Costa Blanca

Secret Costa Blanca: How to escape the tourist trail

By Eddi Fiegel

1 March 2017 | Updated 14 December 20235 min read

A view showing the Denia track in Montgo mountain of Alicante in Spain with the city and sea in the background

Hear the words Costa Blanca and your first thought may be Brits, beers and bars. And yes, the Costa Blanca is indeed one of the better-known stretches of Spain’s coastline, but hidden away, just behind those heaving beaches, lies a stunning hinterland.

Away from the bustling coast, this is a place to meander and discover miles of lush countryside packed with fruit orchards and blossoms, historic palaces, fabulous festivals and superb Spanish food.

To escape the tourist trail, hire a car at the airport and hit the road to discover the secret Costa Blanca. Here’s where to start.

Party with locals at the Cherry Festival

Just a few miles inland from the coast at Denia you’ll find the gorgeous Vall de Gallinera valley, which teems with cherry and almond orchards. It’s also peppered with unspoilt little villages such as Benirrama, Benialí and Benissivà.

In June, the whole area celebrates the cherry harvest in style with the Festa de la Cirera, or Cherry Festival – essentially a massive street party with markets, craft fairs, a street parade in traditional costumes and more. Locals fill the bars and restaurants where you’ll find wonderfully rustic, authentic Spanish food.

Look out for tenderly cooked rabbit, boar and wild rice dishes. Sabors restaurant in Beniali is especially good for tapas and elegantly served local specialities like lamb and steaks, and of course, cherry flan.

Try blat picat – the traditional local stew

Tucked away behind the church in the village of Benissivà is El Racó del Raval – one of those hidden gems that you hope someone in the know will tell you about (you’re welcome!).

Served up are hearty dishes like blat picat, a local one-pot stew with cooked meats and chickpeas, or minxos, a tantalising blini-style wheat pancake filled with a mix of local wild herbs.

Escape the high rises on the beach at El Portet

If you like the beach – this is the Costa Blanca after all – but want to steer clear of the tourist crowds, head for El Portet. Just a short walk from the upmarket coastal town of Moraira, there’s nary a high rise in sight – just gently sloping sands and lovely clear, warm water that’s perfect for kids.

This is where holidaying Spaniards go, and there are beautiful views inland to the mountains or to Calpe beyond the beach. You’ll also find some great beach bars and fabulous fish restaurants along the promenade.

Go medieval in Benissa

Around 20 minutes inland from Moraira is the medieval town of Benissa, which is full of narrow, winding cobbled streets. At the end of June and beginning of July, like many other towns in Spain, Benissa celebrates its annual Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) Festival. Locals parade through the streets dressed in medieval costume and there’s general merriment all-round, recalling the days when Spain played host to marauding Moors and defending Christians.

In January, there’s also a medieval fair and market where stallholders dress as knights, court jesters and Maid Marian-style ladies of the court. It’s great fun and there’s also a good playground near the main town square where you can park your car.

Ogle at the splendid Borgias Palace

About half an hour’s drive north along the coast from Denia, the small town of Gandia was once run by the Dukes of the notorious Borgia family. This branch was not quite as unpleasant as their Italian counterparts, but they still made their mark.

The impressive 15th-century palace where they held court is amazingly intact, with some stunningly ornate Baroque interiors. In particular, look out for the spectacular Golden Gallery – a riot of gold leaf, cobalt blue tiling and elaborately painted ceilings, and the equally grandiose Crown Hall and Saint’s Chapel.

Cap Negret

  • Altea, Costa Blanca, Spain
  • 1 June 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Stansted

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Explore the caves near Benidoleig

Less than a 20-minute drive inland from Denia, you’ll find the lush Orba Valley, laden with orange, almond and olive groves. Dotting the valley are a series of lovely little villages known as ‘la Rectoria’ and in one of them, Benidoleig, lie the scarily-named but family-friendly Cuevas de las Calaveras – the Caves of the Skulls.

Besides the main attraction you’ll also find a children’s play area with slides and swings, a bar (this is Spain after all!) and a shop.

Go for after-dinner G&Ts

The terrace bars of Calle Castanos in Alicante may no longer be a secret, but among them you’ll find Tiempo Gin Club – a smart, minimalist bar that’s a big hit with local hipsters. Taking gin offerings to the max, there’s a dizzying array of options, each with its own personality, flavour and style and its own tonic mixer to match.

It’s not just gin and tonics either. The super-friendly staff take their cocktail mixing seriously, and whether yours is a Bloody Mary, a Manhattan or you have another cocktail in mind, they’ll make it a work of art.

For a quieter, inland drink, head for Bar la Roca in the village of Benirrama. Named after the rough-hewn rocks on the walls inside, this is a restaurant where you can join villagers tucking into fantastic local specialities such as wild boar, but it’s also great for a quiet beer or glass of wine away from the tourist trail.

Hotel Eurostars Mediterranea Plaza

  • Alicante, Costa Blanca, Spain
  • 24 February 2025
  • Room only
  • From Stansted

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