The Onassis clan, the Kennedys, the Rothschilds: luxury resort Marbella Club has hosted a glittering roster of luminaries over the years. Set on the coast, this former prince’s abode and blue-blooded beach break spot was the wellspring of southern Spain’s glittering social scene in the 1950s, and today its elegant suites and villas, lavish grounds and refined dining still attract well-heeled guests. And, the addition of a beach club and laid-back mingling spots have kept it as young-blooded as when Brigitte Bardot shimmied in its bar.
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A bottle of locally produced gourmet olive oil for BlackSmiths and SilverSmiths; GoldSmiths get a bottle of champagne
A total of 130, including 78 family suites and 14 luxury villas.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Guests can stow luggage and relax in the bar, restaurant, café or gardens if they arrive early.
Double rooms from $385.99 (€350), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates generally exclude breakfast (the Continental buffet costs €38.50 a guest, and there are à la carte options too), but include one free green fee a person a stay at the golf club.
Prince Alfonso ensured success by inviting his jet-set friends there, but the hotel’s legendary status hinged on its telephone – the only one on the coast at the time. The lethargic connection speed meant a thirsty, hungry and bored bunch of louche lollygaggers, so the restaurant, bar and bedrooms followed sharpish. If only sluggish WiFi had the same effect…
At the hotel
Spa, café, beach club, botanical gardens, kids’ club, gym, free WiFi throughout. The beautifully landscaped 18-hole golf course and equestrian centre is a 20-minute drive from the main building. In rooms: flatscreen TV with movie channels, DVD and CD player, radio, free WiFi, Nespresso coffee machine, minibar, safe, air-conditioning, black-out curtains and Babor bath products.
Our favourite rooms
With white-timbered roofs, a pretty pastel palette and sea views over the Strait of Gibraltar, the Deluxe Beachfront Rooms will thrill any romance-seeking sun worshippers. Want to sneak in a late-night skinny-dipping session? Book a villa with a private pool, where there’s also a secluded dining terrace and a fairy-tale four-poster bed.
There are three. The garden pool close to reception is a peaceful spot surrounded by greenery, with a sunlounger and table-strewn terrace. The livelier Beach Club pool is larger, with throngs of sunloungers and socialisers on the wooden deck, and a small Jacuzzi. The indoor spa pool is better suited for lazy soaking. All are heated. The beach is open to the public, but it’s still a serene place to take a dip.
The Thalasso Spa's treatments focus on stress reduction; however, you'll feel any tension melt away as soon as you set foot in the cream-hued, beach-set space. There are 12 treatment rooms – some with sea views – a restful seawater pool, hammam, and steam baths, and an invigorating wood-burning Finnish sauna. Thalasso treatments are offered in a variety of programmes, ranging from pick-me-ups (the brisk 20-minute water-jet massage), to decadent week-long programmes with up to three hours of treatments a day. Body wraps, scrubs and facials are on the menu alongside therapies for dedicated beauty seekers, such as peels and lymphatic drainage.
Chanel Resort wear – no matter how impractical a swimsuit with a full train is – and the Asprey travel chess case, for a cerebral yet stylish Beach Club distraction.
The hotel’s rocky paths and meandering layout make it unsuitable for guests with mobility issues.
Welcome. There’s a 5,000sq m kids’ club and golf and riding lessons can be arranged. Cots and extra beds for under-12s are free and can be added to all rooms; all restaurants have children’s menus; and babysitting is available for €15–36 an hour.
3–7 year olds.
The Two-Bedroom Villa with Swimming Pool is private with plenty of space and a garden for little ones to run around in. The pool can be screened off for safety, and there’s a dining terrace for memorable family meals.
The kids’ club’s activity programme is child-captivatingly creative: kids can nurture their own crop in the vegetable garden, blend a signature scent, cook up local dishes in the kitchen, learn hip-hop and flamenco, take drama and cookery classes, paint, craft, and play music. Treasure hunts and family-friendly film nights are held there too. Off-site kayaking can be arranged for older children, and tennis, horse-riding and golf lessons can be booked.
There’s supervised swimming in the kids’ club lagoon, and children are welcome in both the garden pool and Beach Club pool; but, both of these are unsupervised.
Highchairs, weaning spoons and child-friendly cutlery can be provided on request. All restaurants have a children’s menu, but the Beach Club’s buffet is the most flexible dining option. The Grill is a more grown-up affair.
Staff from the kids’ club can babysit for €15 an hour; book a day in advance.
No need to pack
Pack nappies, lotions, baby wipes and formula if you don’t want to have to venture offsite. The concierge can help to acquire anything you’ve forgotten.
The kids’ club is an amazing space, complete with a perfume-making lab, kitchen, garden, cinema, yoga studio and playgrounds. It’s stylish too, with Scandinavian-style furnishings and flower-filled outdoor spaces.
For a romantic evening, head to the proposal-inspiring terrace at the Grill. For a chilled hangout, nab the closest Beach Club table to the sand.
Don’t hold back, it’s de rigeur to bedazzle. Pile on the labels, bring out the bling and don’t forget to spray tan. Mr Smiths – pack a blazer that’s tailored to within an inch of its life.
The Grill is an old-school eatery, with encyclopedic sommeliers and silver cloches to present the classic French fare served there. Its romantic terrace is lit by tree-trunk candelabra. The Beach Club’s famed buffet is a more laid-back affair, with elegantly-dressed seafood platters, sizzling paella pans, pastas, salads and hot and cold carne cuts. Chiringuito snack shack MC Beach offers barbecued brochettes, the MC Café has lighter bites washed down with café con leche, and charcuterie and salads are served beside the Garden Pool. Off-site, find upper-crust brunching and lunching at the Golf Restaurant.
Festooned with flowers and sheltered by fragrant orange trees, the open-air Summer Bar is bright with cosy sofas. Carefully chosen wines and classic cocktails are served, including the signature Sau Sau (vodka, lemon, sugar, mint and soda). Come winter, cosy up to the fire in the Jean-Pierre Martel-designed Champagne Room, an art deco space where corks pop and caviar is on stand-by. Chef Juan Galvez’s small dishes should stop you from getting too tipsy.
The Grill opens for dinner from 8.30 to midnight (from 9pm in summer). The Beach Club’s buffet is open from 1.30pm to 4pm (4.30pm in summer), and MC Beach serves food from 11am to 7pm. The Summer Bar serves drinks until 1.30am, the Champagne Room, 1am.
No less than four types of breakfast (spa, Continental, full English and Spanish), salads, charcuterie and seafood platters, sandwiches, soups, pizza, pasta, more robust meat and fish dishes and decadent desserts can be summoned to your room.
Set by the beachfront, on Marbella’s ‘Golden Mile’, the hotel is a 15-minute walk from Marbella Town, and a 10-minute drive from Puerto Banús Marina’s shops and clubs.
It’s a 35-minute drive to Málaga Airport (www.malagaairport.eu), where regular flights arrive from major cities across Europe. Flights from Asia via Singapore or Hong Kong, and there are direct flights from the US.
Four wheels will come in handy for exploring the coast, countryside and nearby towns. There’s an Avis car-hire booth at Málaga airport and free parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
A public beach sits just a few golden-sand-dusted steps away from your room at Marbella Club, just beyond the resort's tropical gardens, with day-beds and parasols, calm waters safe for swimming in and a selection of eateries, it's likely you'll spend plenty of time here. The Beach Club sits on the coast, with a sociable pool area, bar and a world-renowned buffet. However, if you tire of the resort's section of the Golden Mile, you can wander over to Puente Romano Resort's beach next door, or sunbathe further afield at Venus Beach (a 10-minute drive away) or Bajadilla Beach (a 15-minute drive away). If fillies and five irons are more your thing, the 18-hole golf club and equestrian centre are a 20-minute drive from the main building. Each room has a Virtual Hotel system loaded on to an iPad, so you can book the green and spa treatments, or consult the concierge at the touch of a button. You can also rent a bike to pedal along the beach paths. Piers Morgan may have dubbed it ‘Butlins for billionaires’, but Marbella has more than Puerto Banus’ designer shops and neon-lit nightclubs. Beyond the burlesque Andalusian-style villas, and five-star resorts along the Golden Mile, there are the winding streets of Marbella’s Old Town, which hold weekly markets. Stand-out sites include gilded to the hilt St Mary’s Cathedral. Pause for a languid coffee break in Los Naranjos Plaza, then head slightly further north of the town centre to hop on a dolphin-watching tour at Puerto Cabopino marina. Málaga is a 50-minute drive away, where the Moorish, medieaval Alcazaba fort sits overlooking the sea, and art buffs can swoon over the extensive Spanish collections in the Carmen Thyssen Museum (+34 (0)902 303 131) and Picasso Museum Málaga (+34 (0)952 127 600). If you prefer the sleek curve of a Rolls, the Automobile Museum Málaga (+34 (0)951 137 001) might be more your speed. Ronda, an hour’s drive away, has 13th and 14th-century relics scattered throughout, and you get to drive over the dramatic El Tajo canyon to reach the small town.
Flashy, pricy and filled with leggy types in itsy-bitsy bikinis, Nikki Beach (+34 (0)952 836 239) is a beach club, lifestyle brand and restaurant – and the quintessential Marbella experience. Its open-air eatery brings shoreside-snacking and fine dining together, with colourful sushi platters, Wagyu beef sliders, lobster rolls, pizzas, caviar on ice, and champagne is a mainstay on the drinks menu. Don your best bikini and a designer cover up. In the evening dress to the nines, or maybe the tens. In Marbella Town, Messina (+34 (0)679 770 062) is a cool contemporary space with red chairs, white linens and neon-pink light panels, close to the Old Town. It serves up flamboyant fusion fare, where typical Spanish ingredients – Iberian pork, red prawns and Oloroso sherry – are spiced up with Asian flavours. The tasting menu rewards the curious.
Tapas joint TierrAranda (+34 (0)952 829 597) offers a glimpse into Marbella’s more traditional side, with wine casks strung from the ceiling, pretty Spanish tiles and cookery gewgaws hanging from the walls. Cuisine is Castilian, made from top-quality local produce, and dishes start from €3. The langoustines and empanadas are especially good.
Bathed in neon light, with a price list skewed towards VIPs, Pangea(+34 (0)952 908 336) is far from subtle, but its location atop Club del Mar ensures a cool coastal panorama, and the white-canopied dance floor makes a it a swish spot to dance to house tracks.
As our cream Peugeot purred up to the gates of Marbella Beach Club, Mr Smith and I were full of anticipation. Set between the elegant boutiques and beaches of Andalusia’s Golden Mile, this storied hotel has promised luxury for over 60 years, ever since enterprising Spanish businessman Prince Alfonso first settled on the idea of transforming the old Santa Margarita farmhouse into a smart new hotel. Today, its position amid a coastal pine grove near Puerto Banus doesn’t disappoint.
After a week on the wild, wind-whipped beaches of Cádiz, we were looking forward to some indulgence, which arrived as soon as we stepped into Marbella Beach Club’s whitewashed, marble lobby: bags whisked swiftly out of sight by bellmen in pressed polo shirts; glasses of cool, refreshing water pressed into hand.
In the Sixties, Brigitte Bardot thought this a worthy address to lay down her tousled locks, and I could already see why. Through gardens planted with citrus groves, avocado and fig trees, we were led to our ocean-facing room.
Guests sat on a serene terrace eating breakfast, as our golf-buggy whizzed by. Indeed, it didn’t take us long to realise that the whole set-up of Marbella Club is wonderfully serene: fountains, statues and trellises dot the lush garden, started so many years ago by Prince Alfonso, a keen botanist.The age-old Mediterranean villa architecture endures too, with its terracotta roof tiles and neutral shades, punctuated by bursts of pink bougainvillea.
Our bright, airy room opened up to reveal pure white walls, accented by peach, beige and blue shades. Pictures of past celebrity guests hung above the desk and a large terrace gave way onto Mediterranean sea views. Duly indulged, Mr Smith and I paused to take it all in.
Day beds beckoned for a nap and, inside, a huge marble bathroom with an opulent tub and shower promised to soak us back to life. But the sun was blazing, so we headed to the pool and settled under umbrellas, disturbed only by the gentle splash of water and chime of silver clinking at the snack bar.
Here, as with everywhere at the Marbella Beach Club, scents of lavender and jasmine fill the air.
A breezy afternoon of reverie followed on the beach itself, where Mr Smith and I ambled along the hotel’s wooden pier, seemingly floating above the ocean – our only foreseeable commitment: getting to our massages on time.
Mr Smith went for a classic deep-tissue massage and I opted for the shiatsu, followed by a dip in the bath-warm indoor pool and Thalassotherapy jets. We floated and flopped so long, our post-treatment teas went cold.
Salty evening air settled around us as we headed out to the casual MC Café restaurant, where we dined on a perfect Caesar salad and Asian-inspired chicken dish, served with Jerez artichokes and brown rice. Exhausted by all the relaxation, we finally hitched a ride back to the room and collapsed happily into bed.
If you’re feeling more active, the Marbella Beach Club has an 18-hole golf course set amid the Mediterranean mountains, a tennis club opened in 1979 by Bjorn Borg, an equestrian centre that hosts the Spanish showjumping championships and a gym with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gardens. Miraculously, we managed 40 minutes of cardio, before it was time to head back to the beach.
Food is a real highlight of Marbella Beach Club, so we did manage to stretch our stomach muscles. The international buffet is much heralded, and rightly so, we discovered, as we worked our way through giant crawfish, jumbo shrimps, fresh fennel salads and avocado, supplied by a parade of fresh silverware.
A 30-year patron of Marbella Beach Club (it commands that kind of loyalty) also tipped us off about El Grill, the main restaurant, advising it wasn’t to be missed. Even though Mr Smith and I didn’t have a reservation, they managed to seat us immediately. Mr Smith had duck breast with fig sauce and I tucked into the asparagus and mushroom risotto, followed by the monkfish. Another balmy night at the Marbella Beach Club, and the indulgence was finally complete.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Marbella Club’s Guestbook below.
The grounds are lush and perfectly kept. Old school charm but never dated or tacky. The place is quiet and beautiful. Three different pools to choose from (not including our own fantastic, private villa pool) - all of which were charming and lovely, even in early April. Very attentive staff (we might wish for a bit more attention by the pool) - prompt attention when called upon. Positive, professional attitude. Legit history. The Kid's Club looked awesome, however, between pools and beaches and walks into Marbella we had more than enough activities to engage our kids in, so we never made use of the Club activities.
Don't expect raunchy, young, glitzy 60's parties. Those days are long gone.