Where: L’Albir (a.k.a. El Albir or just plain old Albir to its friends), Valencia province, Costa Blanca, Spain.
I always get my Costas mixed up. According to CostaBlanca.org, the Costa Blanca is the bit of Mediterranean coast in the province of Alicante, running from Denia in the north to Pilar de la Horadada in the south.
L’Albir is a small town located at one end of a big bay on the Costa Blanca. At the other end of the bay is Calpe (a.k.a. Calp), in the middle of the bay is the white-washed town of Altea.
Albir is actually part of the larger conurbation of L’Alfas del Pi, which is further inland.
L’Albir backs onto La Serra Gelada Natural Park and on the other side of this is the infamous resort of Benidorm.
L’Albir is about one hour’s drive from Alicante (south), and an hour and a half’s drive from Velencia (north).
When: We visited here in July 2020; so after the pandemic lockdown, but still in the time of the ‘new-normal’.
Why: We initially booked to travel to L’Albir for our Easter holiday in 2020. We only had five days available so we decided to take a trip to the south coast of Spain, which is about six hours drive away from where we live in Pamplona. I’d originally been looking to stay in cool Calpe, which has a fabulous rock, but accommodation here was a little pricey – so I expanded the search and found the good-looking, toddler friendly Albir Palace Aparthotel, at the other end of the bay, in L’Albir.
I was so looking forward to this holiday: we needed a break and this was going to be our first family trip, just the three of us. I was drooling over the Albir Palace pool and getting excited about all of the international food options in the town.
Sadly, when COVID hit Spain the country went into extreme lockdown, in that we could only leave our houses for essentials, provincial borders were closed to try to contain the spread of the virus and our son wasn’t allowed out at all for six weeks. This was over Easter and so the trip had to be cancelled.
By the time July arrived the restrictions had loosened and inter-provincial travel was possible again – so we decided to go on our postponed holiday, while we could. And I’m so glad we did as we had a fabulous time here, the trip was low-key and easy to do but still special.
L’Albir is a great little town: it’s a resort town, but also residential. If you’re looking for typical Spain, this is not it, but if you’re looking for an easy, relaxed, quiet place to be, with lots of food options, good accommodation, nice views and access to tours and pretty countryside, then this is the place for you. We loved it. Being close to the holiday-town of Benidorm there’s lots of tours and holidayish things to do near-by, but also lots of beautiful nature.
Getting there and getting around
We drove to L’Albir. We stopped overnight in Valencia on the way there and then drove all the way to Pamplona on the way back. L’Albir is about an hour and a half drive from Valencia, through some beautiful scenery. It is an hour’s drive from Alicante.
Airports to L’Albir
The best way to get from Alicante airport to L’Albir is to take the Alsa bus direct from Alicante airport to Benidorm, then get a tram or bus from Benidorm to L’Albir (see below for more information on this). Alsa is the main long distance bus company in Spain. You can get Alsa bus times and book tickets, in English, at the Alsa website. I’ve just had a look and the buses from Alicante airport to Benidorm seem to go every two hours, the journey is about an hour and it currently costs €9.80 (July 2020).
Similar to above, the best way to get from Valencia Airport to L’Albir is to get the Metro from the airport to Valencia bus station, then to take the Alsa bus from Valencia to Benidorm, and to then make your way to L’Albir form Benidorm.
Depending on which bus you get, the journey from Valencia to Benidorm can take either 1 hour 45 minutes or 4 hours 25 minutes – be careful which bus you book. The current price is €18.
Tram / Light Railway
There is a tram / light railway that runs from Alicante to Benidorm (Line L1) and then from Benidorm to Denia (Line L9). The Benidorm-Denia tram passes through L’Alfas de Pi, L’Albir, Altea and Calpe.
It is quite a slow method of transport due to the number of stops. For example the tram from Alicante to Benidorm takes an hour and a half, whereas the ALSA bus takes 45 minutes.
For us, even though I love trains, this just wasn’t a convenient mode of transport as the station is quite far out of L’Albir centre. If we were going to Calpe we might have gotten the train, but for Altea and Benidorm it was much better to get the bus or drive.
Bus 10 runs between Benidorm and Altea. It runs about every 20 minutes and stops on Avenida del l’Albir. You can see the current timetable here (click on the stop for the times for that stop). A single ticket is €1.55. You can buy it on the bus.
What we did on our holiday
Beach – Playa de Racó de l’Albir
The beach in L’Albir is not that great: it’s rocky, not that wide, the sea is stony and drops down pretty quickly, plus there was quite a strong pull in the water when we were there. For all that – we went there twice. It’s not the best beach but it was still nice to have access to a beach. There were lifeguards, pedalos and sunbeds available for hire, play areas for kids. There’s a nice, palm tree lined boardwalk to stroll along and some nice restaurants and cafes on the sea front.
Santi enjoyed sorting the stones (and trying to eat them); we enjoyed being with Santi.
The tourist office is located by the beach. We also saw some posters advertising outdoor movies on the beach, which could be cool.
So for those coming form the UK, this probably won’t impress you – but I bought pickle and it was one of the best things I did on holiday! (That and splashing around in the pool with my son). For some reason, in Pamplona it’s really difficult to get international food options, so when we can access pickle, Cadbury’s chocolate, Ribena etc, I (and my friends) get very excited. There were a few ‘international’ food stores in Albir town, but even just the Consum Supermarket carried a wide range of international products.
Also in town there were a couple of nice random-crap stores which sold everything, a Mercadona supermarket, an Aldi and a Lidl. There’s also a ‘pound-land’ type shop called Dealz. Santi and I had a nice afternoon pottering in and out of the shops.
Altea is a gorgeous town located half-way around the bay. We had originally looked at Altea as a possible place to stay – but I’m quite relieved that we didn’t as Altea, we discovered, is pretty steep!
Altea is a much more significant town than L’Albir, with more shops, facilities, tram stops etc. The sea front area has a beautiful promenade and lots of cafes and restaurants overlooking the sea. If we were to stay in Altea we would probably stay in this sea-front strip.
The centre of the town is the old, medieval walled district – a gorgeous area of white washed, flower-bedecked houses, lanes of Escher like stair-cases, small cobbled squares with occasional glimpses of the blue, blue sea, all topped by the big church with its sparkly, blue-tiled domes. It’s a nice place to get lost in. There’re also lots of trinket shops to browse and some very nice restaurants.
Altea is not toddler friendly. The roads up are steep and stepped, the pavements sometimes very thin and totally not suitable for pushchairs, so thank you to my husband who took Santi off while I went for an explore. (Incidentally, if you do have trouble walking but would like to see the walled town there is limited parking at the top of the hill and space to be dropped off).
We went to Alicante because it was there. It seemed silly to be so close to such a significant city, that we could easily access by car, and to not go visit it – so we had a day trip here.
My first impressions of Alicante weren’t that positive to be honest: the landscape is dry, desert-like, golden rock – quite bleak. The town, as we drove in, seemed like a big sprawl. However, once we were downtown I did start to like the city. The centre seems to have some very nice, palm-tree lined boulevards, great beaches and good shopping.
We stupidly hadn’t done any comprehensive research about what to see. I glanced at Wikitravel so I knew there was a castle and an old town, but that was it. We parked up in Corte Ingles (great for cheap parking and baby-changing facilities) and then we somehow stumbled on the old town while looking for lunch. We ended up having pizza at Sale & Peppe Barrio, next to the closed cathedral and the third most popular ice-cream shop in Spain (Livanti Gelato di Sicilia), then we went to find the castle.
Castillo Santa Barbara is a really cool, 9th century castle that you can travel to on a lift, inside a mountain. The castle sits up on a rocky crag, overlooking the sea, looking like it’s going to fall off onto the city at any moment. This Muslim castle is one of the largest medieval fortresses in Spain.
Sadly for us, while we were there there were restrictions on visiting Castillo Santa Barbara due to the pandemic. The lift to the top was closed, so to get to the top you’d have to drive or walk (which we didn’t want to do in the heat, with a baby), and we think you could only visit the castle with a pre-booked guided tour.
So instead of doing the one touristy thing we’d planned to do we walked back to Corte Ingles along the pretty promenade – and that was it…
My impression of Alicante is that it had great trees (there’s a huge beauty by the castle lift entrance), a nice beach and is a nice city to be in – but there’s not that much to see as a tourist.
According to Atlas Obscura we missed the Archaeological Museum (MARQ), which has Roman antiquities, and the cool Central Market Building. Wikitravel says we missed the Island of Tabarca and some great beaches.
Visited the Guardia Civil
So on our last night we planned to go to the Caribbean grill restaurant, and I was so excited about getting some hot spicy chicken and pineapple – but it wasn’t to be, as numpty here lost my wallet. If it was just the case of cancelling bank cards this wouldn’t have been too much of an issue, as I always carry a spare card in a different location (see Jen’s practical safety advice for more good travel safety ideas) – and I could have used this card until we got home. The problem was that we had driven to Albir and my driving licence was in the wallet – and in Spain, by law, you have to have your driving licence when you are driving.
So first of all we pottered off to the local police station in the neighbouring town of L’Alfas del Pie, somewhere we had luckily gotten lost in a few days before. The police here were very nice but couldn’t help us as we had to talk to the Guardia Civil. So next we tootled off to see the Guardia Civil in Altea (they’re just by the Altea tram stop), but (luckily it would turn out) they were unable to help us that evening and we would have to come back the next morning.
The reason you have to go to see the Guardia Civil is they will issue you a document stating that you have lost your licence – and this allows you to drive in the short term. You then take this to your local driving licence office where you can get your licence reissued.
By the time we finished all this hoo-ha it was after nine, Santi was tired and so we decided to get a Chinese take-away rather than go out to eat. It wasn’t the end of our holiday that we expected, but then much of this year hasn’t been what anyone expected so we’re all used to that.
Anyhoo, I had a feeling we would find it. And we did. The next morning as we were packing up to leave. Somehow (probably while I was distracted by a small child) my wallet had fallen underneath my windscreen wipers – and luckily Jeff spotted this as he was packing up the car. So it had been there all along.
So on the one hand I didn’t get Caribbean food overlooking the sea, but we did learn a lot and I’m really proud of both of us that we managed to navigate Spanish bureaucracy, in Spanish.
What we didn’t do on our holiday
La Serra Gelada Natural Park
La Serra Gelada Natural Park (a.k.a. Sierra Helada (ice mountain) / Gelada National Park) is the hilly area at the back of the town, on the sea front. At sea-level, this natural park is an area of caves and coves; at mountain level this is a beautiful hill with fantastic views over the bay towards Calpe and neighbouring Benidorm.
There is a nice walk to Albir Lighthouse. This starts by the anchor statue by the beach in Albir. Apparently, it is a pretty gentle walk most of the way. Albir Lighthouse is a beautiful, art-deco like lighthouse on top of the cliffs.
We didn’t do the walk as we weren’t sure how suitable the path would be for pushchairs – but if we come back this is something we’d like to do. I bet the sunsets are gorgeous from the lighthouse. Benidorm Seriously (seriously) has a great guide to three walks in the park, with specific directional information and photos. According to them the lighthouse walk is wheelchair friendly, so we could have done this after all. Oh well.
Calpe / Calp
It was the resort town of Calpe that had originally attracted me to this area. Calpe has an amazing rock (Penon de Ifach) that looks like a mini Rock of Gibraltar. It sits on a spit of land at the end of the beach.
Resort wise, Calpe looks to be more like Benidorm, in that there are lots of high rises and it seems to be more for holiday-makers than residents.
Because of it’s big rock, Calpe has been an important look out for centuries. Apparently Romans, Visigoths and Arabs controlled the area before the Christian reconquista. You can climb to the top of the rock, through a tunnel bored straight through the rock.
The other big sights in town are Baños de la Reina, Roman fish-farm remains; a gateway and some walls from the medieval fortress; a 16th century watchtower – used to look out for pirates (which if you know Calpe history, you will know was needed); an archaeological museum and The Old Church.
You can find town information, in English, here.
You can find tourist information at Wikivoyage.
It’s a cliche that Benidorm is the worst of mass-tourism. However, I think the resort knows that and as a result they’ve been trying to combat the negative aspects of the over-tourism, and move to a more sustainable, eco-friendly way of being.
We drove through Benidorm, just to have a look-see, and it seemed like a perfectly nice place, with lots of wide streets and lots of green space. Many of our students in Pamplona holiday in Benidorm as their families have second-homes here or their grandparents have retired here. We didn’t go downtown and obviously what we saw will have been vastly affected by the COVID-pandemic: according to the staff at our hotel the resorts are so empty compared to normal years.
Either way, Benidorm shouldn’t be dismissed as a place to go just because of the horror stories. It was built for tourism and so has lots of holiday things to do (some are listed below), nice beaches (Poniente and Levante), lots of food options, an island to visit and a pretty old town.
Tripkay has a cool list of 10 highlights of Benidorm. There’s something there for everyone.
The two big waterparks in Benidorm are Aqualandia and Aqua Natura, which is connected to Terra Natura Zoo.
Aqualandia has fifteen slides, some with superlatives (highest something or other). You can find out about their slides here. A one day ticket is currently €26, an afternoon ticket €22. They don’t appear to do children’s tickets but they do offer family packages. Aqualandia is managed by the same people who run the Mundomar sea-life centre and you can get a combined ticket for €29. Bus 11 goes from the bus station in Benidorm to Aqualandia; bus 1 goes from Aqualandia to the bus station. You can get times from the Avanza Group website.
Aqua Natura currently costs €28 for an adult entry and €22 for a child’s ticket. See below for prices of zoo and waterpark combined tickets. You can find out about its rides and slides here. Bus 1 runs from Aqualandia to Aqua Natura, via Benidorm bus station.
To be honest, judging by their websites, Aqualandia looks like the better water park.
Terra Natura Zoo is in Benidorm. They have elephants, rhino, tigers, birds, donkeys and other animals. Bus 1 goes from Benidorm to the park. An adult ticket is currently €23; a child’s ticket €17. A combined ticket for the zoo and Aqua Natura is currently €39 for an adult and €31 for a child. benidorm.terranatura.com.
Mundomar is a sea-life centre in Benidorm. You can swim with dolphin and sea-lions. There are also birds, lemurs and monkeys here (I don’t think they’re under water), turtles etc.
A ticket is €31 for an adult and €25 for a child – so it seems like it’s cheaper to get a combined ticket with Aqualandia than a standard single ticket. www.mundomar.es.
Terra Mitica is a theme park with rides based on the ancient world. There are five zones, based upon ancient cultures of the Mediterranean. For example the swan pedalo ride is called the Port of Alexandria. You can find out about all of the rides here. They look a bit silly and a lot of fun.
Algar waterfalls (Fuentes de Algar)
The River Algar goes into the sea at Altea (it was a bit dry when we were there). Anyhoo, about 15 k.m. upstream there are a series of waterfalls on the river, with great pools to swim in. There’s walkways along the waterfalls, though there are apparently quite a lot of steps and some of the paths are a little rough. There is also a souvenir shop, restaurant, public toilets etc. at the falls. Adult entry is €4 or €5 (depending on the season), kid’s entry is €2.
I think to get here you would need a car or to be on an excursion. Some excursions combine a trip to the falls with a trip to Guadalest.
The website for the falls has all of the information you will need to visit the falls: lasfuentesdelalgar.com.
After doing research for this page I can’t believe we didn’t make it here, as Guadalest looks brilliant! Guadalest is a small town located in Guadalest Valley, about 25km inland. Lots of excursions go here.
Guadalest has some castles on top of the mountain, with sections built into the cliff face. It looks well cool. According to wikipedia, the castles are the 11th century, Muslim L’Alcazaiba castle, the Castle of the King and the tower crag of Alcalà.
Apparently the town is a nice place for a potter about. It has a motorcycle museum, a Gigantic-Small museum, where you can see giant sculptures and miniatures by the artist Manuel Ussa, including a bullfighting ring built on the head of a pin; Antonio Marco’s miniature museum (can we fit in?), a salt and pepper shaker museum (why didn’t we go?!?) and a medieval torture museum.
The valley has some other nice villages in it too and a lake.
guadalest.es (you can change the language to English in the bottom right hand corner)
Where we stayed
When you are parents of a toddler you tend to have more specific requirements for accommodation: apartments with separate rooms are better, so you can put them to bed at night but still stay up and not disturb them; a kitchen with microwave and ability to cook and clean yourself is very useful; an apartment without a million things to break is also very important – and so when we were looking for accommodation in this area we focused on apartments for hire, rather than hotels. We chose the Albir Palace because the reviews were fantastic, the pool area looked gorgeous, they had a play area for kids and because there didn’t appear to be hundreds of decorative things for Santi to break in the apartment (even so we had to move a few things up high, take the table cloth off the table so he could’t pull on it and push the tele back).
The Albir Palace is a quiet apart-hotel, run by a Norwegian gentleman, located up hill in L’Albir. Sadly for the hotel, due to the pandemic they were very incredibly quiet when we were there. In fact we hardly saw any other guests, when at this time of year they should be full. So in this respect our experience here may not be typical.
What we loved about the hotel was the fantastic pool area that we always had to ourselves, the play area for kids, the friendly staff, the semi-private roof terrace with fabulous views over the sea and the mountains, and the apartment. We stayed in a one-bed apartment and it had all of the facilities we needed.
The only downsides were that a few things in the apartment were a bit worn and the apartments were only cleaned every few days.
For all that though, they definitely get a green light from us and we really hope to come back. Staying here, as parents, was simple, easy and fun. Incidentally, they also seem to accept dogs at the property.
I also just want to mention two more positive things: first, they were very helpful and efficient when we had to cancel our first booking due to the lockdown. We booked through their website and hadn’t pre-paid but there was no problem with cancelling without fees. Secondly, they leave a bottle of wine in your apartment when you arrive, which is a nice touch. We still haven’t drunk ours, so I can’t tell you how it tastes, but it’s a nice extra welcome to your holiday.
For our Easter trip the one bed apartment was approximately 60€ per night. For our summer trip it was about 80€ per night.
Where we ate and drank
Having a young-un it’s much easier for us to eat at home, so most lunches and dinners we made at our apartment. We did however try the following:
La Cena by Nola
Le Cena by Nola is a lovely restaurant. It looks gorgeous, they have a wide-range of international food options, lots of vegetarian choices and they were pretty child-friendly too. We had freshly baked sour-dough rolls with three dips to start and then salmon and chips and vegetarian curry for our mains. I loved the waiter as he poured my wine but then realised he was nearing the end of the bottle – so just poured the rest in too. Also he was really friendly to Santi who was little bit screechy (sorry people at the next table).
Our meal here was a treat and not too expensive.
La Cena by Nola is located on the high street (Avenue de l’Albir).
Wanderlust is a brunch type place with fairy-lights, pallet furniture, bike parking, international food options, cocktails in mason jars and coffees. To be honest, they are a little over-priced but they were also very nice and very friendly too. I loved going here as they had a fantastic play area at the back that was really well thought-out, that Santi loved. I wish more places had play-areas.
You can view Wanderlust’s menu here.
Puente de Oro
We don’t have Chinese take-out very often in Spain. Both times I’ve had Chinese food in Pamplona I’ve been very disappointed – and we weren’t planning to have Chinese food in L’Albir either, but by the time we had finished visiting the police on our last night it was too late to eat in a restaurant and we were too tired to cook – so we decided to do something we hadn’t done for ages and get a Chinese take-away.
And we were pleasantly surprised. The food from Puente de Oro was prepared really quickly and it tasted delicious. English Chinese food tends to be very sweet and gelatinous; Canadian Chinese food tends to be more oily and rich – this was more like Canadian Chinese food and we loved it.
I think Puente de Oro are usually more an eat-in, Chinese buffet – but I can highly recommend them for their take out.
We paid €20 for three dishes plus prawn crackers.
Puente de Oro are located on the high street (Avenue de l’Albir).
La ROCA Caribbean grill
We planned to go to La Roca on our last night, but sadly we spent the evening in police stations due to my lost wallet – and by the time that was sorted it was too late to eat out, so we got Chinese take-away instead.
I’m still so sad we didn’t make it here – and if we ever go back to L’Albir it will probably be so I can go and eat in this restaurant. La ROCA Caribbean grill is a Caribbean restaurant overlooking the sea. They have a great looking, flavoursome menu and quite a few vegetarian choices. I very rarely see Caribbean food in Spain, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to go here – plus the menu is so enticing. They get great reviews too.
There’s not many websites about Albir itself, but you can find lots of useful information on some of the Benidorm pages and the Costa Blanca pages.
Please note, some, if not much of this information may not be correct, or may be out of date. All these articles show is how we found these places when we visited and what we personally thought of each place. Where possible I will include links to site which will contain more up-to-date info. All of this is our own work and any opinion expressed is that of the author only.
All photos copyright of J Clemo-Halpenny, unless otherwise stated. If you would like to copy or reproduce any of these images, please email me to ask permission.