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Travel review: Don’t judge Benidorm by the TV show, it’s so much more

Sitting at the gate at Dublin Airport, it was exactly as I expected it to be — two hen dos, one stag party and Steve’s 50th birthday ‘on tour’.

With cheap flights, warm weather and a lively atmosphere, Benidorm has long been a favourite among groups of men and women heading off for a wild weekend.

And taking my seat on the Ryanair plane, bound for Alicante Airport, I knew I wasn’t going to catch any z’s during the two-hour flight.

But it was 10.30 in the morning and so that didn’t bother me — nor did the sky-high party vibe. In fact, I quite enjoyed getting into the holiday spirit thousands of feet in the air.

When people think of Benidorm (especially those who have never been) there is little doubt that a large portion have visions of the mocking ITV show.

But that is not a proper representation of the seaside town. Yes, the main strip is loud and boisterous, but that’s no different to anywhere else in the world.

What struck me most about Benidorm, however, was how close you could be to that side of the city, without ever even knowing it!

I spent four days exploring ‘alternative Benidorm’ — as it has been dubbed — the side of the city that doesn’t make the headlines but definitely deserves its place on this travel page.

I stayed in the Villa del Mar Hotel right opposite Poniente Beach, which, although within walking distance from the lively Levante Beach, it feels a whole world away.

While Levante Beach is swarming with tourists — most of whom are English and Irish — locals make up the bulk of the sun-seekers down near Poniente Beach.

Levante Beach in Benidorm which is packed with tourists during the day

Crucially, though, Poniente is still close enough to pretty much anywhere you will want to go in Benidorm — be it the marina for water sports activities, the main strip for the bustling nightlife or the Old Town for high-quality restaurants.

And the best way to get a feel for the area straight off the bat is to rent an E-bike — which takes all the strenuous work out of cycling — from the eco-friendly Tao Bikes.

I cycled along Levante Beach — paying careful attention all the while not to crash into any of the thousands of revellers who gather daily along the bar-strewn beach front.

Funnily enough, this beach is a lot quieter at night time — and a walk along the lit-up promenade is highly recommended.

You can also take a Tao Bike up to the Sierra Helada Natural Park, which offers incredible views of Benidorm and winds its way towards the more private Tio Ximo or Almadraba Beach which is perfect if you are looking to chill out in peace and quiet.

Tao Bikes are eco-friendly and well worth renting to explore Sierra Helada Natural Park

If you would prefer something a little more adventurous, water sports are a big part of daily life in Benidorm — thanks to the mild Mediterranean waters.

With Carlos Water Sports you can pretty much  partake in any wet and wild activity that your heart desires — from jet-skiing to paragliding to splashing around on banana boats.

I took a jet-ski out and the waves were second-to-none, making for a thrilling experience.

Not too far from where Carlos Water Sports is based is Diving Stones, who offer snorkelling and scuba diving — not to mention a fast and furious boat ride out to the ‘island of Benidorm’ (tip: hold on tight!).

Here, you can dive to eight metres underwater and you will see fish, including octopus, which I learned later is a delicacy is Benidorm — and a rather tasty one at that!

Though it did help that my first night of dining was at the Llum de Mar restaurant in the 5* Venecia Hotel and that I had worked up a pretty big appetite strolling around the Old Town.

If there is one thing you do, take my advice here — no visit to Benidorm is complete without a walk around the Old Town.

The views all around Benidorm are spectacular

From the authentic Spanish feel, to the street artists and incredible views, it’s simply mesmerising.

That brings me to something else that struck me about Benidorm, and something I certainly wasn’t expecting — the views.

From practically everywhere, the views of the town are quite simply amazing.

And when in Benidorm, you really should make it your mission to take a jeep tour inland to the Sierra Cortina mountain range.

Marco Polo Expediciones run daily tours — which include stop-offs at some of Benidorm’s most jaw-dropping view points. But what really makes this experience is the charming wit of driver Denis, who, although from Holland, probably  knows more about the area than most of the locals.

Denis even drove to the Bodegas Mendoza Winery to collect me for our tour, after I had enjoyed a morning drinking wine and eating tapas with the owner of the vineyard himself, Enrique Mendoza.

The tour of this quaint little winery is made all the more charming by the family values surrounding it.

The business has been taken over by Enrique’s son and one of the wines — all of which taste fantastic, even from a non-red wine enthusiast like myself — was named in his mother’s honour.

You see the family walking around the vineyard, as well as the neighbour’s friendly cat who pops in as soon as the cheese and hams come out.

It’s a unique experience and, again, the vineyard itself is incredibly picturesque.

There is nothing as picturesque, however, as the views from 22 storeys up in the Madeira Restaurant where I dined al fresco. The view here, in fact, is only topped by the food.

The food is another unexpected facet of Benidorm, as a tapas lunch at Son de Mar restaurant and dinner in their sister restaurant in the Old Town was a real
highlight of my trip.

Though, really, there is not a part of the trip that I can pinpoint as being the best, as what I found from Benidorm is there is something for everyone.

So don’t do yourself an injustice by judging this book by its cover  because Benidorm is so much more  than what you may have pictured.

 

Tags:
Alicante,
Almadraba Beach,
Benidorm,
Bodegas Mendoza Vineyard,
Carlos Water Sports,
Diving Stones,
Enrique Mendoza,
Levante Beach,
Llum De Mar restaurant,
Madeira Restaurant,
Marco Polo Expediciones,
Poniente Beach,
Sierra Cortina Mountain Range,
Sierra Helada Natural Park,
Son De Mar restaurant,
Spain,
Tao Bikes,
Tio Ximo,
Venecia Hotel,
Villa Del Mar Hotel


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