Once you arrive at Alicante Spain’s El Altet Airport, 12 kilometers to the west of the city, you are linked directly by the N332 coastal highway, signposted right when exiting the airport. You can rent a Europcar at the desk, in this case a good bargain since you can visit several of the coastal towns in one day. If you prefer to bus, there is a direct airport bus to Benidorm, costing about 7 Euros per ticket. Taxis are also available for transport to the city centre, where regular bus and train services connect with all of Spain’s Costa Blanca coastal towns.
Where to eat in Alicante, Spain: If you are looking for representative Mediterranean food at up to 20 euros, check out El Arenal at La Cala de Finestrat. Previous diners claim that they have the best paellas on the Costa Blanca, with seafood straight from the bay. Freshly roasted lamb and kid should be ordered the day before.
For up to 35 euros, make your way to the Casa Gallega at 38 Conde de Altea, Altea. They have every fish and shellfish you’ve ever seen and many you probably haven’t. A dish to try is their delicious Galician-style bouillabaisse (fish soup). To complete your experience, terrace tables overlooking the blue mediterranean add magic to your meal.
On the higher end of the price scale, El Galeon, at the Paseo de Estrellas, Playa, Albir offers meals for up to 60 euros per head. Lounge amid the palms of this fashionable restaurant’s enclosed patio and enjoy their excellent international cuisine and beautiful views of the beach.
For the exclusive Mediterranean experience, visit the famed Montibol hotel at Partida Montiboli, Villajoyosa. Two peerless restaurants in the fabulous, five-star, clifftop hotel offer Mediterranean cuisine at its finest. It’s pricey, but you do get what you pay for: it’s ultra-exclusive and the service is second to none.
Clubs and Music: For a noon break or a low-key destresser after a long day in the sun, check out Penelope’s Bar at Levante Beach, Benidorm. The shaded verandah faces the beach and pedestrianised promenade, so it’s ideal for people watching as you enjoy a glass of wine or a long cool granizado de limon, an iced lemon drink.
Live music can be found at the light-heartedly dubbed Try Again Pub, Javea Park, where live DJ music forms the backdrop to a bustling pub that’s popular with expats. After hours, visit the Beachrock Cafe, right on Levante Beach, Benidorm. They offer live entertainment from 9pm until the early morning hours.
At La Cava Aragonesa, paragon of tapas bars, in Plaza de la Constitucion, Benidorm Old Town, you can view dishes displayed in glass counters below hanging smoked ham. Ask the barkeep for una racion (an individual portion) and enjoy it with a glass of champagne, fine vintage wine, or a crisp dry sherry.
Don’t miss the Old Quarter, this area around Catedral de San Nicolas (Alicante City) is awash with bars. Most stay open till 3am on weekdays and 5 am on weekends. It’s a great place to connect with the locals and experience some cultural color.
For diurnal amusement, Terra Mitica Theme Park features reconstructed civilisations amid heart-stopping funfair rides by day, and concerts by international rock stars at night at a convenient location just outside Benidorm. You can come anytime of the day, and although an entrance fee is charged, rides are then free. Wheelchairs and buggies are available for hire to accomodate seniors and handicapped patrons of the park.
A slightly longer foray into the heart of the Costa Blance might include taking the narrow-guage trenet from Alicante City to Denia. This small train follows the coastal cliffs to Calpe, stopping at towns and villages en route before turning inland to cross high ravines, prviding travellers with heart-stopping views of towering crages and wide fertile plains. Fares cost only a few euros, but it’s a two and a half hour journey, so you would be well advised to take some refreshments with you.
Another possibility is Mundomar, in the Sierra Helanda two kilometers from Benidorm center. This wonderland of tropical fauna and flora, abounding with wildlife and rare plants, will delight and awe naturalists, botanists, and anyone who likes nature or gardens. There’s also a water area where you can watch performing dolphins. Tickets for adults are around 16 euros, but children’s tickets are only 6. They are open from spring till late summer.
You could also take a trip to Guadalest, the most visited mountain village on the Costa Blance, with two million visitors a year. There you’ll find spectacular views, a world-famous Bethlehem museum, a permanent micro-miniature exhibition(see the Old Testament engraved on a grain of rice) and locally carved toys They are usually quite crowded, of course, but Saturday is quieter, although fewer restaurants are open.
While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Noah’s Ark animal sanctuary near Guadalest, and say hello to lions, tigers, and bears rescued from circuses. For the less exotically inclined, they also have lots of domestic animals, including lambs, goats, and cuddly puppies.
Another unforgettable day trip can be had by hiring a car for the day and visiting small mountain villages such as Finestrat, Sella, and Relleu, in the Sierra Cortina, inland from Benidorm. Here in many places time seems to stand still, as many buildings and customs remain the way they have been for centuries. On the way, explore the nature reserve of Puig Campana, the second-highest peak in Alicante Province, distinguishable by a large notch in its crest which local lore attributes to the axe strokes of a mythical giant called Roldan.The corresponding land parcel now houses the Benidorm bird sanctuary, on the very spot where myth says Roldan and his lover drowned.
Before you leave Alicante, make your last stop the pedestrianised Calle Carreterra in Benidorm Old Town. Shops selling everything from Lladro porcelain to autographed t-shirts and sculptured candles span the one-kilometer walkway between Poniente and Levante Beach. You can shop for souvenirs at your leisure, as there are plenty of bars and cafes in between where you can stop for a drink or a bite to eat.