Benidorm. The name conjures up images of sun, sea and glorious sandy beaches.
As one of the first tourist beach towns in Spain, Benidorm first began attracting the attention of international tourists in the 1950s. It’s been a firm favourite ever since, luring visitors with striking skyscrapers, sea-view hotels and long ribbons of golden sand to soak in the sun.
The city has long catered for every kind of tourist. Families fly in for child-friendly entertainment and nearby water parks like Aqualandia, while in the city centre, there are plenty of lively nightlife options for tourists who love to burn the candle at both ends.
And for a more tranquil experience away from the city beaches, the coast is lined with calas, Benidorm’s famous coves with azure waters and pockets of sand. Of all the places to visit in Benidorm, in these pristine beauty spots, you could be anywhere in the world.
In recent years, Benidorm has started to spruce up its image. Lovely hotels are popping up in the hills just behind the town, and an array of sparkling new buildings and developments are also promising unadulterated luxury. This is a beach town set on the path to change.
From fishing village to tourism boom
Benidorm grew from a tiny settlement to an official town in 1325, when King James I of Aragon awarded its town charter as a strategic move against the Moors. Over the centuries, it became a local hub for fishing and a base for seafarers.
However, by the early 20th Century, Benidorm’s fishing industry had declined. The tourism boom began with the city’s mayor, a charismatic character called Pedro Zaragoza. Appointed in 1950, he did everything he could to promote Benidorm as a tourist destination and transform the town’s fortunes from a declining village to a thriving tourist centre.
Now considered a tourism visionary, Zaragoza became a one-man travelling show to promote his beloved city. He approved the use of the bikini on beaches to encourage tourists from abroad and sent unprompted gifts to foreign dignitaries.
Seeing the potential in Benidorm’s skyline, he allowed the construction of high-rise buildings to accommodate tourists. Famously, he undertook a nine-hour journey on his Vespa to Madrid to visit the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco, and advocate the importance of tourism.
Zaragoza’s annual Benidorm Song Festival has also attracted rising stars to the fast-growing coastal city. Rarely has a mayor had such an emblematic quality on the place he leads, so much so that Zaragoza is often called ‘the father of modern Benidorm’.
By the 1990s, Benidorm was associated with cheap tourism and package holidays, a complex image to shake but also one that guaranteed its popularity. Even in the cooler winter months, the city enjoyed the benefits of tourism, with 80 per cent occupancy in its hotels.
A glitzy makeover
In recent years, Benidorm has seen a flurry of development. As well as luxurious five-star hotels set further back from the town and the community of villas and timeshares dotted up in the hills, there have been incredible new skyscrapers offering spectacular views along the coast. Unlike many other coastal towns in Spain, Benidorm has always been built along the vertical rather than the horizontal.
The two famous beaches of Benidorm reflect the character of its visitors. The Levante Beach attracts more British and international tourists, while Poniente Beach is more of a hub for Spanish tourists.
And Benidorm’s commitment to building up is especially evident with the opening of the super-tall Intempo in 2021, a characteristic M-shaped skyscraper that is now the tallest in the city.
There are other new, exciting developments in Poniente, with three new towers adding more than 400 homes expected to be completed by the end of 2025, breathing new life into this quieter side of the town.
Where to stay
For many years, visitors to Benidorm would rent apartments or stay in hotels in the centre of town. However, recently, a new variety of luxury hotels in Benidorm have opened up to offer a more glamorous tourist experience.
Combining an old-town location on the waterfront with gourmet dining, the Villa Venecia offers a charming Mediterranean-style getaway with the clear waters of Mal Pas Beach right on its doorstep. Discover the bespoke, boutique hotel experience at one of the top hotels in Benidorm. Click to reserve!
This unique resort is built in the style of a Spanish village, replicating peaceful, tree-lined plazas, historic pastel-coloured haciendas and even a blue-domed church. Set away from Benidorm centre, this is a natural haven with swimming pools and two golf courses. Click to reserve!
Enjoy a taste of the Far East with tropical gardens and a spa for ultimate rest and relaxation. The rooms are decorated in the Japanese style, and, set in the foothills of the Sierra de Cortina, the ocean views are spectacular. Asia Gardens provides luxury that is popular with the A-list.
Get set for family fun! Close to Benidorm’s seafront, with a kids’ club, a daily activity programme and free access to an exciting array of amusement parks, including the thrilling Terra Mitica Park on the same site. You can be sure of a stay for the whole family to enjoy at Grand Luxor.
Occupying a fantastic vantage point over the Levante beachfront, the RH Canfali offers historic charm combined with innovative modern design. The restaurant and lounge terrace is perched overlooking the azure seas with gastronomic delights such as fusion dishes and delectable wines. Click to reserve!
Where to eat in Benidorm
If you’re wondering about the best places to eat in Benidorm, the truth is that the city is full of amazing restaurants, you just need to know where to look. From Mediterranean cuisine, to tapas and paella, to fine dining, you’ll find a delicious dish to your taste.
Offering a rich Mediterranean palate, Rice is based just outside Benidorm. It is a modern, airy space with a terrace and garden offering incredible sea views and a menu of locally sourced fish, meat, and, as you might expect, rice-based dishes bursting with flavour.
The in-house restaurant of Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa, In Black serves international fare in a fine dining atmosphere, with intriguing fusion dishes and succulent meat and fish options.
A charming family-run restaurant with more than 100 years of history. Over time, it became a polished tapas bar and now claims the prestige of a Michelin star. The restaurant’s guiding vision is that diners ‘arrive as guests but leave as friends.’
An innovative gastrobar that has a home within Gastrohotel RH Canfali. The spectacular sea view, combined with Mediterranean delights on the menu, ensures traditional flavours married with contemporary style.
You can find Exotico in the Primavera Park Hotel, an exuberant lounge bar with an exciting array of cocktails and drinks to accompany your order. This is a lively selection with tasty flavours on the menu.
Enjoy traditional classics at this elegant restaurant by Poniente Beach, offering locally sourced seafood favourites of Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine like paella, grilled fish, mussels and calamari.
Founded by two friends with a love of traditional tasquita and bodeguita gastronomy, Chica Calla recalls soulful Spanish food and drink in a classic taverna. If you want a true taste of Spain, you can find it here.
From the 21st floor of Hotel Madeira Centro, you can discover spectacular bay views as The Belvedere serves up exquisite flavours from a fresh menu of Mediterranean cuisine inspired by the mountains and sea.
What to do in Benidorm
In a city created for tourists, there is plenty to explore. As with most holidays, what you do depends on your travelling party, but no matter what type of holiday you want, Benidorm can deliver.
Family fun with the kids
Some of Spain’s biggest theme parks are within easy distance of Benidorm city centre, and are guaranteed to enthral the kids. Stop at Terra Mitica for high-octane rides and fun entertainment between the five themed zones representing the mythology and mystery of the ancient world, including Egypt, Greece and Rome. If you want to make a splash, you can choose from Aqualandia, featuring Europe’s highest-standing water slide, or Aqua Natura, with its mind-blowing zero-gravity La Cresta water slide. Both water parks come highly recommended for family fun! Beyond that, there’s an array of amazing beaches to choose from.
Benidorm luxury holidays wouldn’t be complete without long belts of glorious sandy beaches and tranquil, secluded little coves. The pale gold sand and vivid blue waters make one of the best beach experiences in Spain, providing the foundation for Benidorm’s thriving tourism.
The most popular beach in Benidorm, Levante is a classic city beach with plentiful amenities like parasols and sun loungers for hire. The beach is a two-kilometre stretch of fine sand, backed by a lively promenade of bars, cafes and restaurants with global cuisines.
Benidorm’s second most popular beach has just as many fabulous amenities as Levante. This three-kilometre beach tends to be more popular with Spanish tourists, and has quieter days than Levante. You will find that it’s also backed by a beachfront promenade of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
One of Benidorm’s calas, the distinctive coves that dot the coastline, Tio Ximo Cove is small but secluded. Snorkellers will enjoy the crystal clear waters. It provides a great alternative to the city beach if you seek more solitude, but don’t worry - this cove is still fully equipped with lifeguards and services.
Discover this cove by the fringes of Sierra Helada Natural Park. This cove allows visitors the seclusion to swim peacefully, relax, and even practice nudism if they’re inclined. Access to the 80-metre-long beach is relatively steep but worthwhile. Like Tio Ximo, La Almadrava is still equipped with lifeguards.
Nestled between Levante and Poniente beaches and under the famous Balcón del Mediterráneo, Mal Pas Cove is a lovely spot for swimmers and scuba divers. At only 120 metres long, this charming cove can fill up fast, but it provides a peaceful alternative to the two neighbouring main beaches.
A romantic getaway
The Old Town provides a glimpse of the city as it once was. Visit the Roman ruins at Tossal de la Cala, or head to the Balcón del Mediterráneo observation point perched on the rocks with lovely sea views.
Beyond Benidorm itself, couples might enjoy a rigorous hike in the Sierra Helada natural park, home to fascinating caves and coves with plenty of viewing areas to see spectacular vistas of the bay. Borrowing a bicycle to meander through the nearby countryside, perhaps stopping at out-of-town restaurant favourites like Rice, is a great way to see a little more of how the locals live.
It’s the beach town that never stands still, and there are always new attractions, eateries and delights to discover in Benidorm. With the development of new luxury hotels in Benidorm, not to mention a thriving foodie scene, this is a city that caters to family-fun package holidays and bespoke luxury alike.
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