Spain’s Costa del Sol has a lot more to offer than just sea and sunshine, or so discovered the Rammells on their first family trip abroad. Taking in new cuisines and the region’s rich history, the young family found the much-needed harmony and togetherness that they lack back home in England.

Nicky Brown has always been resourceful. Not having traveled on an airplane until the age of 14, she knows how to make the most of trips in her own backyard. When you work long hours, like she and her husband, Ray Rammell, do—Ray as a construction worker during the day and Nicky as a bar manager, often at night—sometimes local getaways are your only option.

Spain_Still v02 SLX_05

But this year, Ray and Nicky are taking their three young kids away on the kind of trip they didn’t often experience as children. Brooklyn, 12, Spyke, 9, and Chayce, 5, are excited and nervous for their first airplane ride—but it’s all worth it once they arrive in idyllic Marbella, Spain.

Spain_Still v02 SLX_06

“It’s like being at home, but better,” Nicky says. She’s sitting on the patio of the family’s airy and lush Airbnb, gazing out at the striking sunset beyond the pool. Earlier in the day, the Rammells picked lemons from the property’s gardens to make fresh lemonade and are now preparing a barbecue dinner on the tiled, outdoor grill. “We hardly have time to do stuff all together, but here we can play games, have a few drinks, make dinner together.”

Spain_Still v02 SLX_12

Marbella is marked by a rich history. The town’s historic whitewashed buildings are fringed with bougainvillea, ironwork balconies, and decorative, ceramic tiling that date back to its Moorish and Roman pasts. In more recent history, Marbella has become notorious for its glamorous, beachside hotels (the glitzy Marbella Club played host to guests including Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, and Sammy Davis Jr. during its midcentury heyday). But the region has much to explore beyond the storied resorts, including an illuminating heritage for hands-on learning and a diverse terrain ripe for outdoor activities.

v01_Native_Spain_Still v02 SLX_08

“My husband and I loved showing our kids a new culture,” Nicky says, noting the children’s excitement in trying new types of seafood at a local market and discovering the story behind the area’s ancient ruins. Here are more of her highlights from the family’s kid-friendly adventure at the Costa del Sol:

v01_Native_Spain_Still v02 SLX_19

Bike the Coast of Marbella: “The perfect way to kick off our trip was to hire some bikes at Yep.Bikes and ride along Marbella’s picture-perfect shore. After cycling down the nearly seven mile-long Marbella Seafront Promenade, we took a break at the beach to have a little paddle in the sea—we even taught the kids to skim stones. The paseo is peppered with curbside cafes and restaurants. We opted for local seafood spot, Nuevo Reino, sitting down for lunch on the airy patio overlooking the Mediterranean. Their flavorful paella was a family favorite, especially for the kids who love trying new cuisines.”

v01_Native_Spain_Still v02 SLX_20

Road Trip to Bolonia: “We heard there were these beautiful sand dunes and ancient ruins about an hour and a half drive from Marbella. It’s a beautiful ride and, on the way, you can stop in the town of Tarifa for a breathtaking view of Morocco. Once we arrived at the Baelo Claudia ruins, the site of an ancient Roman fishing town, the kids loved exploring the crumbled buildings and learning a bit of history. Set on a hillside, the town overlooks the massive sand dunes, or Duna de Bolonia, that leads down to a half moon-shaped beach. The dunes were even more impressive up close. My husband and son Spyke immediately saw great potential for the sandy slope—the whole family rolled down to the beach (it was worth it even though we got dizzy).”

 v02_Native_Spain_Still v02 SLX_38

Explore the Food Scene in Málaga: “On our last day we went to the Málaga town center, about a 45-minute drive from Marbella. For something sweet, try Casa Aranda; we ordered their signature churros and hot chocolate. The kids loved dipping the crunchy treats in the thick cocoa. We then made our way to the the Mercado Central Atarazanas where we explored all the seafood and produce stalls (at one, we found the biggest strawberries we’d ever seen). Known to be one of the most beautiful markets in Spain, it has monumental marble doors that remain from the building’s days as a shipyard over 600 years ago. Plus, it was a great way to get to know the local customs and cuisine, and Brooklyn even got to practice her Spanish.”

Spain_Still v02 SLX_25