Exploring The Alternative Side Of Benidorm

Benidorm gets a bad rep, and the TV show with the same name as the Spanish seaside resort didn’t do the destination any favours. For most, Benidorm conjures images of mahogany-hued OAPs on mobility scooters with crepey necks, drunken stag and hen parties with ‘Lads/Ladies on tour’ emblazoned on their t-shirts and… well, a severe lack of anything authentically Spanish. Benidorm’s tourism board is aware of that, and they’re doing their best to change perceptions of their city. They know that the tourists with the money to spend tend are avoiding Benidorm because of the usual crowd, and they also know that the next generation of OAPs won’t favour Benidorm as their preferred place of retirement or annual holiday.

Because of this, Benidorm is regenerating. The now dated budget accommodation blocks are being pulled down and replaced by modern luxury hotels. High-end restaurants are springing up everywhere. Yes, this Spanish city knows you’ve been nasty about her, so she’s giving herself a makeover and coming back an absolute babe.

How to have a non-tacky holiday in Benidorm

Alternative things to do in Benidorm

Visit Benidorm teamed up with icelolly.com to invite a bunch of bloggers to come and experience the ‘other side’ of Benidorm, and we found that while the construction workers do their thing, there are plenty of cultural things to see and do in the meantime – if you stay away from the British bars. Yes, the main strip definitely caters to the stereotypical Brits Abroad (ugh), but dig a little deeper and you’ll see this is a beautiful place where Spanish culture is alive and well.

Authentic things to do in Benidorm by day

Go to the locals’ beach

Forget battling for towel space on Playa de Levante. Avoid the lobster-red masses and head straight to the quieter stretch of sand to the west called Poniente. There’s a gorgeous restaurant called Ulia on the beachfront serving paella for lunch. The sangria also goes down a treat, take it from me.

Poniente beach, alternative benidorm

Learn more about the different beaches in and around Benidorm.

Get out of town

You can hire electric bikes from a company called Tao Bike for just 18 Euros for half a day, and they’re a great way to explore the gorgeous scenery around Benidorm with little physical effort. They’re also surprisingly exhilarating! We took ours along the weaving coastal path in Sierra Helada National Park and the views were fantastic, as was the pitstop at a tiny cove called Playa Cala Tio Ximo. You can hike in this 5,600 hectare park too, if you’re feeling really energetic. I wasn’t.

Biking around Benidorm

The Cross of Benidorm is located in Sierra Helada, and it’s a wonderful lookout point.

Sierra Helada Benidorm view

Alternatively, you can take a jeep tour with Marco Polo and go up into the mountains surrounding Benidorm. We were picked up from our hotel and did a shortened version of their full day tour in a 4×4 Suzuki jeep. Driving through the Spanish countryside with the music blaring is something I’ll remember forever.

Jeep tour in Benidorm

The driver knew all the best spots for photos and took us to two gloriously quaint Spanish villages – but I’ll save those gems for another post.

Take to the water

There’s no fear of bumping in to drunk stag dos in the sea, right? Jet ski hire costs 80 Euros for 30 minutes and it’s the best fun ever! I’ve always been terrified of jet skis because my mum told me they’re dangerous, but as soon as I hopped on the back  I realised it’s actually pretty hard to fall off. I think I giggled the entire time, and practically leaped over Jordan when it was time to switch places. I can’t believe I drove a jet ski! I guess I have Benidorm to thank for unleashing my inner adrenaline junkie.

Jet skiing is one of the best adventure activities in Benidorm

I’m pretty sure this pic was taken on Brogan’s GoPro. I feel like I need one now!

We also took a boat out to the Peacock Island and snorkelled in the shallows, which was fun. I put my wetsuit on the wrong way round and everyone laughed, but it was too late to rectify the issue so I just went with it.

 

Authentic Benidorm by night

Eat at high end restaurants

Step away from the hotel buffet and plan at least one meal at a fine dining restaurant around town. Even if you’re on a strict budget, it’s nice to eat somewhere different for a change of scenery and Benidorm has plenty of lovely restaurants that you won’t want to miss. I’ll share my favourites in another post, because my food pics warrant their own space to shine!

five star restaurants in Benidorm

 

Linger over tapas in the Old Town

If you’re feeling like Benidorm isn’t all that umm… Spanish, spend a night (or every night) in the Old Town. This is where you’ll find holidayers from all over Spain, and the cobbled streets lend a slower pace to the city. There’s an entire street filled with tapas bars, and I can vouch for the fact that they don’t serve anything resembling pizza or kebabs – thank God! I never liked croquettes until I tried them in Benidorm.

Tapas in Benidorm's old town

Spend golden hour at Balcon del Mediterraneo

In front of Iglesia de San Jaime y Santa Ana, there’s a pretty blue-tiled plaza with a jaw-dropping view of Benidorm’s coast. This is a perfect picture-taking spot and SO romantic at sunset. In fact, the ‘balcony of the Mediterranean’ has been named as one of the most picturesque lookout spots in Spain.

Best viewpoint in Benidorm

Best viewpoint in Benidorm

Sip cocktails at a rooftop bar

If you prefer your nightcap with a view of the city rather than a view of a stripper’s pole, you’ll enjoy the rooftop bar at Hotel Madeira Centro. I like to squeeze a rooftop bev in to every trip and I loved this bar’s all-white decor.

Drinks with a view in Benidorm

 

Where to stay for a different class of holiday in Benidorm

We were hosted by adults-only Sandos Monaco Hotel in the city centre, just a few minutes walk to the main beach. I liked that it was spotless, the food was varied and plentiful and there’s a spa onsite.

If you’re looking to escape the crowds, Melia Villaitana is a luxury hotel further inland and looks beautiful. Our guide pointed it out while we were looking over the city from a viewpoint and I got super jealous.

Our guide also told me about an amazing ‘glamping’ style hotel in Guadalest, one of the villages I mentioned. It’s called Vivood Hotel Paisaje and is a 20 minute drive from the coast. The rooms all have floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the stunning mountains. I’m definitely booking in one day!

Our alternative tour of Benidorm really showed me that every holiday is what you make it. You can choose to stay anchored to your hotel, or you can peel yourself off your sun lounger and get out to see the real Benidorm. I had actually visited with my family twice before and although we always went to the Old Town at night, I had no idea of the rugged landscapes, exciting watersports and unspoilt beaches hidden just out of sight. I’m a big believer in experiencing a destination for yourself before you write it off, and I’m just gutted that it took three trips for me to discover the other side of Benidorm.

More Benidorm posts coming soon – including a peek at those gorgeous nearby villages I mentioned – so subscribe to make sure you don’t miss a post and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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All photographs were taken on my Olympus Pen E-PL7.

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15 Comments

  1. newgirlintoon
    May 22, 2017 / 6:07 pm

    Brilliant read! A girl in my office goes twice a year “on the lash” and I’d never dream of going. Brits abroad are my absolute Holiday no no!! So it’s lovely to hear about the other side of Benidorm, your photos are beautiful and I’m very much sold!

    • Dannielle Lily
      May 23, 2017 / 11:41 am

      It makes me embarrassed to be British! I’m really glad I gave Benidorm another chance and hope this will show people that it’s not all about cheaper-than-home fry ups!

  2. LuxeStyle
    May 22, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    It was so interesting to hear about the other side of Benidorm! We stayed there a few years ago, well, we thought we were staying in a town nearby but it was actually pretty much in Benidorm itself. We said we would never go back because we hated the area so much, but it sounds like we were close to the worst part x

    LuxeStyle

    • Dannielle Lily
      May 23, 2017 / 11:42 am

      Such a shame you had a bad experience! With a bit of planning and research you can definitely have ‘your’ kind of holiday there, and it’s so cheap to get to Benidorm that it’s worth trying again!

  3. May 23, 2017 / 11:07 am

    A good read. Your ;ost highlights the multifacted offerings of Benidorm.

  4. Ashleigh
    May 23, 2017 / 11:18 pm

    Where was your swimsuit from the one you wore when you went jet skiing? I saw it in brogans vlog and need it in my life!x

    • Dannielle Lily
      May 24, 2017 / 11:13 am

      Hey lovely, it’s from South Beach but out of stock now! I love it so much! x

  5. May 24, 2017 / 11:56 am

    Ahhh it’s such a fabulous place! I miss it so much! There really is an alternative side to Benidorm! So many fun things to do and so many gorgeous places to explore! Melia Villaitana is certainly LUSH – shame you didn’t get to stay there! You’ll just have to go back! 🙂 Xxx

    • Dannielle Lily
      May 24, 2017 / 2:02 pm

      So jealous of where you stayed! The pics were all stunning. Really glad we got to see a different side to Beni xx

  6. May 25, 2017 / 10:39 am

    See, this is exactly the sort of post that needs writing, promoting, etc. So many places have a ‘negative image’ but there’s history, culture, local vibe everywhere, and we/I shouldn’t dismiss a place just because of what we hear in pop-culture.

    Benidorm has been on my ‘list’ for some time, partly to see if the stereotypes were true, but I’ve not made it there yet. This post proves they’re not. Thank you 🙂

  7. May 27, 2017 / 9:35 am

    Benidorm looks really promising and your pictures are indeed a revelation about the place. Nice to note that it is getting a makeover and emerging as a nice place to getaway and enjoy.

  8. May 28, 2017 / 2:22 pm

    These are exactly the ways I love to enjoy any destination. The authentic way. Benidorm looks like a beautiful destination and I will surely remember your points when I visit here

  9. May 29, 2017 / 4:59 pm

    It is amazing to know how a destination can surprise you with many interesting things beyond what it if famous for. I always try to go offbeat to explore the unknown during my trips. Benidorm seems like an amazing place to explore and I would definitely love to explore it your way.

  10. June 1, 2017 / 10:10 am

    Those beaches look awesome and I like the idea of hiring electric vehicles to tour around. Not only good for the environment but also, sounds like fun. Cheers

  11. Chi
    June 1, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    Thank you for your sharing! It’s so interesting to read about the other side of Benidorm! Your article really urges me to visit this cool place!:)