To some, when you think of Marbella, images of Wayne Lineker and his party bar quickly come to mind.
But if Gary’s brother and a VIP table package of five bottles of spirits isn’t your bag, you’ll be delighted to know there’s much more to discover in the Andalusia region of southern Spain.
The area, famous for its golden sandy beaches, welcomed the opening of 486-room Club Med Magna Marbella in the spring of this year.
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The resort, nestled at the foot of the Sierra Blanca Mountains, is the French all-inclusive operator’s first Spanish location in more than 20 years.
Spread across 14 hectares, it opened following a substantial investment in a makeover to an existing hotel complex and grounds.
The new venture is part of a major expansion that started in 2021 which will see a total of 16 new destinations added to the Club Med roster by 2024.
As part of those plans, they’ll welcome eye-catching additions in Thailand, Japan and Malaysia. Arriving at Magna Marbella, it is evident the hotel has enjoyed more than a lick of paint since Club Med took it on.
Check-in was slick and all guests received a wristband that acts as a key and a smart way of making any additional payments at the resort.
My double room, decorated in crisp white and bright blue, had a spacious bathroom and shower area, and a large balcony offering wonderful views of the Mediterranean.
After an early start to catch the flight to Spain, the Magna Marbella’s spa was a wonderful place to unwind with a back massage. There’s a sauna and hammam too.
But while it’s lovely to relax, sport and activities are at the core of the Club Med ethos, with golf, archery, tennis, fitness classes, flying trapeze (if you are feeling brave) and Spanish favourite padel tennis.
There are also five pools dotted around the grounds.
But the option to laze, soaking up the sun with the resort’s signature mojito, certainly still has itsappeal.
At the top of the resort you’ll find the serene zen pool. The panoramic views are spectacular and it is an ideal spot for getting stuck into a good book.
There is plenty for children too with play areas, waterslides and family activities, such as pancake parties and baking workshops, as well as childcare for little ones aged from four months.
While the kids are doing their thing, adults can take the opportunity to take in the sights.
Excursions are a big part of the Club Med experience and you can take your pick from three categories: “nature getaways” including a 4×4 drive across the Sierra de las Nieves National Park; “connecting with culture” trips, such as watching flamenco and visiting historic cities; and “sense of adventure” excursions including a catamaran cruise.
I joined a tour of Marbella’s old town, where the streets are full of Andalusian houses dating back to the 15th century, with balconies covered in flowers.
During a visit to Marbella Casco Antiguo you can discover the region’s flamenco heritage and enjoy organic tapas and drinks at The Farm restaurant.
Alternatively, grab yourself a much sought-after seat at Skina, billed as Europe’s smallest restaurant with a Michelin star. It only has four tables so get that booking in early.
If you want to sightsee a bit further afield, with or without the kids, there are plenty of destinations all roughly within an hour’s drive of the resort.
Wander the bustling, history-packed streets full of beautiful bars and art galleries in Malaga, or soak up the bohemian charm of Mijas village, perched 1,400ft above sea level.
For a unique cultural experience, Ronda – a jewel of the country’s highlands – is a must.
Here you’ll discover a legendary 18thcentury bullring and an awe-inspiring 550ft gorge that splits the village in two.
Back at the hotel, after a day out, you’ll have quite the appetite and possibly a hankering for one of those mojitos.
La Tierra Gourmet Lounge has a balcony overlooking the grounds where you can sample an array of local flavours, snack on tapas or enjoy Spanish wine-tasting workshops.
One floor below you’ll find Suenos, which is something of a souped-up buffet experience. Delicacies from across the globe include wonderful tapas, steak, an extensive veggie selection, and seafood, all making for a quality dining experience.
After dinner there’s live entertainment such as local bands, circus acrobatics and flame dancers.
It was a scream learning the various group dance moves – each of the Club Med’s 70 resorts has its own specially choreographed dance!
There are also themed nights and during our visit we got to experience “white night” where guests are encouraged to don their finest white attire.
Having not packed a white shirt (and it is worth stressing the evening dress codes are optional) I purchased one from the on-site shop.
Not because there was any pressure to join in, I just wanted to feel part of the experience – and the spectacle did look rather impressive.
In many overwhelmingly positive ways, a stay at Club Med Magna Marbella does a lot to dispel that typical “Marbs” image.
But if you like partying long into the night, there is a late-night club on the premises, where you don’t have to learn any dance moves – although everyone did spiral in unison when Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) came on!
Offering a perfect mix of relaxing spaces, sports and family-bonding activities, luxury all-inclusive dining and well-thought-out excursions, Club Med’s return to Spain is indeed excelente.
How to book it
Club Med offers seven nights on all-inclusive at the Club Med Magna Marbella resort in Andalusia, Spain, in June from £1,699 per person, with flights from Gatwick and transfers; Manchester from £1,762 per person, Edinburgh from £1,932 per person; clubmed.co.uk
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