Benidorm is probably a destination that half of our audience has never heard of while the other half may already have a stereotyped view. For the British and many other northern Europeans, Benidorm is a popular holiday destination known for its temperate climate, sandy beaches and warm waters – or simply the British sitcom they’ve seen on TV about guests at a Spanish resort. For the Spanish, it’s a place they visit to getaway despite all the drunken tourists because someone in the family has a house there that they bought decades ago. In fact, many Basques came to Benidorm years ago and have second houses there due to a bad economy bringing with them typical Basque foods that you’ll now find all over the city. For North Americans, Benidorm is mostly unknown brining nothing to mind, though it is akin to our Cancun or Cabo in Mexico. The city is clearly different things to different people, but is it worth your visit?
We included Benidorm as part of our #mygaypride itinerary this summer to check it out for the first time and see what it has to offer apart from the all inclusive resorts that attract most of its visitors. Benidorm started as a small fishing village just south of Alicante along the Mediterranean border of Spain and slowly with its discovery by the rest of Europe, it became a popular resort destination and now boasts the most sky scrapers per capita in not only all of Europe, but the world. With its growing popularity among tourists came plenty of fun activities to try, lots of great restaurants and an energetic nightlife.
Have Fun on the Water
There is, to our surprise, A LOT to do in Benidorm and just outside it. If you want to focus on the water, you can rent some snorkel gear and head to one of the coves. You can even rent your own boat without a license which is kind of scary but kind of cool. We rented one with Aqua Sports Benidorm and had a great time cruising the coast and heading to Benidorm Island, though there were a bit too many jelly fish at the time in the water for our liking. There’s also parasailing and at Levante Beach there’s a cable-ski to allow you to practice without the need of a boat. Of course you can always just enjoy one of the two main beaches, Poniente is the relaxing beach to the south and Levante is the more touristy party beach on the north. Both are separated by the Mirador de Castillo which is a beautiful lookout point where the former castle used to be.
Have Fun Outside the City
Some of the best parts of Benidorm may well be outside the city itself. I generally don’t care for going to theme parks when I’m traveling, but there are some that are just so fun they’re worth it (like Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen for example). Aqualandia is Europe’s largest waterpark and really worth a visit. They’ve got some of the tallest and scariest waterslides for the adventurous as well as calmer attractions like the wave pool and rapids. Terra Mítica is Benidorm’s theme park which also has Iberia Park next door. The rollercoasters, regular shows and performances and panoramic views of the city make this attraction worth the visit. We also did a Jeep Tour with Marco Polo Expediciones to tour inland Benidorm, capture great views of the city’s skyscrapers, and also headed to Guadelest, a quaint Valencian town filled with various monuments and perfect for a stroll, photo ops and a bite to eat.
Eat & Drink Well
With the hefty amount of tourists in Benidorm comes the god awful tourist food joints for you to get your fill on crap pizza and kebabs. However, it’s also surprisingly easy to eat well. Thanks to all the Basques that have moved to Benidorm, there are pinchos galore (Basque style tapas) in the Old Town. Pair a few of these with a sangria or a beer and you’ve got a delicious, authentic meal. The region is also known for traditional rice (that’s not paella) which we enjoyed at Casa de La Portuguesa – an adorable old restaurant near the water with an equally adorable owner. For a great paella dish, we headed to Restaurant Ulia. I’m always wary of where I eat paella when traveling in Spain because this is a regional dish and it’s easy to find a bad one. Lucky for us we were at the right restaurant in the right region. For a fine dining experience Villa Venecia Hotel Boutique (Restaurante ‘Llum del Mar’) is a great option. They’ve got incredible dishes (the duck was our favorite), beautiful views from the rooftop and are conveniently located across from the lookout point Mirador de Castillo. A visit to Enrique Mendoza’s winery was the perfect cherry on top of our gastronomic experience in Benidorm. We had a tour of the winery and finished off with a tasting of six of their wines paired with some meats and cured cheeses. Most of us left with a few bottles of wine that we just had to purchase from their shop to take home. And yes, we’ve already drunk ours!
The city has also got a great nightlife scene. There is a great party atmosphere along Levante beach and while the straights tend to hang out around the New Town, the Old Town belongs to the gays. If you head down where Calle Santa Faz meets Calle Cuatro Esquinas, you’ll find the gay area. Benidorm has got around 30 gay bars and its nightlife scene in the Old Town is a bit like the Portuguese style in which many people enjoy their drinks outside the bars. For a real late night clubbing scene, head to People Bar or Mercury club.
Benidorm may be an easy place to write off considering its reputation of being the affordable party spot for drunken tourists, but there’s a whole other side to discover once you look past the round belly of the old, debaucherous British visitor. So is this a place worth visiting? Not if you hate wineries, snorkeling in clear water, day trips to cute towns, delicious pinchos, photo worthy views and just plain fun in Costa Blanca. If, however, you do enjoy those things, perhaps this is just the surprising place for you to visit!
What do you think about visiting Benidorm? Have you ever been? Share with us in the comments below!
Note: our visit to Benidorm was sponsored by Benidorm Tourism but rest assured all opinions are 100% our own. This campaign was also in association with Gay Star News, the official media partner of #mygaypride.