Caves, Balconies, and Beaches in Nerja, Spain

July 20, 2022

beaches in nerja

Once a sleepy fishing village, Nerja is now a popular resort town full of whitewashed Spanish houses with flowering balconies and sea views, narrow cobblestone alleys, boutique shops, and authentic restaurants. And the beaches in Nerja are some of the most beautiful along the Costa del Sol.

Surrounded by the Sierra de Almijara Mountain range, sandy beaches, and cliffside coves on the Costa del Sol, this charming Andalusian white village is a delight to visit, captivating visitors year after year.

Nerja At a Glance

  • Elevation: 85′
  • Area: 32.82 mi²
  • Population: 21,061
  • Province: Málaga

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Here are my picks for the top three beaches in Nerja plus other things you must do!

10 Chanquete’s Boat

beaches in nerja

El Barco de Chanquette (Chanquete´s boat), officially named La Dorada, is a full-scale replica of a famous fishing boat featured in the 1981 Spanish television series Verano Azul. The popular series was set on the coast of Nerja. was played by Antonio Ferrandis. The series was based on the adventures and escapades of a group of children aged between nine and 17, who were on vacation in Nerja for the summer. the fisherman Chanquete, to whom the boat belonged.

The replica boat is popular with tourists and was erected to commemorate the tourism explosion of Nerja, sits on land at the entrance to Nerja town center. After becoming popular in Spain, the television series also aired in France, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Latin America, drawing in tourists from all over the world to visit the La Dorada boat.

9 Rio Chillar

rio chillar

Er KomandanteEr Komandante, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Nerja is well-known for its natural beauty, and walking up the Rio Chillar is one of the best opportunities to soak up the gorgeous nature of the Costa del Sol southern coast. The three-hour wet trek winds through a magnificent gorge with towering rock walls before leading to a series of waterfalls and crystal clear pools which serve well to cool off during the hot summer.

Hikers will make their way through the superb landscapes of the Sierras de Tejeda and the Alhama Natural Park, where the abundance of shade will be welcome.

At a maximum depth of only one foot, the walk is suitable for all ages, although water shoes are recommended due to the slipper and sometimes sharp rocks.

8 Playa de Burriana

playa de burriana

Playa de Burriana is the largest and most popular beach in the area and is only a 15-minute walk from the center of town. During the summer months, the wide swath of pale sand and swaying palm trees can get crowded especially since it is the best equipped so it is full of floating slides, volleyball games, jet skis, parasailing, and paddle boats.

The Blue Flag beach also has convenient amenities, including sunbeds for hire, beach showers, and play areas for children. there’s a lovely promenade just behind the beach full of bars and small eateries for a quick bite.

Note, if you don’t want to walk back up the hill to Nerja, the Parador Hotel has an elevator at the west end of the beach (look for the white tower). It is for guests of the hotel/restaurant, but you might be able to time it so that you can hitch a ride with another hotel guest.

beaches in nerja

However, be aware that the elevator has been known to malfunction. After eating at the hotel and then exploring the beach, we got stuck on the elevator for ten minutes while the technicians worked to free us.

You can also set off from Burriana to kayak on the coast, exploring its many coves, sea caves, and hidden beaches that are only accessible by boat.

7 Eagle Aqueduct

beaches in nerja

Not so much a “thing to do” as a “thing to see” from a distance, this 19th-century red brick civic architecture is one of Nerja’s best photo ops.

Built in the Mudejar style to carry water to the mills of the Fabrica San Joaquin de Maro sugar refinery, the aqueduct has four stories of overlapping arches, number 37 in total, and traverses the swift Barranco de la Coladilla ravine.

Although the sugar mills are gone, the aqueduct is still used by locals use to irrigate their farms.

6 Parador of Nerja

Parador of Nerja

If you have the opportunity, you won’t want to miss dining at the Parador of Nerja. Sitting precipitously on the hills over Playa de Burinna, the views while eating local delicacies can’t be topped. Our 5-course meal was decadent!

beaches in nerja

Some of the food you should try while in Nerja include:

  • Calamare and chipirones – fried baby squid
  • Gazpacho – cold Andalusian soup/drink made of raw, blended vegetables
  • Espetos – sardines skewered with bamboo and grilled over wood embers.
  • Jamón Iberico – fresh, local ham
  • Paella – saffron-flavored rice cooked with meats, seafood, and vegetables.

5 Historic Center

Nerja historic center

Nerna’s historic center is typical of lovely European old towns, with winding, narrow cobblestone streets, traditional whitewashed Andalusian buildings dripping with bougainvillea, and a church/cathedral.

Wandering around the village-like area is a must-do. From the open-air cafes, tapas bars, and coffee shops to the boutiques selling handmade leather, and souvenir shops, the colors and aromas will draw you in.

In addition to the fabulous Balcón de Europa (see #1 below), there are a few other noteworthy landmarks in the square.

El Salvador Church dates back to 1697, built in the baroque neoclassical style. The bell tower was added later in 1724 and the church was last restored in 1997.

It’s the only church in the world that includes representations of all three archangels, including St. Michael, considered the town’s patron.

Services are held in both Spanish and English.

Hermitage of Our Lady of Sorrows (aka Nuestra Senora de las Angustias Hermitage) dates to the 16th century and is filled with attractive paintings by Alonso Cano. The hermitage was founded in 1720 by Mrs. Bernarda Maria Alferez, a member of the Lopez de Alcantara family from Granada. She was also the owner of the sugar factory “San Antonio Abad”.

Located in the Plaza de España, the interactive Nerja Museum offers exhibits from prehistoric to today including how Nerja caves were discovered, including the archaeological section with the old ceramic and utensils found in the caves, and the skeleton of a young woman who once lived in the caves.

4 Playa de la Calahonda

playa de calahondra

Playa de la Calahonda (aka Papagayo Beach) is Nerja’s most iconic beach due to its location and accessibility from Balcón De Europa. Due to its convenient location (directly left of the plaza and close to many restaurants) and because it’s very small, this pretty beach easily gets overcrowded in the summer. Playa de la Calahonda has showers, lifeguards, and sunbeds to rent.

3 Cuevas de Nerja

nerja caves

Stretching out for over three miles, Fundación Cueva de Nerja, or Nerja Caves, are arguably the town’s most popular tourist landmarks. Used as a habitat and burial site from the Neanderthal Period through the Bronze Age, the massive caverns hold many secrets.

beaches in nerja

In our tour of the caves, we entered a series of chambers displaying magnificent rock formations and remains that were uncovered when the caves were discovered in 1959 when a group of friends stumbled upon them while out catching bats.

Here are some of the treasures the chambers hold:

  • Display cases showing some of the items and human remains that were in the caves when they were rediscovered.
  • Fascinating stalagmites and stalactites in unique shapes and colors.
  • The magnificent Sala del Cataclismo at 105 feet high making it the largest stalagmite in the world.
  • Prehistoric cave paintings

The caves are the 4th most visited natural monument in Spain and receive over 3,500 people a day in high season, yet only around a third of the caves are accessible.

2 Playa el Salón

beaches in nerja

Aside from its gorgeous cliffside setting, this beach is popular due to its juxtaposition to the right of the Balcón de Europa. Giant boulders, palm trees, and crashing turquoise waves add to the attraction.

Beachcombers can get down to the seafront only via a steep winding footpath from the historic center.

That shouldn’t matter though as the resort’s busy center is no more than a couple of minutes on foot, and there’s a kiosk on the beach in summer should you need anything.

El Salon also has slightly finer golden sand than some of Nerja’s other beaches and also provides sun loungers. Like virtually all of Nerja’s beaches, it gets fills up early in the summer months.

In my opinion, this is not only the prettiest beach in Nerja, but of all the beaches I visited in Costa del Sol.

1 Balcón de Europa

balcon de europa

Balcón de Europa (Balcóny of Europe) is magnificent and my favorite spot in Nerja! Overlooking the gorgeous turquoise Costa del Sol in the center of Nerja’s old town, the Balcón is considered the focal point of Nerja. What used to be a heavily armed fortress is now a round Balcóny with spectacular and breezy panoramic views overlooking a rocky promenade and beaches dotted with palm trees.

The viewpoint was originally the watchtower of an Arabic fortress built to keep out British pirates and was destroyed in 1812 during the War of Independence. It got its name in 1885 when King Alfonso XII visited this spot following an earthquake and remarked that it was the “Balcóny of Europe.”  As you look out over the Mediterranean Sea from the iron railings, you’ll be inclined to agree.

A life-sized statue of the king can be seen overlooking the view and cannons still stand sentry. The Balcón is arguably the #1 selfie spot in Nerja.

Two of Nerja’s main beaches (Calahonda on the left and Salon on the right) can be reached from the Balcón in just a short walk down a path.

Where to Stay in Nerja

With lots of options to choose from, here’s a guide to where to stay in Nerja.

Click below to PIN so you can find caves, Balcónies, and beaches in Nerja again:

beaches in nerja

Disclosure:  The author was honored to be the guest of Marbella Tourism during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer.

About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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