When I was invited on a press trip* to experience “the other side of Benidorm” I have to admit, I was sceptical that such a thing existed. As a famous spots for ‘Brits abroad’, Google does it no favours. Search the news tab for this seaside spot in the south of Spain and you will find stories of drunken shenanigans (usually involving nudity).
Earlier this month I spent four days there and I cannot tell you how much beauty there is. Mountains frame the ocean, with natural beauty spots dotted around the town waiting for you to discover them.
Despite the fact half a million people flock from Britain every year, there are plenty of spots dotted around the hustle and bustle that are well worth the trip.
- Poniente Beach
This stretch of beach was almost eerily quiet in comparison to other areas. There was the odd person dotted along the sand and some in the sea (even in October). I’m sure it is busier on weekends, but I suspect it might simply be busier with Spanish people and you can hardly bemoan that!
The beach is dotted with palm trees with cliff edges surrounding you and Benidorm Island straight ahead of you…
- Benidorm Island
Just 3.5 kilometres across the Mediterranean Sea from the main land sits this little uninhabited land mass. Boats leave ever hour from the Old Town and Levante beach.
Here you will find a nature reserve to explore with among the peacocks. More excitingly, in my opinion, is the snorkelling and deep sea diving.
The water surrounding Benidorm is beautifully clear and blue, and so marine life that surrounds Benidorm Island can be easily observed (through goggles or a glass bottom boat).
- Jet skis and jeeps
Originally we had jet skiing planned and I was over the moon, but we had the worst luck. After more than 300 days of sunshine, grey clouds and a spattering of rain rolled in (it was October after all) so this meant jet skiing would be too cold and possibly a little dangerous due to the winds. Instead we decided to head inland and go off-roading with Marco Polo Expeditions.
I have driven in jeeps through Sierra Leone, where roads cannot always be found – but making my way through the mountains that frame the coastline here was another level.
We bounced around in the back as we made our way up and up to the viewpoints that overlook Benidorm. We passed hikers and mountain climbers along the way, so there’s that too if you’re brave enough.
- Electric bikes
If you don’t fancy the bumpy ride of a jeep, or the exertion of exercise, electric bikes are a godsend. It took me a little while to get used to – and sent me flying when I cranked it up to high while going downhill, which was NOT necessary.
We cycled up to a sharply sliced cliff edge scouted by Game of Thrones. I don’t know why they chose not to film there but it is probably a good thing (read about Dubrovnik to find out what I’m on about).
You can also make your way to the Cross of Benidorm. Originally a smaller structure on a church in the town, the people of Benidorm moved it high into the cliffs to demonstrate their devotion to Catholicism to the rest of Spain. It was later replaced by a much larger cross that works as a nightlight across the Spanish sky at night.
- Day trips
Ok, so this obviously isn’t things to do in Benidorm but, with such reasonably priced flights and accommodation all year round, Benidorm makes the perfect headquarters.
You can explore the ancient village of Guadalest and castle, the medieval town of Benissa or the coastal hideaway, Moraira.
The biggest trip I would recommend taking is to the Algar Waterfalls (who doesn’t love a waterfall? Great for the ‘gram).
Where to stay: Meliá Villaitana
Found in the peaceful outskirts of Benidorm, two kilometres from the coast, you’ll feel like you are in your own Spanish village at this hotel. Throughout my long weekend I discovered pool after pool, including one designed like a lagoon that is so large a lap will take you around the buildings and under several bridges, an artificial private beach and six more outdoor pools.
The architecture is comparable to any Spanish villages, with outdoors squares for drinking late into the evening, accommodation spread across 25 buildings and you’ll even find a bell tower.
It boasts two golf courses, a gym, football pitches, paddle tennis courts and a fabulous Yhi Spa.
Where to eat: Llum del mar or Tapería Aurrera
Llum del mar is located in the five star Villa Venecia Boutique Hotel in the historic centre of Benidorm. With views across the coastline, the Mediterranean cuisine comes with gastronomical flair with impeccably chosen wines to match (if you fancy it).
Tapería Aurrera, on the other hand, feels much more like eating amongst the locals. Along with a typical Spnaish menu, the best bit about this restaurant is the pinchos based on micro-cuisine, made there and then. Similar to tapas, pinchos provides small works of art that will delight even the most demanding of foodies.