susan on the beach
A Perfect Day in Benalmadena
Updated: May 19
Half-way between Malaga and Marbella, Benalmadena is a large seaside town that is very popular with British tourists and has a definite Anglo-Saxon flair. The real treat of Benalmadena is the funky cable-car ride up to the top of the hill, to admire the 360° views of the coast and see the brilliant falconry exhibit. We enjoyed stopping at the Buddhist temple and the Butterfly House on the way home.
Be sure to go on a calm day, no storm or strong wind, or else the cable car might be closed. Call them to ask if you have a doubt. Also make sure that the falconry show is running, before you buy your cable car ticket.
The "Garden of Eagles" falconry show is really fantastic, we recommend planning the day around going to this show. If you get to the cable car (teleferico) at opening time (11:00 am), you will avoid long lines and have plenty of time to go up to the summit and have a walk around, before the first falconry show. On every day except Fridays, there is a huge, free car park right next to the cable car ticket booth and entrance, called "Arroyo de la Miel". On Friday this parking lot is transformed into a street market (clothing, food, housewares, gadgets)!. Current show times for the falconry exhibit are 12:30 and 14:30, but check with their website beforehand to be sure. Attention, the cable-car fee no longer includes the falconry show which must be paid cash (5 euros per person) at the entry.
The cable car soars over the abandoned Tivoli amusement park, like a ghost town, it did not survive Covid. It's fun flying over the residential neighborhoods and getting a close look at people's homes and pools! The second part of the ride is very steep and impressive. The cable car ride encapsulates our experience of the back country of Malaga province; where you can go from beach to relative wilderness and mountains in a short space of time. This variety of scenery is what keeps surprising us and enchanting us even after 15 years of exploring. At the top, you'll find pathways with guard-rails so you can climb up to the top of the rocky summit and enjoy several different panoramic viewpoints. Several hiking trails depart from here if you are so inclined; terrain is sandy, gravelly and very slippery.
If you are avid hikers, there are several long-ish and steep-ish hikes leading from the cable car summit around the neighboring hills or going all the way down to other spots on the coast. The path starts out very sandy and gravelly, also steep, so it is slippery and hard walking. You could eventually hike up and take the cable car down. Would not recommend doing it the other way!
The falconry show is now separate from the cable-car ride; you have to pay 5 euros per person, cash, at the entrance. Don't try to cheat and watch the show from the path up above, the presenter will ask you to "move along"! The bird trainers will show you various birds of prey, including a giant owl, a vulture, several types of hawks... They gave the most amazing demonstration of the birds flying high above and diving down to attack their prey. Hands-on experience the birds fly among the audience and you will have the chance to see them close up and touch them. It's not just falcons but owls, eagles and native vultures. The presenters are able to demonstrate the birds flying around the summit of this peak, at incredible heights, only to come diving back to the "stage" for a morsel of meat. It really is impressive. The birds "performance" will depend on climate conditions and especially wind direction and speed on the day of your visit.
On the way back to Marbella, you can stop next to the Stupa of Enlightenment temple, at the Butterfly House to plunge into a wonderful, fairytale change of scenery. The Butterfly House is an indoor tropical garden where butterflies fly freely around the visitors, landing on your jacket and not seeming to mind at all the people invading their garden. If you wear a flowery shirt or coat, you might attract more butterflies around you.
Compared to the falconry show, the butterfly house seems expensive at 10 euros per ticket... but we still think the lush tropical gardens, zen music and multiple flying butterflies are really worth it. If you plan ahead, buy tickets on line (at least one hour before arriving) and you can save 1,50 euros per ticket. If you arrive in the afternoon, the Buddhist Temple next door might be open for a walk around. One of the largest temples in Spain, this place has weekly guided meditation sessions on Sunday at 7pm.
A side trip to the center city and beachfront of Benalmadena is an option, if you are curious about this town which neighbors on Torremolinos. It is not exceptional in itself, so we only recommend going here after you've discovered the other half-day excursions we propose in our guidebook! The boardwalk/paseo is rather run down and the restaurants are pretty low-end.
There is a large, pretty urban park and an interesting, vast marina area - with apartments that apparently have their own dock for small private boats. There is a huge street/flea market in the Arroyo de la Miel parking lot on Fridays, this would be worth the trip (but would also make parking near the Teleferico quite difficult!) The port area is pleasant to walk around with shops and restaurants overlooking the port, including lots of UK and American fast food chains such as Fosters Hollywood and Jack's Smoke House.
Make a day in Benalmadena part of your Costa del sol holiday! We´ll make it happen !