We take our children on a whistlestop tour of Malaga before heading for relaxation in Estepona.
It’s one of family travel’s trickiest conundrums.
How do you please mum and dad as well as the tiny travellers?
How to balance a need for sandcastles with a desire to trek around real castles?
The answer may well lie in two less familiar parts of that very familiar destination – the Costa del Sol.
We mixed a city break in Malaga with child-friendly sun and swimming in Estepona – and everyone was happy.
We flew with Norwegian Air, which is rapidly expanding its flights from Manchester Airport.
There was good legroom, discounts on child tickets and free WiFi on board with entertainment and children’s programmes to watch on your own tablets and phones.
It’s clear why the company has won Europe’s best low-cost airline for four years running.
Our first stop – the city of Malaga – is often overlooked as just an airport.
But this is a child-friendly city – ours loved walking around the 1,000-year-old fortress palace Alcazaba and tasting tapas in Plaza de la Merced.
There are gorgeous gardens, playgrounds a plenty plus a modern, renovated port area.
There are beaches too. On Playa San Andres you can get a well-priced paella and a dip in the sea – 10 minutes’ walk from our hotel.
The Barceló Málaga, next to the train station, is one of the most modern hotels around. Our suite was straight out of a designer’s dream and bath time will never be the same again for our children after enjoying the jacuzzi in the bathroom.
They liked the slide almost as much. Not outside the hotel – this one is inside – taking guests from their tasty breakfast on the first floor down to reception to explore the city.
After two days, it was time to head 50 miles south for part two.
A good tip if you need car seats – there’s a company called Tots Store which provides proper modern seats and meets you in arrivals at Malaga Airport to get you kitted out.
Safely strapped in we head down the motorway.
Next stop, relaxation, as we check into the Kempinski Hotel Bahía on the outskirts of Estepona.
The town itself is more traditionally Spanish than the likes of Marbella and Torremolinos. Think packed plazas and tasty tapas at every turn.
The Kempinski is the area’s premier hotel – and you can see why.
It’s worth a stay here for the pool alone. Or should I say pools, there are four after all.
The main children’s one is perfect for small swimmers, winding its way under bridges and past trees so you can create your own adventures.
The beach in front of the hotel is not the most beautiful but has enough sand to bury a dad up to his knees, enough stones to keep a two-year-old happy and the gentle waves of the Mediterranean inviting everyone in for a swim with views of Gibraltar on a clear day.
The hotel has four restaurants, a spa, gym and indoor pool. Rooms are spacious and luxurious with beautiful views.
It’s an upmarket hotel but caters for children well with a kids’ corner at the breakfast buffet, mini dressing gowns and an ice cream bar along with a children’s club at peak times.
The last night
After five days, two hotels, one city and one town, our last night was the same as our first.
The four of us sharing a paella at a beachfront restaurant.
Even on a twin-stop balanced break there are some things equally popular with all of us.
*For our more detailed review of the Kempinski Hotel Bahía, click here.
*For a more detailed review on the Barcelo Malago hotel, click here.
*You may also like this article about why Malaga makes a great city for a family beach holiday.
Travel: Norwegian Air – fares from £29.90 – we received a discount for the purpose of this review.