The entrance bridge is big and white with the word "Marbella" blocked out in stone. A golfer in mid-swing stands sentry to the town reminding visitors that they are indeed on the Costa del Golf. This is one of the glitziest resort towns in Spain, a magnet for the rich, famous and those who want to be.
Marbella was a small fishing village until the 1940s when Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe and his father, Prince Max, visited here with the idea of buying some land. On the site of a ruined vineyard, bought for the princely sum of 150,000 pesetas, he built the Marbella Club Hotel and put Marbella on the map. The hotel was host to the rich and famous in the 1960s and continues to be so even if many of the glitterati have private villas.
Check out the travel guide to Marbella for all you need to know about the place before setting off but remember hat you don't necessarily need deep pockets to visit. It's not just a resort town for the super-rich. Its motto is "A Way of Life" and its beauty, beaches and charming town are available to all.
Getting here can of course involve a private jet, luxury yacht or helicopter but most visitors arrive the old fashioned way: via cheap flights to Malaga arriving in the local airport. Accommodation options range from camping to "glamping" (glamour camping) right up to the five-star hotels and private villas.
The beaches stretch for 26km (16 miles). The urban beaches are dark-sanded and busy with great facilities such as beach bars, hamacas and water sports. The best of these urban beaches are La Fontanilla, Playa Faro, Venus and El Pinillo.
Playa de Los Monteros, Playa del Alicate and La Vivora have golden sands and offer a wide range of water sports, and, for a more relaxing time, sun loungers and eateries.
Puerto Banus may be a beach of dark sand and stones, but it is the last word in coastal charisma. Puerto Banus marks the end of the "Golden Mile" that runs from Marbella. Tourists arrive here from flights to Spain to see and be seen - and to be pampered. The shopping is naturally upscale. The most renowned fashion houses and the ritziest boutiques are here. The port includes a casino, El Corte Ingles department store, marine observatory and cinema. The nightlife buzzes with a range of options - alfresco bars, piano clubs and clubs that stay open until dawn.
To get away from all the conspicuous consumption, head to the Old Quarter. Avenida del Mar is a graceful promenade that leads down to Playa el Fuerte, Venus Beach - perfect for the paseo at dusk. At the heart of the Old Town is Orange Square (La Plaza de los Naranjos), which is found just off the main street. It's well named, the orange trees offer shade and colour above the tables of nearby restaurants. The plaza has been the heartbeat of Marbella for centuries. The fountain is Renaissance in style, the chapel dates from the 15th century and the Town Hall dates from the 16th century. The Church of St Mary (Iglesia de Santa Maria) stands here too. Built in 1618 and restored after the Spanish Civil War, it is a stout building with a beautiful red stone entrance, Baroque in style.
Don't forget to see the travel guide to Spain featuring insider info, when to fly and local transport information for a full listing of potential destinations in the country.