By Chris Ciolli
Its old town flanked by twin sandy beaches crammed with tourists and the high-rise hotels that house them, Benidorm’s origins as a small Spanish fishing village have become barely recognizable. So much so that there’s no sense in tiptoeing around the truth: Benidorm is above all things, about the beach. That said, this stunning section of the Costa Blanca, which is an easy jaunt from Valencia or Alicante, boasts warm temperatures year-round and ample amenities, attracting vacationers en masse year after year. So is Benidorm right for you? Have a look at some pros and cons before making up your mind.
- The weather—Benidorm’s very mild winters invite long walks on the beach; its blazing hot summers are perfect for sunbathing, water sports and swimming.
- Kid-friendly attractions make Benidorm an ideal for families. Beyond the beach, there are three theme parks where you can run kids ragged in hopes of some peace and quiet after dark. There are Terra Mítica’s roller coasters, rides, and shows; Aqualandia’s towering waterslides, lazy river, and wave pool; and Terra Natura’s animal shows.
- The amenities—From 5-star and all-inclusive hotels and resorts, to dance clubs, cabarets, homey English pubs and fish ‘n’ chip shops, in addition to more typically Spanish establishments like traditional restaurants, tapas bars, Benidorm has it all, for competitive prices.
- Clean, well-equipped beaches are a big part of Benidorm’s appeal. The sand is groomed daily, the water is pristine, sparkling blue, and the city has made the two main beaches (Levante and Poniente) wheel chair accessible. Beach libraries stocked with Spanish and English reading material at these two beaches, called biblioplayas are an added bonus for beachgoers.
- It has a lively nightlife, year-round. If you like to go out and get your drink and dance on, or sing karaoke until the sun rises, Benidorm might be perfect for you. For an especially wild evening there’s the area behind Hotel Marina known locally as the Square. There are also cabaret shows, some of them featuring flamenco dancers.
- Crowds –affordable hotels, budget airlines, and cheap package deals have made Benidorm an accessible destination to all manner of tourists from all over Europe. While summer is particularly busy, there’s a steady stream of visitors year-round due to the city’s mild winters, lively nightlife, and bargain prices during off-season.
- It’s tacky. Like so many coastal towns dominated by beaches, boardwalks, and the summer hoards, Benidorm lacks any air of subtlety or understated style. It’s boisterous and noisy, and while the food isn’t all international chains and British favorites, don’t expect much cleverly presented fusion cuisine.
- It’s not the prettiest coast. Populated with high-rise hotels, Benidorm’s coast isn’t one of the most beautiful around. But if you look out to the bay and sea beyond, instead of up at the buildings, the view’s quite nice. Whatever you decide about Benidorm as a destination, remember that everyone’s experience of a place is different for a reason. It’s up to you to seek out the things you’re interested in, and avoid the pitfalls that would ruin a trip for you. For a less-crowded Benidorm experience, avoid July and August in favor of an April-May or September-October visit. Soak up the sun in peace at less-frequented smaller beaches like Mal Pas and La Cala. Skip the package deal, and book your own hotel south of the Old Town for quieter nights and more authentic Spanish restaurants and bars within easy walking distance.
Chris Ciolli is a writer, translator and editor from the American midwest who’s been living in Barcelona for more than a decade. Her writing about food, culture and travel in Catalonia, Spain and the rest of the world has been featured on AFAR.com, Eurocheapo.com, and Fathomaway.com. She writes about books at Read.Learn.Write and muses about her travels at Midwesterner Abroad.