Drive west from Malaga airport along the A7 motorway and you'll understand why the Costa del Sol suffers a bad press. The views through the windscreen are hardly beguiling; Torremolinos is a study, in concrete, of how the pursuit of the tourist peseta blighted this stretch of coast in the mid-Sixties.
Even 50 kilometres on from the airport at Manilva, the views hardly improve down by the shoreline. But inland, today's architects are at least attempting to create more attractive tourist resorts that reference the Spanish pueblo rather than the inner-city estate. The hillsides echo to the distant buzz of diggers transforming honeycombs of concrete and metal into low-rise communities set in landscaped gardens kept greener than the parched surrounding countryside by constantly whirring sprinklers.
One such, is the Pierre & Vacances Terrazas Costa del Sol holiday village, a few miles west of Manilva's sprawl. This huddle of buildings in contrasting pastels is centred on a grand plaza with palms and fountains and seeks to evoke the feel of a Mediterranean town. But behind the jumbled facade is uniformly good self-catering accommodation that ticks all the boxes for families holidaying on a budget.
But the planners who devised this resort didn't just appreciate the importance of building something attractive in itself, they also understood how to make the most of the surroundings. So, at the resort's heart is a large infinity pool that frames an astonishing natural asset too long ignored – the Rock of Gibraltar. Now, that's one spectacular view.
One, two and three-bedroom self-catering apartments accommodate four, six and eight people respectively (two single sofa beds in the lounges help keep the numbers up). The spaces are clean, comfortably furnished and well thought out, with spacious bedrooms, good-quality bathrooms, decent-sized kitchenettes, plenty of storage space, and living areas that spill out on to shaded terraces.
The food and drink
An air-conditioned restaurant with two outdoor patios serves breakfast, lunch and a buffet dinner. There are special dishes for children to choose from, including a range of "Happy Food", which can be provided as a picnic. Snacks are also available from 10am to 10pm and there are occasional barbecue nights during the summer. The resort is currently developing a new take-away menu, too. Otherwise you'll have to venture out – there's a small parade of restaurants on the promenade at Manilva. The resort has a small shop, but for a wider choice, you'll need to travel to the supermarket in Manilva.
The many steps make it unsuitable for people with disabilities. Pets are not accommodated. Baby kits, including folding cot, high chair and push-chair, can be hired for €45 (£40).
If you get bored of the pool, there's a free five-minute shuttle to a nearby stretch of sand with a tapas bar, where the resort lays on deckchairs and parasols for guests. No less than three kids' clubs cater across the age range from three to 18 years. Keep-fit sessions are held in the pool and sporting activities, from table tennis to basketball, are available. Beyond the resort, the traditional Spanish white town of Gaucin is a short drive, Ronda is slightly further afield. More white towns and wilder beaches can be found on the Costa de la Luz, west of Gibraltar, for a pleasurable day trip.
A one-bed apartment at Pierre & Vacances Terrazas Costa del Sol holiday village starts from £345 per apartment, per week. Pierre & Vacances (0870 026 7144; pv-holidays.com) is currently offering early-booking savings of up to 30 per cent on summer holidays when booked online. Kate Simon flew to Malaga courtesy of Aer Lingus (0871 718 5000; aerlingus.com), which offers flights from £30 each way. Car hire was provided by Carrentals.co.uk, which offers a week's car hire out of Malaga from £53.
Pierre & Vacances Terrazas Costa Del Sol Resort, Bahia de las Rocas, 29692 Manilva, Spain.Reuse content