I can hear people reeling in disgust at this recommendation but, it is my intention in this blog to try and change your minds.
I first visited the resort on the mid 90’s as part of an 85 man strong squad for a mates stag do – and the place lived up to its reputation beautifully. Full English breakfasts, cheap beer, McDonald’s, The Sun and drunken British yobs as far as the eye could see – and I have to confess I was one of them. Our group caused a riot in the British Square on the first night resulting in the Guarda Civil attending who measured out CS gas and baton beatings in equal measure. I still have the cutting from the report in The Mirror of our antics as a souvenir!
However, I returned in 2010, now as a more mature and newly-out gay man. I’d be told by a few friends about how gay-friendly the resort was and as I’d been to Gran Canaria earlier in the year I was keen to see for myself and make a comparison.
The resort has three magnificent beaches which are all spotlessly clean and are attended to nightly by the council. The Poniente beach runs from the Old Town up to La Calla and tends to be popular with the Spanish – both young and old. I’ve spent many a happy moment chuckling at the senors and senoritas doing their aerobics on the beach or listening to the old boys’ male voice choir who entertain the locals at the weekend. The Levannte beach runs from the other side of the Old Town for about two miles to the end of the bay which constitutes the New Town. This is the haunt of the traditional British tourist with its high rise all inclusive hotels and karaoke bars which we’ve come to love from the hilarious TV programme – which does little to improve the town’s reputation but, keeps them all in the same place! Tucked in between the two is Mal Pas a small bay which is a real sun trap – so beware!
Nestled behind is the Old Town, a very quaint maze of narrow cobbled streets with an intriguing mixture of shops, restaurants and more importantly, around 30 bars catering for the gay traveller!
I’ve always travelled independently and have always received a very warm welcome from the bar owners and have found it very easy to talk to my fellow tourists. It is a very relaxed and inclusive ‘scene’ which I like very much. It would be wrong to categorize but it tends to be guys from their mid 20’s upwards that favour Benidorm so there’s a pleasing lack of screaming twinks! As such, I would recommend it to anyone travelling on their own as you will definitely get talking to different people.
Some of my personal favourite places would be Company Bar, a great little bar run by Mark and Phil with outside tables which allow you to chat and watch the world go by. El Papagayo (the Parrot) run by Mario and Uri, two fantastic Dutch guys, again with a great little terrace and an extensive list of potent cocktails – watch out for the Long Island Iced Tea lol! Bears Bar run by Jose – who remains my favourite Spanish bear, runs a ‘men only’ establishment open til 4:00am and whilst the drinks are a little more expensive if you look around the ‘play space’ downstairs you’ll see the additional ‘facilities’ your drink price is covering! There’s also Peppermint which couldn’t be excluded from any review of the Benidorm night life – it’s a true experience. Tony and Jimmy provide a unique atmosphere in this small men only establishment open til about 4:30am. It’s been the scene of many a fall from grace – mine included, but I love the place none the less for its honesty! There’s also Brief Encounter, Spirit, Dark Angel, The Eagle, Out, Sensations and many more all of which have something unique to offer.
Whilst not a night bar I need to mention Cafe Refuel which is situated above Dove Park overlooking the Poniente beach which soaks up the sun all day and is a great place to meet before or after a day on the beach. Whilst it’s not the same since Darren left it still offers a great selection of food and drink.
Food and Drink
Added to this, Benidorm has a great mix of places to eat. Fantastic tapas, great Spanish restaurants offering a range of local dishes and fixed price Menu Del Dias, good value tourist restaurants, Italians, Chinese and as much pie and chip/English food establishments as you could ever need.
Accomodation and Travel
Accommodation can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be, from discreet boutique hotels to the ubiquitous 2/3* Spanish hotels that I’m sure we all remember from our childhood where you can secure a week’s half board from £250-£350. There are also many cheap deals to be had on the internet sites if you’re not fussed about slumming it with the hetties!
Flights are pretty easy to come by from any of our regional airports and can be picked up reasonably cheaply and with a flight time of just over 2 hours 30 mins with 1 hours transfer time from the airport it makes Benidorm easily accessible for a week’s holiday or even a long weekend away.
Popular times of the year for us Brits tends to be Christmas and New Year, May and June then September and October – the sea’s definitely warmer in September than May! I’ve been twice so far this year and I’m thinking of going again in early September for Benidorm Pride which I believe is in its fourth year now and it very well attended. There’s also The Pink Weekend in May which is very lively as well.
So, if you want the charm of Sitges without the price tag or the attitude or the variety of Playa Del Ingels without thinking you’re drinking in an NCP car park then I’d recommend Benidorm to you wholeheartedly – give it a try!
For further information check out the Facebook group Gay Bars Benidorm, or our very own Bear in Benidorm, Phillip Griffin who makes regular posts to the Yorkshire Bears Facebook group with glorious photographs of the resort and surrounding towns.