The name ‘Marbella’ carries a certain flair with it. Just like Cannes, St Tropéz and San Remo, it is one of a select group of places on the European map that conjures up images of wealth, glamour and good living. Marbella is certainly associated with all these things, and its wonderful climate, excellent sporting and recreational facilities, and luxury residential areas have made it one of the playgrounds of the rich and famous; a place that people from all over the world feel irresistibly drawn to.
The greatest jewel in Marbella’s crown, however, is Puerto Banús, the famous yacht harbour that cradles the Bahia de Marbella. It is here that you will find the greatest concentration of wealth, power and glamour, for it is here that Europe’s rich, famous and beautiful come together to enjoy the lazy sun-kissed days and sultry nights of the Spanish summer. Puerto Banús is a kaleidoscope world with a landscape dominated by big boats, fast cars and beautiful women; a cosmopolitan melting pot of big business, royalty and showbiz, where the paparazzi have rich pickings and ordinary visitors wander about in the hope that some of the glamour will rub off on them. Indeed, Puerto Banús is one of those rare places where you could literally bump into a celebrity on every corner.
But what is it that makes this little marina resort so trendy and so popular with everyone from the ordinary tourist to the international jet set? Sure enough, there are marinas that are larger and have more facilities, there are even those that are prettier, so why does this remain such a hotspot? As always, the answer lies in the coming together of several factors—one might say that Puerto Banús has the kind of mix of ingredients that appeals to a broad spectrum of people. When it was first developed, in the late 1960s, Puerto Banús consisted of nothing more than the brand new yacht harbour, framed by the now famous apartments in traditional Andalusian style. Marbella itself was not much more than a small fishing village that had only recently been discovered by wealthy tourists. These ranged from eccentric travellers and yachtsmen to well-to-do American students, passing through as part of their European Tour.
Like many before them, they fell in love with the unbridled fire and fullness of Andalucía, and even after parts of the coast became centres of mass-tourism, these early visitors held on to Marbella and its immediate surroundings as a place where only well-monied tourists could afford to come. And so, as tourism developed in package form elsewhere, Marbella remained an island of opulence and glamour, where the wealthy chose to vacation and many owned a residence. Wealth attracted celebrity, which in turn attracted beauty, and so on, until the area became the setting for tycoons, models, artists, aristocrats and even royalty. Even sheikhs are not an unusual sight, particularly in Puerto Banús, and the Saudi Arabian Royal Family owns a magnificent palace here.
The regular presence of the Saudi royal family and their huge entourage, as well as international celebrities such as Sean Connery, Kate Moss and Jamiroquay, confirms Puerto Banús’ status as a jet-set paradise, but although much of its success is based on this, it has also produced a rather more seedy image. To those more critical of star-gazing, Puerto Banús is synonymous with conspicuous consumption and extravagance. Sure, the rich and famous let themselves go here, but the beauty of this port is exactly the fact that it is not exclusive to them. No one is barred from entering. In fact, regular mortals such as ourselves, young and old, rich and poor, are heartily welcomed to mingle in and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the place. Your eyes may water at the sight of row upon row of the largest and most luxurious yachts that you are likely to find anywhere, and just the slightest dash of envy might surface in you as you watch traffic jams of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys, but in reality one of the biggest pleasures in Puerto Banús is sitting at one of the many lively quayside bars and restaurants to watch humanity go by in tide upon tide of diversity and surprise. All nationalities, all ages and indeed all economic segments of society are represented here, often walking shoulder to shoulder, just as Precio Justo (The Right Price Shop) happily co-exists with Armani and Prada.
It is this diversity, this coming together of so many different people from all over the world, that makes Puerto Banús what it is, not any list of luxury facilities and amenities. Of course, you would be disappointed if the place was not packed to the full with brand shops, choice restaurants and trendy night spots, but Puerto Banús is also a place where you can buy a cheap t-shirt and have an inexpensive meal. The choice is yours. If bustling nightlife and large crowds are not your thing, you might choose to come here in the morning, when it is peaceful, and watch the seagulls sweep over the ships’ masts while you’re sipping a coffee. Grab a newspaper and a baguette, and you’re in a peaceful paradise, refreshed by the cool onshore breeze. If you book a table at one of the fine restaurants on the quieter end, near the old Moorish watchtower, you will find that Puerto Banús is also a very romantic place. Time it correctly and you can have dinner as the sun dips into the sea and colours the whole world in shades of pastel orange and pink. Then, as always here, you will be able to take in the Mediterranean, the mountain-ringed greenery of Marbella, lights twinkling on the distant shores of Morocco and, of course, Puerto Banús itself.
Puerto Banús, Glamour Capital of Spain by and copyright of Michel Cruz, for more information visit his web site at www.freelancewriter4u.com.
Image used in this article are copyright of Michelle Chaplow from michellechaplow.com