Most people who fly to Alicante airport never actually see any of Alicante itself. Alicante is the gateway to the Costa Brava but is actually becoming a popular city break destination. With only about 2 hours flying time and a microclimate that sees year round sunshine and average temperatures of 20ºc, there is a lot to be said for a weekend in Alicante.
Alicante is a coastal city with a great beach, marina and an unspoilt old town full of bars, shops and restaurants. Shady, green squares and a long promenade full of al fresco cafes only add to its charm.
Things to do
Alicante boasts a host of attractions in the city itself as well as being close to many other attractions along the coast.
In the centre of the city is the long golden sand beach of Playa del Postiguet. It is backed by a palm-shaded promenade with modern bars and restaurants. It is not the best beach along the coast but it is clean and safe for swimming. Loungers under shade can be hired if you want to spend the day there.
Santa Barbara Castle has all the usual attractions of a castle such as cannons, a palace, dungeons and a moat plus fantastic views of Alicante and the coast. You can get a lift up from the beach near the Marina tram stop. Once at the top there are two café areas where you can take a break.
Museo Volvo Ocean Race
The Volvo Ocean Race Museum is a relatively new attraction where you can learn more about the gruelling Volvo Ocean Race. This race was formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race and is a yacht race around the world, held every three years which often starts in Alicante.
Open top bus
The Turibus operates during the warmer months and will take you around the sights of Alicante for €10.
Tabarca is the only inhabited island in the Valencia region and is about 11 miles offshore from Alicante. The island is the largest island in a small archipelago of islands known as the ‘Islote de la Cantera’. It is the perfect place to spend a day exploring as well as snorkelling and sunbathing. There is a lovely golden sand beach with crystal clear waters. As it is a protected marine reserve, scuba diving is also popular here. Local specialities are served in a range of restaurants if you want something to eat. The boat leaves from Alicante marina with the journey takeing about 1 hour. The boat web page is here.
Get a Tram along the coast
You can catch a tram from the Marina tram stop that will take you on a scenic route along the coast. I would recommend going as far as Villajoyosa located 32 km from Alicante which takes around an hour.
It is famous for the production of the upmarket chocolate brand Valor and if you are a fan there is factory that you can visit. For me through, the attraction is the beautiful sand beach and colourful fisherman’s’ houses. These now host several restaurants which are a lovely way to spend an hour or so having lunch before hitting the beach or returning to Alicante.
Getting to Alicante City
The airport is around 20 minutes drive from the town and taxis cost about €18-20 each way. Car hire is also an option if you want to explore the coast although most Alicante hotels change for parking.
If you are looking for a hotel in the luxury end of the market there are 2 choices:
Hospes Amerigo is the only 5* hotel in Alicante and it is situated in the heart of the old town but only 100 mts away of the Postiguet Beach and the Marina. The building was originally a Dominican convent built in the 16th Century. The hotel has been restored sympathetically but still with a modern twist. It has a terrace on the 4th floor with panoramic views of the Castle of Santa Barbara and the historic center. There is also a roof top pool and a spa.
My personal hotel of choice is the Melia Alicante, in particular the Level rooms. These have all been refurbished recently and have a simple modern design. The main selling point of the Melia is its location next to the beach with wonderful sea views and easy access from the pool to the beach. It is also only a short walk to the Old Town when you venture out in the evening.
The Level rooms are the same as a usual hotel club room but the Club is pretty unique compared to most I have visited. Not only does it serve the usual alcoholic drinks (beer and wine all day) breakfast and canapes with evening drinks but it also has its own sun terrace. This allows you to enjoy a drink from the lounge whilst using the private plunge pool and enjoying the views of the beach from your sun lounger. There are also tables and chairs if you want to enjoy your evening canapes al fresco.
If you fancy a proper swim there is also a larger pool although it is not the most attractive pool area I have seen. This is also where you can access the steps down to the beach without having to walk the long way round via reception.
If you fancy a spa treatment there is a wellness centre next to the hotel offering a range of treatments.
I have stayed in both a junior suite and a standard Level room. Both were well equipped with quality linens, Loewes toiletries and bathrobes with slippers. The suite was large with 2 bathrooms, one which had a jacuzzi bath and the other smaller one with a shower. It also had a Nespresso machine and we were served complimentary fruit platters and water, none of which you get with the basic Level room.
One note of caution is the outdoor events they have around the pool. Last time I visited we had a room overlooking the main pool where an event was held until 1am! I would recommend if visiting during the summer months that you request a room away from the pool.
If you book direct with Melia you will receive a €10 credit to spend in the hotel during your stay. To be honest I have never actually managed to spend it, as the lounge provides all that you would need.
Eating and drinking
There is plenty of options for dining in Alicante from simple tapas bars to more fine dining restaurants. Here are a couple of my recommendations.
El Portal is the current hotspot in Alicante and if you fancy trying it you must book in advance. The menu is tapas with a twist such as tempura oyster with yuzu and more traditional tapas such as patatas bravas. They also serve a very local speciality, red prawns, which are native to the Costa Brava.
Tables are mostly high tables with bar stools where you can watch the chefs and barmen work. Two waistcoated mixologists work in the middle of the room shaking their wonderful cocktails. They also specialise in gin and tonics with many different varieties to choose from. From around 10pm there is a DJ playing chill out music which adds to the modern relaxed ambience.
Alioli tapas and wine bar
Alioli is a tiny bar in the old town where you can sample a variety of local and Spanish wines by the glass along with a selection of tapas. Décor is simple but modern with wine barrels and stools along a small bar. Prices are extremely reasonable with wines by the glass starting from around €2. There is a selection of wines to buy as well, if there is one you particularly like.