Exploring Alicante and The Costa Blanca
We have spent time in the Costa Blanca before, most recently a flying visit last summer for a mini family vacation in the lovely town of Moraira. It was July, very warm and very busy. This time around it is winter and we have a bit more time to explore and get under the skin of this highly touristed area that has been popular with Northern Europeans for decades. We were based in Oliva for most of our time this winter, actually not in the Costa Blanca but very close. We decided to rent a car to explore a little further than our bikes or motorhome could take us.
The most famous, or should I say infamous place in the area is Benidorm. Honestly there is nothing that could be further from our idea of a perfect destination than Benidorm, but curiosity got the better of us and we just had to take a look. The infamy, in some ways, is diminished as the town has tried to clean up its reputation of being full of loud-mouthed, disruptive Brits whose main holiday goals are sun, sea, sangria and sex. Supposedly it is now far more family-focused and, obviously at this time of year, senior citizen friendly than it used to be. We wandered around and confirmed our preconceptions were correct; this was a place that we never need visit again.
Far more pleasant are some of the other developed areas. We took a fabulous hike near Benidorm, at the Faro de Albir. The gentle up hill walk has fantastic views along the coast near Altea. We also had lunches over a couple of days in the pretty towns of Calpe and Javea. Both of them far too dominated by British presence for our taste but not at all unpleasant places to be. I can understand why people would choose to live there. They are clean and pretty with lots of bars, restaurants, cycle lanes and lovely vistas, just not for us. We don’t want to recreate England in the sun, we like a more authentic Spanish experience too much for that.
Another place we visited was the pleasant city of Elche. A proper working city, it is in fact the center of the Spanish shoe industry with over 1,000 footwear factories located here. I scored some boots at one of the outlet stores on the edge of town from Pikolinos, one of my favorite Spanish retailers. Although some of Elche is on the coast the main city is inland a little. We wandered through the center of the town where the river bed has been painted bright colors and the gigantic urban palmeral, or palm grove, is one of the largest in the world. It gives the city a unique feel, balancing nature and urban life.
The two favorite places we visited in the area were the capital of the province, the city of Alicante and Dénia in the northernmost part of the Costa Blanca. Most tourists just fly through Alicante, literally and figuratively, but we spent a few days exploring and found it to be fun and lively with all the things we like about cities in general. The location right on the coast is a big plus for such a large city.
We also loved the city of Dénia. The historic downtown contains some great restaurants and bars and the vibe was considerably more Spanish than the neighboring Javea. With excellent fine dining options including one of only 11 three-starred Michelin restaurants in Spain, it is easy to see the influence these gourmet pinnacles have had here. A rising tide definitely lifts all boats.
In our quest for places that we wouldn’t mind having as a future home base you won’t be surprised that Benidorm didn’t make the list. It would have been quite the plot twist for that to happen! But Alicante and Dénia both appealed, Alicante probably more so as Dénia is a little small and quiet for us at the moment. The process of dating new places to find our handsome prince is a fun activity even if sometimes you have to kiss some frogs!