It may boast one of Spain’s best golf courses, but Finca Cortesin, near Estepona on the Costa del Sol, certainly isn’t the sort of bland hotel frequented by old men in lemon slacks and Pringle sweaters. Designed with a nod to the Iberian peninsula’s thrilling history, it incorporates both Moorish and Castilian elements, and effortlessly manages that hard-to-pull-off trick of being glamorous and comfortable at the same time. It’s a genuine destination stay.
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Late check-out or early check-in. For members staying in an Executive Suite, Executive Sea Suite or Pool Suite: a bottle of wine for three-night stays, a 50-minute massage each for four-night stays
Noon; earliest check-in, 3pm. Late check-out, early check-in can be arranged (subject to availability).
Double rooms from £444.27 (€499), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include à la carte breakfast, welcome drink and tapas, fruit plate in your room, golf-shoe cleaning, spa access, beach club access (Easter to September), face or body diagnosis in the spa, early check-in or late check-out (subject to availability).
The breezy Moroccan- and -Indian-themed chill-out areas are brilliantly laid-back spots for a cocktail or two. The resort runs daily transfers to the beach club.
At the hotel
Private beach club, spa, gym, two tennis and two paddle-tennis courts, yoga, golf course, golf academy, free WiFi, laundry service, valet parking. In rooms: flatscreen TVs, air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, Penhaligon’s toiletries. iPod docks and DVD players are available on request.
Our favourite rooms
We love the spacious Junior Suites in the Andalucian-inspired building that wraps around the cloistered courtyard. They come with their own entrance hallways, and are an intriguing blend of Asian-themed decor, Provençal furnishings and comfortable Spanish style. Executive Suite 73, which overlooks the pool, gardens and sea, also makes a great choice. It has its own kitchen – ideal for entertaining.
There are three pools – one indoor, two outdoor – at the hotel. The two open to the elements are both lined with beautiful blue-green mosaic tiles. The heated, art deco-style indoor pool is found in the spa, and offers views of the coast. The hotel also has its own Beach Club 1km away (open Easter to September), with an infinity pool, beachside restaurant and plenty of sun loungers to sprawl out on. The cocktails are pretty potent, too.
The spice-hued spa is a sizeable 2,200sq m in size. We like the rustic detailing: the potted ferns, the mirrors made of driftwood and the conch shells, but we like the treatments even more. In 11 treatment rooms (and one couples suite with a Roman bath) staff administer facials, body scrubs and wraps, mani-pedis and a range of massages, and generally ensure that guests are in a state of bliss. There's a steam bath and sauna, and a quirky snow cave, where guests cool off amid an arctic setting. In four Thai treatment rooms, shiatsu is carried out, and there's a small gym and salon too. Guests can request personal-training sessions too, plus tennis classes.
Don’t forget your golf clubs – you’re right next to one of Southern Europe’s finest courses.
Yogis and zen-seekers should make a beeline for the Arani yoga and meditation center for Kundalini, Ashtanga and power yoga classes, mat pilates sessions, guided meditations and sound baths. There's also children’s yoga for ages six and up.
Children are welcome at the hotel. Cots and extra beds can be added to rooms for €72 a night for under-12s and €165 a night for over-12s; there’s a 10 per cent VAT for added beds. Babysitting is available for €42 an hour.
Book early and secure the chef’s table right next to the open kitchen at Kabuki Raw so you can watch Señor Olarra in action.
In the formal surroundings of Kabuki Raw – think antique wood tables and white tablecloths – you should be dressed to the nines. Jeans, shirts and summer dresses perfectly suit the more relaxed mood in El Jardin.
There are three main restaurants. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, El Jardín is the hotel's rustic mainstay, where fish is a star of the show. In Kabuki Raw watch chef Luis Olarra combine Japanese traditions with Mediterranean ingredients to form fabulous evening meals. It's open from mid-March to 31 October, and over Christmas and New Year's Eve. Italian eatery Don Giovanni is open for dinner in summer only. Additionally, the Club House is open for breakfast or a casual lunch, where there are international and local favourites; you won’t go hungry at the beach club, either, where there is a moreish Mediterranean menu on offer (open Wednesday till Sunday in April, May June and September; all week through July and August). The Pool 35 bar serves super-fresh delicacies from the Josper and Monolith Kamado grills, along with light bites at lunchtime, summer only.
Though some of its furniture errs slightly towards the uninspiring, the Blue Bar, situated in the hotel lounge, is still a lovely place for an ice-cold cocktail or two. The mesmerising blue hand-painted wallpaper certainly demands your attention – out of the corners of your eyes, it seems to be jumping off the walls. Drinks can also be taken on the outdoor terraces or in the pool areas.
Dinner is served in the restaurants until 11pm; the last cocktails are mixed in the bars at around 2am.
A selection of sandwiches, soups, hot and cold starters, and mains are available to order round the clock.
Between Málaga and Gibraltar, Finca Cortesin lies on the Andalucian coast, south of Estepona.
Fly with British Airways (www.ba.com), EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) or Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) to Málaga Airport (AGP), which is 84km from Finca Cortesin. You can pick up a taxi from outside the airport, or hire a car from one of the airport’s several rental companies.
The nearest train station, 90km away, is Málaga (Maria Zambrano) Station. The station is served by Renfe (www.renfe.es) and offers connections with Barcelona and Madrid. Car hire options at the station include Hertz and Alamo.
With buses few and far between, having your own wheels offers the best means of exploring this beautiful part of the coast. The hotel is just off the AP-7. Take exit 153 after Estepona, and at the roundabout follow the A-7 in the Algeciras-Cadiz direction. At the fourth roundabout, turn right and follow the road for about 2km in the direction of Casares. The entrance to the hotel’s golf club should be on your right. The hotel has free covered parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Set between Marbella and Sotogrande, the hotel is home to one of Spain's finest golf courses, so perfect your swing under the sun; if you need some help, the Jack Nicklaus Academy and swing analysis ought to do the trick. Days can also be idled away on the tennis or paddle courts on site. The Beach Club, at Bahia de Casares, is another jewel in the hotel's Moorish crown, boasting an infinity pool, Balinese sun loungers, a restaurant serving seafood and tapas, and a bar with stellar cocktails.
As this Mr & Mrs Smith aren’t feeling particularly mobile – it is our ‘babymoon’, that last trip before two becomes three – we are craving somewhere we can check in and stay entirely put until check-out. A hotel that is luxurious and super-comfortable with everything we could want within walking (or waddling) distance. The service has to be decent, and everything has to be spacious: sardine-style sunloungers and bijou bathrooms won’t cut it with this Mrs Smith.
Happily, within minutes of arriving at Finca Cortesin, it is evident we’ve landed on our – in my case, swollen – feet. The hotel, while built in a traditional style, is brand spanking new, and is laid out in super-generous scale among verdant, undulating golf courses and lush, immaculately manicured gardens. Seamlessly checked in – and upgraded to an executive suite, thanks to my bulge – we’re taken on a leisurely orientation stroll. The highlight of this chic retreat is two enormous swimming pools on opposite sides of the hotel. The smaller is family-friendly with stylish sunloungers dotted under capacious umbrellas, and a poolside restaurant at one end. The longer, slimmer one has an Asian feel to it, and is adults-only: perfect for peaceful laps or canoodling in the cute balés. Both are a mouth-watering shade of deep bluey-green which, we conclude, they colour-matched with the sea off the Amalfi Coast. And should we be feeling like dipping our toes into real salty waters, there's a shuttle to the hotel's very own beach club on the five-minutes-away Spanish coastline.
The palatial proportions continue to surprise and delight as we’re shown to our suite. Double doors open into a high-ceilinged living room, tastefully furnished in mid-tone neutrals and olives, with the odd splash of colour. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open to a Juliet balcony with views over the gardens and the Med in the distance. Through the next set of double doors is our bedroom and a bed more than big enough for me, bump and Mr Smith. As for the bathroom – for some people this is what defines luxury travel – our marble ensuite is not only grand but five times the size of our bedroom at home. Our room is so pristine, I’d have believed it if someone told us we’d been the first to stay. We admire how the designer has managed to incorporate quirky touches and eye-catching accessories amid classic sophistication. I grin like a Cheshire cat as we get unpacked and argue half-heartedly about which pool to experience first.
After a dip and a snooze in the sunshine we wander back to get ready for dinner; you must remember to book well in advance in high season. Laid-back dining can be found at Spanish/Mediterranean eatery El Jardin, where the candlelit tables are dotted about on the terrace outdoors.
The ensuing tasting menu is a blur of decadence: it's the full rollcall of A-list ingredients from lobster froth and foie gras embellishments to gold dust and an actual bonsai tree made of pure chocolate. It's not just a festival of flavours: this is pure edible theatre. This makes Charlie's experiences at the Chocolate Factory seem like a visit to the motorway services. And best of all you can watch the master at work thanks to the open kitchen. There's none of the effing and blinding of a Gordon Ramsay television scene either, seated in a rather demure and distinguished dining room, you have your very own brightly lit cookery show where the alchemy takes place with remarkable calm.
There is little to do after such a spectacular dinner but mosey back to our suite and give ourselves up to the expanses of our enormous bed. After dreaming about a land where it is normal to dine on delights such as truffles, gingko nuts and langoustines, breakfast is our next rendezvous. After a pick-me-up of juices and pastries on the terrace, we head down to the adults-only pool to get down to some serious R&R. We know that the hotel is full – it’s high summer season – but we’re struck by the sheer luxury of space, and the privacy and peace that pervades.
At lunchtime, we feel it is our reviewing duty to move across to the other pool – at least to have a bite to eat at the poolside restaurant. We brace ourselves for a more family-friendly buzz, but it is in fact just as tranquil, with an air more of Thailand than Costa del Sol, somehow. Here, the odd hedgefunder is sunning or splashing with their offspring – ‘hedgelets’ Mr Smith suggests – all in matching Vilebrequin, practising swimming strokes and diving styles all in a very well-mannered and unbothersome way. More snoozing occupies my afternoon while Mr Smith heads off to the spa for a massage. When he returns, he's looking rather smug – and invigorated. He has a spring in his step which he puts down to stepping right into the ‘snow cave’ – the size of a supermarket's chiller cabinet, it's like being transported to the North Pole: not just a gimmick, this icy therapy is excellent for the circulation, apparently. When I hear tell of an indoor hydrotherapy pool though I decide that some lazy lengths there might be more up my alley.
We venture out of the hotel for dinner on our second night. We’d read about an Italian restaurant called Don Giovanni, which, while not part of the hotel itself, is within the larger Finca Cortesin golf club and residential complex. Alas, that’s fully booked (our advice: book ahead), so we decide to make the 10-minute car journey down to the coast to see what we can find there. Our next tip: don’t bother. Football shirts, karaoke bars and tattooed Brits abound. It’s a bit of a culture shock and we stay just long enough to wolf down a pizza before scurrying back to some stargazing from the cushioned sofas of Finca Cortesin.
Back at our coastal-view haven, we get the super-helpful Aña on reception to plead with Don Giovanni to squeeze us in for pudding – ‘pregnant lady craving chocolate torte’ is roughly the line she takes, and it works. We wander across and enjoy a delicious end to the evening in their pretty fairy-lit courtyard, rueing the fact that we hadn’t been clever enough to book a table here before. At least we know it’s there for next time. And there will be a next time. Our Finca Cortesin stay has been so easy, relaxing and enjoyable – it was exactly what we were looking for. And, we imagine, just what we’ll need in about 12 months' time for our first leave-the-baby-with-the-grandparents weekend off.