Benidorm: Beaches and Beyond
It is fair to say that in the UK, at least, Benidorm’s reputation precedes it. Having boomed on to the scene in the sixties with the advent of package holidays, it has maintained such a prominent position in British culture that it spawned ITV’s award-winning situational comedy Benidorm, about a group of British holidaymakers who visit the Spanish resort each year, that remained popular for its ten series run. Needless to say, with this my reference point I was more than intrigued to find out what the seaside city could offer to productions beyond the cliched image.
Six location managers, Georgette Turner (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Wonder Woman) Sharon McGuinness (Guardians of the Galaxy, Born a King) Simon Cullen (The Golden Compass, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) Peter Bardsley (Fast & Furious 6, Aladdin) Jasmine Burridge (Chimerica, The Feed) and Lyall Gardiner (Sonic the Hedgehog, Star Trek Beyond) were invited to scout Benidorm, I joined to cover the trip for The Location Guide.
I have to admit that as soon as I stepped off the plane in Alicante I was somewhat disappointed to be greeted with an overcast weather, and what felt like cooler temperatures than I had left back in London but by the time we reached Benidorm - a quick forty minute journey by road – a blue sunny sky had appeared. Notably, due to being surrounded by mountains, and lying on a sheltered stretch of coastline that is protected from windy weather, Benidorm boasts a microclimate of its own. The fact that Benidorm enjoys an average three hundred sunny days a year – and a year-round average temperate of nineteen degrees, has no doubt helped it become such a tourist hotspot, but could also help in attracting productions.
The city itself has two stretches on beaches on separate bays that join to form a ‘B’ shape. Levante beach, on the left is more catered to British tourists, while the other, Poniente, is where Spanish holiday makers tend to go. In addition to these longer stretches of beaches, there are smaller public beaches to be found in nearby rocky coves.
Our first look up close at the city was for lunch on the seafront promenade of Levante beach. Up close, the abundance of uniform skyscrapers that makes up Benidorm from afar transform into retro blocks all of different patterns and shapes. Due to planning regulations that require every structure to have its own view to the ocean they are not too densely packed together and stand at different angles. Peter Bardsley noted that due to this, “Benidorm has lots to offer beyond the heavily stereotyped image, particularly the stills and advertising markets…the seafront with the 60s blocks has some architectural gems tucked away”.
Imaginations quickly jumped to the doubling potential of Benidorm. Jasmine Burridge identified the potential to double for Camps Bay, in Cape Town, South Africa because of the mountains that loom behind Benidorm from both sides. Other possible locations were suggested as far flung as Miami, Shanghai and even Monaco. At night, this potential was even more evident, although unlike these big international cities, the mostly residential blocks do not leave all their lights switched on. However, with the right planning a similar effect could be achieved.
That evening, we were able to delve into the heart of the old town. Rosa Perez, the head of Benidorm Film Office guided us through the old town section of the city and pointed out the fact that the film office has, in the past been able to shut down the main roads that were now thronging with people. Winding our way around the town, we made our way to the seafront where a more traditional Mediterranean feel prevails in the form of whitewashed buildings, a square with tiled details and a church . Here, the Balcon del Mediterraneo, a platform extending out into the sea on the divide between the two bays is the main focus point.
Tucked away behind the seafront is an old square with a large church with large gold doors. Georgette Turner noted that the square could easily be turned into a bustling period market square. The lack of shopfronts means that minimal set dressing would be necessary and because of its small size it could easily be filled by two hundred people, cutting down the need for a large cast of extras.
The next morning we had a chance to explore the Sierra Helada natural park. Located right next to Benidorm, the natural park has 300 meters of cliffs and covers nearly six thousand hectares. We hopped on some electric bikes to explore the park via bending roads that pass above Tiximo beach, a quiet public beach which provides a rocky contrast to Benidorm’s city beaches. The roads themselves have been well used by film crews as they are easily blocked off and wide and safe enough to allow for filming. Notably, a spot for Oakley #CantStopRiding - One Obsession, sees Mark Cavendish using the road as his own private racetrack and proves that angles can be found to both highlighting Benidorm in the background, or hide it from view completely. Moreover, the hills themselves are reminiscent of the Hollywood hills, with the same tones and vegetation. Carola Valls from Visit Benidorm, explained that there are high end apartments dotted along the cliffs that are available for filming hire. In order to gain permits to close the roads for filming in the natural park, productions should allow around fifteen days.
After the reviving bike tour, we were whisked off to explore some of Benidorms amusement parks. Tierra Mitica, a theme park divided into five themes zones ranging from Ancient Greece to Egypt and Rome. A large lake, some larger rollercoasters as well as typical fairground attractions make up this park. Filming is possible here, especially out of peak tourist season when it limits opening hours.
That afternoon we hopped on board a small diving boat to view Benidorm from the sea. Although we did not make it to Benidorm island – our small boat was not able to compete with the rough water that day - but we sped by the cliff faces, and the more adventurous among us donned their flippers and snorkels and explored the aquatic life in Benidorm.
We began our final day in Benidorm with a quick visit to Benidorm’s only helicopter pad (pictured above) which overlooks the city. From there, we went on to visit two of Benidorm most impressive hotels. The first, Hotel Melia Villaitaina is a large hotel built in the style of traditional Costa Blanca architecture. Making a contrast from the modern hotels in the rest of the city, the architecture focuses on the renaissance and baroque styles found in Alicante province and includes a church, a square lined with orange trees, and four hundred and fifty-five rooms. The hotel has a particular sport and active leisure focus, with two top tier golf courses, four football pitches, tennis courts and an extensive swimming pool. Peter noted that “the level of investment in their internationally renowned golf resorts means that there are also contrasting styles available with some scale”.
Next up, we went back into the heart of Benidorm, this time to the other beach, Poniente. On this side of the city stands the Gran Hotel Bali, Spain’s tallest hotel that has fifty-two floors. On the roof, reached via a glass fronted lift, is a terrace that provides views of the city from above.
To round off the trip, our hosts, had arranged for a jeep trip to take us into Alicante province. We only ventured half an hour from Benidorm, yet visited two distinct spots. The first, Les Fonts Del l’Algar, a rocky waterfall set in the midst of the mountains. A man-made bridge and footpath makes walking between the series of waterfalls and fast flowing river less treacherous but areas with a natural feel still remain.
From there we continued inland, driving on roads that hug the valley until we reached the hilltop town of Guadalest. Sat on a rocky peak, the village has great panoramas of the surrounding area. Cobbled streets are lined with whitewashed houses, and the town centre has a large square with a lookout point. Below, at the bottom of the valley, is a reservoir whose bright blue waters. The village also has a picturesque castle, perched on top of the rock.
Over the whole trip, we were warmly welcomed by everyone we met. The tourist board, and film office have a great relationship with the rest of the community, and we were assured that when it comes to permitting, the community and businesses come together to facilitate productions. For information regarding shooting in Benidorm, contact Benidorm Film Office or Visit Benidorm. For information regarding shooting in Alicante region, contact the Alicante Film Office. For further information regarding production services in Benidorm, and Alicante check out our directory listings here.
The Location Guide would like to thank Visit Benidorm, and the hard work of all those involved who made the tour such a great success.
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