You'll probably find it's not worth renting a car: the narrow Marbella streets are much friendlier to pedestrians than vehicles; signposting isn't great; and traffic lights are positioned high up so you have to squint into the sun… There are buses from Malaga airport: see www.andalucia.com/travel/bus/airport.htm for timetables and details.
The nearest airport is Malaga, around 30 minutes away by car. There's a toll road and a freeway, neither of which is straightforward to negotiate, particularly at night. A licensed taxi from the airport is around €50, or ease into your holiday via a Merc or BMW from Skybus for a few euros more (book at the UK office on +44 (0)1243 784349; www.skybusspain.com). If you want to ham up the jet-set look, glide up to your hotel in a stretch limo from the Marbella Limousine Company (+34 618 640 100; www.limosol.com), from €25 a person.
There's no direct rail link from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Spain: 34; Marbella: 952.
Ernest Hemingway's bull-running classic Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises will get you in the mood for some Spanish passion.
Do go / Don't Go
With 320 days of sun a year, and the lowest average temperature around 12 degrees in January, Marbella is pretty wonderful whenever you go.
Tapas are great-value and delicious. There are great seafood paellas to be had here too, and the cooling gazpacho is gorgeous.
Cabs are cheap, but not always metered. Those that aren't should carry an official book of rates, so check with your driver before you set off. Taxis display a green 'libre' notice or green light at night. You can ask your bar or restaurant to call one for you.
The Spanish are fairly relaxed about tipping and many places don't add service charge, but feel free to reward where appropriate. About ten per cent shows you've had a good time, and a few coins is fine for taxi drivers.
Suntan lotion, big shades, small bikini.
In the old district, wander through the ruins of the 15th-century castle and take in the Moorish influences on the area's architecture. For plays and concerts, head to the amphitheatre at Parque de la Constitucion. The municipal art gallery in José Palomo Square has a good selection of work by local artists and is open from 19h-22h (+34 952 825 035).
Get a good map, with Spanish as well as English names. Stay up late, and remember to have a siesta during the heat of the day - as if you needed an excuse.
Leather-lovers and shoe fetishists will be in heaven amid the maze of shops in the old quarter. Those seeking more designery boutiques should head to Puerto Banus, about 6km out of town. There they'll also find Spain's best-loved department store, El Corte Inglés - the Macy's of Marbella. On Saturdays there's a fabulous fleamarket in Puerto Banus, near the bullring. When it all gets too much, relax and unwind at the Miramar Spa Hotel (+34 952 768 410).
Start your day with breakfast amid the orange-trees in the Orange Square (La Plaza de los Naranjos) off the main street in the old town.
On Mondays, check out the earnest Spanish bargaining techniques at the street market next to the Recinto Ferial. Open from 09h-14h, it sells food, clothes and shoes. Or relax in the shade and watch the horse-drawn carriages trot by in the Parque de la Alameda, a leafy refuge on the coastal side of the town centre.
11 June San Bernabé Fair lasts for the whole first half of June, but this is the highlight, when Marbella commemorates its conquest by Christians. Expect fireworks, dancing, bullfights and live music. 3 May Cruz del Juanar: Marbella celebrates its past with a procession up to the Sierra Blanca mountains that surround the city, to honour the cross of Juanar, 1,160m above sea level.