Holidaymakers have been flocking to the Costa Blanca for decades now. Benidorm leads the charge. With a 4-mile stretch of white sand and a skyline of skyscrapers, it delivers a beach break with a twist. What’s more, the place is home to family-friendly attractions like the Terra Mitica and Aqualandia theme parks. Benidorm knows how to burn the midnight oil, too – its collection of bars and discos put on everything from foam parties to international DJ sets.
Another one of the Costa Blanca’s big players is Alicante. With its hilltop castle and chic boutiques, it still feels deeply Spanish. Valencia is also within easy reach of the Costa Blanca. This up-and-coming city is snapping at the heels of Barcelona in the must-see stakes, thanks to its space-age architecture and massive oceanographic aquarium.
Away from the coast, there’s another side of Spain to explore. Head into the rocky hills and orange-growing valleys to discover the mountaintop town of Guadalest, the palm-grove village of Elche, and the beautiful Algar waterfalls.
Things to See and Do in Costa Blanca
Pillar to post with beaches
The Costa Blanca has 200 kilometres of coastline to call its own. The richest pickings are to be found in resorts like Benidorm, Javea, Denia and Morair. Most of the swathes of sand in these parts have Blue Flag status.
The big beach
Contenders for the title of biggest beach line up on the Costa Blanca. But the 4-mile Poniente Beach in Benidorm takes the name by a whisker. Not only does this sandy swathe have Blue Flag status, but Spain’s authorities have just spent 11 million euros to build a new promenade beside it.
The secret beach
No beaches in the Costa Blanca are strictly hush-hush. But some receive less limelight than others. Moraira’s offerings are a little quieter than those in Benidorm, for example. Bays and coves characterise this seaside town, and the fan base tends to be families.
Designer labels are easy to find on the Costa Blanca. Wander along the Placa de la Creu and the Avenida Martinez Alejos in Benidorm, or the Avenida de Frederico Soto in Alicante, and you’ll find boutiques full of Cavalli, Moschino and Versace. If you’d rather decorate your home than yourself, make your way to Javea’s old town, where art galleries are sprinkled among the historical sites.
Malls are one of the Costa Blanca’s strong points. With 3 floors, La Marina in Benidorm is one of the largest. The high street shops here include Guess and Pull and Bear. The Panoramis Complex in Alicante’s marina is open 24 hours a day. Denia’s high street stores, meanwhile, are al fresco. You’ll find names like Mango and Zara on Calle de Marquesde Campo.
Bargain-hunting on the Costa Blanca is a full-time profession. Markets selling traditional pottery and souvenirs like castanets take place every day of the week. Benidorm’s Wednesday market is held near the Pueblo Hotel on Levante Beach, Moraira’s Friday market happens in Carretera Moraira Calpe, and Alicante’s Sunday flea market fills up the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Live music and shows are a given on the Costa Blanca. Head to the small bars near the Plaza de la Iglesia in Moraira to catch flamenco guitarists or try Avenida Severo Ochoa in Benidorm to see cabaret with bells on. In Javea, the after-dinner action hangs on the easy-going cocktail bars on Avenida Marina Espanola. And in Denia, the bars and jazz joints on Calle La Mar are the most recommended spots. If you’d rather chat, El Barrio in Alicante is the place to go. The cervecerias – beer cellars – here are great places to get on your soap box.
You can dance and drink from dusk until dawn on the Costa Blanca. In Benidorm, some of the biggest clubs can accommodate as many as 5,000 people. You’ll find some of the real clubbing muscle around Avenida Almeria, Calle Gerona and Calle Mallorca. Javea throws its 10 cents into the nightlife pot with the cocktail bars and clubs on The Arenal. There’s even an open-air dancefloor here.
Fish is the bedrock of the Costa Blancan diet. In Alicante, traditional restaurants serve up this staple food as salazones. Translate the word and you’ll learn a little more about the dish’s identity. It means salting, so the fish is generously coated in salt and then fried.
Caldero del mar menor
There’s a story behind this dish. It was created by fishermen who needed to use up the lower-quality fish from their catch. It’s made by boiling the fish with onions, garlic and potatoes and pouring the stock over rice. These days, the fish used is too good to throw away, so it’s served as a side dish.
Arroz con costra
This dish is a hybrid of the Spanish omelette and paella. It’s made by cooking rice, chicken, sausage and tomatoes in stock. Then, at the last minute, an omelette mixture is poured over the top, and the whole thing is baked again.
Turron is Spain’s original candy bar, and it’s been made in Alicante for centuries. The sweet treat is made from toasted almonds, runny honey and egg whites. The end result has a similar consistency to peanut brittle and it snaps between your teeth as you bite into it.
This drink is a dead ringer for milkshake, but there aren’t any dairy products in it. It’s made by blending chufa nuts with water, sugar, lemon and cinnamon, and is served semi-frozen. You can order it in restaurants or buy it in bottles from the chiller cabinets in supermarkets.
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Benidorm didn’t get to be one of Spain’s holiday behemoths for nothing. This town likes to flaunt its best assets – sandy beaches and fun-packed nights – but there’s another side to it, too. Benidorm actually goes all the way back to 1325, so the winding, cobbled old town and Baroque domed church are as authentic as they come.
Even though there’s only a small mountain separating Altea from the Costa Blanca’s loudest resort, Benidorm, the two towns couldn’t be more different. Altea lives life at a much slower pace – neon-lit nightspots make way for seafront tapas bars, and you’ll find traditional restaurants in lieu of Brit-style pubs and fast food joints.
You’ll find the little town of Albir just next to Benidorm. But, while it might share map space with the Costa Blanca’s nightlife capital, the two resorts are poles apart. Albir does things on a much smaller scale – in fact, the town’s biggest draws are its go-slow beach life and its pretty nature walks.
The port town of Javea sits in the shadow of Montgo Mountain between Valencia and Alicante. This little haven along Spain’s Costa Blanca boasts an old town area where the Medieval church is the centrepiece and shops, cafés and restaurants work their way along the cobbled streets. Meanwhile, nightlife is set to the rhythm of Spanish and international bands, and the local beaches wave their Blue Flags.
This little beach town on Spain’s Costa Blanca has a typically Spanish feel – there’s the thousand-year-old castle in the town centre, rustic seafood restaurants along the beach and colourful fishing boats bobbing in the harbour. There’s another side to this place, though – the cosmopolitan marina is dotted with bars, and there are designer boutiques along the tree-lined Carrer Marques de Campo.
This small coastal town sits on the northern tip of Spain’s Costa Blanca, neatly pocketed between the mountains and the sea. Originally a fishing village, it’s grown into a lively holiday place – Madrid’s city slickers flock here to parade its palm-lined avenues and eat in the marina restaurants. But the town hasn’t lost its traditional Spanish charm, courtesy of its cobbled streets and old market square.