A-Z guide to the major resorts and towns in the Costa Calida region of Spain
Costa Calida is the 250km of coastline that stretches along the Mediterranean within the Province of Murcia in Spain. Although the Costa Calida is accessible from Alicante Airport and Murcia Airport, it is far less developed than the Costa Blanca to the north, and has many small seaside holiday towns dotted along its coastline.
Much of the Costa Calida coastline is dominated by the Mar Menor, an area of sea enclosed by land, making it ideal for swimming, boating, windsurfing and other water sports. Cool sea breezes are predominant in the Costa Calida, which can be a relief during the long, hot summer months.
Many of the larger coastal towns such as Cartagena are predominantly fishing ports, and are off the beaten track for most tourists. The climate is slightly warmer than the Costa Blanca, and even in winter the days are often pleasantly warm, reaching around 16-18 degrees maximum. Nights can be chilly from late November to March.
In addition to fishing, the Murcia region produces a wide range of fruit and vegetables throughout the year. Although the climate is warm, much of the produce is grown in huge greenhouses allowing year-round production. Local produce of Murcia includes lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, citrus fruit, almonds and olives.
The Murcia region has very low rainfall and there are problems with water shortages, with water being redirected from the north of Spain. The interior landscape is very barren and infertile, except for where irrigation is used for growing produce.
The development of the famous La Manga resort keeps an influx of visitors to Murcia throughout the year, with golf being particularly popular in the winter months.
The Costa Calida region begins at the border of the Alicante province at the town El Mojon and extends southward to the municipality of Aguilas where it stops at the border of the Almeria province.
South of Mazarron is the smaller quaint town of Aguilas which historically was a Roman fishing port. The stunning gardens of Plaza Espana are well worth at least a few hours of your time while visiting the romantic and charming town. Other historical must see attractions include the decorative Town Hall, the church of San Jose, and the medieval castle that dates back to 1579. One of the other charms of visiting Aguilas is that the area is quieter and more authentic than its touristy siblings although it is situated so that you can still easily reach the top nightclubs and beaches of the area.
Approximately seven kilometres away from Murcia, Alcantarilla is unique given that it is surrounded by many of the capital's suburbs making it a central base for exploring the local villages of the coastal region. Known for its citrus fruits, gardens, and orchards wine tasting and trips to the local produce market are a must while staying the scenic and breathtaking ancient town. Sporting plenty of nightlife opportunities, shopping boutiques, and park land there is enough to do in Alcantarilla that you easily may find yourself forgetting about the beaches of the region altogether before your holiday is over.
Caravaca de la Cruz
One of the most historical towns in the Costa Calida region, Caravaca de la Cruz is known for its Jubilee status awarded by the Pope and is considered officially to be the fifth holiest town on the globe. Sites of interest include the Castle which easily stretches upwards above the ancient pueblo houses of the town and boosts a baroque fašade. Within the castle is the home of the Museum of Religious Art and History, which is easily worth at least a few hours of your time let alone the time you will need to explore everything within the castle. The first week in May is the best time to visit Caravaca de la Cruz due to the presence of the Festivals of the town which have been deemed of National Tourist Interest officially.
Cartagena is one of the largest port towns on the Costa Calida. Not renowned as a tourist location, Cartagena is favoured by Spanish visitors, many of whom visit in the summer months to escape from the inland heat. The port area has some excellent seafood bars and restaurants some of which overlook the harbour and local fish market.
Cartagena has a number of historical Roman ruins, including the Roman Theatre which was built between 5 and 1 BC and has been restored in recent years.
The area of Calblanque is a national park and is one of the most unspoiled and undeveloped coastal areas left in the Costa Calida area making it more of a natural haven than it is a tourist destination. However, if you want to see a true local beach you may want to check out this hidden gem that is easily one of the favourite stretches of coastline for most Murcians.
Located about 25km north of Murcia the town of Fortuna is renowned for its thermal springs which is ironic given that the town is surrounded by desert. However, underground water finds its way to the surface around Fortuna in natural thermal fountains.
The Fortuna Spa in Los Banos around 3 km from Fortuna is very popular with tourists, and there are plenty of other beauty treatments that you can indulge in as well during your holiday stay. While in town make sure to see the La Pruisima baroque parish church.
To the south of Fortuna near the A7 exit is a large lake in a nature reserve which is ideal to visit on hot days for walking or fishing.
Recommendation: Hotel Los Periquitos to the south of Fortuna is 4 star, and has a fantastic bar serving traditional local tapas at excellent prices.
Located on the northern border of the Costa Calida region, Jumila is an ancient historical wonder that sports plenty of century old examples of architecture set off by the mountainous background. The region is equally known for its red wine that is still exported all over the world and its cheese. One local cheese that tourists should indulge in is soaked in red wine which offers a unique flavour that is usually served with tomato or in the form of a tapa.
La Union is an old mining town although today the town sports two small villages that were united about a century ago. The two villages are lovely places to stay although small in nature but due to this fact offer a charming look into small town life in coastal Spain. The Festival of the Cante de las Minas is easily the most important event of the town, which is held every August and is a great place to watch flamenco in its purest form. Close to the beaches and charming in a rustic way, for those who want a quieter holiday La Union is the perfect central destination to base your holiday to Costa Calida from.
Located on the northern edge of the Mar Menor, Lo Pagan is a small seaside resort mainly frequented by Spanish and German visitors. There are a few tourist shops, and a large sandy beach which is good for children. The area is close to some large salt lakes, and does seem to have more than its fair share of mosquitos in springtime.
The Lo Pagan area is very popular with paragliders due to the Mar Menor winds which frequently blow in from the sea.
The town of Lorca is renowned recently for the 2011 earthquake which damaged many buildings in the town. Lorca is both an artistic and historical baroque town making it a fascinating place to explore.
There are many archaeological sites spread across the town that are a testament to its rich cultural mixing pot including the Tower of Espolon, The Milaria Column, and the Alfonsina Tower. The Town Square, Plaza Calderon de la Barca, is also busy with life and is home to the local theatre where there is always an event worth seeing. During a holiday stay in the town be sure to head to the weekly market which takes place on Thursdays in the Huerto de la Rueda and is a great place to find just about anything. The local produce is also breathtaking and is worth trying out at either of the two food markets in town or around town at the local restaurants which are sandwiched between a great number of small shops and fine boutiques.
Murcia, built originally by the Moors, is the capital city of the Murcia region, with around 440,000 inhabitants in 2010. It is the 7th largest city in Spain. Murcia is inland, around 35km from the coastline of the Costa Calida. The older district of Murcia has retained much of its original Moorish charm, whereas the newer business district of the town is fairly nondescript, and offers little to attract tourism.
The Cathedral itself took four centuries to complete and is today home to 23 different chapels.
Murcia has many historic buildings, shopping malls, cafes and bars, and a lively nightlife, and offers something different to the beaches of the Costa Calida.
However, Murcia is a very large town, driving can be difficult, and may not be the best choice for those looking for a quiet place to visit.
An unusual site which you may seen around the villages surrounding Murcia are brightly coloured painted pigeons. These birds are painted by the locals and then take part in a Spanish sport known as "Columbicultura", where the winner is the bird that spends the longest amount of time in the air.
Mula is best known for the ruined castle Marques de Los Velez which is breathtaking to see and also the home of a natural hot thermal spring that you can still bathe in. Local legend has it that the waters are healing and those who appreciate the therapeutic values of spring water still flock to the area every year simply to take a dip in the warm waters. The town is about an easy half an hour drive from Murcia and is circled by a river basin formed by the Mula river which is only made more breathtaking given that the Castle of Mula sits above it. The entire town is made up of ancient stone architectural and allows holiday tourists to feel as if they have taken a step delicately back into time. In the heart of the town is the Plaza Mayor, which is a vibrant lively area where local fiestas take place and street performers gather on a regular basis. Surrounding the town outside of the nearby coastline are plenty of orchards which you should make it a point to venture out to for some fresh produce and wine fresh of the vine.
Portman Bay is a unique destination for tourists who want the chance to experience the quieter side of Costa Calida and its natural vibrant tourist side due to the fact that five minutes away from the town is the La Manga Club, which is easily the tourist hot spot while the town itself is tranquil and still. Most people walk into Portman Bay and feel as if they have walked back in time as the rural village is quaint and welcoming with the beaches of Mar Menor only a short 10-15 minute walk away.
Puerto de Mazarron
The exclusive resort of Puerto de Mazarron is a favoured resort of the Spanish, especially in July and August when an influx of visitors arrive to visit their holiday homes.
The town has a strong Moorish influence, and much of the population are Muslim. The town has long sandy beaches which are great for children, but there is little in the way of traditional tourist shopping, although there are a variety of Spanish boutiques and Chinese shops, and some excellent fresh seafood restaurants..
Recommendation: Hotel Cumbre which overlooks Puerto de Mazarron offers stunning views and is attractively priced.
San Pedro del Pinatar
A small town that is located in the southeast corner near the southern end of the Costa Calida region, the town is not only in close proximity to the beautiful sandy beach but also boarders Alicante province allowing for plenty of tourist activities and the chance to see two of the most beautiful areas of Spain. Dotted throughout the beach town are historical sculptures and museums such as the Church of San Pedro Apostle or the Palace of Counts. The Fish market is one of the most authentic fish auctions to be held still in Spain and worth checking, out whereas the Salinas y Arenales is one of the most authentic examples of natural beauty in the region. The town also allows easy access to five different beaches including the El Mojon, Las Salinas, Punta de Algas, La Torre Derribada Playa, and the La Barraca Quemada beaches, making it a great base for holiday adventures.
Santiago de la Ribera
Situated on the Mar Menor which is a small enclave of Mediterranean sea surrounded by land, Santiago de la Ribera offers plenty of warm and shallow waters and large sandy beaches.
Santiago de la Ribera has many tourist shops, bars and restaurants and would make a good base for a family holiday with children.
The Mar Menor often has a cooling offshore breeze which often means that the temperature here is a few degrees lower than in land areas, and can be a bit chilly in winter.
Recommendation: Montesinos Escribano is a traditional Spanish pasteleria (bakery) selling a selections of hand made cakes. You can get breakfast here for just 3 Euros per person (coffee, orange and toast)
Recommendation: For a traditional Costa Calida tapas, one of the best restaurants in Santiago de la Ribera is called Restaurant Centro Mar located on the main shopping street. 2 persons can eat here for under 30 Euros including a bottle of wine.
Situated inland, Torre Pacheco is mostly an agricultural community where green grass is found in abundance in between a mix of modern and ancient buildings. The fruit and vegetables in the town are especially noteworthy and make checking out any of the weekly fresh produce markets a must during any stay. Make sure to take some time to explore the main Town plaza which is market by the presence of the Town Hall and is surrounded by three additional plazas which boost stunning gardens and plenty of activities as the area is always a buzz with activity. If you get the chance book a tour down through the Torre Pacheco caves or wonder off to the edge of town and look out into the distance for the notable rehabilitated windmills of the local province.
Largely agricultural, Totana is a great place for wine officiandos to holiday given that the area is known for its wonderful local produce which includes almonds, grapes, and citrus. The town also is known for its pottery industry which is the main driver of the local economy. Also noteworthy is the fact that practically next door to the charming antique town is the Sierra Espuna Natural Park which hosts a large pine forest filled with plenty of natural wildlife. Those that want a quieter holiday that is more authentically Spanish will enjoy the small village feel of this thriving town.