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 get away 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 bringing nothing to mind, though it is akin to Cancun or Cabo in Mexico.
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 skyscrapers 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.
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 visitor. Wineries, snorkeling in clear water, day trips to cute towns, delicious tapas, photo-worthy views and just plain fun are just a few things that await you in Costa Blanca. If you avoid the overrun beachfront bars and all-inclusive hotels, it’s possible to find some enjoyable and more authentic experiences in Benidorm – you just have to know where to look.
Benidorm has amazing weather all year long thanks to its geographic location on the coast, nestled between mountains. This provides a temperate microclimate offering beach weather for 8 to 9 months of the year, from roughly April to October.
Transportation & Airport Transfer
Alicante is usually the transportation hub to get to Benidorm, which is located 38km away. There is a bus that connects Alicante airport with Benidorm and it arrives/departs from the Benidorm bus station as well as the Avenida de Europa bus stop in the town. You can also pre-book shuttle transfer services with companies like Beniconnect Transfers, which takes about 45 minutes and drops you off at your hotel. Benidorm is also connected to the Alicante (Luceros) station so traveling by train along the Costa Blanca is also possible, but it’s quite slow taking roughly an hour and a half. From Alicante you can connect to the national rail network, that connects Alicante with the rest of Spain.
Benidorm is a walkable city and very compact so if you stay in the center, near the old town, you shouldn’t have to move around too much. Taxis are very inexpensive and are probably the easiest option to get around if your destination is too far to walk. Benidorm does have a public bus with good service but it’s probably not worth the effort since taxis are so cheap.
Gay Hotels in Benidorm
There aren't really any gay-specific hotels in Benidorm, however, the entire entry is quite gay friendly The two popular places with the LGBT community are Hotel Queens and Casa Don Juan.
Villa Venecia Hotel Boutique – Located between Levante and Poniente beaches, this luxury hotel in the historic center of Benidorm is ideal for visiting the city’s narrow streets and its tourist attractions. The hotel has a terrace with a hot tub and spectacular sea views, plus a top-rated onsite restaurant, Llum del Mar.
Level at Meliá Villaitana – Adults only luxury hotel set on 2 golf courses with views of Gran Bahía Bay. The hotel is built in the style of a Mediterranean village, with outdoor pools and an artificial beach. There is also a gym, 2 tennis courts and 6 paddle tennis courts. The hotel offers a large number of restaurants, bars and cafés. The hotel is 4km outside of Benidorm so it’s a good option for those who want to escape in luxury from the bustling city nearby.
Hotel Queens – Situated just 100 meters from Levante Beach in Benidorm’s old town, the hotel offers a rooftop bar and terrace with sea, city and mountain views. Á la càrte breakfast is served daily. Hotel Queens is ideally located in the lively old town of Benidorm, surrounded by restaurants, bars and shops. This is a very popular hotel for gay visitors.
Casa Don Juan – a small guest house is located in Benidorm’s Old Town, just a 2-minute walk from the beach. Nothing fancy but the property is gay friendly and it’s a great value.
There are many sites for apartment rentals in Benidorm, with AirBnB probably being one of the most popular. Prices are generally comparable to budget hotels, especially if you’re willing to get a room in a shared apartment.
There are even a few LGBT-oriented booking sites like misterb&b with listings from gay hosts for gay guests where you can either rent a whole apartment or a private room in a shared apartment. Understanding Benidorm’s gay scene is much more easily done with the help of a local and apartment sharing is one of the best ways to meet someone living in the city who knows how things work, where and when are the best nights to go out, and what places to eat at and which to avoid.
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Shopping in Benidorm
Benidorm has more than 2,000 stores spread across all districts, although the highest concentration is in the heart of the city, where you will also find many well-known fashion franchise stores.
The large shopping area runs from Plaza Triangular up to Avenida de Los Almendros, extending through the main streets of the old town and city center, including La Alameda, Gambo, Martinez Alejos and Paseo de la Carretera.
During the summer, there is a handicraft market at Plaza de la Señoria which operates from mid-afternoon until past dawn, where you can find leather jewelry, silver jewelry and gemstones, handmade soaps, miniatures, pottery, juggling, macramé, foam puppets and decorative items. At the same time in the adjoining square, Plaza del Castillo, you will find time artists and portrait painters, exhibiting their work and, in some cases, taking orders.
Sightseeing & Activities in Benidorm
Watersports – 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.
Aqualandia – 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 – 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.
Jeep Tour – get out of the city to tour inland Benidorm, capture great views of the city’s skyscrapers, and also head to Guadelest, a quaint Valencian town filled with various monuments and perfect for a stroll, photo ops and a bite to eat.
Restaurants and Cafes
With the hefty number 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 sangria or a beer and you’ve got a delicious, authentic meal. The region is also known for a traditional rice dish that’s not actually paella, which you can enjoy at many restaurants.
Casa de La Portuguesa – an adorable old restaurant near the water with an equally adorable owner.
Restaurant Ulia – this is the region of Spain famous for paella. It’s really easy to find a bad one but Ulia makes a great one so definitely check it out.
Restaurante Llum del Mar – a great option for a fine dining experience at Villa Venecia Hotel Boutique. They’ve got incredible dishes, beautiful views from the rooftop and are conveniently located across from the lookout point Mirador de Castillo.
Gay Bars and Clubs in Benidorm
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.
The gay scene in Benidorm has taken over the Old Town where about 30 gay bars and clubs reside making it incredibly easy and fun to hop from place to place finding the perfect scene for you. Bars and terraces tend to be busy all evening and into the night due to the mix of visitors who are used to going out early and the local Spaniards who go out much later. Just head to where Calle Cuatro Esquinas and Calle Santa Faz intersection and you’ll find the cluster of gay bars in and around that area including Spirit, Bar Code, Lovers and Eagle Bar (which are cruisy with darkrooms), Bear’s Bar where (duh) you’ll find bears, darkrooms and a sling. For clubs there’s Mercury and People Bar both open until 4:30am. H2O is the gay sauna in Benidorm for those who enjoy cruising in a spa, steam room, private cabins or darkroom. These are just some examples as there’s much, much more of the gay scene to explore in Benidorm.
Gay Beaches in Benidorm
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 in the north. Both are separated by the Mirador de Castillo which is a beautiful lookout point where the former castle used to be.
Nowadays when the gays want a full body tan in Benidorm, they can head to Ti Ximo cove at the far end of Levante beach and up the hill. For a cruisier spot, there’s Racó de Conill which is a gay/mixed nudist beach a few kilometers outside the city.
Gay Events in Benidorm
Benidorm Gay Pride – This week-long pride takes place in September is packed with great events. The highlight of this event is the parade taking place on Saturday that runs right along Levante beach. It ends at the main outdoor stage where the audience is treated to free entertainment from talented artists. Throughout the week there’s a tapa & wine route, the open-air white party at Mirador de Castillo, various other parties at bars and clubs in the Old Town, as well as free drag performances and live acts at the main stage at Auditorium Julio Iglesias.
Benidorm Pink Weekend – Four days of parties, fun, and events in Benidorm. All the bars of the gay neighborhood take part in the festivities. This event is just a few years old. The party starts on Thursday in the Old Town with numerous themed parties. Throughout the week there are special performances by drag queens, invited DJ’s and a closing party on the ‘Balcón del Mediterrñaneo' – an open-air event venue with amazing views of the beaches and city.
Day Trips from Benidorm
Guadalest – The ancient fortress of Castell of Guadalest is perched on the cliffs that loom over the valley below. The medieval village is incredibly charming with amazing views of the surrounding areas. Located just 30 minutes from Benidorm by car, it makes for a great day trip.
Visit a Winery – a visit to Enrique Mendoza’s winery is a perfect addition to your Benidorm experience. You can take a tour of the winery and finish off with a tasting of six of their wines paired with some meats and cured cheeses. The winery is just a 15-minute drive outside of Benidorm.