Benidorm, Costa Blanca, Spain
In 2000, my wife and I decided that it would be a good idea if we had a week away in the middle of September and my wife had decided that as we have been to quite a few places in Spain, Benidorm would be a good place to try as we´ve never been to the Costa Blanca before.
So after we´d paid, got our tickets, flown, arrived, etc. We arrive in Benidorm itself.
First impressions where pretty limited as we arrived in the middle of the night and it was pitch black, so the full glory of Benidorm could not be see.
After a good nights sleep, in our flee pit of a hotel (Airtours Again!). The Hotel Crystal Park. (4 stars, Yeah right! – It was clean however but basic)
We awake and decide to go exploring around the town. Once we actually left the hotel and started to walk around the town we realized that this was not going to be as pleasant a holiday as anticipated.
My first impression of Benidorm where “What a dump”, I´ve seen back streets of Manchester that are cleaner and tidier than some of the main streets in Benidorm.
We´d also taken two of my wife´s friends with us as they where visiting us from Japan, the poor girls must have though they´d entered a war zone!
There are cars everywhere. The place is a car park 24 hours a day and every available street space is littered on both sides with parked cars, even parked on corners. Its worth noting that the Spanish aren´t big on taking care of their cars, so they tend to be very dirty and usually dinted and scratched. This does nothing for the image of the town. The main promenade however doesnt suffer from this fate and is clean and tidy, but beware of crossing it in rush hour traffic! Suicidal if not done at one of the many crossing points!
There are high-rise hotels and apartments everywhere and the skyline is crowded with these buildings, meaning that in some places light at street level is at a minimum and you won´t get a suntan walking around here.
In general all the off beach areas have the same untidy, unclean image and it seems the only areas that are looked after are the beach promenade (This is about 3 miles long though) and also a few of the main road areas.
The beach wasn´t the cleanest I have been on either; on the few occasions we walked down to the beach and actually sat on the beach there was rubbish everywhere, even buried in the sand. In other parts of Spain they rake the beach at night to clear them of rubbish.
If you had just placed me here and not told me where I was I wouldn´t have said this was Spain, well not the Spain I know and love anyway.
It wasn´t all bad though. I have to say that generally the people who lived and worked there where very friendly towards us and they did try to make our stay in their part of Benidorm as pleasant as possible. Most of the restaurants serve local or British foods, as there is a large British population in the Benidorm area. The night life is excellent and there are lots of English bars around the town, most of the Spanish bars have English speaking staff, but the further you stray from the main areas the less places will speak English, so If you don´t speak Spanish don´t stray too far.
There are quite a lot of things to do and see in and around Benidorm. The newest attraction is the newly opened Terra Mitica theme park. Which is about 30 minutes walk from the main town or 10 minutes by car. When I was there the park wasn´t quite finished but the park is a good day out and there is a good mix of rides for all.
Another great place to visit is Aqualandia Water Park. This is close to the town center and even has its own bus, which picks up and drops off at set places around the town, your hotel should have details. There is loads for kids and adults to do here as there is bars, sun loungers and Jacuzzis for the adults and loads of water slides for the kids (and adults as well).
We booked this through our hotel and everything was included except food, I think we paid about £12 each for the full day. Beware I got sun burnt here even though I had factor 30 sun cream on. Get the waterproof stuff and save yourself the pain.
If your going to hire a car there are two places I would recommend you visit.
The first being Guadalest, which is an Old Spanish town in the hills above Benidorm. It´s about 40 minutes away by car and the scenery once there is quite amazing. If you like art then a trip inside the Old Town hall is a must as there is lots of old Spanish art and a new art gallery inside. Plus you get access to the highest point in Guadalest, which is worth the admission fee alone just because of the scenery. If you want to do this them you need to get there early or in the middle of the afternoon as the town shuts down for siesta at dinnertime.
The second place is Campello, which is the old harbour. There isn´t much to do here once you have walked round the marine but there are plenty of restaurants here serving fish dishes which where caught on the same day.
A meal in an average restaurants for two with a bottle of wine will set you back around £12. Superb.
There is also the Glass bottom boat trip, which takes you out into the bay and stops in certain areas where you can see the sea life through the bottom of the boat. The price was about £5 each and takes about an hour. However if its rough don´t bother as the view from the boat is er! Minimal.
So to sum up, the town of Benidorm itself is a bit of a dump, its not the cleanest place on earth but you can´t expect a super clean resort when it has masses of English, Spanish and Germans tramping through it all year round. If I had to compare it to anywhere I would compare it to Blackpool (Blackpool is cleaner, now that is saying something!). It´s cheap and cheerful with an emphasis on fun, frolicks and beer.
I did have a good holiday in the end, I maybe was expecting too much as this was the most expensive place I´ve been in Spain to date.