If you are into hiking, Marbella and its neighboring mountains offer many alternative routes ranging from easy to medium difficulty levels. The office of tourism issues leaflets with many hikes around the region that can be obtained for free.
The most popular hike is probably the walk up to La Concha, Marbella´s emblematic mountain. With its shape, in form of a shell and recognizable from far away, la Concha dominates Marbella at 1,200 meters and offers one of the best panoramic views of the Costa del Sol.
There are two main paths up to la Concha, either starting from Istan or Juanar. They connect about 30 minutes away from the top. Whichever you take, make sure that you have plenty of water and some food with you. Although the weather is usually very good on the Costa, always check it out before the start. Getting caught by the rain or darkness would make the hike back quite difficult. Best times of the year are spring, fall or winter. Watch out for the heat in summer.
The hardest hike is from Istan, a small white village of Andalucia located next to the Embalse de la Concepción, one of Malaga´s water reservoirs. This hike is steepest with a path marked mostly by stacked rocks along the way. It takes about four and a half hours back and fourth including a 20 minute break at the top. Because the path is not always obvious, some concentration is needed as not to get lost and increase the degree of difficulty. I find the first 20 minutes the hardest as muscles are still cold and the hill quite steep. This path is not recommended for children under 13.
An easier way for children is to start from the refugio de Juanar. The hike is longer and can easily reach 6 hours with children. During the first two hours, the path is wide and well marked with alternate steep and flat parts which make it more forgiving. I would probably not go further with children under 8. The last hour is a little trickier and need more attention as you climb rocks. You also need some stamina for the way back. Although it is easy, the loose rocks can be traitorous to the ankles when the fatigue kicks in and the end of the hike seems near…
When you make it the top, you will see a big spot of blue paint on the rock indicating the highest point in the mountain. You will discover a breathtaking view of Marbella, the Gibraltar rock and Morocco. It is really worth the effort!