When to fly
Alicante is popular in summer and winter, and many consider it an all-year destination. The most popular time to fly is between May and October when the weather is sunny and warm most of the time, and the area is inundated with millions of tourists. Note that hotels are expensive and hard to find without a reservation. Due to the number of people who come during this peak season, this is also the time of the biggest and wildest parties. National Day is October 12 when the Spanish are also on holiday.
Winter (December to February) and spring (March to May) have fewer crowds, flight prices are lower, and it is easier to find a rental for an extended period of time. You may have to weigh up the benefit of finding cheap flights to Alicante with the fact that many of the bars, restaurants and attractions will be closed over this period.
The province of Alicante extends along the Costa Blanca on the eastern side of Spain. This stretch of coastline takes in the towns of Javea, Calpe, Benidorm, and Santa Pola. The harbour city of Alicante was a draw for the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs as they searched for new trading routes long before tourists went for the sun, sea and sand.
It is an elegant city, bounded by Mount Benacantil on which earlier inhabitants of the city built Santa Barbara fortress. At the foot of the mountain is the Old Quarter with its narrow streets, alleyways, white-washed, flower-bedecked houses and Santa Maria Church, Gothic on the outside and gleaming gold inside. Opposite the church is the 17th-century Museo Municipal Casa de la Asegurada with its collection of 20th-century art.
The Explanada de España promenade, across from the port, is a wavy marble mosaic, with cafés, terraces and tall palm trees. As for beaches, there are several including Playa del Postiguet, right in the centre of the city at the base of the mountain. Albufereta offers great water sports, swimming and fishing. Saladares Beach is also known as Urbanova. It’s quiet and is located at Alicante’s southernmost point.
The Old Town Quarter is charming. With buildings that date back hundreds of years, hanging baskets spilling over with colourful flowers, the Town Hall, Cathedral and lots of art museums, it’s a lovely place to spend a few hours.
Santa Barbara Castle, which stands on top of Mount Benacantil, is another must-visit. It’s one of Spain’s largest medieval fortresses and has wonderful views of the Bay of Alicante. On a really clear day you can see all the way to Tabarca Island which is only an hour away. The island, a protected marine reserve, is studded with little bays to swim in and traditional restaurants to tuck into a hearty fish stew. The must-eats include “caldero” (stewed fish prepared in a huge metal kettle), red mullet, sardines and octopus.
Alicante is one of those perennial family favourites as it guarantees warm sun, sparkling sea and soft sand. Consequently, the list of airlines offering cheap flights to Alicante is long.
Spain’s waters are the warmest around Alicante, reaching the mid-20s Celsius in August. There is sunshine year-round — up to six hours a day in winter and 12 in summer. Temperatures reach the 30s in July, and it can be a bit sticky with humidity on really hot days. Winters are mild with coastal breezes and temperatures as low as the mid-teens. Spring and autumn are typically around 20 degrees and rainy.
Getting around Alicante
The capital of Costa Blanca is best explored on foot. The size of the city is such that full bus service is not really needed, so the bus routes are minimal. Taxis are available at taxi stands in the centre of town, or you can book one in advance. There is a tram service from the Plaza del Mar to the beaches as well as past the Estacion de la Marina and on to La Albufereta.
When you go further afield, not surprisingly the best way to explore Costa Blanca is by boat. Different boats travel to different areas, and you can charter a privately owned one. There are also bus routes between the major resorts and mainland locations, and trains run from Alicante to other Costa Blanca destinations.
Alicante insider information
- Alicante isn’t just about the beaches, shopping and partying. It also has some truly excellent museums. MUBAG, the Museo Bellas Artes Gravina is one the best. Opened in December 2001, this museum of fine arts showcases the best work from the Alicante area from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
- The primary pull of the town, however, is its spectacular beaches. Costa Blanca means the white coast, and the beaches surrounding its main city live up to the name. There are at least five beaches in the town and nearby. The most crowded is Playa de Postiguet right in the city centre, which has a palm-tree lined promenade. Though busy, it is cleaned daily so is always in good condition. The least popular beach with tourists, and therefore the best place to find some peace and quiet, is El Saladar beach, near to the airport.
- If there isn’t enough partying for you in Alicante itself (an unlikely eventuality), the Balearic Islands are just a short ferry ride away. From the port in Alicante you can get a ferry to Ibiza, which takes just under three hours and operates a daily service. If you head down to the port, some promoters will offer tickets for boats and entrance to clubs in Ibiza all in one.
- Make sure you try some turrones while you’re in the area. A local delicacy, it is a nougat made of honey and almonds.
- Alicante is the hub of much of the summer tourism in Spain, but you only have to go a short distance from the city to find some unspoilt regions. The northern part of Costa Blanca is full of orange and almond groves, quaint farms and locals who don’t speak English. The city of Denia is a good starting point for exploration of the region. The town itself is beautiful and is topped by the 18th-century castle. Even better, it is said to have 320 days of sunshine a year and it celebrates more festivals than any other city in the country. You can reach Denia by train from the Estacion de la Marina.