Benidorm: Discover fine dining and adventure sports in Spain’s most misunderstood city
Benidorm has had a long-standing image problem, especially in England - the source of most of the town’s worst behaved tourists.
The travel hotspot is famous for its wild parties and cheap alcohol. But as I found on a recent trip, there’s much more to the Costa Blanca town than stag nights and sunburned Brits.
Beautiful beaches, fine dining, a rugged national park and a charming old town - there are “many Benidorms in the same city”, says Sergio, our host from Visit Benidorm.
“There is a Benidorm for sports lovers, for families, for seniors, for people who want to fine dine - there is something for everyone.”
Here’s everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip to Benidorm.
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Benidorm: Year-round sun and beautiful beaches
Located on Costa Blanca in the province of Valencia, Benidorm enjoys hot, dry summers and mild winters.
Don’t forget to pack your sun cream; the city enjoys more than 300 days of sun a year, and there’s no shortage of places to unroll your beach towel.
The ‘British’ area of Benidorm is centred around buzzing Levante beach. This is where the rowdiest pubs and bars are. Just up the strip, Poniente beach is another world, surrounded by upmarket hotels and classy restaurants.
If you venture out of the town centre, there are plenty of smaller beaches less frequented by tourists. I visited Cala Almadraba and Calo Tio Ximo, a short, uphill walk from the north end of Playa de Levante. These rocky coves were all but deserted when I went for a sunny (albeit chilly!) swim.
Cyclists will love Benidorm’s 140km of bike lanes
Benidorm prides itself on its sustainability. It’s very compact, with more skyscrapers per inhabitant than any other city in the world. With dozens of towering, thin buildings, the striking city has grown upwards rather than outwards. High density living reduces the city’s impact on the surrounding environment, and means its really easy to get around without a car. Vehicles are subject to strict speed limits, and are banned in the old town precinct.
With more than 140km of bike lanes, the city is best seen by electric bike. Electric bike hire is priced from €15 for two hours with TAO Bikes.
The bikes are very powerful - on the highest setting, you barely have to touch the pedals. But you can adjust the power down if you fancy working up an appetite for a plate of paella.
Explore the beautiful Sierra Helada national park on a rugged adventure tour
Electric bikes are also a great way to explore the 13,750 acre Sierra Helada national park that surrounds the city.
This beautiful area boasts steep rocky cliffs and stunning views across the Mediterranean. You can cycle the asphalted path to the Punta del Cavall, the ruins of a watchtower built in the 16th century to protect the village from pirate attacks.
For hikers, the 8km Route La Cruz (The Cross) is a great option. It starts at the Cross of Benidorm - an imposing crucifix mounted in 1961 by locals concerned by bikini-wearing tourists - and winds along the cliffs to Albir, a neighbouring town. If you don’t fancy the long walk home, you can catch a local bus back to Benidorm.
Another way to see the park is a jeep tour. We were whizzed to some amazing viewpoints by Marco Polo Expeditions, who also offer moonlight trekking, mountain biking, and hiking.
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‘Sexual confusion’ is the secret behind Benidorm’s wine
Sure, fans of chips and English breakfasts won’t struggle to find a meal in Benidorm. But foodies are also spoilt for choice.
Just off the main drag Av. Del Mediterraneo, Restaurant Ducado promises (and delivers) “good cuisine and tradition.” The smoked cod was delicious, as was the sea bass fried with garlic. If you’re after a lighter meal, visit Benidorm’s aptly named tapas alley located in the heart of the old town.
Paella lovers should head to Restaurante Ulia overlooking Poniente beach. Though Paella is popular all over Spain, the famous dish originates in the rice-growing regions of Valencia. There are plenty of traditional recipes - containing anything from rabbit to snails - but our hosts served us a seafood version. It was the nicest Paella I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant is a favourite with celebrities who head to Benidorm, the most surprising being Elon Musk, but is also favoured by locals.
The best way to wash down these meals is with a glass of glass of delicious Spanish wine.
To get a taste for the local grapes, we visited Bodega Enrique Mendoza, a family-run winery.
The vineyard’s collection of organic wines are produced using zero pesticides or herbicides. Instead, they use an innovative technique called “sexual confusion” - but not the kind you might expect in Benidorm. By releasing butterfly pheromones into the air within the vineyards, the winemakers confuse male butterflies and prevent them from mating near the vulnerable grapes.
The wines are delicious - but take my advice and make sure you eat breakfast beforehand. The tasting includes seven wines, and they don’t skimp on the portions.
A tour and tasting experience at the vineyard is priced from €22 per person.
Where should you stay for a holiday in Benidorm?
We stayed at Hotel Benidorm East, run by holiday rental and hotel company Pierre and Vacances. It is a friendly, well-located hotel, with two pools (one indoor, one outdoor) and an affordably priced inhouse restaurant.
My balcony had a beautiful outlook over the city, and enjoyed balmy sun all afternoon - a lovely change from drizzly London. The staff were helpful and welcoming, and the bar runs activities several nights a week.
If you fancy staying slightly further afield than the city of Benidorm itself, Pierre and Vacances run another hotel in nearby town Calpe, roughly thirty minutes away. The hotel has a beautiful rooftop bar with stunning views of the rock of Ifach, a massive rock face which dominates the town and towers 300 metres above the sea.
Benidorm offers so much more than you might expect
I thought I knew what to expect from Benidorm. And while there are plenty of busy pubs and neon-clad Brits in parts of the city, the city offers so much more to explore.
From fine dining to ancient castle ruins, Benidorm is full of surprises - and I didn’t get the chance to see all of them. Sitting on the bus back to Alicante airport, I was already planning a return trip to this misunderstood Spanish city.
Charlotte Elton was a guest of Pierre & Vacances Group