Costa Blanca Holidays
Costa Blanca Holidays – Top value resorts on the Spanish Mediterranean
There’s no denying the fact that the Costa Blanca, particularly Benidorm, got some pretty bad press during the late 1970s and early 80s. This was the time of the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ package holiday, ten days in the sun, all-in for £3.10s. (The name ‘Costa Blanca’ was actually thought up by BEA as a promotional name when they launched their service between London and Valencia in 1957. It cost £38.16s – about the same as it costs now, over sixty years later.)
But the tourism world has come a long, very long, way since then. The strength of the Costa Blanca lies in the fact that it has one of the biggest holiday return rates in Spain, and hotels, tourism authorities, theme parks and have-a-good-time businesses of all kinds are keen to keep it that way, as well as encouraging new visitors to the splendour of the White Coast.
So why should you choose the Costa Blanca for your holiday?
There’s an awful lot more to the Costa Blanca than just golden beaches.
You can have your morning dip in the sparkling Med in the morning and be rambling through mountain passes with the scent of thyme and sage in the air and barely a sound other than the breeze rustling the trees in the afternoon.
Lunch in a tapas bar in a pretty rustic village, dinner at one of the world-class restaurants in Dénia. As far as tourism authorities go the Costa Blanca stretches almost thirty kilometres inland, which allows holiday makers an enormous selection of days out and entertainment.
Life is one big party
The Costa Blanca has an enviable reputation for its nightlife; the bars, clubs, restaurants and discos that act like a magnet to the party crowd. But there is far more than the made-for-tourism party life of just dancing the night away.
When the coastline began to develop as a major tourist draw it attracted people from all over Spain looking for work. Many stayed and brought up families, often forming regional associations to keep the memory and celebrations of their homeland alive. At some time in the year you will be able to experience traditional fiestas from every corner of the country.
Locally, each town will celebrate its own festivals in a unique way; the Moors and Christians in Villajoyosa and the boisterous dawn attack by Barbary pirates; Alicante’s hogueras with its huge papier-mache sculptures going up in flames; Benidorm’s La Barqueta; the giddy parades of Carnaval and the joyful procession of the Cabalgata de los Rayos Magos taking place in almost every town and village. Each town hall and tourist office will have a programme of fiestas for the coming year, and it’s worth a short ride to the see the bigger ones.
Flavours to dine for
As well as bringing their regional fiestas to the Costa Blanca, workers from throughout Spain brought their local cuisine. As the region became more popular it attracted people from around the world, both as holiday makers and those looking for a life in the sun, who, once again, brought their national cuisines with them.
Perhaps apart from some obscure vegetable found only on a Tibetan hillside, you can sample the best gastronomy worldwide, and some of Spain’s top chefs have been drawn to the Costa Blanca for the freshness and diversity of both the local produce and the incredible array of imported foods, brought to satisfy the needs of international restaurateurs.
A world of wine
Alicante and Valencian wines aren’t particularly well known internationally, but if you can draw your eyes away from Rioja on the label you will find some excellent local wines, blessed by the soft sea breezes from the Mediterranean.
One of Spain’s top young winemakers produces prize winners at Bodegas Mendoza, a short drive from Albir, and the brother and sister duo of Armando and Francés Núria create some excellent vintages at their tiny, family-owned Bodega Parcent in the Jalon Valley. These and other bodegas in the area offer regular tastings.
The sporting life
With over two hundred kilometres of shoreline it’s hardly surprising that the Costa Blanca can offer almost any water sport available, from sailing and windsurfing to paragliding and underwater way-marked routes for scuba divers. But the sporting life doesn’t just end at the water’s edge. The sierras that rise behind the coast are a magnet for walkers who either base their holiday on exploring the mountains or make excursions from the beach resorts.
The Sierra Aitana has some of Europe's most testing free-climbing faces, and if you mention the name Costa Blanca to any professional cyclist anywhere in northern Europe, you will probably find he knows the region well, as it’s where many professional teams do their winter training because of the varied terrain.
There are some seriously complex golf courses to test you, but even if you are only vaguely aware which way around a club goes there are still plenty of places you can take a ‘stroll around the green’.
History within easy reach
It will probably surprise you just how many historic monuments and how much beautiful architecture exists in the Costa Blanca, and just how easy it is to get to them. In less than a couple of hours from almost anywhere on the coast you can be in Valencia City, the regional capital, to enjoy the ultra-modernistic City of Arts and Sciences, and the medieval barrio of El Carmen.
And while you are there you must try a paella, as that’s where it was invented, in the rice fields of the Albufera. For a mountain trip you can visit the weird and wonderful museums of the pretty hill-top village of Guadalest, where you enter the old town through a massive entrance hewn through the solid rock. It also has the dubious honour of having the highest cemetery in all of Spain.
For a longer delve into history the can explore the chain of castles that separated Castilla from warring Aragon before the mountainous inland and flat coastal plain became the Land of Valencia. Castles, cathedrals, Modernista mansions (the uniquely Spanish style that crosses over between art nouveau and art deco), with narrow, twisting medieval streets of historic town centres, it’s all there. Funnily enough, dear old Benidorm is said to having some of the best examples of urban architecture of the mid-twentieth century.
Mid-spring and late autumn are absolutely wonderful in Spain, with clear skies and warm weather, although it can get pretty heated from June to September. Late September and early October heralds the arrival of the gota fria (literally the cold drop) when incredible storms of hailstones, thunder and lighting and torrential rain suddenly appear – and then equally as quickly disappear.
Far from being a bad thing, they are an amazing example of nature at its wildest, and are wonderful to behold. The temperatures may drop during the winter months but the skies are almost always blue and cloud free, with many people spending the winter months away from their cold north-European homes.
And always remember…..
Wherever you are on the Costa Blanca you are never far from pristine golden sand and the lapping waters of the glistening Mediterranean. Of its hundreds of beaches and tiny coves almost forty of them fly the Blue Flag, Europe’s ultimate accolade for safety and cleanliness, and a fair number them also have Spain’s Q for Tourism Quality award.
About the author
Derek Workman has lived in Spain for twelve years, and has written about it extensively. Author of Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca and Small Hotels and Inns of Eastern Spain, the definitive books in English on the Valencian Region, he writes for various in-flight magazines and for the Costa Blanca News.
When to go to the Costa Blanca
July and August is the liveliest time, with lots of fiestas and festivals in the region. Beaches and nightlife are much quieter in June and September. Spring has gorgeous sunny weather and temperatures better suited to walking and touring. Late summer into early autumn has a very laid-back feel and very quiet beaches.
Amazing Benidorm is a genuine year-round resort with lots going on in the winter season. The Jalon Valley area is at its loveliest with cherry and almond trees in blossom in late winter. Coast towns like Javea and Denia are attractive destinations at any time of year.
Getting the best deal
The sheer amount of accommodation means few problems when it comes to finding cheap holidays in Benidorm and thereabouts. Elsewhere we recommend an early search for the best choice of hotels and apartments. Avoiding the school holidays always increases your chance of finding a bargain. We frequently offer savings for early bookers.
You should find great-value holidays to the Costa Blanca in spring and autumn. June and September are often significantly cheaper than peak summer. Late deals offer big savings for those with flexibility. Take a look at our current best deals and subscribe to our email newsletter.
Airport and transport need to know
Most package holidays to the Costa Blanca fly to Alicante (ALC). Low-cost and charter flights depart from a wide choice of regional UK airports. Valencia (VLC) is a viable alternative for the Denia/Javea region. Murcia airport is reasonably close to southern resorts like Villajoyosa and Playa San Juan.
Alicante is a large modern airport with decent shops and bars. Regular airport buses to Alicante city centre take 20 minutes. There are also direct airport buses to Benidorm and Calpe. Transfers to the popular resorts take an hour or less.
Taxis are metered, easy to find and cheap by UK standards. Buses link resorts along the coast. The TRAM train line connects Alicante with Benidorm and continues on to Denia via Altea and Benissa. Boats ply the coast between Denia and Calpe.
Car hire is essential if travelling independently to the Jalon Valley or mountain villages like Benimaurel. A good coast motorway connects Alicante with Valencia.
A selection of top resorts on the Costa Blanca
The Costa Blanca offers terrific variety and plenty of genuine Spanish character. Resorts like Denia and Altea have established a reputation for quality tourism and fine dining. These are working fishing towns with considerable character. This picturesque region is known for its sparkling coves, relaxed family beaches, scenic coast walks and gorgeous mountain scenery. The southern section from Benidorm to Alicante has more conventional resorts based on long sandy beaches.
Javea is an attractive coast town perfectly placed for the most scenic coastline and the most interesting resorts. Javea is known for its quality hotels and luxury villas with private pools. A series of sandy beaches and unspoilt coves is complemented by a medieval old town and a working fishing harbour. Summer season nightlife is stylish and enjoyably relaxed. Boats ferry visitors to equally attractive neighbours like Denia and Calpe.
Benidorm truly deserves its legendary status. No other resort in Spain offers such extraordinary entertainment. Benidorm caters brilliantly to all age groups with a truly amazing mix of bars, pubs, nightclubs, discos, ballrooms, comedy clubs and cabaret shows. All tremendous fun. Benidorm is easy to get to and prices are remarkably cheap. Playa Levante and Playa Poniente are two of the finest sandy beaches on the entire Costa Blanca. Parents have easy access to top Spanish attractions like Mundomar, Aqualandia and Terra Mitica.
Benissa makes an atmospheric and relaxing base for an especially scenic stretch of Mediterranean coastline. Narrow streets are home to traditional shops and stylish restaurants. You are well placed for exploring the gorgeous scenery of the Jalon Valley. The town has a reputation for quality dining and has a blissfully calm atmosphere in the evening. Superb walking in the mountains. Classy rural hotels and apartments offer a relaxing alternative to the beach scene but remain close to the most interesting and varied resorts on the Costa Blanca.
- www.terramiticapark.com/ www.mundomar.es/ www.aqualandia.net/ http://en.comunitatvalenciana.com