The changing face of Benidorm

Benidorm, part of the Valencia region’s famed Costa Blanca, is Spain’s number one seaside resort, known for its nightlife and two wide sandy beaches, Levante Beach and Poniente Beach. However, beneath the facade of skyscrapers lies a town full of history, culture and natural beauty. I’m here to experience the changing face of Benidorm and celebrate the opening of the completely renovated Benidorm East Hotel.

A perfect place for a relaxing holiday

Pierre & Vacances Benidorm East Hotel is a 10-minute walk from Levante Beach and 50 km from Alicante Airport in a quiet area, surrounded by mountains. It’s the perfect place to have a relaxing holiday whilst being able to easily access the hustle and bustle of the city.

The hotel has spacious and modern bedrooms, all recently renovated and decorated with Mediterranean character details to give them a warmer touch. They have very much an Ibiza feel, think grey wooden floors and clean blues and whites along with a balcony with an impressive panoramic view. There’s an outdoor and indoor pool, ramps for wheelchair users and plenty to keep you occupied with Zumba, yoga, aqua gym and even line dancing lessons. 

Explore the nature park of Sierra Helada by electric bike

Along the 7 km of its coastline, Benidorm has three beaches and two stunning little coves hidden away amongst the rocks. Levante Beach is perhaps one of the most famous beaches in Europe for its fun, cosmopolitan and very lively atmosphere by day and night.

Meanwhile, Poniente Beach is the city’s largest beach, more than 3 km in length, quieter and less crowded than Levante Beach and an ideal place to walk along the shoreline. Mal Pas Beach is a small urban beach with calm waters separating the two big beaches of Levante and Poniente. 

 I’m a massive fan of electric bikes, I love the way they make light work of any hill but still provide the benefits of a normal bike and some gentle exercise. So, in order to explore further afield and to discover the deserted coves and hidden corners at my own pace, I hired an electric bike through Tao bikes. Easy to use, Tao Bikes suggest a number of routes to take. My little bike enabled me to easily explore the nature park of Sierra Helada with views of La Almadrava Cove, this little cove with lovely clear waters and fine sand is about 60 metres long and popular with snorkelling enthusiasts whilst a little further along the coast, Tio Ximo Cove, overlooked by the Sierra Helada Mountain range is a mix of stones and sand. 

Discover Benidorm’s historic centre

Away from the beach, Benidorm’s old town is full of history. The town was founded in the 14th century, when Admiral Bernat de Sarria granted its Municipal Charter (known as the Carta Pobla), laying the foundations of what, in subsequent centuries, would become a magnificent town. The only traces of late 19th century Benidorm can be seen its layout, but it’s well worth strolling through its narrow streets, learning about the origins of this ancient fishing village and its renowned mariners.

Be sure to take in the castle viewpoint, which is set on top of a large rock called “Punta Canfali” which divides Benidorm’s two beaches. It’s the site of the fortress that served as a defence against the raids by Algerian and Berber pirates in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and is divided into two parts: the upper accessible area with benches and rest areas and another area (balcony) closer to the sea. There are quite a few steps involved but it’s a lovely place to come in the early evening to enjoy the sunset and views of the Church of San Jaime and Santa Anta, which is in the highest point in the old town, in Plaza de San Jaime and reached via Carrero del Gats, a popular street, decorated with cobblestones.

Afterwards head further into the old town for some classic Spanish tapas and you’ll feel a million miles away from the skyscrapers of the city’s famous skyline. Going out for tapas is a real Spanish customs and there are several streets in the old town chock-full of bars specialising in tapas and snacks, the countertops positively briming with an incredible array of this Spanish fare. Be brave and don’t just go for dishes you know like patatas bravas and tortilla. I surprised myself by discovering that octopus with melted cheese on top (a dish I enjoyed at Taperia Aurrera on Calle Santo Domingo, the old town’s most popular tapas street) is absolutely delicious.

A delicious taste of Valencian cuisine

With access to the freshest fish and a wide range of local produce, Benidorm also offers a delicious taste of Valencian cuisine. Rice is one of the most important dishes in Costa Blanca’s gastronomy, there are over 300 recorded different recipes that you can make using rice. Benidorm’s most traditional one is anchovy and spinach rice, a casserole that sometimes includes pumpkin too. Perhaps the most famous rice dish of all is the ubiquitous paella. Ulia Restaurant, smack on Poniente Beach, serves a particularly good and perfectly cooked seafood one.

Appreciate the local wines

In Alfazdel Pi, only ten minutes outside Benidorm, you’ll find Enrique Mendoza’s winery. A wine tour and tasting are something you’d not instantly associate with a Benidorm holiday but the vineyard had a lovely peaceful vibe and the tour (in fluent English) was really informative and interesting, not only about the vines but how the barrels and cork are made as well. However, let’s be honest, it’s the tasting part that you’re really here for. We tasted seven wines and as they’re not mass produced, they were all pretty special, the rose was my favourite and excellent value at only 8 euros including a gift box. The tasting was accompanied by a generous board of local cheeses and charcuterie.

In Spain they eat late, so a morning tasting and tour would make a great pre-lunch activity / aperitif before heading to nearby Calpe, located at the foot of the imposing Ifach rock. The latter reaches an impressive 332m, rising almost sheer above the sea. Calpe has a stretch of fine, golden sand and calm, crystal-clear waters, all of which can be viewed from Pierre & Vacances Bahia Calpe hotel with a winning rooftop pool.

Take a Jeep tour inland

To discover some of the most beautiful views in Benidorm, take a jeep tour inland, with the first stop being the viewpoint in the Sierra Helada Natural Park dominated by the famous Benidorm cross. The cross was originally made of wood and placed here by Franciscan monks in 1961 with help from the people of Benidorm, who carried the cross on their shoulders from San Jaime and Santa Ana church to Sierra Helada in an attempt to offset the town’s frivolous image. It was blown down during a storm in 1975 and a newer, more durable cross was put in its place. Marco Polo Expeditions offer tours in a 4 x 4 convertible Land Rover Defender. 

Benidorm re-invented

There are many Benidorms all in the same city. Once known as a tourist town full of us Brits looking for cheap drinks and sun, it is encouraging to see how the lively Spanish town has reinvented itself and has so much more to offer. 

Next Steps:

Find out more about Benidorm.

To plan your stay in Benidorm and to book your stay at the Pierre & Vacances Benidorm East Hotel through our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678.

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Petra Shepherd

Editor of Silver Travel Book Club & Cook Club

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