Cloudnine Spain Blog

Sotogrande vs Marbella: Which Is Better?

Sotogrande vs Marbella: Which Is Better?

Managing Director Sean Woolley, chats with fellow Cloud Nine Spain directors Jackie Waters and Justin Mowle, comparing the pros and cons of Sotogrande vs Marbella.

Listen to podcast version here

Link to the YouTube video here

Sean: Hello everybody. My name’s Sean Woolley, I’m the managing director of Cloud Nine Spain. With me today, I have two of our directors. I have Justin Mowle, welcome Justin.

Justin: Thank you.

Sean: And I have Jackie Waters.

Jackie: Morning.

Sean: Welcome Jackie. And we are here today to revisit a topic that we first discussed, not as three, but our team discussed about three or four years ago now, which was the great debate at the time. Marbella versus Sotogrande, which is better? And we had a right good time discussing it all those years ago. And do you know what? It’s become our most watched video and a lot of our clients actually refer to it even now, they say, “Yes, we watched a video and we were interested in the pros and the cons of each area and what you guys thought.” And so, we’re going to revisit it now, because a lot has happened in those few years. We’ve had, oh, we’ve had COVID, we’ve had the market moving in all sorts of ways. So guys, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about Marbella or Sotogrande. And before we get to the vote, which we’ll do at the end as to where we would plonk our hat, let’s just first of all start with where Sotogrande is, because some of you, most of you will be aware of Marbella, but Sotogrande might be a new destination for many of you. So Justin, I’m just throwing that out, in there. Justin Sotogrande, where is it? How far from Marbella is it and where is it near?

Justin: Sotogrande is closer to Gibraltar. So from Marbella you’re 40, 45 minutes short drive. It’s actually 60 kilometres from Marbella. So you’re about 40, 45 minutes. And then if you drove past, just to give you a bit of an idea geographically, if you drove past Sotogrande, about another 20 minutes, you’re in Gib.

Sean: Okay, so you’ve got Marbella, Estepona, La Duquesa, Sotogrande.

Justin: Gibraltar.

Sean: Gibraltar. And around the corner from Gibraltar, you’ve got the fabulous beaches of Tarifa and places like that.

Jackie: South part Costa Del La Luz which is stunning.

Sean: Okay. So Jackie.

Jackie: Yes.

Sean: Again, most people know Marbella, they know it as a working Spanish seaside town that’s open all year round, offers lots of things. Sotogrande, what does that offer?

Jackie: It’s more tranquil. It’s basically, I think it’s better for the families to be honest, because if you’ve got children, a lot of people relocate there, because of the school. Sotogrande International School is a very good school and obviously, a lot of people who do relocate prefer one, they get more for their money in Sotogrande, two, the quieter lifestyle, it’s not hustle bustle, tourists everywhere, it’s more residential. There’s little private estates with communities that are gated, which they like the security and they’ve got the great marina. So if they want to go out and have dinner or drinks, they’ve got a lovely marina they can go to. And as you say, alternatively, they can get into Gibraltar within 20 minutes drive. Again, there’s good flight services into Gibraltar from all parts of London. So a lot of people choose it, because they want to work in Gibraltar and they want their holiday home or their permanent residence in Spain, because, let’s face it, who wants to stay in Gibraltar for the weekend? I mean, if you work there, it’s like working in London, most people live in the suburbs, so you just want to go back to your own home. But it’s much quieter. To me, it’s not as warm as our end. You’ve got the Atlantic Coast there obviously, so you can be slightly cooler, which is nicer in the summer months. But as well, I have a friend that’s got a house in Soto that says, “Oh, it’s freezing,” and this could be a June time. And, “Well, it’s really hot and they drive up to Estepona,” but it’s got pluses and minuses for the area.

Sean: Interesting, because any client who’s dealt with me in the last 10 years knows that I’m a little bit outspoken when it comes to even recent ones that I’ve had with Justin, I’m a little bit outspoken when it comes to Sotogrande and I think, ’cause I’ve been here too long. I’ve been here over 20 years and traditionally I kind of always thought that Sotogrande was fantastic if you love horses, boats, and golf, it’s paradise, isn’t it? It’s millionaire’s stuff for all of that. But, oh God, I’m going to say something really controversial.

Jackie: And the best beach club by the way.

Sean: Oh, where’s that?

Jackie: La Reserva.

Sean: Oh, of course. Yes, we’ll come onto that. But I’ve always said you go to Sotogrande to die

Jackie: No, I disagree.

Sean: And you’re right, my perception has changed and it’s changed, because unless you, when you live here in Marbella or Estepona, you don’t necessarily ever need to go to Sotogrande. You might go for lunch on a Sunday or something like that, but so you don’t, there there hasn’t got the footfall there. And because of that, it’s traditionally been a little bit quieter, which again has its advantages. But in the winter it’s always been a little bit, ooh. So I’ve always said, for those who love beach, golf, sorry, golf, polo and boating, yeah, you go to Sotogrande, but you go to Sotogrande to die. And that kind of, that phrase has lived with me for many, many years. And we had a client recently, didn’t we? And I said the same thing and they were like, “Whoa.”

Justin: And we’re only in our early fifties.

Sean: Exactly.

Justin: Shouldn’t really be going there.

Sean: Exactly, so and we got involved actually with the main developer in Sotogrande who’s the developer who’s been building La Reserva. We got involved with them a few years ago in launching their Village Verde apartment project. And that taught me a lot about Sotogrande, because I was there every day for a number of months. I was kind of getting to know the whole area, getting to know the infrastructure and what was around it. And actually it was very impressive. And I learned a lot during that whole experience. I learned a lot from the people working in La Reserva. And what they said to me was that it’s not a suburb of Marbella. It’s not a rival to Marbella. It’s very different, it has a very different vibe. And they said to me in Marbella, the mask comes up, in Sotogrande, the mask comes down. And it’s true, you see a lot of people I’m sure with a lot of money just yes, with their deck shoes and the jumper around the shoulder and stuff like that. But it’s a very relaxed vibe.

Jackie: It is much more relaxed. And I mean, if you’ve got children as well, what more do you want? I mean, it’s not the hustle and the bustle and the parking problems you have in Marbella if you want to go for lunch at the weekends. But yes, you’re quite right in saying it is quieter, it’s a quieter area. It’s not full on all year round, but the properties, you get so much better value for money than what you do.

Sean: Do you think you do or is that a bit of a myth? Because we talked about that a few years ago and I think at that time it was true. Certainly land prices were probably 30% below Marbella Benahavis. Is it still the case?

Justin: I think so.

Jackie: I think so. Especially La Reserva. I mean, you’ve got La Reserva’s untold amount of land now and when you see the likes of the property funds getting involved in buying plots in La Reserva, it makes you wonder if this is going to be the next area. There’s a lot of interest.

Justin: I think there’s a lot of potential movement in the market, because of where it is. But you can your villa, beachside villa, you’re not on the beach, beachside Sotogrande Costa and just a smidge over 1.2 million.

Jackie: Absolutely.

Justin: You’re never going to get it in Marbella.

Jackie: No.

Justin: And it will not be a property like that if it’s 1.2 million.

Jackie: And it’s gated, it’s gated. A lot of people like the gated aspect.

Justin: Absolutely, absolutely. So I think you’re definitely going to get a larger plot. You’re definitely going to get more square meters in the home. You’re going to get a much more private plot as well. Because Sotogrande’s not as hilly as Marbella and Benahavis.

Jackie: Apart from La Reserva.

Justin: Yeah, so you’re not going to be overlooked. The plots are bigger. Every plot is really mature. I’m a green person, I’m from Norfolk, I’m a country boy and mature trees, everything. When you are looking at new builds or you’re looking at plots in Marbella and sometimes Benahavis, a concern for the client is, “Yeah, but what if someone builds next door, which they will eventually, and will I lose my privacy?” That’s always a concern. But I find that that is reduced massively in Sotogrande, because they are much bigger, much more private.

Jackie: And all the streets are so pretty, they’re all immaculately manicured gardens along the whole of the estate when you drive around it, it’s a pleasure to drive clients around, ’cause they were like, “Wow.” It’s similar to Portugal on that level at the Algarve.

Sean: Or is it just, or does that make it a little bit clinical? So what I’m saying is Sotogrande’s a fairly new place. Everything is pristine. It’s based on an American model isn’t it? I think it was an American guy who started it. Created this-

Justin: That’s why it’s that Floridian feel.

Sean: Yeah, which is lovely. But sometimes you want a little bit of, I don’t know, authenticity.

Jackie: You do, but I don’t think families, people with two or three children, if they just want the good schools, they want the easy lifestyle. The kid wants to ride a pony on the weekend, the other one wants to go to the tennis academy or the other one wants to go out sailing. You’ve got everything there. So your weekends are not spent in the car driving here, there, and everywhere to take the kids to all their outside school activities, which I think is great, it’s all in one place.

Justin: Yeah, absolutely. I wouldn’t be put off Sotogrande, because it doesn’t have like an old town like Marbella, and the Puente Romano and the Marbella Club, those institutions sitting there on the beach. For me that makes no difference at all.

Jackie: But you’ve got the hotel as well, look at the hotel that’s there.

Justin: Yeah, that’s a really big thing for Sotogrande. It’s always the thing that they lacked was a really good quality five-star spa hotel. They had the NH thing didn’t they? Which was a bit hit and miss. But this is called the SO Sotogrande. It’s part of the Sofitel Group and it’s a beautiful hotel. So the only thing I would say is that you haven’t got the world class shopping, you have to get in the car, you have to drive 35, 40 minutes to get that. Is that a bind? Is that a problem?

Jackie: I don’t think so. I mean, when I worked in the city and I lived in the suburbs, if I wanted to go shopping, I’d go to Bluewater, which was a 20, 25-minute drive away. It was the usual weekend thing to do.

Sean: Here’s a question for you. Is there a typical buyer for Sotogrande? Is there someone that you see you anything, ah, that’s a Sotogrande client?

Justin: I know who isn’t a Sotogrande client.

Sean: Oh, go on.

Justin: So basically, if you want to be 10 minutes, 15 minutes max to El Corte Ingles, Puerto Banus, Puerte Romano, the old town of Marbella, all the lovely bars and restaurants and that’s really important for you every day, then you are a Marbella buyer potentially.

Jackie: Yeah, I agree.

Justin: You are definitely not a Sotogrande buyer. I think people that, as Jackie said, families that are looking at Marbella and Sotogrande, depending on budget, will certainly find they get more for their money in Sotogrande and they’re going to get more, it’s more privacy, it’s more green, it’s a different zone. But I can definitely say if you are into shopping all the time and you want to be down in the port with your Ferrari and having lunch every day in Nobu, don’t go to Sotogrande. You’re not that client. Most people that aren’t that Sotogrande fits, because it’s a bit like me. I don’t mind being 40 minutes from Puerto Banus.

Sean: Okay, so what you’re saying there in a very diplomatic way is if you like your bling-

Justin: You would go to Marbella.

Sean: Okay.

Justin: Yep.

Jackie: And also you’re literally 20 minutes from Tarifa, 20 minutes to half an hour from Tarifa, which are the best beaches, Caribbean-style beaches, literally around the corner.

Justin: Yeah, absolutely.

Jackie: I mean, we can do it from Estepona where I live in and hour, so from-

Sean: Don’t tell everyone, ’cause they’ll all be going.

Jackie: But from Sotogrande, you’re 20 minutes. You’ve got the windsurfing capital of the world, of Europe, sorry, in Tarifa, Sancti Petri is beautiful.

Justin: Hurricane Hotel Sunday lunch. Probably one of the best places in Spain in my opinion.

Jackie: Great weekend, 100%.

Sean: For those of you who don’t know Sotogrande too well you’ve got four distinct quarters I would say. You’ve got the marina, which is great. It’s very lively, bustling, lots of of bars and restaurants there. You’ve got the other coastal section, which is known as Kings and Queens, isn’t it, because all the avenues are named after monarchs that’s on the flat. So you’re not really going to buy there for views, but you have do have the proximity to the sea and obviously to the marina. And then if you go slightly further inland as the third and the fourth quarters, the third one is the one well-known for the Valderrama golf course and Almenara, that section there, which is quite golfy and quite hilly, which is lovely. And then the fourth section, which is the last to be developed in Sotogrande is what we’ve referred to so far as La Reserva, which is a massive plot of land, which when we were with the developer, they were selling plots of land for between 500,000 to a million euros just for the land. And you had to spend a million on the build, so you’re going to have to have a couple of million to spend. But what you’re getting, Justin, with La Reserva, because you know it quite well, you’ve got great views. You’re high up there.

Justin: You’ve got the country club there. You’ve got the golf course. I mean, it’s got absolutely everything going for it. They’ve built the hotel, which we’ve discussed. The golf course is renowned in this part of the world. But it’s also got a fantastic clubhouse and it’s got a brilliant restaurant, which I must say, the last time I went to eat there, I was like, “I didn’t want to leave.” It was a beautiful sunny day, I sat outside. The setting of it was fantastic, it really was. I mean, it’s not the cheapest place, but it’s worth it. You feel special when you’re in there, which I must say, not all places on the coast, can you say that you feel that?

Sean: For those of you who don’t know Sotogrande too well you’ve got four distinct quarters I would say. You’ve got the marina, which is great. It’s very lively, bustling, lots of of bars and restaurants there. You’ve got the other coastal section, which is known as Kings and Queens, isn’t it, because all the avenues are named after monarchs that’s on the flat. So you’re not really going to buy there for views, but you have do have the proximity to the sea and obviously to the marina. And then if you go slightly further inland as the third and the fourth quarters, the third one is the one well-known for the Valderrama golf course and Almenara, that section there, which is quite golfy and quite hilly, which is lovely. And then the fourth section, which is the last to be developed in Sotogrande is what we’ve referred to so far as La Reserva, which is a massive plot of land, isn’t it? All subdivided into villa plots and there’s still land available and you’ve got a lot of nice amenities on site, including what Jackie referred to earlier, which is the beach club, which is not on the beach, it’s actually inland next to the golf course. But they’ve created a manmade beach, which is incredible actually.

Jackie: Really is.

Sean: And I know all the history of it and what the hoops they had to go through to build this thing and get this developed. But it’s quite something. And even if you’re not into Sotogrande and don’t intend to buy there or live there, go and check it out, because it is a lovely day out, isn’t it?

Jackie: They’ve got everything there, aren’t they? They’ve got the water sports as well, it’s huge. And the Chriringuitos, the restaurants are phenomenal. I mean, it’s a real good day out and you would spend the whole day there. And it does look like a beach when you’re there. It really does.

Justin: Yeah.

Sean: And we’ve already mentioned the school, which I think is probably acknowledged is the best on the coast. I think it’s a bit of a waiting list to get in there and a lot of our clients have specifically chosen Sotogrande, because of the school and they want something nearby. The problem we had, we’ve had with clients, if they’re not villa clients and they want like a luxury apartment lock up and leave place, it’s hard to find. There’s only really two new developments that are being built there. So I think we’re going to see more demand for that type of product and therefore we’re going to see more developments coming in.

Justin: It’s a wonder though where you’re going to find them. It’s going to need to be in La Reserve. If we look at the pier, which was in the port, that was sold out about a year or so ago and it was mostly sold out whilst it was still being constructed.

Jackie: Look at the views though, amazing.

Justin: Actually, fantastic. But there’s no other space in the marina. There’s physically no other space where you’re going to get a view of the quay or the sea.

Jackie: Exactly.

Justin: It’s just not going to happen. And I think a lot of people don’t realise when they look at Sotogrande, it’s quite a large area, but it’s not a town, it’s not Marbella. Marbella’s got 150,000, I think registered population. Sotogrande’s got about 2,500. It’s a very low density, lovely zone and a lovely area. But I think clients think, well, ’cause it’s quite a large area, there’ll be tonnes of opportunities and there simply isn’t. And that’s the thing that I think a lot of clients need to understand. It’s very, very difficult for us to source the right type of property, because at the moment on the coast, no one’s really selling anywhere, so it’s very difficult, but Sotogrande as you’ve said, because we’ve only really got two high end developments, we don’t know if there’s going to be any other high end developments.

Jackie: Coming up, yeah.

Justin: Especially in the right location. So it does make life tricky.

Sean: So bearing in mind that there’s a potential lack of supply. Does that make it a good place to park some money as an investor?

Justin: In my opinion, absolutely, because it’s so unique, it isn’t for everyone, but because it is so unique, it appeals to a hell of a lot of people and there’s nowhere else on the Costa Del Sol gets anywhere like it, just absolutely nowhere. Everywhere else is very high density construction. Sotogrande is just much lower.

Jackie: Countryside, there’s mountainside.

Justin: It is, it’s very unique. It’s very unique.

Jackie: In London and you want that get home and just go, you’re going to get it there.

Justin: Absolutely.

Sean: Okay, so here’s a question for you to finish off. If Sotogrande is so good and we have been bigging it up fairly I think, why aren’t we all living there?

Justin: Well, I’m living there in all seriousness. So there you go.

Sean: What Sotogrande?

Justin: Yep. We lived in Benahavis. For our first 10 years we lived in Golf Valley so we lived on Los Ramas golf and that was lovely but I wanted to sea view. So we went to, just behind Los Arqueros, we’re off the Ronda Road, we’ve just got the most fabulous 180 degrees sea view, it’s beautiful and we’ve been there for 12 years. So we’ve been here 22 years. I want more space. I can’t personally afford that space in Benahavis so I need to look at Sotogrande. But even if I could afford it in Bevahavis, I would still go to Sotogrande, because I like quiet, I like privacy, I like green. I want to go outside my front door, go for a run, go for a nice cycle. I’ll get knocked over, ’cause there’s traffic all over the place. I live a different lifestyle and that for me is perfect.

Jackie: It’s sort of like a true lifestyle. It’s sort of ’cause you worked in the city like I did. And we know that we worked in it for 12, 14 hours a day and then we were desperate to get home and have the green and have the outdoor feeling. And that’s where I get where you are coming from. So you can drive and work, you work all along the coast, you’re quite able to work wherever, come Estepona and Marbella, but you can always go back and have that.

Justin: That’s the thing. You go back to your sanctuary.

Jackie: Yeah, I get it.

Sean: So Jackie, he’s on the move. When are we moving? 

Jackie: I’m quite happy where I live, to be honest. I think another, I don’t know, I’ll keep saying to my husband maybe another 10, 15 years we’ll downsize, but I don’t think we will, well, I just love the area.

Sean: But could you live in Sotogrande?

Jackie: Personally, no. And the reason for that is I have a good community of friends that all live in the Estepona area, which I’ve been here 15 years and I’ve created a great group of people and I think I’ve missed out on too much. You know what I’m like, I like a night out. So yeah, I don’t think I could completely, if I did I’d get a personal driver and get to bring me up every time. But for me, where I am is just perfect.

Sean: And for me, I said this a few years ago on the previous video we did about this, I’m still a little bit of a Marbella boy. I like my Puerte Romano.

Jackie: We all do that don’t we?

Sean: I like that sort of stuff. But Sotogrande, I feel it, I get it, but I’m not sure I could live there. So I’m very interested to see how you get on, because you’ve been there the same amount of time I have. And but I can totally see the attraction. I can totally see the draw. I don’t have kids. I think if I had kids they wanted to put ’em in a really good school, I’d be seriously looking at Sotogrande.

Jackie: That’s what I was going to say, for family, you can’t get any better, because you know it’s the academy for golf, for tennis, for football. The school does a full curriculum of the sports and I’ve got loads of clients that have relocated purely because of that school.

Sean: Yeah, I also think a lot of the other schools in Marbella and surroundings, they can be a bit blingy. You go in the sixth form car park and it’s like your Lamborghinis and you Ferrari’s and you’re like, what’s happened to the real world? I think in Sotogrande, I’m not saying that doesn’t exist in Sotogrande, ’cause there’s plenty of money down there, but I think it’s a little bit more authentic for families.

Jackie: Absolutely, absolutely.

Justin: I’ve got friends that have taken their kids out of a certain school purely because they’re six, seven years old and they want you know 150 pound pair of socks to keep up their mate who’s got… And my mates are just going, “You’re on the tablets, you have your elder brothers and that’s it.” There’s a hole in it but no one’s going to see it.

Jackie: Exactly.

Justin: So you do definitely have an element of that and I think teenagers in the space that everyone grows up a lot quicker. I’ve got friends as well with kids and they’re like, “We’re moving away from Peurto Banus.” Do you need to make it harder for them as teenagers to go to the port? ‘Cause when they get to 13, 14, 15, they’re going to start asking.

Jackie: Yeah, so I think a certain person is attracted to Sotogrande. I don’t think in my opinion, I don’t think it’s a young couple’s choice. I don’t think it’s a single person’s choice. But I think as a family, I think it’s just one of the nice, especially I had a client that had a child with special needs and the hustle and the bustle when they brought the family into Marbella was too much for the kid. He just couldn’t cope with it. And when we toured Sotogrande and it was like this is more for them, this is their lifestyle which I get.

Justin: I’ve got clients that are coming out in two weeks. They were here last week and they are purely choosing Sotogrande because of the same reason. And Gibraltar for them is the best airport that they’ve experienced for their extra handling of their son. When you land.

Jackie: Yes, this is special assistance.

Justin: They owned a house in Quinta Do Lago in Portugal and they said Faro was pretty terrible, they tried Malaga not good for them. Gibraltar, they’re just a dream.

Jackie: Well, it’s so easy isn’t it?

Justin: There you go, they’re buying in Sotogrande, because of that.

Jackie: Makes perfect sense.

Sean: Yeah, okay, so let’s leave this discussion on the subject of Justin’s holey socks. And no doubt we will reconvene maybe sooner than three years time, but we’ll keep an eye on this market, because it is a big debate that we have with a lot of our clients, isn’t it? Where do you prefer? Marbella, Sotogrande, “Oh, shall I look at Sotogrande, shall I scratch that itch?” Many people do and many people decide they like it. So thank you for joining me today.

Jackie and Justin: Pleasure.

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