Malaga was our second city to visit in Spain. At first glance, it seemed like a much larger and newer, more modern city compared to Cádiz. Maybe it’s due to it’s seemingly more desirable location on the Mediterranean, in the Andalusia region of southern Spain.  Our ships path to Malaga included a passage through the straight of Gibraltar. Unfortunately the passage through the narrow straight was in the middle of the night, so we didn’t get to see it. Regardless, we had made it to the Mediterranean and were destined to get a taste of what “Mediterranean Life” was all about.

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BYOTG – Be Your Own Tour Guide

It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Malaga, with clear skies and a forecast of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the kind of beach and walking weather we had been looking for since the start of our year long adventure. 

Pedregalejo. Memorize that word. Practice it in Spanish. “Pedregalejo”. During our brief connection to WiFi in Cádiz the previous day, JJ looked up what was supposed to be the best beach area of Malaga. The Culture Trip article she read said Pedregalejo was a 30 minute walk from the city center, and was considered one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. Having just walked about 7 miles the day before in Cádiz, we figured we had our legs under us and said “why not?”

Question: how do you find a place that is not recommended by your cruise line, and isn’t on any of the major tourist maps, such as the port’s information map or the hop on hop off bus’s map, and do so without any WiFi or data connection? That was the initial challenge for our adventure.  This question would be unconscionable to most young people we have since learned, as no Millennial or younger ever travels internationally without purchasing data or a local sim card. But what were us non-internet purchasing, traveling on a budget, old geezer / late 30-somethings to do?

After wandering around aimlessly out of the cruise port, past the waterfront promenade and touristy excursion ships and restaurants (which again, were a far cry from the meager cargo ships and shuttle buses at the Cádiz port) no map we were seeing had the word “Pedregalejo” on it. Understanding that a beach must be somewhere along the coast, we figured it must be East or West from the cruise port, but the question was, which way?

Bus Stops Have the Best City Maps

Then finally we saw a transit map for the local city buses at a nearby park. Finally we found “Pedregalejo” and Pedregalejo beach to the Far East. The closest marker or identifiable area to Pedregalejo on another map we had seen was called “Banos del Carmen”.  A traveler’s hack is to take a close up photo of any map.  Then you will be able to zoom in on it and utilize it even without WiFi or Data (which is the entire point of this story).

In the end, I suppose we could have just asked someone, but it was honestly more fun to look for the out of the way maps.  Finally, we knew we were headed East along the boardwalk of the much closer and much more crowded beach called Malagueta. So our “30 minute walk” began after our initial 30+ minute walk just to find our way had already taken place. 

MAP TIP: We now highly recommend Maps.Me. Maps.Me lets you download maps of whole cities “offline”, and it still provides navigation, searching, and directions based on your phone’s GPS (which is always on) instead of data or an internet connection. Maps.Me is especially useful for walking directions. Just remember to download your next destinations Offline Map while you’re on Wifi. Best of all, this App is absolutely free.

Playa Caleta

We walked for what felt like at least 20 minutes till we got to “another” beach called Playa Caleta. 

It was a semi-nicer and less-crowded beach than Malagueta, but still not the laid back vibe we were looking for, and still no sign or indicator at all for Pedregalejo. We pressed on.

As we passed Playa Caleta, with no new beach in sight, we were fast approaching a point of no return. We agreed that if at the next point, we didn’t see some sort of sign of life or any indication at all that we were headed in the right direction, or worse, a sign that Pedregalejo was 10 more Kilometers away or something, that we would turn around and live with Playa Caleta. 

Thankfully, we found the literal sign we were looking for in “Banos del Carmen”:

We knew we were headed in the right direction, but didn’t know just how close we were to our desired destination of Pedregalejo.

Playa Pedregalejo

About 5 minutes later, we saw people in beach attire starting to head down narrow, pedestrian friendly alleys. Alas, we had arrived. The beach was lined with several trendy restaurants, all with al-fresco dining to soak in the views of the largely uninhabited and unspoiled beach, with endless views of the Mediterranean Sea.

We also found a local supermercado that we had seen before turning off toward the beach. We got some drinks and snacks, including some local cured chorizo “iberico de cebo”, then headed back to our favorite spot on the still largely unpopulated beach.  Cured meats are the ultimate Spanish snack, like beef jerky to Texans, only a lot cheaper and fresher. We had gone from really sweating it out, and hoofing an over 2 mile walk that took more like 45 minutes, to relaxing and basking in sun-soaked beach views. The real kicker? We did this whole self-guided excursion for less than 9€. How very European of us, and how un-American of us. If this is what “Mediterranean Life” is all about, Len and JJ emphatically vote “Yes, Please!”

As with any beach excursion, we packed our ultra-lite LytePark Microfiber Beach Towels in our backpack. These towels are extra large (big enough to accommodate a 6’4″ person in my case) with the most important part being that it is virtually impossible for any kind of sand to stick to them. A few good shakes and the towels are sand-free. They are also quick drying, and then capable of being folded back into their compact zipper pouches. Pedregalejo was gorgeous no doubt, but the sand on their beaches are not the fine white sand of the Caribbean or Bahamas. So being able to remove sand from yourself and your towel before packing back up or changing back into street clothes is an essential part of any beach excursion.

Once we had soaked in enough sun and sand, we prepared for the 45 minute walk back to the port. Luckily, we saved a “Coke Energy” to share on the long walk back. We love trying random drinks and snacks that you can’t find in the states.

Before we even made it back to our ship, which was still easily another half mile away, we had clocked in over 20,000 steps and 8.47 Miles according to JJ’s Apple Watch:

We somehow made it back in time with about an hour and a half before the “all aboard” for all passengers on our cruise. That gave us time to use our free Hop on Hop Off Bus Tickets.

City Sightseeing – Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour Malaga

On our bus tour, which we were lucky enough to get front row, upper-deck seats on, we were able to take in closer views of many of the popular sites in Malaga. These attractions included the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro, Roman Theatre, and Playa Malagueta.

Just Around the Bend

Never be afraid of a little adventure, or of not fully knowing your way around in a new place. Sometimes in life and in travel, when you think you’ve reached that point of no return and point of uncertainty and self-doubt, you just need to go a little farther, persevere a little longer, and go around that next bend to find that beach you’ve been looking for. The treasures and beaches you really have to work for are the sweetest part of wanderlust in our experience.

Len and JJ’s Overall Rating: 

We Would Definitely Go Back

This made for a very full, exhausting, but utterly gratifying day in Malaga, which was easily our favorite Spanish stop yet. We had accomplished both an inexpensive, self-guided beach excursion, as well as a free sight seeing tour, all in one day at the same cruise port. Experienced travelers will echo that this is hard to do with the often limited time available on any port day. We would definitely go back to Malaga, and would head to Pedregalejo even sooner now that we know the way!

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