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 mostly 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 first tried to visit Albir at Easter 2020 but due to the pandemic the whole of Spain went into can´t-leave-your-house lockdown and so we had to cancel our trip. Luckily, later on in 2020 restrictions were lifted a little and though the pandemic was still happening, in July we were able to visit Albir.
We loved our time in Albir and during the second pandemic winter, when again our lives were restricted to Navarra, we dreamed of being back at the Albir Palace. So we returned in June 2021.
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.
That autumn, COVID cases rose again and the restrictions came back – and we just wanted to be back at Albir. What we loved about our trip here was that it was such an easy holiday for us: we just had to get in the car and go and once in Albir everything was provided and easy to navigate. When restrictions lifted again the following summer, we really didn´t feel up to anything complicated – we just wanted simple, easy and fun – so we came back.
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. On our first trip 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.
On our second trip we stopped in the lovely little town of Teruel going and coming back. Teruel is so isolated that the rumour in Spain is that it doesn´t actually exist. However it´s a gorgeous little town and was a great place for a stop-off.
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 from 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. It took us about 40 minutes to get from Albir to downtown Benidorm.
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 a few times on each trip. It’s not the best beach but it was still nice to have access to a beach and to be able to swim in the Mediterranean. There were lifeguards, pedalos and sunbeds available for hire and 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) and going on the swings; 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.
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.
My first impression of Benidorm was that it was quite nice, with lots of wide streets and lots of green space. On our first trip we drove through the outskirts of Benidorm, just to have a look-see, and it seemed like a pretty pleasant tourist town.
My second impression of Benidorm was that it was a messy sprawl – with some nice bits.
On our second trip my son had a habit of waking us up at 6.30 every morning – so one day my husband just decided to jump on a bus to Benidorm to keep him occupied – and then I went to join them later. In Benidorm the boys went to a huge playground by the library, then we met up to have a walk along the promenade and a play on the beach, and then they went home while I went swimsuit shopping and explored the ´old town´.
There were a few pedestrianised streets, which were nice for a potter about. There weren´t many high-street chains here, though there were a lot of independent clothes and sweet shops. There were also lots of nice cafes and restaurants.
I really wanted to like Benidorm. I really wanted to defy the critics – but I didn´t like it. Downtown Benidorm was messy. The beach was great, there were lots of shops and cafes – but everything felt like a jumbly sprawl to me. However, it is a huge tourist destination for a reason. The sand on the beach is golden, the sea sparkly and blue and there are lots of great restaurants, touristy shops and some attractions. I was glad we were staying next-door in low-key Albir though, which felt more like a proper town than a splatter of tourist infrastructure.
Obviously, being a huge holiday spot, there is a lot to do in Benidorm. Tripkay has a list of 10 highlights of Benidorm. I´ve also included information about the waterparks, theme park, sea-life centre and zoo in the What We Didn´t Do section below. You can also get lots of useful information (in English) at visitbenidorm.es.
Information about getting the bus to Benidorm is in the Getting There section above.
In downtown Benidorm we got off the bus at the end of the line – by the psychedelic panda, which is part of an art exhibition by Taiwanese artist Hung Yi. These animals will only be in Benidorm until September 2021, so after that you´ll have to find other ways to navigate. To be honest, I don´t need to tell you this – I just wanted an excuse to include these photos…
The one place that I was really sad we didn´t get to on the first trip was Guadalest – and in fact I only found out about this fantastic village after doing research for the first version of this Albir page. Guadalest is a small town located in Guadalest Valley, about 25km inland. Lots of excursions go here.
Guadalest is so cool! It´s high up in the mountains, and the village is built on and around a rock formation – with random bits of castles on sticky out rocks. You even have to go through a foot tunnel to get to the upper, hidden village.
As it´s a hugely popular destination for tourists, a lot of other quirky attractions have been created in the village. These include Antonio Marco’s miniature museum (how will we fit?), 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; a salt and pepper shaker museum (why didn’t we go?!?) and a medieval torture museum.
The village is divided into two sections: The Arrabal, the main part of the village, where the car parks, tourist information and post office are; and the Castle area, where the castle is.
As we had a toddler with us, we split into two to visit Guadalest. There was a really nice playground in the main town, so J took Santi here for a play while I explored the hidden part of the village and the castle – then we swapped.
To get to the castle and the inner village you have to walk through the main ´outer´village, then up a steep staircase and through a foot tunnel (Portal de San Josep).
Just past the foot tunnel is Orduña House, which is also the entrance to the castle. You can tour the house, which contains traditional 19th century furniture. I didn´t, as I didn´t have a lot of time. I just passed through on my way to the castle.
The castle is built on and around the rocks, around the inner village – so if you visit you enter at one end of the village and exit at the other end.
The first part of the castle tour is up metal stairways, over the rocks, past the fabulously photogenic bell-tower – sitting up on a pinacle, overlooking the valley way below. I don´t think the tower is accessible to the public.
Next is the main castle, which is a good castle for clomping over and looking out at the views. It´s all open and exposed – there aren´t any rooms. Along the stairways are pictures of the signs of the cross and there´s a cemetary quite close to the top. The castle is amazing because of its stunning, ingenious location and for the amazing views from its walls. The castle was originally built by Muslims in the 9th century, and was added to over the years. It was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 1644. You can find out more about the different sections of the castle at guadalest.es (you can change the language to English in the bottom right hand corner).
The exit from the castle is at the far end of the inner village. Also in this area of the village are some wonderful panoramic views over the lake and the valley, the miniature museum, some restaurants and touristy shops, and a pretty church.
We finished our trip with lunch in a restaurant with a view to bring joy to your heart…
We drove to Guadalest. It took us about thirty minutes to drive here from Albir and there was lots of parking in the village. There was a tourist information centre and toilets in the car park. I think it cost us about €2 to park here.
Apparently bus 16 runs from Benidorm to Guadalest, departing at 9.45 and getting in at 11.00, then coming back at 13.30. However, it wasn´t clear if this bus was running when we were there and it doesn´t appear on Google Maps, who offer an alternative route run by Alsa.
So for those coming from 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, and 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. For any British expats in Spain, Dealz are a good place to get British staples and cheap British and Spanish kids books and games. dealz.es
On my second trip I discovered the Costa Blanca Supermarket, which is on the edge of Alfas del Pi. This is a supermarket that is more for northern Europeans (Scandinavians, Germans, Low Countries etc) and it had lots of interesting products which I just haven´t been able to find in Northern Spain. Lots of international sauces etc. They also had a large vegetarian / vegan section. supercostablanca.es.
Visited the Guardia Civil
On the last night of our first visit we planned to go to La Roca, the Caribbean grill restaurant. 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.
I needed to get an official certificate to allow me to temporarily drive without a licence, but we weren´t actually sure how to do this. So first of all we went to the local police station, which is in the neighbouring town of L’Alfas del Pie. The police here were very nice but couldn’t help us as we had to talk to the Guardia Civil – who are in Altea (they’re just by the Altea tram stop). So off we popped to see the Guardia Civil but by now it was quite late and (luckily it would turn out) they were unable to help us that evening and we would have to come back the next morning.
Anyhoo, I had a feeling we would find it when we packed up to go home. And we did. Somehow (probably while I was distracted by a small child) my wallet had fallen underneath my windscreen wipers, underneath my car bonnet – so it had been there all along. Luckily Jeff found it so we were able to drive home with no more fuss.
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.
(And we finally got to La Roca a year later and it was worth the wait…)
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 Albir, by the sea. 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.
Waterparks and zoos
Aqualiandia and Mundomar Sea-Life Centre
Aqualandia has fifteen slides, some with superlatives (highest something or other). You can find out about their slides here.
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. www.mundomar.es.
A one day ticket for Aqualiandia is currently €26, an afternoon ticket €22. They don’t appear to do children’s tickets but they do offer family packages. A ticket for Mundomar is €31 for an adult and €25 for a child. A combined ticket for the waterpark and sea-life centre is €29 – so it seems like it’s cheaper to get a combined ticket than a standard single ticket.
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 and Terra Natura Zoo
Aqua Natura is connected to Terra Natura Zoo. You can find out about Aqua Natura’s rides and slides here. To be honest, judging by their websites, Aqualandia looks like the better water park. It currently costs €28 for an adult entry and €22 for a child’s ticket.
Terra Natura Zoo has elephants, rhino, tigers, birds, donkeys and other animals. 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.
Bus 1 runs from Benidorm bus station to the park.
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 are walkways along the waterfalls. 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.
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 couldn’t pull on it and push the tele back).
The Albir Palace is a quiet apart-hotel, run by a Norwegian gentleman, located in a residential neighbourhood, up hill in L’Albir, overlooking the Med and the Rock of Calpe.
We loved the Albir Palace and we returned because it was such a great place to stay. We loved the pool that was always warm. We loved the apartment, which had all of the facilities we could need. We loved our semi-private roof terrace, where we watched stars and satellites at night and the sun rise in the morning. Santi loved the kids’ shed – with all the toys and the big sand pit.
Staying here, as parents, was simple, easy and fun.
Two more positive things to mention: 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.
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
I love food that I´m not familiar with – especially if it´s fiery and spicy and involves roasted meats. I was really looking forward to going to La Roca Caribbean Grill on our first trip to Albir. It looked so good we saved it as a treat for our last night. Sadly though, it wasn´t to be because I lost my purse and we had to go to the police to report it, instead of eating delicious Caribbean food overlooking the sea.
I´m not saying the reason we returned to Albir was so we could go to this Caribbean restaurant, but it did play a part in us deciding to go back. I even checked it was still open before we booked our second trip.
It was definitely worth the wait. The food was delicious and so different to what I normally can have. My husband is vegetarian and there were some delicious options for him too. We had amazing vegan patties to start, then chicken and pineapple and a coconut rice with mango for our mains. The food was yum. Sadly, we had a restless toddler with us so we couldn’t stay for dessert.
If we go back to Albir again we won´t go back just for La Roca, but I will be checking to make sure it´s still open before we go back.
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.