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Van rental is a very fun way to travel, and is only growing in popularity. The freedom to drive anywhere you want, sleep wherever you like, and basically do everything on your own terms is quite naturally very appealing to a lot of people. I've recently seen many blogs and Instagram posts about people living the van life and travelling around the world on four wheels. Before heading to Estonia and Russia, I've made a stop (again) in Malaga, and joined forces with VanBreak to explore another part of Andalusia that I missed last time.
We rented their California Ocean camper van, which came incredibly well equipped. It's an ideal van to rent if you're travelling in the summer or are planning shorter distance journeys to the beach for example. For us, doing a road trip along the Costa del Sol for 5 days, we couldn't have asked for a better van. So if you're planning a trip to Spain, why not make it an adventurous one and tour Andalusia on four wheels! Before I get started on what we got up to each day on our Spanish road trip along the southern coast of Spain, here's some helpful information about the van rental process and its equipment:
Van Reservation: We booked our camper van directly through VanBreak Malaga's website. The process is very simple and we were able to contact them with any questions we had. If you're looking for camper van rentals in Malaga, this is who I would recommend.
Price: Booking the California Ocean camper van in the summer worked out to be around €122 per day, which included their insurance for the whole trip. VanBreak give you the option of renting a number of sports equipment, such as a stand up paddle board, which was great for us because we had planned to visit the Benegil Cave in Portugal.
Rental Pickup: The pickup point is only a short distance from Malaga airport, next to a petrol station in Alhaurin de la Torre. Details of the exact location can be found on their website or on the confirmation booking. It's very easy to find and upon arrival you'll be shown how to use the van and what equipment it has.
Where To Park: The Costa del Sol has hundreds of locations to park your camper van overnight, most of which are free. I would recommend using the "park4night" app, which will give you places to park in the area that you're planning to go to.
California Ocean Equipment: So, let's talk about the van shall we? There was an immense amount of storage in the van, including a mini "dressing room" with a mirror. We were provided with pillows and bedding, and there is the option of flattening the back seat and sleeping there, or opening the roof and sleeping on the upper level which is the better option if it's a warm night. Each window has a sun screen too for added privacy. The kitchen is a good size to use and comes with a fridge, two gas hobs, and a sink which makes cooking a breeze. When the roof is opened you can fully stand up inside the van as well. It also comes with kitchenware and a foldout table so you can sit inside and enjoy your food. The water tank is easy to fill at any gas station, and there is an attachable shower head at the back of the van for you to use. It's very easy to park because it has a rear camera and parking sensors, and it resists well to slopes. One of my favourite things about the van was the outside awning and the table and chairs, which meant we could sit outside in the shade and enjoy the gorgeous weather while we had some breakfast. Click here to read more about the van's equipment on VanBreak's website.
**Click the arrows to see more photos of the California Ocean camper van**
Our day started off early in the morning when we picked up the camper van. After getting a run through of how to use all the equipment we set off. Our plan was to head to Huelva, which is in the direction of Seville. We stopped off at a number of white villages along the way, to sample some amazing tapas of course! Some of the best road trips in Spain include stopping at traditional villages, so it's definitely an experience you won't want to miss.
We took a little detour from the Huelva area to one of my favourite stops, the Cueva de las Maravillas, a famous cave that has been used in movies such as Journey to the Centre of the Earth. It was the first of its kind to open in Spain, and is a very unique experience. Unfortunately you're not allowed to take photos inside, but it's an experience you'll never forget. We came across a number of unique locations while driving in southern Spain that we had no idea even existed. From there, we headed back south and took a break overlooking the famous Rio Tinto mining park. If you want to go on a tour here head there early in the day as there are only set times you can visit. This is another popular destination in Andalusia, and I'll definitely be adding a tour of it to my next Spanish travel itinerary.
We finished our day parked right next to one of the many beaches in Huelva, and made it just in time to take in the sunset. There was a camping area just down the road with lots of other camper vans parked there so we decided it was a good spot to spend the night.
For our second day we planned to do a day trip to Portugal, and visit the Benagil Cave. Huelva is located less than a 2 hour drive from the cave, so we wanted to get up early and make sure we had plenty of time to travel there and enjoy it. But first up was breakfast!
When we arrived in the town of Benagil, we had to park the van quite a distance from the beach itself. The town is also very steep, but luckily we had rented the automatic camper van so it wasn't too difficult getting uphill. Driving in Spain and Portugal is perfectly fine, as long as you don't mind some interesting road designs. We had added a stand up paddle board to our booking so we could get to the Benagil Cave without having to rent one. The rental prices are insane at the beach and you're only allowed a certain amount of time with them too. There is the option of buying tickets for the tour boat, but it doesn't allow you to explore the cave, it simply floats up to it and then leaves again. If you want, there is a walking route that you can take to the top of the cave so you can see it from another vantage point.
After returning from the Benagil Cave we walked back to the van with our paddle board and headed back in the direction of Huelva. The Algarve Coast is stunning to drive along, and we made a stop at Ponta de Piedade, which I would highly, highly recommend visiting for some incredible views that'll take your breath away. There is a parking lot next to the view point and a souvenir shop too. This area is considered one of the best places to visit in Portugal so if you're nearby you absolutely need to go.
This area is a great place to go kayaking too. I saw a number of people kayaking and taking in the views from boats. It's completely free to visit and take in these views, and being only a short drive from Andalusia is a bonus. I would love to plan a road trip along the Algarve coast sometime soon. Once we were back in the Huelva area we parked up and made a well deserved dinner with our awesome kitchen.
Who says you can't eat nice while living out of a van? We may have gone a bit over the top with the candle, but the kitchen had everything you needed to make a delicious meal, and the foldout table means you don't have to sit outside to eat in the pitch black of night. So we thought why not make a nice night out of it?
Our third day started off with another well balanced breakfast in the warmth of the Spanish sun. Our plan was to drive from Huelva down towards Cadiz, to the Tarifa area, and take advantage of the incredible beaches there. We made a few stops along the way, including to a spot known as the "German Beach". We tried to avoid the very busy beaches (which is hard in the summer), but we did manage to stop for lunch at a relatively empty area.
After a day of hopping between beaches, we ended up finding a beautiful spot to take in the sunset before heading to our parking area for the night. There really are some stunning locations to see if you plan on doing a road trip in Andalusia. The windmills were technically on private properly, but hey, no one was harmed in the making of this photo.
We found a camping area just down the road from Playa Bolonia, so we ended up staying there. If you're visiting Tarifa, I'd recommend checking out Freeride Tarifa for some kite surfing lessons, which is a very popular activity in the area. They have a number of different programs to cater to your needs, and are very flexible.
The next morning we drove back towards Playa Bolonia and made a stop at the famous Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia before heading to the beach. Entry is very cheap and even free for some groups of people.
The ruins sit directly next to the beach, and are really interesting to visit. There is absolutely no shade however, so don't go in the middle of the day or you'll end up more burned than if you had been on the beach. You didn't think I was going to do a road trip in southern Spain without finding at least one historical location did you?
Our last stop was Playa Bolonia. This is a gorgeous beach along the Costa del Sol, and is extremely popular even in the off-season. There is a large parking lot next to the beach which fills up quickly, so head there early to get a spot. You do have to pay to park here, but in my opinion it's worth it and is cheap as well.
Let's take a moment to appreciate these views. The sand was extremely hot, and I may have been complaining a lot but the views at the top of the sand dunes were worth it! It's probably the cleanest beach I have ever been to, and the water is so clear you can see right to the bottom when you're walking. No road trip to southern Spain is complete without a day at the beach.
As the sun began to set at the beach we started driving back in the direction of Malaga, and parked up for the night near the boarder with Gibraltar. We thought this was a good option so we weren't driving for long periods of time the next day.
If you have never driven a vehicle of this size before, don't worry neither had I. But by the fifth and final day of our road trip in southern Spain, I felt I finally had the hang of it and didn't want to return the van. On the road back to Malaga we stopped for some lunch, eating whatever food we still had remaining in the fridge. Before handing the keys back we filled the petrol and water tanks, cleaned the inside and outside of the van, and made sure nothing was left behind inside. We returned the van outside of VanBreak's working hours so were told to put the keys in a special box located nearby.
Final thoughts: This is honestly the best way to explore Andalusia (and beyond). It was my first time travelling with a camper van and I would 100% do it again. Our van was very easy to drive since it was automatic, and we had no problems finding somewhere to park which I was a bit concerned about. If you're planning a road trip to southern Spain and Portugal, this is an amazing way to explore the area. Malaga to Portugal may seem like a long way, but if you plan ahead and make sure to stop along the way you'll get there in no time. Best of all, you don't need to fight for accommodation in the Costa del Sol!
Click here to book your camper van now and start your road trip in southern Spain (and a bit of Portugal) on your own terms.
Since the time of this road trip, we have gone on to book a second trip with VanBreak, this time trying out their motor home range. We headed north to Toledo and Segovia in the off-season, which you can read about here. Don't forget to check out my blog posts on things to do in Cadiz and other places you can visit on an Andalusian road trip too! And of course, I'd love it if you would follow my adventures on Instagram as well.