Costa Blanca is a dream destination in Spain. So having been living in Valencia for over 8 months, I had to take the chance to see Costa Blanca when it came. And it came in the form of my brother and Favourite Travel Companion (aka the boyfriend) who possess a very valuable skill of driving a car. So I packed up and got myself driven along the Costa Blanca twice 🙂
View from Altea Old Town
Famous for the sandy beaches and luxurious resorts, it actually has much more to offer. I fell in love with the beaches, but also the charming little towns and villages scattered along the coast. There is something for everybody there: from impressive, sky-scraper hotels and entertainment centres to tranquil, soothing atmosphere of a little town.
And it turns out Costa Blanca is a perfect material for a road trip on a budget!
Well known among European tourists, Benidorm is the no. 1 destination in Costa Blanca. It is actually not a big city, but impresses the first-time visitor with Manhattan-like skyscraper skyline. All those building are hotels and so a fifth of Benidorm’s population are British or Irish (usually retired people) and there are around 280 British-themed pubs! This in itself is a fascinating sight. A little Britain inside of Spain. The beach was packed, the bars served more fish and chips than paella and the waiters talked to me in English before I could explain that I actually speak Spanish (well, maybe my complexion does not actually scream “I can speak Spanish”).
Poniente Beach in Benidorm
What I recommend in Benidorm is to skip the beach during the day (around 12-16 if you don’t have something to provide a shadow I think it would actually be dangerous). It is really amazing later in the day. Around 19-21 the beach is getting emptier, it’s getting quieter, the sea is calm and you can sunbathe in the much more pleasurable last rays of the sun coming down.
Being the touristy place that it is, Benidorm also offers a bunch of amusement parks. I visited Terra Mitica and Aqualandia, but there is a bunch more. My Favourite Travel Companion and I spent two days enjoying ourselves in those Benidorm attractions and it was awesome! What I loved most were the views of Benidorm from the top of some of the rollercoasters. And Aqualandia has the highest waterslides in Europe, so you can’t miss Benidorm’s attractions when visiting Costa Blanca.
I only had one day to visit Alicante, but it’s enough to enjoy its main attraction- the Castle of Santa Bárbara. The castle, as many in the area, has origins from the Muslim times of the Iberian Peninsula. Then it was in the hands of Christian kings since the 13th century. It even belonged to the English for a couple of years. It’s very monumental, standing over the city of Alicante on Mount Benacantil. It’s easily accessible by a lift, which we took as I was visiting along with my family including my little nieces. If you do decide to climb, it’s better to do it in the morning than wait until the afternoon. The sun in the summer can make it pretty hard.
We started walking down the slopes of the castle hill and ended up in a beautiful little neighbourhood of ornamented houses and flowers. We hadn’t plan that trip, so it was a great surprise to find it! It’s El Barrio de Santa Cruz- a very typical, traditional Spanish neighbourhood. The houses are very richly decorated, each one is different and they create a beautiful labyrinth of Mediterranean traditional architecture.
El Barrio de Santa Cruz
The colourful houses of Villajoyosa
This small town is around 20 min by car south of Benidorm. I couldn’t escape the comparisons with Burano in Venezia or Alfama in Lisbon, that I recently visited. The old town is formed by small, colourful houses with very narrow streets running between them. The colours don’t stop with the house elevations- the trees in the old town have colourful knitted sweaters on them!
Apart from the charming old town, which you can easily see and enjoy in half a day, Villajoyosa has other attractions. It is considered the center of chocolate production, with a couple of chocolate factories in the area. They offer guided visits, you can find them here. Let me tell you that it was the best smelling factory I could have visited.
Going north again, 20 minutes to the north from Benidorm there is another charming little town of Costa Blanca- Altea. It provides a certain balance to the colours of Villajoyosa as all the houses there are white. Wandering around the cobbled streets of Altea you will come across a lot of little shops selling artisan, hand-made jewellery, home décor items and art. I have to say that I loved all the places I visited along Costa Blanca, but Altea stole my heart. The one thing you cannot miss in Altea is Qvo Helados Artesanales– their ice cream is insanely good!
Why I recommend visiting Costa Blanca by road trip?
It’s fairly easy and cheap to rent a car in Spain. And if you want to go really cheap and have a room with a view of the sea- you can just sleep in the car! My Favourite Travel Companion and I stayed in Benidorm two days to enjoy the amusement parks. But we didn’t want to splash all the money on the hotels there, so we went for that option and I absolutely loved it! Benidorm will be generaly rather expensive for a student budget. Moving a little farther from there you can find more affordable accommodation in a hostel or an AirBnB.