Found 12.5 miles (20 km) west of Málaga among the winding tentacles of the Guadalhorce River estuary, the protected Rio Guadalhorce Nature Reserve (Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce) covers 67 hectares of prime wetland and is a magnet for migrating birds as well as the permanent home of many others.
Of 350 bird species that have been recorded in Andalucia, 260 have been spotted in this nature reserve. Flamingos, cormorants and herons are common sightings among the manmade lagoons (graveras), the reed beds, marshes and pools of the reserve, along with parakeets, house martins, plovers, hoopoes, finches and gulls. Birds of prey seen in the area include honey buzzards and marsh harriers and even — on occasions — rare ospreys.
The reserve’s five lagoons are backed by woodland consisting of a mixture of palm trees, willows, tamarisks, eucalyptus and poplars, and are well provided with hides for bird watchers and photographers. Several way-marked hiking and biking trails lead across the marshes.
If you’re feeling energetic, take a four-hour guided cycling tour of the park from Málaga or walk back to the city along the coastal path in about 1.5 hours.
Admission is free, and open 24/7. For public transportation, take EMT bus no 10 to Guadalmar; by car take the N340 signposted to Torremolinos and Fuengirola and take the turning to Guadalmar. Park by the church and walk for five minutes to the entrance to the reserve.