The Costa Blanca resort of Torrevieja is a dream if you like sun, sea and lots of sand. Five of Torrevieja’s beaches were awarded the Blue Flag in 2016, ranging from cute urban bays buzzing with activity in the summer, to wide open beaches where you can find seclusion even in July. The resort is pinned to the coast by two great salt lagoons that are protected by natural parks.
There’s also a great infrastructure at Torrevieja so you won’t be scratching your head for things to do and children will never be left out: There are waterparks and water sports centres, all kinds of restaurants and bars, as well as a long list of cities close by to discover on day trips.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Torrevieja:
1. La Mata Beach
If your idea of the perfect beach is a wide and spacious belt of pale sand washed by rolling surf then La Mata is the one for you.
It’s a Blue Flag beach hugged by a boardwalk that runs for its entire 2.3 kilometres and has some 14 beach bars.
As you make your way north you’ll find that the beach gets even quieter, and there’s a 14th-century watchtower at the northern limit, which served as part of a series of defences when coastal Spain was vulnerable to pirate attacks.
2. Las Salinas de Torrevieja
A large swathe of Torrevieja’s hinterland is a natural park with two vast salt lagoons.
To the south is the Laguna de Torrevieja, which has a pink tint and continues to be mined for its salt.
Many people come to float in these waters on the resort side of the lagoon; just don’t forget to bring some water to wash the salt off! Further up is Laguna de la Mata, behind La Mata Beach, and this is where you can pop into the interpretation centre surrounded by vineyards.
You’ll get the lowdown on how this landscape has been shaped by humans and the varieties of wading birds that make a habitat here.
3. Playa del Cura
This bay right on the resort’s seafront has more of an urban feel compared to La Mata, and is full of life in the summer.
It’s a gentle curve of fine sand lapped by low waves as the beach is shielded from the open sea by two long breakwaters.
These gentler waves make El Cura a bit safer for toddlers and smaller children to paddle about in.
To the rear is the renovated Avenida de los Marineros, a grand esplanade planted with palm trees and offering restaurants and ice cream shops.
4. Aquapark Flamingo
For people coming to Torrevieja with smaller children and toddlers, this compact water park is a fun way to pass a hot afternoon.
It’s not particularly large, with only four slides, but is very well-staffed, with lifeguards covering every pool and ride.
Parents will be able to pick a sun lounger in the shade and keep a close eye on their children without having to follow them around the park.
There’s also a pool area for grown-ups to take a dip and a restaurant serving fast food, though many families bring a picnic.
5. Dique de Levante
For the ultimate view of Torrevieja from the sea you can walk along one of the long breakwaters that pushed a long way out into the Mediterranean: So far in fact that a round trip from the waterside in the port to the beacon at the end of the Dique de Levante is about two miles.
There wasn’t always a path here, and for many years the breakwater was known for its seedy atmosphere.
This all changed in the year 2000 when the walkway was unveiled, and the path became a popular way to get some exercise at any time of year.
Bring your camera and you’ll have some fantastic shots of the resort and its port from a mile out to sea.
6. Delfín Submarine Museum
For just €2 you can board two heritage vessels in Torrevieja’s harbour.
The most exciting of the two is a French-built Daphné class submarine, built in 1973 and decommissioned in 2003 when it became the Spanish navy’s first ever museum vessel.
This submarine was able to stay submerged for 30 days at a time and could sail for 4,500 miles without needing to refuel.
You’ll find out how 56 people managed to live down here and take a look at the communications equipment and torpedo bays.
In the other berth is the Albatross III patrol boat, in service for three decades for the coastguard and Spanish customs.
7. Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción
Torrevieja’s name in Spanish translates to “Old Tower”, and this refers to one of the late-medieval watchtowers that are set at intervals along the coast and were here long before there was a town.
The “old tower” is gone, but the stones were used in the late-18th century to build this neoclassical church.
The best time to drop by is a well away from the tourist season, at Christmas when there’s a large and very detailed Belen (nativity scene) on display in the square in front.
8. Vía Verde
Spain has lots of scenic paths that follow the course of disused railway tracks and Torrevieja has a great example.
It’s a seven-kilometre route that was part of a line that was built at the advent of the local mining industry but shut down in the 1970s.
Now it’s a handy walking and cycling route past the east shore of the Laguna Salada de Torrevieja.
You’ll depart from the Old Railway Station and finish at the small town of Los Montesinos.
Once you leave the resort behind you’ll have widescreen views of the lagoon and the countryside on the shore.
9. Torrevieja’s Parks
The resort has ample green space, with a number of parks and squares.
In the summer they’re fantastic in the mornings and evenings when the air is a little fresher.
The most photo-worthy is Plaza de la Constitución, where the Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción and Torrevieja’s town hall are located.
You can perch for a minute on the walls of the planting beds, watch the palm fronds flickering in the breeze and see the town coming to life.
Jardín de las Naciones is larger and a few minutes to the west.
At the centre of this park is a 6,000 square-metre lake with an ornamental peninsula with a scale outline of the European continent and flags planted to represent each nation.
10. Water Sports
Set in the harbour and protected from sea currents you can visit the La Bocana Water Sports Centre.
They organise snorkelling trips and other coastal adventures, and also hire out kayaks and paddle boards for up to three hours.
You can also have a go at cable-skiing on the course in the harbour, and if you’re up to it you can even try using the ramp for jumps.
For those content to watch the action from a distance there’s a waterside lounge bar where you can wish good luck to your friends or family with a cold beer and some tapas!
11. Boat Trips
Also in Torrevieja’s harbour are a handful of cruise companies offering trips out to sea.
You could set off on a brief tour of the local coastline for half an hour or so, which is a good pick for people who tend to get seasick.
If you’re feeling more adventurous than that then you could always go as far as the Island of Tabarca.
You’ll go ashore for a walk around the island’s old settlement, where there’s a small grid of traditional houses on cobblestone streets.
For centuries this was a staging post for the Barbary pirates who wreaked havoc on Spain’s coast.
The capital of the Costa Blanca is in range for a day trip and definitely merits the 50-minute drive north.
The city and port is in the shadow of the colossal Mount Benacantil and the walls of Santa Bárbara Castle cling to these slopes.
The castle goes as far back as the 800s, and La Torreta at the top of the complex is from the Moorish years.
Down in the city you can observe the port from below the palms on the stately Explanada de España or climb the winding streets and stairways of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the oldest part of Alicante, where walls are decorated with geometric tiles and balconies are bursting with flowers.
An easy half-hour road trip north of Torrevieja will get you to Elche where there’s a thrilling UNESCO site.
The Palmeral of Elche is a set of date palm groves laid out in the 900s by the Moors and sustained by a sophisticated irrigation systems that still work to this day.
There are almost 100 groves in all, comprising anything up to 200,000 individual trees, some of which are 300 years old.
Fair to say that there’s nothing else like this in Europe.
Also Moorish is Elche’s Altamira Palace, now housing the city’s archaeological museum where some fabulous Bronze Age artefacts are on show.
14. Local Food and Drink
Paella is on the menu at pretty much any holiday destination around Spain’s Mediterranean.
But in the Valencian Community you can be sure that it’s an authentic regional dish.
The rice for paella is grown in the fields to the north and south of Valencia, and is used in a host of traditional preparations, both savoury and sweet.
Very local is arroz con costra, cooked in a paella pan and made with egg and a assortment of sausages like botifarra and lonaniza.
Also originating in this part of Spain is turrón a hard nougat with almonds, and horchata, a cool drink with milk, ground tiger nuts, almonds and cinnamon.
Little more than 45 minutes west of Torrevieja is the city of Murcia, the capital of its own region.
Murcia had a boom in the 17th and 18th centuries when the silk industry endowed the city with money to burn.
At that time the baroque style was in fashion, and this is why there’s such a beautiful assembly of lavish baroque churches.
Don’t miss the cathedral with its marvellous facade, or the works of Francisco Salzillo, an 18th-century sculptor feted for his religious pieces that are still used in the city’s Semana Santa processions at Easter.