Rows of shops selling beach buckets and flip-flops line the seafront of Benidorm, the Costa Blanca's largest and liveliest holiday resort town, where hordes of tourists throng the streets 24 hours a day. Of the thousands who come to holiday here on the town's three miles (5km) of white sandy beaches each year, many have stayed and purchased apartments in the numerous blocks that now dot the skyline. Benidorm, north of Alicante, is the party capital of the Costa Blanca with an unrivalled nightlife and a daytime carnival-like beach culture.
Remnants of Benidorm's historic past are now well hidden, but tucked into the Casco Antiguo section are the ruins of a castle built in the 14th century to fend off Berber pirates. Benidorm's spectacular sunsets are best viewed from the castle's (balcony). The place to see and be seen in the town, however, is the Playa de Levante, a two-mile (3km) boardwalk lined with trendy cafés and bars. Benidorm is a wildly popular resort with all the amenities one would expect.
The streets of Benidorm are lined with gift shops catering for people on holiday and the supermarkets are fully stocked with well-known brands. Prices in the holiday resort are comparatively cheap, particularly alcohol and cigarettes. There is an open-air market every Wednesday and a rastro (car boot sale) every Sunday next to the railway station. The town of Altea is worth a visit on Tuesdays for its outdoor market or simply for a leisurely stroll along the promenade, while Alicante is a good destination for shoppers in search of some more sophisticated shops.
Top-rated restaurants in Benidorm include Paneil's, China Garden, India Gate, Mme Butterfly, The Vagabond and Witches Bistro. All the major fast food restaurants are also available and the old harbour is the best place to try out the local cuisine. Benidorm has a wide range of restaurants catering to all budgets.
Benidorm is one of the biggest nightspots on the Med with something to suit all preferences. There are loads of bars hosting live shows, quizzes, bingo, karaoke and drag shows, and lots of live bands playing everything from Abba to ZZ Top. Those looking for a party in Benidorm should go to Wheeltappers, Sinatras, the Palladium or the Stardust Benidorm. It is one of the best resorts in Spain for those seeking out a fun and varied nightlife.
Benidorm's major holiday attractions are its spectacular beaches. The two huge sweeping crescents stretch for over three miles (5km) and are known as Levante and Poniente (Spanish for sunrise and sunset). They are kept meticulously clean and are consistently voted among the cleanest and most popular beaches in Europe. All sorts of water sports can be organised from the beaches, from swimming and diving off the man-made rafts to jet skiing, banana boat rides, parasailing and scuba diving. On the outskirts of town tourists can visit some water parks or Terra Mitica, Spain's largest theme park.
There are also loads of options for those wishing to escape Benidorm for a day: beautiful mountainous countryside surrounds the holiday resort and jeep safaris and cycle trips around this rugged interior are becoming increasingly popular. Alicante, 25 miles (40km) south of Benidorm, is the Costa Blanca's main city and has a number of interesting sights. Other good days out include a coach trip to the ancient mountain fortress at Guadalest, built by the Moors in 715, and the town of Altea with its delightful medieval cobbled streets and beautiful Mediterranean views, eight miles (13km) north of Benidorm.
Benidorm is not a good choice for those wanting an authentic, or peaceful Spanish holiday, but for those looking for entertainment and nightlife it can't be beaten. The resort abounds with hundreds of persistent touts trying to sell tourists everything from trinkets to timeshare apartments. There are also insistent promotions staff outside the bars and restaurants, but these may be worth chatting up as they sometimes offer free drinks.