Costa Blanca doesn´t have to mean Costalot

View of Alicante puerto in January

Over the years the Costa Blanca has become a popular holiday spot for many British tourists, however with the poor exchange rate at the moment you may be worried about how expensive your holiday will be.  If so, instead of heading for the usual holiday resorts, why not consider staying in the city of Alicante?

Not a lot of people know this (apologies to Michael Caine!), but Alicante has good beaches, lots to do for all the family, great shopping and many reasonably priced bars and restaurants.  It is an ideal base for exploring the Costa Blanca for those of you who are on a budget.

At the end of January we stayed at Hotel Maya, situated near the Playa de Postiguet, Plaza Mar 2 shopping centre and the Castillo de Santa Bárbara: a good choice therefore for those who enjoy sunbathing, shopping and sight-seeing!  We used the Destinia website for booking, and they gave us a good deal at the hotel: just over 40 euros for our double room plus a substantial buffet breakfast.  Obviously prices will be a lot higher in the summer months, however not nearly as high as if you stay in Benidorm or Torrevieja.

View from the Castillo

Although the hotel is on the outskirts of Alicante, it is only a 15 minute walk to the city centre, with the option of taking the tram if feeling too lazy to walk. 

We found two good restaurants close to the hotel: Mesón Tio Faustino and Restaurante Lagar, both of which did a ménu del noche for around 15 euros.  The food at both restaurants was excellent value, so not surprisingly they were both busy.  Luckily we had booked in advance at Restaurante Lagar as it isn´t very big and, although it was quiet when we went in for a drink and to check when they closed, it was almost full when we returned for dinner.  

Waiting for the food to arrive at Mesón Tio Faustino

At Méson Tio Faustino they were particularly good about my meal:  I had ordered bacalao but they hadn´t mentioned it was a la vizcaína.  I can´t eat tomatoes, so my face fell when the cod arrived covered with the wretched things.  As soon as I explained the problem, they whisked my plate away and brought me grilled tuna instead, which I admit made the others a bit envious.

On Sunday night the local restaurants and bars were closed, so we headed towards the centre of Alicante.  Our friend´s daughter had recommended Restaurante Bruno Caruso, which we managed to stumble upon when searching for places that were open.  It was fortunate that by then we had worked up good appetites as the portions were huge, although we still managed to squeeze in some delicious desserts!

The Casco Antiguo (old town) is well worth exploring, and there are plenty of cafes and bars to pop into if you start to feel fatigued.  Whatever you do, don´t miss seeing the Castillo, if only for the amazing views when you get to the top.  If you don´t feel energetic there is a lift on Avenida Jovellanos, opposite Playa Postiguet , which was free when we visited the castle because of works that were going on at the time.  It is in fact free throughout the year if you are a pensioner.

Alicante Ayuntamiento

Tips for other places to visit along the Costa Blanca: Calpe, Altea, Villajoyosa, Santa Pola and Guardamar.  These are picturesque destinations that are popular with Spaniards as well as Brits, where you can enjoy a reasonably priced menu del día especially if you avoid places with English menus outside! 

Sunset over Benidorm beach

If you really want to go to Benidorm it´s an easy drive from Alicante or you can take the tram there.   If you´ve never been to Benidorm you should certainly go there at least once.  I recommend going to Playa Poniente: you may be pleasantly surprised.

Morning coffee overlooking Alicante Playa

Even sitting on the seafront at Alicante didn´t cost us an arm and a leg: the Costa Blanca doesn´t have to mean Costalot.

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