The Spanish Riviera is well-connected to the rest of Spain, especially other major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao. Direct flights are available from all three cities, as are trains. Traveling by car is another option, although best done from Madrid. Driving times from Bilbao and Barcelona are quite lengthy, so stopping in another city (such as Madrid) for one or two nights is a better option.
The Spanish Riviera is home to some of the country’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. It includes the large port city of Málaga, the rocky Costa del Sol (Sun Coast), and the ritzy seaside city of Marbella. It also includes some of Spain’s famous white villages, such as Nerja, Frigiliana, and Mojácar. Málaga is a good hub and/or starting point. It’s complete with a large train station and airport, making for easy connections.
If you have extra time to extend your trip, this 18-day itinerary hits all these cities (Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, and Málaga) and includes more of the Andalusia region.
Duration: 1.5 - 6 hours
Madrid is the closest major city to Málaga and the Spanish Riviera. Traveling between the two is fairly straightforward, with the fastest option being by plane. Both Iberia and Air Europa offer direct flights in just two hours. The train is the best alternative to flying, as direct trains depart from Madrid’s Atocha station and arrive in Málaga in just 2.5-3 hours.
If you prefer to drive, the route will take you south through the historic city of Granada—worth a stop for a visit to the famous Alhambra—in about 5 hours. Buses are another option, which are operated by the company Interbus and arrive in Málaga in six hours.
Once in Málaga, it’s best to have a car to explore the Spanish Riviera. With so many small towns along the coast, using public transportation is restricted and lengthy. Some of the best villages to visit include those mentioned above (Nerja, Frigiliana, and Mojácar) as well as Fuengirola and Estepona.
Duration: 1.5 - 8 hours
The fastest way to travel to the Spanish Riviera from Barcelona is by plane. RyanAir and Vueling Airlines offer direct flights throughout the day, arriving in Málaga in 1.5-2 hours.
Trains are the fastest alternative to flying, arriving in Málaga in 6-7 hours. Although it’s a longer alternative, you can also reach the Spanish Riviera from Barcelona by car, either rental or private transfer. You’ll follow the highways via Valencia and Granada—both worth a stop and/or an overnight stay—and arrive about nine hours later.
For travel between Málaga and the Spanish Riviera, see the previous option.
Duration: 1.5 - 9 hours
Although they’re located on opposite sides of the country, you can still reach the Spanish Riviera from Bilbao. Flying is your best bet, as direct flights reach Málaga in just 1.5 hours. Both Vueling Airlines and Iberia serve this route.
Trains and driving are the next best options. They both take the same amount of time, about nine hours. Note that trains offer only one departure per day: leaving Bilbao in the morning, requiring a connection in Madrid, and arriving Málaga in the early evening. If you prefer more flexibility, then you can go by car. The route takes you across the entirety of Spain, north to south. You’ll pass through the cities of Burgos, Madrid, and Granda—all excellent places to grab a coffee or meal.
Because you’re traveling such a long distance, consider this 19-day culinary tour that connects Bilbao and Málaga via Madrid. You have the option to add Barcelona and more of Andalusia. For travel between Málaga and the Spanish Riviera, see the first option.