The Glamorous, Seaside Retreat That Put Marbella On The Map

Marbella Club, in Costa del Sol, Spain, is one of the most legendary and glamorous hotels in the world. Spain’s Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe converted it from a private home to a hotel in 1954 and, given its royal pedigree, it instantly attracted tastemakers and celebrities including more than a fair share of kings and queens.

Historic it is, but dated? No. In fact, this is a resort that constantly surprises its loyal guests with new experiences and manages to feel as relevant and on the pulse as the just opened hot new property that the chic crowds are buzzing about.

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Nestled on a prime patch of Marbella’s Golden Mile, the resort is surrounded by luscious botanical gardens of orange, lemon, avocado, fig and banana trees and features a white-washed aesthetic reminiscent of an authentic Andalusian village. Marbella is a unique destination itself, with the area sheltered by La Concha Mountain, fostering a unique microclimate that makes it an ideal year-round destination.

The storied hotel has a glamorous past, beginning as the von Hohenlohe family’s humble Mediterranean hideaway, Finca Santa Margarita. Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe converted the home to a rustic, motel-style hotel in 1954 and began inviting his celebrity and royal friends to visit.

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That year, the hotel debuted its first 20 bedrooms, a dining room and a bar. It didn’t take long before European nobility, royal families and the Hollywood glitterati got word of the new seaside destination and began clamoring for a stay. Marbella Club became a retreat for the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly, Sean Connery and other notable figures who would check in, not just for weeks but for months on end.

Most recently, Marbella Club debuted a redesigned Beach Club that’s inspired by the historical “palapa” roof and reminiscent of 1950’s Acapulco. Featuring tropical greens and vibrant corals, it has reimagined al fresco hangout areas for guests in the lounge, bar and pool to while away the day.

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The restaurant has evolved from buffet-style to a la carte with a new raw bar serving refreshing, Mexican-inspired seafood dishes including ceviche and aguachile and playful cocktails like the Minty Matcha or a classic Piña Colada.

I stayed at the property with my two daughters, ages 9 and 14, last summer and can tell you from personal experience that Marbella Club has the best kids club I have ever seen. Period. Yes, my kids agreed.

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The 5,000 square foot space features more than 50 creative activities that truly immerse them in the destination. They can learn how to cook Andalusian meals, for example, or enjoy the local traditions of perfume-making, art, dance and even animal conservation. Marbella Club has introduced a seahorse conservation initiative at the kids club with the local organization Aula del Mar where they can learn about marine life and conservation. The property also has a partnership with the Mijas Donkeys preservation society, allowing kids to ride and care for the donkeys during their visit.

Adults and kids alike who enjoy being active can choose from endless options including water sports, hiking, golf and tennis.

Evenings at Marbella Club kick off at Clubhouse – essentially an open-air social hub with a bar and dining areas where guests can flow from one space to another depending on their mood.

I need to point out that dining and drinking is a highlight of any stay: The all-day eatery El Patio was inspired by a dreamy, 1950s California aesthetic for a timeless yet contemporary take on the resort’s bohemian beginnings as a low-key hangout for Prince Alfonso and his A-list friends.

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Rudi’s Bar is the place for pre-dinner drinks including the famous Nelson’s Negroni cocktail, named after Marbella Club’s mixologist and Head of Bars, Nelson Gallo. It’s an elegant bohemian lounge featuring live music by a cozy fire.

The Grill, an upscale eatery, is where guests imbibe on delicious local wines and tuck into classic dishes in the sophisticated indoor dining room or on the sprawling alfresco terrace. The grilled Dover sole and oven roasted branzino are musts.

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For deep-pocketed travelers or those who want to pay a premium for privacy, The Marbella Club offers an impressive collection of 17 artisan-styled villas just steps from the sea. They’re luxurious yet feel like a true home—the home of a chic friend with fabulous taste.

Villa guests are assigned a host who tends to their very need throughout their stay. We had the fortunate of experiencing a villa and were spoiled by our host who exceeded expectations with our every request. Gluten free bread? Check. I was presented with three options instead of just one. After dinner last minute tour of Marbella? Check again. And that too with a longtime local who knew the ins and outs of every street and regaled us with history that we would never have learned from reading any guidebook.

From finding me the perfect water aerobics instructor to arranging paddle boarding lessons for my children, there was nothing that our host, Álvaro, couldn’t do.

Speaking of exercise, I would remiss not to mention that wellness is at the forefront of Marbella Club.

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The spa features a Thalasso seawater pool and a long list of treatments, and the property offers free daily wellness experiences including morning meditation and high intensity fitness class.

In fact, Marbella Club offers private groups of four to ten the chance to create bespoke wellness retreats in collaboration with an in-house team of naturopaths, nutritionists, therapists and fitness instructors.

These retreats are designed to tackle a range of health issues including exhaustion, stress and burnout; gut and liver health; nutrition for inner and outer beauty; fitness and weight loss; and aging gently. Tailored massages, facials and scrubs and healthy but delicious meals provided by the hotel’s wellness chef, Andrés Ruiz, round out the experience.

Marbella is a mainstay getaway for Europeans, but it’s time for travelers from the United States to get more plugged in. The start of United Airlines’ first direct flight from New York to Malaga launching in May 2023 will help. And when you come, the magic of Marbella Club awaits.

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