One of the most charming aspects of Manilva is that, despite its prime location on the coast, there is a refreshing lack of anonymous sky-scraper construction. Therefore, although tourists are just starting to discover the village (with good reason), it remains intrinsically Spanish. The majority of residents live in the commercial centre which covers just two square kilometers.
Main Sights in Manilva
Within the municipality of Manilva there are several communities. The white village of Manilva itself is located a few kilometers inland from the little fishing village on the coast known as San Luis de Sabinillas or just Sabinillas for short. To the west of Sabinillas there is a quiet yachting marina called Puerto Duquesa with its surrounding residential area and golf course. To the west again is another small fishing hamlet called Castillo de la Duquesa after the castle still found there. West along the coast there are various housing developments as far as Punta Chullera.
The municipality covers an area of 35 square kilometers. There are about 17,000 full time residents and a further 14,000 who reside here on a temporary basis or have holiday homes. The economy of Manilva is based on agriculture and fishing and, more recently, tourism.
The area's agriculture mainly consists of crops grown near the river bed and valleys. The river Manilva is the eastern boundary of the municipality. Grapes consist of a large proportion of the crop - used for the well-known locally produced sweet wines. Some of the finest, grapes, red peppers and garlics are all home grown in this quaint village and are often for sale in roadside stalls, direct from the farmers.
History of Manilva
The town has a fascinating history which dates back to Roman times and still today there are some remarkably well-preserved Roman Sulphur baths and an Aqueduct. The Moors who favoured this location left and the town gradually faded away. In the 16th century the towns of Malaga, Marbella and Ronda were concerned that the coastline to the south of them was unprotected so they offered free land to poorer peasants in the north of Spain. There had to be a catch, indeed there was. Their area was still subject to raids from Moorish and Turkish pirates. To give the new arrivals a fighting chance of surviving a village was sited on a small hill 3km inland.
Directions to Manilva
Because it is simple and unpretentious, Manilva is often overlooked. Although a healthy growing village tourists tend to give it a miss as they rush south on the coast road which does not pass through the village.
To reach the village turn off the A7 (N340) at km 145 on to the A377 in the village of San Luis de Sabinillas. Only 300m on the left hand side notice the municipal tourist office is located in the quaint Villa Matilde, (Monday to Friday from 8.00 to 15.00) and flanked with tall palm trees.
There are many opportunities in the Autumn to buy grapes or raisins by the roadside. On any day you can stop on the bend up to the village to buy some of the best fresh vegetables in the area from the local co-operatives. Look out for the sign "Verduras Pascual".
When you reach the village at the top of the hill park the car and saunter on into the pedestrianised main street, Calle Mar and visit the recently reformed Plaza de la Vendimia where the blessed grapes are trodden as part of the annual festival the first week in September.
If you approach from the Toll Motorway junction or Gaucin to the north, your entrance is dilapidated to say the least. Keep one eye on the road and the other on the magnificent view whilst you skirt round the village to park you car on the far side.
If the summer sun is too hot sit down on a bench in the shade and watch the world go by. Otherwise pass the Town Hall on the left hand side and turn left down Calle Inglesia. Pass the Casa de la Cultura which may feature an exhibition. Continue to the parish church of Santa Ana.
See Sabinillas Festivals page.
The Church of Santa Ana
The most conspicuous feature of the village is the church and its adjoining cemetery. The parish church is old, but not ancient, having been build in the 18th century. There is nothing particularly distinctive about it, and it has little of interest in the way of adornment or decoration. It is simply a good solid place of communal worship, functional without being flamboyant. It has three naves separated by arches, and having said that all but a Tolstoy has exhausted the well of description. Immediately alongside is a typical Spanish cemetery, with rows of clean, well kept, above-ground tombs. Even the oldest is comparatively recent - dating only from 1877 - and apart from a couple more from the 1890s, they seem exclusively from the twentieth century. What attracts the attention of the foreign visitor however, is the comparative abundance of English names from the late 1980s and 1990s.