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See beyond your preconceptions to discover another side to Benidorm, southern Spain

Ten minutes before landing in Spain and one of Benidorm’s regular visitors issued some sage advice for us first-timers.

“Don’t get Benidoomed on your first night.”

It is a picture that has been reinforced mainly by Brits behaving badly there.

Europe's largest resort - Benidorm
Europe's largest resort - Benidorm

It soon becomes clear why Benidorm, situated in Alicante province, has earned its place as Europe’s first and largest resort. Faced with a declining fishing industry in the 1950s, town officials realised the combination of sea, mountains and space made for the ideal destination.

And so the idea of a package holiday was born – this one featuring year-round sun, high rise hotels, earning the nickname Beniyork.

A view of the stunning coastline from the Sierra Gelada National Park
A view of the stunning coastline from the Sierra Gelada National Park

So, it isn’t in a place like this that you would expect to be gently bumping around in a jeep heading into the nearby hills and to the waterfall that featured in the Timotei shampoo advert from the 1990s.

Marco Polo Expeditions run various safaris and a highlight of our tour is a visit to les fonts de l’algar a stunning waterfall that courses through the mountainous terrain.

One of the must-do activities (even though my stomach told me it was a must-never), is to jump off a diving board into a naturally-formed pool of jet blue water.

Mary Graham (second from left) and fellow friends on board a Segway tour in the hills above Benidorm
Mary Graham (second from left) and fellow friends on board a Segway tour in the hills above Benidorm

Another fun way of getting closer to the scenery is to swap four wheels for two with a Segway.

A tour took us through some of the residential areas, the promenade at the popular Levante beach, before a slow, steady climb above the resort through the Sierra Gelada Nature Park, all sandy cliffs and jutting rocks.

Being in a large resort there is no escaping the fact that water provides the scope for a lot of fun.

Jet skiing off Levante Beach
Jet skiing off Levante Beach

I can highly recommend a hair-raising jetski ride, run by Aquatic Fun around the coast and cable skiing, run by Cable Ski Benidorm.

Instead of being towed (or in my case dragged) around a by a boat, a rope and a pulley system built into the sea does the job for you.

Getting up close and personal with dolphins at Mundo Mar, Benidorm
Getting up close and personal with dolphins at Mundo Mar, Benidorm

Several water-based theme parks are concentrated at one end of the complex. Well worth a visit is Mundo Mar, dedicated to marine animals. A treat lined up for us was to swim with dolphins under the watchful eye of trainers.

So far, so good but some of us wondered if the nightlife might reveal an underbelly of Brits downing fishbowls cocktails and having fights.

Well, there are some places where this looks a distinct possibility, but it is also easy to find others offering a classier taste of Spain.

For restaurants, seek out Ulia, which specialises in paella. It is on the seafront at the quiet Poniente beach.

At Le Sol Gastrobar and Solotula modern takes on Spanish classics and tapas is offered.

The Efex stage show at the Benidorm Palac
The Efex stage show at the Benidorm Palac

But the accolade for ultimate glam night out goes to Benidorm Palace. It is a showbar/concert hall that harks back to the 70s, but in a good way, with guests seated at tables enjoying a five-course meal before a stunning dance show gets going.

If Liberace himself had turned up, I’m not sure anyone would have flinched.

So for me, three days in Benidorm showed that if you take a slight swerve around the obvious beach bars and tourist haunts, you can have a lovely time packed full of fun with no Benidoom regrets.

Mary’s trip was funded by Visit Benidorm, accommodation by Melia Hotel and travel courtesy of Monarch airline.


Monarch operates flights to Alicante from London Gatwick and Luton. Fares start from £34.99 one way, including taxes. See www.monarch.co.uk

Our base for three nights was the 4-star Melia Hotel Sol Costablanca on Levante beach front, which offered comfortable beds and large rooms. Doubles on a B&B basis start at around £109 per night in July. More at www.melia.com

For 5-star luxury, visit the Barcelo Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa. Room rates from €240 with choice of spa and golf packages www.asiagardens.es

Activities and nightlife:

Look out for deals to Mundo Mar and Aqualandia - Europe’s largest water park at www.mundomar.es and www.aqualandia.net

Cable Ski – www.cableskibenidorm.com from €21 per hour

Escorted jeep safari costs from €59 for a full day www.marcopolo-exp.es

Jetski – Aquatic Fun find them at a stall on Levante beach

Segway in Sierra Gelada National Park from €30 for two-hour tour www.costablancatour.com

Le Sol – gastrobar lounge n restaurant lesolbenidorm@gmail.com Tasting menus around €25.

Benidorm Palace, Avenida Severo Ochoa 13, www.benidorm-palace.com

For more on Benidorm activities see www.lovebenidorm.com

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