If your idea of the perfect holiday is lots of beach-time, great weather, first-rate family attractions and wild nightlife then Benidorm needs to be high up your list. The resort on the Costa Blanca has an almost-iconic skyline of apartment towers in two shallow crescents next to huge sandy beaches.
The amount of activities on offer will make your head spin, whether it’s golf, go-karting, paintballing, water sports or mountain hikes. You have an action-packed week or two in the sun or a lazy break doing next to nothing. Little ones are also going to love the heavyweight theme parks and water attractions right next to the resort.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Benidorm:
1. Levante Beach
This is the image most associated with Benidorm: An arc of pale golden sand, bounded by a long line of skyscrapers and dappled with a forest of blue parasols.
Granted, the beach can fill up in the summer, but even on the busiest days you can find a quiet place to nest away from the crowds that tend to swarm the waterline.
If all this sea air gives you can appetite then at the foot of the tall apartment blocks are restaurants and North European-style pubs.
You’re sure to find something to your taste.
2. Poniente Beach
The beach next door to Levante has a very different atmosphere; although there’s the same strip of towers, the bulk of the resort is way off to the east.
Poniente is generally quieter and more family-oriented.
This beach has received a lot of investment in the last few years, with a network of boardwalks making it accessible to wheelchair users.
They’ll branch off the road every 30 metres or so and save a hot, tiring walk down to the water.
As with Levante the surf at Poniente is moderate, but less assured swimmers should avoid wading out too far as the undercurrents can be quite strong.
Wildlife parks with shows and demonstrations may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Mundomar is pretty modern and provides large enclosures for its wealth of sea animals and birds.
The trainers and keepers also appear to have a rapport with these dolphins and sea lions, as you’ll see during the regular shows that children are sure to love.
You can also get close to otters, penguins and a variety of primates and birds at the park’s zoo.
Book ahead for special experiences like meeting with dolphins face-to-face or swimming with sea lions.
Among the largest theme parks in Spain, this attraction is inspired by ancient civilisations.
The three areas here are Rome, Egypt and Greece and they’re all crammed with roller coasters, shows and other amusements.
One of the premier rides is the Magnus Colossus, a massive wooden roller coaster on a track more than a kilometre long.
It’s suitable for all except the littlest members of the family.
Choreographed street shows, like Spartacus’ rebellion, are all part of the fun.
A different attraction available on the same ticket is Iberia Park, next door, with water rides and amusements based on Spain’s ancient history.
Best value for money: Terra Natura and Aqua Natura Combo Day Ticket
Next door to Mundomar is one of Spain’s oldest and best water parks, opening for business back in 1985. It continues to grow and new rides and amusements are added almost every season.
Some of these can break records, like Big Bang, the tallest water slide in Europe, while the brand new Vertigo sends riders hurtling to the splash pool at 100kph.
The water for all these slides, pools and jacuzzis is piped right from the Mediterranean, following a bit of desalination of course.
The wave pool at Aqualandia is gigantic, with enough room for thousands of swimmers at one time.
It’s one of the best days out in Benidorm for little guys who want a bit more excitement.
Best value for money: Terra Natura and Aqua Natura Combo Day Ticket
6. Balcón del Mediterráneo
Plaça del Castell is a kind of stone garden with chessboard tiles and white balustrades on the headland between Poniente and Levant.
This was the site of Benidorm’s castle, which stood for hundreds of years until it was destroyed during the Napoleonic wars.
The views on either side of the square are sublime, but nothing beats the Balcón del Mediterráneo on the southern edge of the promontory.
Take a seat beneath the lamppost here to contemplate the Mediterranean and Benidorm’s modern skyline.
7. La Cruz de Benidorm
Maybe the resort’s reputation hasn’t always been the purest, so in 1961 there was a religious mission to carry a wooden cross from the town to this rugged spur to redeem the city for its sins.
The cross to the west of Benidorm became a tourist attraction and was replaced with a permanent monument in 1975 when the old one was blown away in a storm.
The 45-minute hike to the cross is probably best attempted in the fringe seasons, as the landscape is pretty exposed.
But even if you do go at the height of summer the panoramas of Benidorm make all the toil worthwhile.
8. A round of golf
If your Mediterranean holiday feels incomplete without a round of golf you’re in luck as the Costa Blanca has 15 courses.
You don’t have to venture far for a family course, the Sierra Cortina pitch & putt.
There are 18 holes for serious players to test their short games, and for newcomers to learn the basics.
If this only whets your appetite there’s a scenic nine-hole course tucked between the mountains and the sea 15 minutes away.
Altea Golf also has a driving range, and has a pilates studio for non-golfers left behind!
9. Sierra Helada
For all Benidorm’s urban character there’s a large natural park covering a large swathe of the coastline just next door.
Within minutes you can leave sky-scraping towers behind for sky-scraping cliffs.
All you need is a decent pair of shoes, a hat and some water and you’re set for a hike through a rugged landscape of limestone rocks and Aleppo pines.
At the northern end there’s a paved road that twists up to Albir Lighthouse.
More challenging is the walk to the radio masts at the highest point of the park, 300 metres above the sea.
10. Dining and nightlife
As a true tourist enclave Benidorm isn’t exactly the last word in Spanish cuisine; the large population of expats and visitors from Northern Europe makes dining in the resort an international experience.
There are Chinese, Thai, Indian and Italian eateries, and even a Japanese sushi bar.
Still, there are a handful of good tapas bars and restaurants that serve authentic Valencian rice dishes like seafood paella.
Summer nights in Benidorm are full of life, with a huge array of bars, pubs and nightclubs where people make merry till dawn.
The biggest clubs are all in next to each other Avenida Communitat Valencia, and include KM Discoteca and Discoteca Privilege.
11. Puig Campana
The village of Finestrat is 15 minutes by car, and here you can get detailed information on how best to ascend one of the region’s highest and most emblematic peaks.
Visit the tourist office for trail maps, make sure people know that you’re going to attempt the climb, and then you can be on your way.
You won’t need anything more than sensible clothing, food, water and a phone to climb the 1,406 metres to the top.
As you go you’ll encounter a sparse, almost lunar landscape of scree and the odd tufts of pine and juniper scrub.
You’ll know why you did it when you reach one of the two peaks, as the view down to Benidorm makes the resort’s skyscrapers look like a row of dominos.
The next resort along the coast is Altea, which sits in the bay beyond the ridge of the Sierra Helada.
Altea has a quieter atmosphere to Benidorm, and has one of those typically Mediterranean old-towns to wander through.
It’s on a hillside with a steep gradient, etched with alleys and stairways.
The houses here are all painted white and wrought iron balconies, window grates and gas lights.
The unmissable monument in Altea is the parish church, loved for its two bright blue cupolas patterned with white tiles.
If you only have time for one day-trip this extraordinary place should be top of the list.
Guadalest is a small town established by the Moors in the early-middle ages.
It sits on the rim of limestone cliffs 500 metres above sea level, and interacts with the rocky landscape in all sort of surprising ways.
For instance, to get to the Moorish Castle of San José you have to pass through a tunnel carved from the rock.
From the castle walls the views out over the Aitana and Xortá will almost make you gasp.
Available tour: Guadalest 2 Hour Walking Tour
The capital of the province is close enough for a morning or afternoon excursion, and you can even get there on L1 of the Alicante tram.
There’s a bit more history in this city, and none of it is more striking than the medieval castle of Santa Bárbara.
The outer walls of this fortress dominate Alicante from the steep slopes of Mount Benacantil, and as you descend you’ll enter Santa Cruz, the old-town, where there are winding cobblestone streets and traditional, whitewashed houses.
15. Low Festival
Spain has a big indie music scene, and in the summer there are festivals in pretty much every city and large resort.
Benidorm has the Low Festival, shortened from “Low Cost”. It hits town at the end of July and if you’re into alternative guitar pop and dance music it will be a treasure trove.
Past editions have welcomed Suede, Belle and Sebastian, The Libertines, Portishead and Massive Attack, as well as a legion of Spanish like Lori Meyers, Love of Lesbian, La Casa Azul and Los Planetas.
Like other Spanish festivals the first bands take the stage at sunset, and the bill continues late into the night when it’s cooler.