I try and go to this area as much as possible as its a short flight and transfer. I like to stay on the oustkirts in the little town of Los Boliches as it still retains much of its charm. There is a lovely long promenade here that leads into the centre of town that's is very flat and great for wheelchair users. The beach is lovely, wide and sandy and stretches for miles.
Yes there are high rise buildings from the 60's but dig deep and you will find countless tapas places as well as some fantastic restaurants and bars. There is a market on a Tuesday on the fairground too. A place to visit about 30 mins away in the hillside town of Mijas with its great views and lots of charm again many tapas places and good for shopping this area is popular with artists too.
The local train is fantastic! It runs from Malaga City through via the airport then to central Fuengirola with many stops in between. Its very reliable to use and costs very little. From Fuengirola its 40 mins to Malaga City and this is well worth a visit with its great cathedral and castle as well as the old town. The port area is worth a visit and there is even a beach. Countless hotels of all standards are here to suit all budgets.