A visit to the Costa del Sol’s best beach – Playa El Cañuelo

Snorkelling video from Playa El Cañuelo

 El Cañuelo beach

Having heard so much about the Costa del Sol’s ‘best’ beach, El Cañuelo, I decided to pack up the family and go and see for myself. 

Being familiar with many of the beaches, in and around, the Natural area of Los Acantilados de Maro, I wasn't expecting anything too different from the norm.

Playa el Canuelo, Costa del Sol

Re-reading that sentence, it’s amazing how blasé you can get living in such a beautiful part of the world. 

The norm being, secluded little coves, transparent clear water and generally a feeling of being a world away from the cliché ‘Spanish Costa beach.’

The heat

Most of Spain has been on heat wave alert for nearly a week. Despite the initial, mid-week, warming up, it never seemed to arrive.

All that changed on Saturday morning, with the temperatures already over 35C degrees at nine in the morning. The Terral seemed to hit Malaga with vengeance.

Bus stop Canuelo beachLoading the kids and the hundreds of things that seem to come with them into the car, I was beginning to have second thoughts. 

One of the main reasons for never visiting El Cañuelo is the need to catch a shuttle bus down to the beach itself. Being in a protected area, private vehicles are left at the top of the mountain, and people catch one of the buses going down to the beach itself.

Despite arriving at 01000hrs, just as the shuttle service was starting, there was already quite a queue. We eventually made our way down to the beach.And what a beach it was. 

Crystal clear water teaming with fish

Cove Costa Tropical

As with nearly all the beaches in that area, El Cañuelo is a cove, with shingles rather than sand. The water is something out of this world, exceptionally clean, crystal clear and teeming with fish. With no need to swim out more than a few feet, the snorkelling was brilliant. Even for my four year old boy, who loved every minute of it, floating around and having fish eat bread right out of his hand.

We may have been exceptionally lucky with the weather and tidal conditions that day, but the snorkelling was every bit as good as the Cabo de Gata national park. For the more energetic, you can swim to the neighbouring coves, discovering completely deserted stretches of the beach and underwater caves.

Costa del Sol’s best beach? Its hard to say. Being so spoilt for choice. It is certainly one of our favourites. 

Needless to say, next Saturday, we’ll back there.

Getting there

The Los Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo natural area is a protected area covering 1814 hectares of cliffs, beaches and coves. Situated just on the border with Malaga and Granada, it’s an area that is surprising easy to drive through when following the N-340.

El Cañuelo is situated 13km East of Nerja. Clearly signposted, there’s a small roundabout, turn off the N-340 just after the 402 KM sign.

If taking the new motorway, direction Almeria and come off at the exit for La Herradura. Follow the road down towards the coast and take the N-340 direction Malaga. Basically doubling back upon yourself. The turning is clearly signposted – about five kilometres along.

Park at the top of the cliff and take the shuttle bus down – at the time of writing – the price is 2€ return for adults – children went for free.


Fish lunch Playa El Canuelo

Not many. There are two restaurants. One is new and seems almost continually closed. The other is very good, but quite expensive. Then again, the view, the food and the atmosphere make treating yourself all the more appealing. 

As its a natural park there are no other facilities, everything needs to be brought with you - remember plenty of sunscreen and water!!

There is a great walk between Playa El Cañuelo to neighbouring Playa de Cantarrijan and for the more actively inclined paddle surfing from Cantarrijan beach is highly recommended. 

For beaches closer to Nerja, see our Nerja beach guide