Manilvaâ€™s privileged position, close to the entrance to the Mediterranean, has resulted in a long history of settlement in the area going back to the Stone Age. In recent years traces of these early settlers have been found in caves in the Sierra Utrera, a ridge of limestone which runs behind the town. There is also a historically important Bronze Age hill fort which is the subject of an ongoing programme of excavations by experts from across Europe.
It is during the Roman period though that the area first enjoyed prominence, as it was the site of a thriving fish processing industry, which exported products, including the highly prized garum paste (a kind of â€œGentlemanâ€™s Relishâ€) which was in high demand back in Rome. Remains of the factory, a villa and bathhouse can be found today in Castillo de la Duquesa, one of Manilvaâ€™s coastal villages.
It was in the 16th century that the town of Manilva itself was founded, although a part of the neighbouring municipality of Casares, it gained its independence in 1795 and has grown ever since. For many years the chief industries were fishing, agriculture and viticulture. Manilvaâ€™s vineyards are famous for their muscatel grapes, used for the production of raisins and fine wines.
Since the 70s, when the Marina and golf course were built, tourism has been added to this list, and in recent years Manilva has enjoyed the status of one of the Costa del Solâ€™s fastest developing municipalities, with a tripling of the resident population in the last 25 years.
Another area of development has been the business sector, with the establishment of an industrial estate just a few hundred metres from the Manilva exit to the A7 motorway, there are also literally hundreds of shops and office units available thanks to the construction boom of recent years.
Like all Spanish towns and cities, Manilva has an annual feria or fair, which in Manilvaâ€™s case is held in the second week of August, to coincide with Spainâ€™s national holiday, Ascension Day on the 15th August.
In fact Manilva has a very busy calendar of ferias and fiestas either religious, traditional or modern. Starting off with the Three Kings cavalcade on the 5th January, then the raucous fun of Carnival around the beginning of Lent; the solemn devotion of the Semana Santa processions during Easter; the Manilva International Festival, around the middle of May, during which the municipalityâ€™s international community takes the opportunity to show off its varying culture, cuisine and traditions; the Eve of San Juan during the summer solstice with its pagan tradition of bonfires, fireworks and partying till dawn; a recently introduced full moon festival (2012) sees people flock to the beach to welcome the July full moon, with white being the dress code for the evening; the fishermenâ€™s celebration of their patron, the Virgen del Carmen in mid-July, and then rounding off the summer with the Vendimia, in the first weekend of September, a festival celebrating Manilvaâ€™s grape harvest. Throw into that a good smattering of Saintsâ€™ days and pilgrimages and youâ€™ve got a busy schedule of partying and celebrations.
Manilva is blessed with 8 km of coastline ranging from rocky coves to broad sweeping beaches, including the Blue Flag beach of Sabinillas-La Colonia. These beaches are kept clean throughout the year, and during the summer months are patrolled by a team of lifeguards and medics.
One of Manilvaâ€™s jewels is the charming Puerto de la Duquesa. This sports marina is also the home of the majority of Manilvaâ€™s fishing fleet. The Portâ€™s harbourside bars and restaurants provide a perfect haven to enjoy the sun, quality food and drink, and to watch the world stroll by.
Of course we mustnâ€™t forget golf, after all it is a huge industry in the area. Manilva has the La Duquesa Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones and opened in the late â€˜70s the course wraps itself around the El Hacho hill, and has stunning views of the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and the North African coast.
Along with Duquesa there are a large number of quality courses within a 30 minute drive including Finca Cortesin and the world famous Valderrama, home of the Volvo Masters.
Golf is by no means the only sport practised in Manilva, in fact there are numerous sporting facilities and the local authorities are very keen to promote sports in the community, particularly amongst the youngsters.
Manilva occupies a privileged position on Andaluciaâ€™s Costa del Sol at the South-western edge of the Province of Malaga where it borders the Province of Cadiz.
Manilva has a registered resident population of around 15,000 inhabitants, but this number is swelled by both short and long term visitors as well as tourists.
There are three main centres of population, these being the main town of Manilva which is approx. 2 km inland; the coastal village of San Luis de Sabinillas (referred to as Sabinillas); and the small fishing village of Castillo de la Duquesa (referred to as Castillo) about 1.75 km to the west.
Apart from these are numerous developments and urbanisations including the sporting marina of Puerto de la Duquesa all of which are turning Manilva into a bustling coastal town.
Manilva enjoys excellent transport links with the rest of the region, Spain and overseas. Recent developments in the regionâ€™s network of roads and motorways has seen journey times reduced significantly, the A7 toll motorway which runs just past the town boundary gives excellent access to this network and has relieved the congestion on the coastal road which had held back the municipalityâ€™s development in the past. As a result Manilva is less than an hour from Malagaâ€™s international airport which serves over 60 different destinations. The airport has recently benefited from a major programme of expansion and improvement, including a second runway, which has allowed it to handle the significant increase in traffic in the last couple of years.
Manilva is also only 30 minutes from Gibraltarâ€™s International Airport which has also seen an expansion and improvement plan, with a brand new state-of-the-art terminal and increased flights.
Manilvaâ€™s foreign community represents over 40% of the municipalityâ€™s registered population. This community is drawn from a wide range of nationalities with substantial representation by Moroccan, South Americans, British, Scandinavians and Irish, with many other nations also making up the list. Nothing better displays the diversity of the local community than the annual Manilva International Festival, which showcases the culture, customs and gastronomy of these various nationalities.
The local Town Council have recognised the importance of integrating the foreign residents into the local community, creating a Foreigners Department to provide a link with the various other local government departments.Â
This department has also developed a programme of activities aimed at introducing the foreign community to Spanish traditions and culture as well fostering integration. These activities include Spanish language lessons, cookery classes, along with excursions to places of interest in the region.
The effort has not all been one-sided, a number of resources have been created by foreign residents such as the community newspaper and website – La Voz del Resident which provides news and information about Manilva in English and Spanish, and the newly resurrected website Manilva Life
Manilva – A world of cuisine
The traditional gastronomy of Manilva reflects the Mediterranean and its people, its landscape and the sea.
Daily the soil and the sea offer up the best ingredients for appetising dishes typical of the cuisine of Malaga, whose beautifully prepared traditional recipes, made with local produce, are there for you to sample.
But what really typifies Manilvaâ€™s gastronomy is its fish and seafood. The freshness and natural flavour (regardless of whether it is grilled, baked or cooked in a stew) of these tasty products must be sampled. There is no dish more emblematic of the coast of Malaga than fresh sardines roasted on bamboo spits over a wood fire on the beach.
Alongside Manilvaâ€™s traditional bars and restaurants are a whole host of international hostelries offering the opportunity to sample the cuisines of India, China, Germany, Holland, Italy, Britain, Mexico, Argentina, amongst many others. It is this that makes Manilva such a delightful place to dine out, whether it be on the harbourside in Puerto Duquesa, on the promenade in Sabinillas, or in one of Manilva townâ€™s street cafÃ©s.