Altea is merely a whisper away from busy Benidorm. And ‘whisper’ is a word that sums up this seaside town where whitewashed houses and maze-like cobbled streets replace the sky-high buildings and neon-lit strip. There are still beaches aplenty, but these are interlaced with quiet coves and bays, rather than the bars and fast-food joints of its bigger, badder Benidorm brother.
On Benidorm’s other side and also keeping the noise and crowd levels in check is the lovely little town of Albir. While the main beach may be more pebbles than sand, its promenade is all about stars – movie stars. It’s home to Spain’s very own Walk of Fame. If nature walks win over Hollywood walks, then Albir also offers up some excellent trails. The Sierra Helada Nature Park is a particularly great spot for hill walking, with tons of picnic spots to settle on following a good morning’s hiking.
If you want to go somewhere that’s slightly less hectic than Benidorm but still packs a bit of a punch,
Calpe is at least worth a visit. Once a sleepy fishing village, modern Calpe effortlessly manages to balance the cultural and historical Valencian vibe, with a bustling tourist trade. And of course, being on the Costa Blanca there are lots of sandy swathes – but less people than on Benidorm’s beaches.
Overlooking the coastal town and bay is The Rock of Ifach. While many attempt to make for the top to admire the views, it’s by no means an easy climb, so a much more simple option is to admire it from below at one of the excellent seafood restaurants in Calpe’s marina.
Quaint and charming it may be, but Guadalest is no ordinary Spanish village. It’s situated at the peak of a sheer-sided cliff, and to reach it and the remains of a medieval castle, visitors need to travel through a 15 metre long tunnel that’s been carved through solid rock. Officially dubbed a ‘Monument of Historical and Artistic Value’ in 1974, and with a host of museums and sites to visit once you get there, it’s definitely worth the journey.
When you’re on a Costa Blanca beach facing the Mediterranean, it’s pretty easy to forget to look back over your shoulder and see what lies beyond. Take time out from the seafront and you’re not that far from a couple of nature’s wonders. Head to the Terra Natura Wildlife Park and you might even think you’re on safari in Africa. Elephants, rhinos and big cats are just three of the species that call this vast terrain home. It’s not all supersized animals, though. There’s a colourful array of birds and insects to admire, as well as the opportunity to see it all from the sky on a zipline.
If you want to cool off in a quirky setting, a trip to the mighty Algar Waterfalls just has to be done. Within easy reach of Benidorm, Altea and Calpe, you’re likely to hear the roar of water before you see it. Whether you choose to leap straight into the pools, stand under a constant cascade of water, or simply sit on the bank and watch, it’s a fresh and frothy alternative to the hotel pool.
Over in Elche, you’ll stumble straight into Europe’s one and only palm garden. This botanic paradise is just 25 minutes from Alicante, but with its supersized cacti and massive trees, it’s got an otherworldly atmosphere.
We can’t talk about Alicante’s hidden treasures without mentioning some surprising gastronomic delights. While Benidorm food can best be summed up as the familiar tastes of home, the mountain towns and fishing harbours a bit further away offer up a more varied bounty.
For some of the most delicious tapas that the region has to offer, the town of Denia is up there with the best. The Plaza de la Constitucion in the old quarter is a whole street devoted to tapas eateries, while the marina sets the scene for upmarket fish restaurants such as El Bravo where lobster and crusted salmon take star billing on a truly different menu.
Offering up some regional competition on the tapas front is Javea. Mouthfuls of meat and fish dishes are available from almost every street corner of this port-side town. And as for dessert, resistance to bunyols – deep fried dough balls – is utterly futile.
What sweeter note to finish off with than the candy-filled and candy-shaded shops of Villajoyosa? Giving Belgium and Switzerland a run for their chocolate money, this harbourside medieval town is a must-do pilgrimage for lovers of anything cocoa-related. There’s even a chocolate museum and three chocolate factories, which are all open to visitors - Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.
If you’re ready for a non-traditional Costa Brava holiday, click here to book your holiday.
Author: Ali Jacobs
The stylish yet simple, Cap Negret Hotel in Altea has a huge pool and is less than a stone’s throw from a pebble beach.
Bringing a taste of the exotic to Benidorm, Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa, a Royal Hideaway Hotel boasts tropical gardens, big pools and an Oriental spa.
Looking straight over Levante Beach, the self-catering Esmeralda Suites Apartments in the heart of Calpe offers up two curvy pools to cool off in.
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