Hidden away in eight square miles of Andalucia is arguably the most exclusive resort in the whole of Spain – Sotogrande. This upscale destination on the Costa del Sol is a haven for the rich and famous and ten times the size of Monaco. Development of the resort began in the 1960s when Filipino-American entrepreneur Joseph McMicking’s concept was to create a sun-soaked community for high society, with a low-key lifestyle away from the gaze of cameras.
But what makes it so special today? I had the good fortune to sample the laid-back style of Sotogrande earlier this month and can provide you with some insights as to why this resort offers visitors and residents alike, a discreet yet elegant lifestyle.
Privacy and security
One of the key things that sets Sotogrande apart is that it is home to a number of gated communities which help preserve the resort’s safety, security, privacy and exclusivity. This is a trend that came to Spain from the United States where living in a gated community was synonymous with prosperity. With it comes not just restricted access, but also a lifestyle, a community awareness and private access to a variety of amenities. This offers appeal to both owners and investors since properties within a gated community tend to be well-managed and this tends to have a positive impact on property value over time.
Sotogrande offers a more laid-back, low-key elegance than somewhere like Marbella or St. Tropez where people want to be seen. In Sotogrande, on the other hand, people don’t want to be seen – they seek a relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle away from the public eye. It’s more secluded, less built-up, with more greenery and space, and less pretentious. People can relax, breathe and be themselves. They can enjoy quality time with friends and family in a privileged setting away from the hustle and bustle of crowds.
World class golf
Sotogrande is a haven for golfers and home to one of the most famous championship golf courses in the world: the Robert Trent Jones-designed Real Club Valderrama. This challenging course – regarded as the very best in Spain – has hosted the Ryder Cup as well as the now-defunct Volvo Masters – in addition to being the current venue of choice for the Andalucía Masters on the European Tour.
There are also many other excellent golf courses in the area; the wonderful La Reserva de Sotogrande, for example, hosted the women’s ARAMCO series this year and has previously held both European and Ladies European Tour events. Almenara Golf Club and world class neighbours; Real Club Sotogrande and San Roque Club, are further notable examples of great golfing venues in the area. In fact, there are few landscapes anywhere in the world where so many highly-ranked courses can be found within a few minutes drive of each other.
Top class polo
In the summer months, the Sport of Kings takes centre stage in Sotogrande. Now with seven polo grounds, four of which are considered world class, the Santa Maria Polo Club is widely regarded as one of the best polo venues in the world. It hosts the Grand Slam international Polo tournament from late July until the end of August, an event which attracts thousands of spectators.
Less than two kilometres away at San Enrique, the Ayala Polo Club boasts a further three professional polo fields. Both clubs were established in the1960s, and built on the area’s equestrian facilities already established in 1920 at Dos Lunas Polo Club in nearby San Roque. A more recent addition is Polo Valley Sotogrande which was established in El Secadero in 2015. These extensive facilities have firmly cemented Sotogrande as Europe’s leading polo resort.
For those who enjoy their watersports, Sotogrande has a world class yachting marina. Sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, hydrofoiling, scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are all possible in Sotogrande. There’s even an inland beach club at La Reserva (see below) with its own artificial lagoon and watersports centre.
Sotogrande has a wealth of places to dine, including some of the best restaurants in Andalusia. For a relaxed lunch, try the Trocadero Sotogrande, which offers grilled meat and seafood, plus rice dishes and cocktails in a modern tavern with a seafront terrace.
This Mediterranean restaurant, just off the prestigious Paseo del Parque avenue, does a wonderful patatas bravas along with a rather powerful aioli. Look out also for the paella dishes, and the arroz negro (black rice), a traditionally Valencian and Catalan paella-like dish made using squid ink.
The ambiance is very relaxed, and it is situated right on the beach. If you are lucky like we were, you might even spot dolphins whilst dining.
Another consideration for lunch is The Beach Restaurant at La Reserva Club. Their grilled octopus was the stand-out dish of the trip for me.
Look out also for the creative cuisine from SO Sotogrande’s Society restaurant which will open next year. On our media trip, we were lucky enough to have a fabulous private dining experience there where the slow-cooked lamb and textured celeriac was just one of a number of perfectly-executed courses.
Sotogrande is home to numerous great beaches. The largest of these is Sotogrande beach which runs for more than 5 km from the river Guadiaro all the way to the Faro de Carbonera lighthouse, overlooking Strait of Gibraltar.
Perhaps the most popular is Torreguadiaro Beach (Playa de las Conchas), situated close to the port, with mostly fine sand and some occasional small stones. For a more exclusive beach experience, however, read on…
La Reserva Club
With views over stunning Andalusian countryside and to the Mediterranean beyond, Sotogrande’s La Reserva Club offers the very best in sophisticated family living. This 400-hectare gated commnunity is a high-end country club in Sotogrande Alto.
You’d be mistaken if you felt that being inland in the hills meant that you would not have access to the beach. On the contrary, La Reserva Club is home to Europe’s only inland beach club which opened two years ago – a remarkable facility that means that residents don’t even have to leave the resort to get their beach fix. This sandy-bottomed lagoon is perfect for families and even has its own watersports facility.
Being a gated community, La Reserva also offers access to a number of amenities – as well as the golf, of course, there’s everything from tennis and padel courts to restaurants and a sports academy.
La Reserva Club also offers a number of exceptional family homes and villas within its private estate (see below), from ultra-luxury hilltop villas to village-style townhouses just yards from the clubhouse.
For those who want a taste of the relaxed Sotogrande lifestyle, the new SO Sotogrande is the perfect place to stay to get a feel for this Andalusian paradise. Offering guests the opportunity to savour the Spanish lifestyle in the style of an Andalusian cortijo setting, the hotel has exceptional facilities for golf, spa, fine dining and poolside relaxation.
Exclusive real estate
And for those who are seeking a more permanent base in Sotogrande, be it as a primary residence or a second home, there are some highly exclusive properties on the market, with the most notable being within La Reserva Club. These prestigious developments enjoy access to La Reserva’s high-end amenities whilst still retaining privacy
We were very fortunate to get a little taste of the villa experience with a special themed dinner with an Argentinian asado at Villa La Escondida, overlooking the 18th hole of La Reserva’s championship golf course – a special media experience that money can’t buy but that gave us a brief insight into the villa lifestyle.
Situated among olive groves and on private 10,000+ sq m plots on La Reserva, are seven ultra-luxe properties, each designed by a leading international architect.
From The Jensen Villa designed by Norwegian architect Jan Jensen to The Ark Villa inspired by Marbella-based ARK Architects, each property has its own unique style in an iconic Jean Mus imagined landscape.
This prestigious landmark villa development is positioned on a hill to make the most of the magnificent scenery of Sotogrande, with floor to ceiling windows and stunning panoramic sea views.
The Fifteen offers breathtaking views over the hills of Andalucia, the Sotogrande coast and beyond. All fifteen residences have ‘cliff-hanging’ plots between 4,000 and 5,000 square metres in size, harnessing the natural environment and creating the ideal living environment, supplemented with a concierge and lifestyle service.
El Mirador is perched in a prime position above La Reserva Club and its frontline golf course. These six contemporary four to nine bedroom villas are designed by ARK Architects in such as way as to maximise privacy, enjoying exceptional sea and golf course views in a private gated community.
For those seeking a beachfront experience, the Lagoon Villas overlook the sparkling waters of La Reserva Club’s lagoon and its sandy beach. These sustainable designs, with Jean Mus landscaping, enjoy a barefoot lifestyle that allows residents to connect with nature whilst enjoying lovely panoramic views over the lagoon and towards the clubhouse.
Village Verde adopts a traditional village concept with beautifully-designed apartments, penthouses and townhouses all constructed around lush parkland. Residents enjoy everything on their doorstep have exclusive access to The Beach as well as La Reserva Club’s sports facilities.
Sotogrande International School
Sotogrande is also home to one of the world’s leading international schools. With over 1,000 students from more than 50 countries, Sotogrande International School caters for children from 3 to 18 years old, in a high quality, personalised learning environment. As one of the best international schools in Spain, it follows the International Baccalaureate programme, consistently achieving scores that are above the IB Diploma world average.
As well as all these many attributes and of course the Mediterranean sun, Sotogrande is only a 40-minute drive from Marbella to the north-east, or the same distance to Tarifa, famed for its surfing, in the other direction along the coast. The micro-state of Gibraltar, too, with its airport, historic botanic gardens and monkeys, is just 30 minutes away. Access is also possible via Malaga Airport which is about an hour away.
In short, Sotogrande is the perfect destination for anyone who seeks low-key, under-the-radar luxury – a place where people come toghether from all over the world to enjoy a relaxed, sophisticated lifestyle with family and friends.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Sotogrande.