Sotogrande is the largest privately owned development in Andalucia, sitting in the province of Cadiz on the southern end of the Costa del Sol. It covers an area of roughly 20 square kilometres and stretches from the Mediterranean inland to the Sierra Almenara.
At just a 20 minute drive from Gibraltar, its location makes it the ideal place to live for anyone (like me!) who wants to work in Gibraltar but enjoy the benefits of living in Spain.
Sotogrande was only established in the 1960s by an American entrepreneur called Joseph McMicking (after whom one of the principal streets in the development is named). McMicking wanted to build an exclusive resort on the Mediterranean so bought up land around the Guadiaro river for development.
With its luxury marina, beach clubs, polo fields and world class golf courses, it’s no surprise that Sotogrande is popular with royalty (Spanish and British), politicians, and celebrities from the worlds of sport, music, and television. Despite this, it has a much more understated air of glamour about it in comparison to glitzy Puerto Banus less than 50kms up the road.
The A7 motorway which runs almost the length of Spain’s Mediterranean coastline splits Sotogrande in two – Soto Costa and Soto Alto.
Sotogrande Costa is, as the name would suggest, the coastal half of the development with wide, flat palm-tree lined streets which give off a real Californian vibe (and make it popular with runners).
As well as a beach that runs through Sotogrande from Torreguadiaro in the north towards Alcaidesa, there’s a marina which has berths for over 1,300 boats. Built around the marina are waterfront apartments plus a selection of bars, restaurants, and boutiques.
Sotogrande Alto is slightly inland and, as a result, is a lot hillier. However, walking in Sotogrande Alto is worth the effort as it’s surrounded by woodland and, from the highest points, has great views towards the sea and to Gibraltar and beyond.
While Sotogrande itself doesn’t have that traditional Spanish feel, there are a few more authentically Spanish towns and villages within a short walk or drive.
Guadiaro and Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro
Guadiaro is a small village on the banks of the Guadiaro river with a population of only around 2,000. Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro (Pueblo Nuevo for short) was built in the 1960s to house the workers of the Sotogrande development and is now the main town for anyone living in Sotogrande. It has a good selection of shops, including several supermarkets, plus lots of bars and restaurants.
San Enrique de Guadiaro
San Enrique is reached from Guadiaro by passing over an iron bridge which looks down on to citrus orchards. With a population of only around 1,000 residents the village is home to the Ayala Polo Club.
Torreguadiaro is easily reached by a boardwalk along the beach from the marina. The main strip is lined with bars and restaurants and gets lively in the evenings.
Slightly further afield there are also the mountain villages of Castellar de la Frontera and Jimena de la Frontera inland, while Estepona is just a short drive up the coast. Sotogrande is also within an easy drive of Ronda, as well as Tarifa on the Costa de la Luz where you can jump on a ferry to Tangier. In fact, from many parts of Sotogrande there are fantastic views of Gibraltar with Morocco in the background.
Things to do in Sotogrande
If you love the great outdoors then you’re spoilt for choice in Sotogrande.
The wide streets make it ideal for running and cycling and there’s also a cycle path that runs from Sotogrande Alto up to Castellar de la Frontera and beyond.
If you’re a water baby there are sail boats to hire from the marina, as well as paddle boarding and kayaking either in the sea or on the Guadiaro river.
There’s plenty for landlubbers too particularly if you’re a golfer as you’ll have a choice of five world-class courses. Four of these are in Sotogrande Alto (Valderrama, where the Ryder Cup was held in 1997, La Reserva, Almenara and La Canada) while the fifth, Sotogrande Golf, is near the beach on Paseo del Parque.
For the equine fancier there are two polo clubs in the area – Santa Maria in Sotogrande, and Ayala on the outskirts of San Enrique. Matches are played regularly throughout the season and even if, like me, you have no idea of the rules, it still makes for a fun evening out.
There’s also a riding school, Hipica Sotogrande, in Soto Alto, as well as tennis and padel tennis courts in Soto Costa. If you’re looking for something less energetic, the estuary of the Guadiaro river is an ideal birdwatching spot.
If it’s luxury relaxation you’re after there are several beach clubs with a choice of pools, bars, and restaurants. In Sotogrande Costa there’s Trocadero on Paseo del Parque and El Octogono on Paseo del Rio, while in Sotogrande Alto there’s La Reserva which has a man-made lagoon with imported sand.
Where to eat in Sotogrande
There’s a good selection of bars and restaurants around the marina with everything from tapas to fine dining.
Foodisiac is one of my favourites for brunch ahead of a browse around the Sunday markets which take place on Ribera del Marlin each week.
There are also several chiringuitos along the beach including Bunker Beach Club which serves up delicious food with a side order of spectacular views of Gibraltar.
Over in Torreguadiaro there are some excellent tapas restaurants on the main strip including Puratapa, Inboka and El Sindikato.
My favourite place for food, however, has to be El Patio in Pueblo Nuevo – delicious food and excellent service from Marcelo and his team.
Where to stay in Sotogrande
There are only a few hotels in Sotogrande itself, but many property owners rent out their waterfront apartments in the marina during the summer months of July and August.
How to get to Sotogrande
From Gibraltar, Sotogrande is around 25kms and is an easy drive on the A7 (exit 130). The M240 bus leaves from La Linea bus station every two hours and stops near the entrance to the development in Sotogrande Alto before making its way through Pueblo Nuevo, Guadiaro, San Enrique and Torreguadiaro, on to Estepona.
From Malaga airport it’s just over 100kms on either the A7 or the AP7 which is the toll road (exit 132). There’s no direct public transport from Malaga to Sotogrande.
I’m lucky enough to live here year-round but Sotogrande makes a great place to visit at any time.