A playground for the rich and famous, Marbella is known for its thriving party scene and A-list celebrities (Eva Longoria, Claudia Schiffer and Antonio Banderas, to name but a few) who flock to its glamorous beaches. But the holiday resort in southern Spain isn't all about the luxury yachts and star-studded clubs. We spent a few days indulging in peace and quiet at lush resort The Oasis by Don Carlos and discovered there's more to Marbella than the parties.
If you're looking for a true escape, this exclusive resort located just ten minutes from the centre of Marbella offers everything from tennis to tai chi, and spin to spa treatments - all in a five-star setting, which feels a world away from the crowded beaches and flashy marina.
Avoid the busiest months (July and August) and you'll virtually have the place to yourself for a truly blissful break on the Costa del Sol. Whether you fancy ultimate relaxation with top-notch dining or to focus on keeping fit in the sun, there's a whole host of activities to keep you busy (or not) at the resort - plus the beach is on the doorstep, providing the perfect spot for a morning stroll by the sea and to watch the amazing sunset with Gibraltar and Morocco in the distance.
If you're partial to a game of tennis, you'll love the Don Carlos Tennis & Sports Cub and its fantastic coaches. There's nothing like playing on the clay courts in the sun and the tuition is some of the best and most professional we've come across. There's no need to pack your racquet either as you can rent one on site. Once you've hit a few balls, head upstairs to the sports bar overlooking the courts for a freshly squeezed orange juice and a healthy snack.
Fancy taking it up a notch? There's an array of free fitness classes at the gym, including spin and aquagym - and don't forget to take a dip in one of the pools. Ask about the team sports taking place during your stay too. Five-a-side football and beach volleyball are a couple of the fun team activities available at the resort.
The tropical gardens are the best feature of The Oasis by Don Carlos and they're not just for looking. Joggers can go running around the resort on the special sandy track surrounded by the abundant greenery... and there's more.
The idyllic setting is perfect for yoga and tai chi, and the outdoor classes take place on the beach or garden lawns, helping guests to relax and experience close contact with the surrounding nature. We were introduced to tai chi by the president of the Marbella Tai Chi Association, and whatever you're doing at the resort, you're likely to be in the hands of the best teachers around.
After enjoying The Oasis' many activities, you will be ready for a spa treatment which, thanks to the year-round warm climate, is a fantastic outdoor experience. Opt for a massage on the balcony of your room, in the gardens or with the sounds of the sea on the beach.
Dinner at the resort is clever, creative and delicious. Bahia Restaurant is the best dining spot for elegant Mediterranean cuisine. Here, the chefs cook with quality Andalusian products and use seasonal ingredients bought daily from the local market. Live Spanish music is played as you dine and after your meal, stylish bar La Terrasse is a wonderful place for a cocktail overlooking the illuminated swimming pool and tropical gardens.
The breakfast buffet in Bahia Restaurant is a treat too. There is a huge variety of fruit, yoghurt and light options fit for a healthy holiday. For lunch at The Oasis, Sol y Sombra restaurant offers impressive views of the gardens and is a lovely setting for soaking up the sunshine as you sample the delicious Spanish dishes (the paella is amazing!).
In The Oasis' bedrooms, expect ultra soft spa-style bathrobes and slippers, a selection of Molton Brown products and sumptuous beds that were made for sinking into after an active day at the resort. The rooms are available with marvellous sea views and boast balconies, warm and classy interiors and spacious bathrooms with pampering in mind - think double showers with waterfall jets and big bathtubs.
And in case you do fancy dipping into Marbella's party scene, Don Carlos Resort happens to have its own beach club with direct access to the sea, chill-out music and Balinese beds, as well as being home to VIP hotspot Nikki Beach Marbella for when you fancy doing a bit of celeb spotting or partying by the sea.
Details: The Oasis by Don Carlos is open year-round. A standard double room during low season starts from €249.70 per night, including breakfast. To book, visit theoasisdoncarlos.com or call +34 952 76 88 00.
Get there: Fly to Malaga (for Marbella) from London Gatwick with easyJet. Fares start from £31.74 one-way, including taxes based on two people travelling on the same booking.
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