“Oh, you have to go to Alicante.” It’s what everyone and every travel blog said about our family trip to the southern coast of Spain. Beaches along the Costa del Sol like Marbella and Malaga are where the jet setters and beach combers flock, but Alicante was supposed to be the best of the beaches with fewer crowds to go with them. As we discovered, it was definitely worth adding to the itinerary.
Every town along Spain’s southern coast seems to have more than one great beach and a ton of sun. Some have pristine powdery sand while others have rocks or dust-like sand. Some have spots of shade to hide from the intensity of the Mediterranean sun from trees or rocks. Some have a bevy of kiosks, restaurants, and cafes to cater to the flocks of visitors while others are far quieter and subdued. Choosing a beach says a lot about a person, whether they prefer the hoity euro-elite and pretenders found everywhere around the yachts and supercars of Marbella, the decadent seafood of Nerja, or the rowdy local beaches in Cadiz.
The beach in Alicante is a bit of a mix of all of these qualities. The morning we departed, I hit the beach right at sunrise and found a mostly deserted stretch of sand to share with seagulls, a few old local men resting between rounds of metal detecting, and a few local families presumably hitting the beach before their days got started. Later in the day though, with all the kiosks open and the sun directly overhead, the beach was a wall of people from multi-national tourists to local families with kids, all taking in the Mediterranean sky and sea.
What makes Alicante special though is the combination and availability of everything that makes the Costa del Sol great. A great beach sits just below a huge historic fort, free to explore and walk around the ramparts and back down to town while enjoying great views. Numerous restaurants line both the main road and popular pedestrian only areas with a combination of fancy modern cuisine and accessible local grub, mainly focused around seafood of course.
Alicante is accessible by Spain’s rail network and linked to the other major cities of Spain and the southern region, making it easy to get around solely by train. However, we ended up renting a car for the other places we visited, and discovered that Alicante is also quite easy to get into and around with a car. It’s not far from the main highways and the large road into the center of town makes it easy to get there. Parking can be trickier though there are several parking garages around the main areas.
Where to stay
We chose the modern and funky Tomate Rooms for the incredibly convenient location, spacious rooms that were great for me, my wife, and our twin toddlers, and the cool vibe. There is a focus on sustainability and reusability that goes beyond most places including repurposed luggage cases and even a toolbox in our room for storage, pressed wood for the construction of walls and cabinets, and a green turf floor that the boys thought was incredibly cool. We even had a roof deck off of our room where we could sit at night while the boys napped. With a five minute walk to the beach and a great selection of beach gear guests can borrow like umbrellas and toys, we had an absolute blast and weren’t ready to leave.
Most days spent in Alicante are going to revolve around some time spent at the Playa del Postiguet, the local beach. A wide spread of sandy coast lies tucked between mountains on three sides and the tranquil blue water of the Mediterranean on the other. It gets a ton of sun and gets HOT in the middle of the day, so an umbrella or a siesta back inside are a must. Claiming a spot early is also a good idea as it can certainly get crowded throughout the day.
The other not-to-be-missed attraction in Alicante is definitely the Santa Barbara fortress. It’s impossible to miss since it sit above and overlooking the entire town and even the beach. It’s completely free to visit and walk around and makes for a fun evening activity after the beach. The top of the ramparts has a platform with incredible views directly over the beach, town, and off into the mountains further into the countryside. Take the elevator up from near the beach and then walk down through the whole fortress and walls past some small parks along the way. Winding up back in town, we weren’t far from the main area for dinner and enjoyed the sunset over the walls.
Where to eat
Our best meal in town and most upscale across Spain was at the modern take on local cuisine inspired spot, Nou Manolin. With a menu featuring a huge selection of various shellfish, fish, pork and other meat from the nearby countryside, and other local produce, it’s a nightmare for people with eyes bigger than their stomachs like me. We had incredible oysters, prawns, and pork while the boys actually sat nicely for a full meal, while we also of course enjoyed a tipple of the local wine. The atmosphere is a bit more suited to a romantic dinner than perhaps one with two three year olds, but no one seemed to mind the two food connoisseurs as they debated which type of bread roll they liked most. The tavern on the ground floor may have been a more relaxed affair, but it was also packed.
For breakfast, we visited Lizarran, a café and bakery that also does small tapas style breakfast items like sandwiches and croissants. It helped that it was included with our room, but the food was actually pretty good and worked well for our sometimes picky eaters who like to try multiple different items. Even nicer was that they have tables outside for maximizing time in the sun which is exactly why we came to Alicante in the first place. And some pretty good coffee that helped with the long drive to our next town.
Alicante perfectly blends the best aspects of southern Spain. The sun, sea, and history all come together with some excellent food thrown in. Our room was probably the most memorable of our whole trip thanks to the quirky unique nature of it, and it was incredibly easy and convenient to get around town. Though we only stayed for a day, we loved the local charm and atmosphere from the beach to the restaurants. With a beach and fortress to keep us busy without kids for the whole day, and some great local food at night, it was wonderful place to visit in Spain.