That country club environment, where a collection of fine villas and small estates is tucked into the gentle folds of foothills overlooking a deep blue sea, is very much a part of what could best be described ‘the Riviera lifestyle’. For the latter you should picture the classic seaside resorts such as the Côte d’Azur, Estoril, the Ligurian coastline and later idyllic spots on the Californian and Spanish coasts.
It is these places that the elite of the day were first drawn to as winter holiday destinations, but later came to reside in for part or all of the year. Together, such a national and international coming together of those who could afford to pick the very best places to stay became known as a ‘Riviera’ – a privileged seaside town dominated by fine beaches, grand hotels and elegant promenades.
While they have become more modern in nature, such places have retained their magic allure, and expanded from the small original base at the seaside to also include luxurious residential areas and golf clubs in the first range of coastal hills overlooking both sea and the green interior. El Madroñal is just such a place. Comparable to the finest hillside residences in California or Southern France, it flanks the beginnings of the road that leaves the coast and winds its way up the increasingly mighty sierra to the lovely country town of Ronda, some 60 kilometres away.
Originally a collection of large private domains that covered acres of lush Mediterranean hillside orientated towards the sea, a part of today’s El Madroñal was once famously owned by the colourful Adnan Kashoggi. It is said that wild animals roamed on his expansive estate, host to many a glamorous 70s and 80s party, yet since then the area has become one of the most prominent and exclusive residential areas in Marbella.
As you follow the road upwards, leaving San Pedro Alcántara, a little town on the periphery of Marbella, a series of urbanisations greet you at the base of the hills. Among these are Los Arqueros, a golf and country club developed and managed by Taylor Woodrow, and the charming cluster of townhouses inspired by a traditional Andalusian village that is La Heredia. After these the greenery intensifies and the views become more panoramic. The luxurious villas set on large private grounds that characterise this area together form the exclusive residential zone known as El Madroñal. Next up is the luxurious gated community of La Zagaleta, and then nature takes over in a beautiful and unchallenged display of mountains, valleys and waterfalls.
The styles and sizes of the properties vary, though most typically they are substantial private homes designed in a modern interpretation of a classic Spanish rustic home. The natural surroundings seem to inspire people to seek a country style, albeit with every conceivable modern amenity. A saddle in the hills gives many of the properties a dual view of Marbella on the left and the open Mediterranean on the right side of a rising hillock. Various golf courses snake through the valleys in the area, whilst the higher ground is still largely dominated by olive groves, Mediterranean scrub and the walking and hiking trails that this natural scenery attracts.
El Madroñal provides Marbella with a classic hillside lifestyle where the best of seaside Riviera and mountain nature come together within ten minutes of each other.