicios is at the opposite end of the beach to Peña Parda. Only palm trees stand between the hotel and the beach, with a headland right beside it and blazing sunsets across the bay. As the 43-room, adults-only hotel is now part of the Melia group, facilities are good and rooms well-appointed. They all have terraces, with the ground-floor rooms opening on to an inner, plant-filled patio. You can laze around beside a rooftop pool or dine at the outdoor (buffet) restaurant overlooking the beach. The downside is expensive Wi-Fi and car parking.
• 0808 234 1953, melia.com/hotels/spain/almunecar/sol-los-fenicios/home.htm. Doubles from €66 B&B