This autumn we had the chance to visit a couple of places on the Costa Blanca off-season, and found them very different from the usual tourist hotspots they become during the high season.
Our first stop was Isla Tabarca – Spain’s smallest inhabited island off the Costa Blanca coast, about an hour from Alicante. The population of 50 swells tenfold during the months of July and August; off season it is quieter and less crowded. We took a 20 minute ferry with Tabarca Water Taxi from the resort of Santa Pola, across to the island. The main settlement on Tabarca is Nueva Tabarca, with quaint houses, quiet streets, a couple of small hotels/B&B’s, and restaurants centred around the tiny harbour. Back in time, the island was a refuge for Barbary pirates, and shipwrecked Genoese sailors. A Spanish garrison was established and used until 1850; its fortifications, and the church of St. Peter & St. Paul still stand. Tabarca is also an important protected marine reserve, and you can walk from the small town to the other end of the island in about an hour, to enjoy the coastal views, across the clear and unpolluted waters. There is a small stony beach which is popular in the summer months.
After a couple of hours on Tabarca, we caught the ferry back to Santa Pola, and drove an hour north to visit the waterfalls at the Fonts D’Algar. This is a popular day trip from Benidorm, and can get very busy in the summer months. Off-season it is quieter and less crowded, and makes for a pleasant walk along leafy paths on both sides of the Algar river to the waterfalls. There are a number of steps but handrails are in place. If you’re feeling brave enough you can also swim in the clear green pools but bear in mind the water is very cold! To get there, we parked at the tourist information office outside the village of Callosa d’en Sarria (look out for the dinosaur on the hill just before the office), where it’s free to park. We then walked about 10 minutes downhill into the village and to the entrance for the Fonts where you pay a small fee to enter.
Alternatively you can drive into the village, and park for a couple of euros at one of the small private car parks, or restaurants where they offset the fee against lunch or a drink in the restaurant. Bear in mind some of the car parks are closed off-season.
After leaving the Fonts, we then drove a little further inland to the village of Guadalest, which was to be our stop for the night. I first visited here 30 years ago on a day trip from Benidorm and was dismayed then by the crowds of tourists, and tacky souvenir shops. This time however, off-season and arriving in the late afternoon, as the tourist buses were leaving, and the souvenir shops were closing, we got the real, unspoilt version of Guadalest. This tiny white-washed village, perched on top of a mountain, and crowned with a castle, is one of the prettiest villages in Spain, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys all the way back to the coast. After checking into our overnight accommodation, the centrally located boutique hotel Cases Noves, we walked up to the village and found we had most of it to ourselves. As the sun set, reflecting on the mountains and the reservoir below, the moon rose in a pink sky over Guadalest, giving a magical feel to the place.
After an excellent dinner at Cases Noves, we took a final walk around Guadalest in the moonlight, the streets deserted except for us and the occasional stray cat. Next morning the sun was shining as we enjoyed a 4 course breakfast on the patio at Cases Noves, the village still quiet and coming to life. We left before the tourist buses arrived, taking away happy memories of the real and very beautiful Guadalest.