The Costa Calida (English: Warm Coast) is the approximately 250 km stretch of Mediterranean coastline of the Spanish province of Murcia. This region has a micro-climate which features comparatively hot mean annual temperatures (and hence its name, "Warm Coast") and a relative degree of aridity (precipitation averaging less than 34 cm annually).
It's home to the world famous La Manga Club which boasts some of the top sports and leisure facilities to be found in any self-contained tourist complex in Europe. The Costa Calida also cradles one of Spain's greatest coastal treasures - a huge natural salt water lagoon called the Mar Menor (meaning "little sea") which is separated from the Mediterranean by a 22-kilometre sandy strip of narrow land.
The Mar Menor is a magnet for wildlife, water sports enthusiasts and an army of devotees who swear by the healing powers of its mud and minerals. The lagoon is a rich source of a variety of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iodine and bromide. Their curative properties are believed to ease all sorts of ailments from rheumatism and arthritis to sore throats and gout. You can soak in the healing salt water and natural mud baths free of charge or head for one of the many hotels which line both sides of the Mar Menor and offer a range of natural therapies in swish spa centres.
Besides its alleged healing powers, the Mar Menor is also an ideal place to learn to swim or master a new water sport. The warm and tranquil water of this sheltered lake has an average depth of 1.7 metres and is about half a metre deep around the shoreline. And there's plenty of space for everyone in this natural water park which is 26 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres at its widest point.
The Mar Menor is peppered with traditional Spanish villages which have been relatively untouched by tourism. Their bars and restaurants offer cheap and cheerful "menus del dia" and tasty tapas (Spanish snacks such as Manchego cheese, chorizo sausage or squid). These villages are a world apart from the mind-blowing La Manga Club which offers every type of leisure facility imaginable including no less than three championship golf courses, a 28-court tennis centre and the sumptuous 5-star Hyatt Regency Hotel. The 1,500 acre resort is awash with top quality international restaurants, watersports facilities, children's activities and much more besides. It's not a place for budget travellers or those seeking a taste of the "real Spain". But for holidaymakers and ex-pat homeowners with bulging wallets and a desire for some serious self-indulgence, La Manga is hard to beat.
Nature lovers will want to head out to the beautiful and unspoilt Regional Park of Calblanque, near the Mar Menor, where deserted beaches, cliffs, dunes, salt flats and hidden coves can be found along a 13-kilometre stretch of protected coastline. The area is crisscrossed by numerous hiking and cycling routes which allow access to one of the few remaining untouched coastal areas of mainland Spain.
Further south along the Costa Calida there's the low key resort of Mazarron which has proved a popular destination for ex-pat buyers in recent years due to relatively low property prices and an absence of mass market tourism.