A-Z Guide to the Resorts of the Costa Blanca Region of Spain
By Matt MayThe Costa Blanca is the region of Spanish coastline which stretches from Denia in the north to Torrevieja in the south. The Costa Blanca has mainly sandy beaches, excellent weather for most of the year, and is especially popular with English tourists.
The Costa Blanca includes some of the most developed coastline in mainland Spain including the popular resort of Benidorm.
The Costa Blanca coastline is one of the most developed coastal areas in Spain, with popular resorts such as Benidorm, Calpe, Denia and Torrevieja attracting millions of tourists to Spain every year. In addition to tourism, many British, Scandinavian, German and Eastern Europeans own property in the area.
The resorts to the north of the Costa Blanca around Altea, Calpe, Denia and Javea are set against a rugged backdrop of undulating coastline and spectacular rock formations, whereas to the south around Torrevieja the scenery is generally flatter with long sandy beaches.
Below is our A-Z guide of the main Costa Blanca resorts and towns:
The attractive palm-lined streets of Alicante offer something different from the other resorts of the Costa Blanca. Alicante is a working city with a large port, but also has a huge sandy beach, an excellent selection of shops, restaurants and bars, and a historic old town area. All this is within walking distance of the city centre, so you don't really need a car which keeps the holiday costs down.
If you are looking for a lively nightlife, Alicante fits the bill throughout the year from Thursday to Saturday, but the clientele, bars and clubs are mainly frequented by Spanish. If you want English bars and discos then probably Alicante isn't the best place for your holiday, Benidorm would be a better choice.
Alicante is a great destination to visit in the spring, autumn and winter when it is less busy, because during the summer the Spanish flock from Madrid and other inland areas to Alicante, and beach space is at a premium. Alicante Airport is located around 12km from Alicante.
Santa Barbara Castle in the centre of Alicante offers fantastic views over the city and an insight into the Moorish past of south eastern Spain.
Altea is a fairly "up-market" resort, with a picturesque harbour and promenade which is lined with cafes and restaurants attracting visitors around the year. The town has some well-preserved Spanish architecture, and the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town are testament to Altea's historical past when it was a small fishing village.
The hills above Altea are the home to many ex-pats in the white houses which glint like teeth in the Costa Blanca sunlight.
Benidorm is the largest and most developed resort on the Costa Blanca. Formerly a small fishing village, Benidorm evolved during the 1960's and 70's into one of the most popular resorts in Spain.
Benidorm's skyscaper skyline is somewhat reminiscent of Manhattan, and the approach from the AP-7 in the hills to the north gives some sense of scale of the town. The resort developed a tarnished reputation in the 80's and 90's with a "lager lout" culture exported from the UK during the summer months.
However, today Benidorm is a thriving holiday resort, although if you are looking for a peaceful retreat you would be advised to go elsewhere. One big advantage of Benidorm is that there is plenty to do in the winter months, as the resort doesn't shut down when the holiday season ends. Today Benidorm is a popular destination for stag nights and hen nights due to the "24-7" culture, and in winter attracts many retired people who spend winter at the resort.
Prices in Benidorm are generally low when compared with much of the Costa Blanca due to the volume of bars and restaurants competing for customers.
To the north of Benidorm, the Costa Blanca resort of Calpe is dominated by a spectacular rock peninsular which stretches into the Mediterranean sea at the the northern edge of the town. The area around the rock is a national park (Parc Natural del Penyal D'Ifac) which is popular with walkers and climbers and offers spectacular views of the Costa Blanca for those energetic enough to walk to the top. The climb to the top takes around an hour, but the final part of the climb is probably best left to more experienced walkers. At the entrance to the park is a secluded white-pebbled beach which offers something different from the large sandy beaches of the town.
The sea-front area of Calpe has been heavily developed, and is dominated by large tourist hotels and apartments. The Calpe beaches are ideal for children as the water level doesn't get deep too quickly.
Located to the north of the Costa Blanca region, the up-market town of Denia is one of the oldest on the Costa Blanca. Denia is popular with British home-owners and tourists offering around 20 km of good bathing beaches. There is also daily ferry to the Balearics. The lush green surroundings are created by the relatively high rainfall that the town experiences due to its geographic location.
Denia is overlooked by a historic castle housing an archaeological museum containing artefacts uncovered in the surrounding grounds. Denia also has some good boutique shopping that spreads out along the Calle de Marques de Campo road. Due to the wind that comes into the area from the sea, Denia is also a paradise for those who enjoy water sports.
Around a 20 minute drive inland from Alicante is the town of Elche (Elx in Spanish). Elche is a working town but is worth a day trip if you are in a nearby resort such as Alicante. Apart from being a busy industrial Costa Blanca town (Elche is a major centre for manufacturing of shoes and other textiles) and is home to over 200,000 inhabitants.
The city has the largest growing area of palms in Europe which date to Roman times. The area became a UNESCO world Heritage Site. The palm plantations are a legacy from when the Romans ruled the region, and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
Elche is located only 15km from the Mediterranean coastline, so is easily accessible to holidaymakers. The Municipal Park in the centre of Elche has a sub-tropical garden containing many species of palms and cactus, and a museum.
If you take the AP-7 toll road south from Valencia for around 45 minutes, Gandia is the first Costa Blanca resort that you encounter. The scenery of Gandia doesn't catch the eye like some of the resorts further to the south such as Calpe and Denia, but it does have a huge sandy beach and a very attractive harbour where a multi-coloured array of fishing boats deliver their daily catch.
In winter Gandia is somewhat of a ghost town like many of the Costa Blanca resorts.
The port town of Javea (or Xabia as it is known in Spain) is one of the most scenic and exclusive areas in the Costa Blanca. A number of notable celebrities have houses in Javea including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, Nigella Lawson and Carl Fogarty. The town is split into the village inland, the port, and the main sandy beach (Arenal). Arenal beach is the main tourist hub of Javea and has a large selection of cafes, bars, restaurants and tourist shops.
The area around Javea is perfect for coastal walks, and is not unlike parts of Wales in terms of scenery. It is best to avoid July/August for long excursions due to the heat. If you are an avid walker, a walk to the top of Cabo de Nao is recommended, and here you can find some spectacular coastal views.
Some of the beaches around Javea are stoney, so if you want a sandy beach it is worth checking before you book accommodation.
Located on the rugged northern Costa Blanca coastline to the east of Benissa is the popular and less developed resort of Moraira. Moraira has a main beach which is very busy in summer, but there are also a number of smaller beaches located towards Calpe which are accessible if you have a car.
As well as the usual bars and restaurants, Moraira offers a scuba diving centre, horse riding, sailing lessons and a bowling complex.
Santa Pola is one of the closest resorts to Alicante Airport (around 10 minutes by car). Santa Pola is popular with Spaniards, many of whom have holiday homes in the town. There are several sandy beaches in the town, and several more scenic, undeveloped beaches at Calas del Cabo to the east of the town towards Alicante. The water is shallow and calm at Santa Pola, so it is ideal for children and families. The unspoilt beaches to the north of the resort are ideal for fishing.
Torrevieja is located midway between Alicante and Murcia airport and is a popular destination for ex-pats from northern and eastern Europe due to the low property prices and excellent climate.
The population of Torrevieja has increased dramatically since the early 90’s, mainly due to the construction of apartment complexes, villas and golf resorts designed to attract foreign residents.
The scenery around Torrevieja is generally flat unlike the picturesque coastline further to the north. Torrevieja geography is dominated by 2 large salt water lakes which are believed to be beneficial to health. Los Montesinos is a quiet urbanisation on the outskirts of Torrevieja with good shops and bars offering easy access to both lakes making it ideal for walkers and nature lovers.
The popular Villa Martin development has good beaches, an attractive shopping plaza and the excellent Villa Martin golf course.
Torrevieja is geared towards the low-budget traveller, and there are plenty of low cost villa rentals available outside the peak holiday months of July and August.
Villajoyosa is somewhat different to many of the towns to the north as it is characterised at the southern end by rows of brightly-coloured painted houses. Although it has one of the largest sandy beaches in the region, Villajoyosa isn't especially popular with the British, and has managed to retain much of its Spanish authentic feel.
Costa Blanca Climate
As a general rule at any time during the year, the Costa Blanca temperature is around 10 degrees Centigrade higher than in London.
Summers are warm and sunny (and become very hot as you move inland), spring and autumn are similar temperatures to UK summertime (with much sunnier weather), and in winter temperatures typically range from 13-19 degrees Celcius maximum. November and December there can have heavy rain, but generally the eastern coast is the driest area of Spain, and rainfall is rare.
The World Health Organisation recommends the Costa Blanca as one of the best climates to live in due to the war and generally dry and sunny weather which is beneficial for health conditions including arthritis, depression and respiratory and skin problems.
Getting to the Costa Blanca
The Costa Blanca is served by 3 major airports Alicante Airport to the north being the largest and most popular. Murcia Airport to the south is ideal for southern resorts such as Torrevieja, wheras the northern resorts such as Gandia are only around 1 hour drive from Valencia Airport.
Most of the low-cost airlines including Ryanair and Easyjet fly to Alicante year-round. Flights to Murcia tend to be less frequent during the winter months although many people prefer to visit this time of year due to the climate.
Below is a quick guide to help choose the best resort for your Costa Blanca holiday:
- Beaches - Alicante, Benidorm, Santa Pola
- Budget - Benidorm, Torrevieja
- Diving - Calpe
- Families - Calpe, Denia, Santa Pola
- Golf - Alicante, Torrevieja
- Historic - Alicante, Elche
- Nightlife - Alicante, Benidorm
- Peaceful - Calpe, Denia
- Scenic - Altea
- Shopping - Alicante
- Up-Market - Northern Costa Blanca (Altea, Javea, etc.)
- Walking - Alicante, Calpe
- Waterparks - Benidorm, Santa Pola, Torrevieja