Half a century of the great change of Benalmádena

The Marina changed the way of seeing and understanding the city that was placed on the map of the Costa del Sol for the first time until today it became one of the most amazing port and residential complexes in the world – 50 years of the concession and the beginning of the works and 40 years of its official inauguration

50 years have passed since the administrative concession was granted on November 12, 1972, which allowed the start of the construction works of what is now known as Puerto Deportivo de Benalmádena . A project that involved an unprecedented urban, economic and tourist transformation and that marked a before and after in the municipality. «He changed Benalmádena and put it on the maps of the Costa del Sol, where it did not appear before. Until then, it was seen as an extension of Torremolinos . With the appearance of the port, that happened to history. You no longer had to go to Puerto Banús to look for a first-rate marina, “explains the journalistJosé Manuel Bielsa, author of the book ‘The Project that changed Benalmádena’ , a graphic memory recently published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary.

The port was inaugurated on October 9, 1982, ten years after the start of the works, a historical period marked by the Spanish Transition, in which Spain experienced a profound change at a political, economic and social level. The dictator Francisco Franco died, a change of regime took place, the Spanish Constitution was approved, the socialist Felipe González arrived at La Moncloa and a failed coup attempt was perpetrated.

From an economic point of view, the country left autarky behind and began to prepare its candidacy to enter the Common Market , while at a tourist level the coast began to show signs of exhaustion after two decades of success. It was time to innovate , evolve and create new attractions and the Puerto Deportivo de Benalmádena arrived just at that moment.

The road has not been easy for that group of dreamers headed by the then mayor of Benalmádena, Enrique Bolín; the port’s first investor, Max Toledano; the architect Eduardo Oria and the engineer Jaime Dionis, among others, who promoted this project and had to overcome endless regulatory, legal, political and financial impediments. “When you talk to the people who made it possible, some of whom are no longer there, you have the feeling that the port was an obstacle course at all levels,” explains Bielsa.

This was the first phase of the project, as it took more than 20 years for all the apartments and shops to be completed. In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, real movement began to be generated in the port with the development of the dry dock and nautical activity , mainly as a result of the creation of the Club Náutico.

Since then and almost by inertia, the Marina has become one of the most important port and residential complexes in southern Europe, with model facilities and unique architecture. In fact, it was quite a success in terms of image. “The Costa del Sol, from the eighties to here, probably has not known a marketing campaign like the one carried out with the port, which was even on the cover of the Parisian edition of Vogue magazine,” Bielsa points out. On the other hand, the port has been awarded twice as the Best Marina in the World and has held the European Blue Flag since 2015 for the quality of its services and its waters.

If there is something that characterizes it, apart from the magnitude, ambition and aspirations with which it was conceived, it is the style of its architecture, its open character, its familiar tone and its great commercial and hospitality offer, in addition to its strong vocation residential. It also has one of the largest and most prestigious water sports calendars on the entire Costa del Sol. In this sense, the Discovery Regatta was the first major milestone in its nautical activity and put the port in the international press in 1984.

Stories and personalities

Throughout its history, there are many stories that have emerged around the Marina, as well as the different renowned personalities that have passed through its facilities. It started out as Puerto Príncipe, the godmother of the works was the artist Rocío Jurado; Gunilla von Bismarck had the second charter that made excursions from Puerto Marina to Puerto Banús; and one of its icons was the Willow, a US Navy ship that ended up anchored in the port, where it was used as a nightclub and sank in 2019. Currently, the City Council is waiting for the owner to remove it , once the responsibilities are legally distributed. Franco’s first yacht, before the Azor, was restored at its facilities .and docked ships such as the Prince Albert of Monaco oceanographic ship and a replica of the Nao Victoria with which Elcano circumnavigated the globe in the greatest maritime feat in history. On the social side, the port has hosted beauty contests that have kept Benalmádena at the center of the social chronicle.

A direct witness to the evolution of the port has been Costa Sol Cruises, a nautical tourism company that has been operating there since its inauguration, and is dedicated to passenger navigation and whale watching in the Alboran Sea, whose vessels have Blue flag. “We have experienced how the marina has been growing all these years in which not only private and commercial vessels have increased , as well as berths, but also the leisure, gastronomy and commerce offer”, declares its current manager, Verania Medina. And it is that apart from being invited to work there by Enrique Bolín, this family was attracted by the beauty of this project. “At the time it was very striking thanks to that special architecture that cannot be seen in other ports, with that Andalusian, Arab, Indian, etc. style,” he explains. In addition, they also took into account the length of the peak season.

The port occupies 160,000 square meters and has about 1,100 berths. Currently, it is immersed in the renewal of the concession for another 25 years. To this end, it has drawn up a modernization draft based on around 5 million euros, which includes the creation of new pontoons to expand its capacity, the final development of the Yacht Club and interventions in the port’s protection dock. It was a true odyssey to get to what it is today, the emblem that Benalmádena needed and that changed the way of seeing and understanding the city. «Today Benalmádena cannot be conceived without its Marina. It is one more element of the city that is part of its skyline like Tivoli, the Stupa, the butterfly farm or the cable car”, highlights the mayor,Victor Navas.

The Consistory wants to bring the port closer to the population

In the last decade, the municipal government has tried to bring the port closer to the citizens of Benalmádena. Among the different initiatives carried out, the creation of the Municipal Sailing School or the expansion of the educational offer, with the implementation of related training modules, stand out. «In principle, the Puerto Deportivo generated a lot of wealth and attracted companies, opportunities and investments, but it was still in a certain way an elitist element because not everyone could afford a boat docked in the port, practice water sports or simply have a housing in the environment. We do not want the nautical activity to live with its back to Benalmádena, “says the councilor. Secondly, The Consistory has called a contest for ideas on how the Marina should be in order to safeguard its traditional style, homogenize its image, aesthetics and architecture that has inevitably changed with each municipal government. “The winner’s style sheet will reign in the development of the port for the next few years,” explains the mayor, Víctor Navas. «The Puerto Deportivo is an idyllic place to spend the days and spectacular for anyone who likes sailing. It is a focus of business 365 days a year. It generates more activity in summer, but it works every day. In fact, it is in winter when the boats are taken to the slipway for maintenance », he explains.