It is ‘the place to be’ if you want to get away from it all – just ask the long line of the rich and famous who have visited or have homes in Benahavis.
The ‘most wealthy’ recognize a kindred spirit in Benahavis, the pueblo that also has everything – from the seclusion of the mountains and nature to the bustling restaurants and nightlife of the Costa del Sol. And all within incredible reach.
Hoewel ze misschien nooit de exclusieve omheinde landgoederen zoals La Zagaleta of Madronal willen While they may never want to leave exclusive gated estates like La Zagaleta or Madronal, celebrities like Hugh Grant, Cristiano Ronaldo and Princess Diana have all chosen the leafy enclave as the perfect base from which to enjoy the brighter lights of nearby Marbella, while retreating to the privacy and seclusion just a few minutes’ drive away.
The most recent visitor was British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Olive Press first revealed that he came for a week last fall (2021) to take a few walks and do a little painting, one of his favorite pastimes.
He stayed at the amazing home of the wealthy Goldsmith family from the United Kingdom and was noticed only once by an eagle-eyed photographer as he stood by his easel on a sunny west-facing terrace.
Benahavis, the pueblo that has everything
His visit came in an auspicious month for the pretty town, with the producers of Netflix also in ‘town’ to film a famous vacation of Lady Di for the hit series The Crown.
They rented a villa in the exclusive enclave of Zagaleta and portrayed the vacation Diana took in the mid-1990s with her friend Jemima Goldsmith at her family estate, Tramores.
The cast and crew were frequently found in the village, both to shoot scenes and to enjoy their free time.
“It was the ideal way to promote the village,” explains Councillor Scott Marshall, a British expat, who grew up in Benahavis.
“And you could call it the ‘Boris bounce’ because it brought global attention to us and promoted the village in a different way, especially the green side of it. It definitely brought more tourism.”
He added that both visits were due to the village’s connection with the Goldsmith family, which has “worked hard for years” to protect the local environment, especially planting trees.
Celebrities such as Hugh Grant, Cristiano Ronaldo and Princess Diana have all chosen this leafy enclave.
“The Goldsmiths do a lot for the area and we are proud to have ties with them here. They work hard to take care of the landscape and Ben is especially focused on nature,” adds Marshall, whose artist father David owns a gallery in town.
“But it’s one of the greenest places to live in Spain, with 75% of our land protected and unable to be urbanized, so the quality of life and nature is high.”
Nature as the focus of fortune
The focus on nature and important visits have certainly bolstered the fortunes of Benahavis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the town has experienced a staggering 12% growth in population.
And it’s ‘quality not quantity’ Marshall stresses with most of the growth being wealthy professionals, most from abroad, who came to telecommute from home using the high-speed fiber optics in Benahavis.
About 60% of the local population of 10,000 is now foreign, with 101 different nationalities and a significant British population of 1,400.
The influx has helped City Hall improve its famously good sports facilities, most of which are free to residents.
“We are modernizing and upgrading all the facilities and installing a full athletic track,” Marshall continued, adding that they have widened and upgraded all the country roads, especially on either side of the famous gorge.
And it doesn’t stop there, because next year the village will host the prestigious Ping Junior Solheim cup 2023 at the Zagaleta golf club.
Tucked away on the southern slopes of the Serrania de Ronda above Marbella, 20 km from the city as the Porsche flies, it’s no wonder that the hills of Benahavis boast some of the chicest homes in Spain.
And COVID has barely made a dent in demand. It is still one of the best performing real estate markets in Spain, and also one of the richest per capita.
But despite being a playground for the wealthy, the municipality has the lowest property taxes in the country.
And because it is one of the richest municipalities in Spain, there are all kinds of subsidies that don’t exist anywhere else.
Becoming a resident of Benahavia brings with it all sorts of extra benefits that you wouldn’t get anywhere else – including your photo being immortalized for posterity in the registers of the town hall! If you register on the padron at City Hall, you get free access to language classes, art classes and a number of sports, including padel, tennis and basketball.
Crime is almost non-existent thanks to surveillance cameras that capture every car license plate that comes through the pearly gates.
And the celestial parallels don’t end there. Zigzagging up from the sandy beaches of the coast on a gently winding mountain road that follows the Guadalamina River is like entering a Garden of Eden: every turn reveals another gleaming mansion poking out among the foliage, one more opulent than the next.
Other benefits are already finished or on the way, such as a larger medical center, better transportation links between Benahavis and Marbella, and a new school for more than 1,000 students is planned for 2024.
Golf enthusiasts will also be delighted to hear about the development of a spectacular 18-hole golf course, which will double the size of the famous Marbella Club Golf resort.
A lively village with a great culinary reputation
At the heart of the community lies the quaint village with its retro postcard appeal: sunlit bars and coffee shops sit alongside bijou art galleries, and quotes from Shakespeare, Blake and Sabines resonate in script on the sides of whitewashed buildings.
It is a reflection of this cosmopolitan community – with generations of British, Americans, Asians and Europeans contributing to the city’s rich heritage.
“There’s room for everyone here, and we’re proud of that,” says Marshall, who works in tourism, immigration, communications and local development. “We have a cultural center here with its own library and a seminar room that can be used for meetings and classes, and upstairs we have pictures of everyone who has lived here over the years. There is a real sense of community. Families take care of each other.”
He continues: “People always talk about Marbella and Estepona, but I think Benahavis is the real hidden gem of the coast,” he says.
Come and discover it for yourself. Year-round, the alleyways, restaurants and leafy courtyards are bustling, and the squares, popular with families until late at night, ring with a true Babylonian language.
Follow the smell of tapas and enjoy the food at popular spots such as Bodeguita El Chico, La Escalera and Los Abanicos.
Running off the calories is no problem, with padel courts and soccer fields free to residents. Golf is also popular here, as is hiking in the mountains on the well-marked trails.
“There has been a huge investment in sports facilities and miles of hiking and biking trails,” Scott says. “It’s a really great place if you like to keep fit, especially when the sun is shining.”
And it almost always is – the Costa del Sol sees an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making it an obvious place to settle, especially for those tired of being cooped up in Britain.
“We’re seeing a lot of people looking for more outdoor space than ever before,” says Scott. “People want to have as much space as possible and are turning away from flats to larger properties.
Brexit shouldn’t deter British buyers either, Scott believes. “We have a lot of ‘floating residents’ here, many of whom are from non-EU countries, so we are very familiar with the process of helping people from outside the EU to settle,” he says.
“City Hall is certainly there to help,” he said.
“I don’t see Brexit or COVID changing people’s minds about Benahavis. We don’t see big price fluctuations, rather a slow, steady rise, year after year,” Scott adds. “It never goes out of style!”