San Pedro de Alcántara is a small town between the urban sprawl of Marbella and Banus and the traditional fishing town of Estepona. It is a place that people normally drive through on their way to somewhere else, or bypass altogether on the toll road. Driving through is no great thrill, for the last few years an underpass allows you to avoid the town altogether.
It was past time we looked at San Pedro and a good place to obtain information, as ever in a new town, was the tourist office situated on Calle Marques del Duero which is the main road north through the town itself.
There a charming lady tried to send me to Marbella to look at the old town and museums or to Banus to wander round the marina. It took some time to persuade her that I actually wanted to visit San Pedro itself, perhaps being a mad Englishman helped. However, once she became used to the idea the information flowed. Apparently the winter temperature remains higher than average due to the shielding effect of the mountains behind the town. That may explain why San Pedro was, many years ago, famous for its sugar cane.
The climate may also explain why the Romans decided to build a baths here, just back from the beach at the west end of town. These, along with a Paleochristian Basilica Church nearby and a Roman villa down the road can only be visited with a guide. Unfortunately the villa has recently been vandalised so make sure you ring first to make sure the tours are still on. To book the (free) guide ring the tourist office on 952 78 52 52.
With an armful of maps and leaflets, including a useful set of vouchers that promise various amounts off Selwo Aventura, Selwo Marina and the Telerifico cable car at Benalmadena, I ventured into the town itself. At this time of year there is plenty of street parking on the beach side of the main road and, if all else fails there is an underground car park in the centre. When the car park was built the authorities decided to resurface the road with attractive cobbles and reduce its width to make room for more pedestrians and they made a jolly fine job of it, San Pedro is pedestrian friendly.
Walking up the main street is a pleasure with gardens, plenty of shops and cafes and for most of its length it is pedestrian only. The side streets have the usual mix of intriguing small shops and a disproportionate number of excellent looking restaurants. You emerge in the Central Plaza with a large and elegant church and yet more cafes where you can sit and enjoy the world passing by.
Across the main road and opposite the main street is a wide, tree-lined boulevard that leads down to the beach. The old trawler parked on the pile of boulders at the top of the road does give the impression that you are only minutes from the sea but do not be fooled, it is a good kilometre to the beach. There are plenty of parking spaces when you get there. You are in for a pleasant surprise. The beach is huge, three kilometres from end to end. At the west end are the already mentioned Roman baths and at the east end the Bora Bora Beach Club, renowned for its restaurant and facilities. Along the beach and paseo there are chiringuitos that are very popular with the Spanish on Sundays, always a good sign, The sand is great for kids, there are plenty of lifeguard towers and there is lots of shade provided by groves of eucalyptus trees that look just right for a family barbecue.
San Pedro was a surprise. No it does not have a great deal of visitor’s attractions, well none really, but it does have what can best be described as a simple honesty, it does not pretend to be anything other than what it is. It is packed with interesting shops and decent restaurants all of which can be toured without risk from traffic and its beach must rate as one of the finest on the Costa. Enough reasons for many to stop in San Pedro next time, rather than passing through.