In the years since the 1960s this city has grown from a small village to a mega-resort of modern high-rise hotels hosting countless numbers of tourists, mostly from the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Said to be the birthplace of package tourism, the city made holidays with palm trees financially accessible to all. At the same time Benidorm was in the vanguard as Spain made it's dramatic cultural shift from the social conservatism of the Franco era. Many visitors who came stayed on, and today the British expat community alone comprises almost 8% of the permanent resident population. Spanish tourists come too, expecially the young crowd for the all-night dance club scene, and for a chance to spread their wings, away from tight-knit communities at home.
Unlike Sitges, another gay resort to the north where many places are seasonal, this is a year-round destination, with bargain rates to be found at many hotels during off-season months, and dozens of gay bars, saunas, shops and restaurants stay open. Most bars are small, clustered in the Old Town district between the city's two major stretches of beach. Here you're hardly aware of the big city ambience of surrounding towers, with narrow streets and tiny squares looking much like they did before the boom. Main pedestrian-only routes through the district are more commercial; lined with souvenir shops, pizza or burger joints and ice-cream vendors they look very much like any Atlantic Coast American beach town. Beach esplanades are lined with throngs of people at terrace tables watching the stream of passers-by over drinks.
Beyond Old Town and the main beaches there's lots more to do. In summertime there are water park romps, a wildlife park, scenic mountain villages to tour, dramatic waterfalls to escape the heat, and more beaches up and down the Costa Blanca - some pristine and naturalist. The big all-night discos aren't specifically gay, but no one minds, and Spanish men are generally very relaxed and sexually self-assured. In November the Festes Majors Patronals is a time for parades, parties, fireworks and bonfires. See the events tab above for more.
They've had two successful Pride events in June 2011 and 2012, each with a parade and parties in the clubs. See media coverage of this past summer, and plans for 2013 at Gay Benidorm Pride. Benidorm Pink Weekend starts off the season in mid-May, with a beach party and special bar events, and then repeats to wrap things up in mid-October, with special nights taking place around town in the bars.
The Alicante Airport is the closest international connection. A taxi to Benidorm will cost around 80 euros, so you might consider pooling or taking the ALSA bus that departs on the hour between 8am and 5pm; and thereafter at 7, 9 and 11pm. The trip takes 45 minutes and costs 8 euros. Alternately you can take the Airport Bus C-6, 40 minutes to Alicante Central Bus Station, with departures to Benidorm every half hour between 6:30am and 10:30pm.
There is also light rail service to Benidorm, and from there connections to Altea, Calp, Teulada and and Denia. The station at Plaza Puerta del Mar in the harbor area, is the last stop on the C-6 Airport Bus. The tram takes you to El Campello, then an FGV train continues to Benidorm - a total of about 80 minutes for a bit over 3 euros (2.5 hours to Calp). Don't go to the main RENFE station, there is no connection from there.
If arriving at Valencia Airport, the Metro/subway will take you to the Central Bus station, from which you can catch a bus/coach south to all the Costa Blanca towns - an all-day undertaking if you don't plan ahead.
The gay websites below have listings for transfer services to and from the airport - as do many of the hotels.
Car rentals are available at the airport, but parking is difficult around Old Town, so for day trips to surrounding areas a local Benidorm rental might be preferable. Reserve in advance, especially in season.
Walking or short taxi hops will get you to most places easily enough in Benidorm. For more information on city and regional public transport, in English, see the AngloInfo website.
As part of the Community of Valencia, street signs here are as often in Valencian (similar to Catalan in Barcelona or Sitges) as in Castillian Spanish; don't be confused seeing Plaça as well as Plaza, or Sant Pere along with San Pedro - they're the same. We mostly use the Valencian names. Many business signs are in English too.
The gay village is in Old Town, or El Castell, a rocky promontory that breaks the beach into two sections: Ponent (Poniente) to the south, and Llevant (Levante) to the north. The gay bars are clustered mainly around Constitution Plaza and along the narrow streets on either side of the Dels Quatre Canton lane that cuts through the square. Other gay gathering places, such as the saunas and two cabarets not in the immediate area, are not far away - a short walk or taxi ride at most. For information on local beaches click the "pics & events" tab above.
Media and resources
For online resources and updates in Englsh about what's going on in gay Benidorm see BenidormHotMale and GayBenidorm. The latter has full gay business listings and good street maps in their monthly print edition, free in the bars.
The Asociacion LGTB is a local gay alliance, with social activities and a website.
The City Hall tourist site Benidorm has general information in English for area resources, getting around, and upcoming events.
See our gay Benidorm listings tab for map locations, phone numbers, and website links of businesses listed below, and more.
Babylon (Alacant 28; 34 965-865-019), adult-only pet-friendly pension, en-suite rooms, balconies, budget prices, gay-central location, roof terrace cocktails, sports bar and cafe; WiFi.
Casa Don Juan (Santa Faç 28; 34 966-809-165), single, double and twin boutique style rooms at gay village center; cafe/bar for breakfast, light snacks and drinks on one of busiest gay corners in town.
Don Cesar (Plaça del Torrejo 1; 34 965-850-513 ), mid-range prices, studio and double apartments above gay end of Levante Beach, kitchens, terrace balconies, satellite TV, street-level terrace cafe/restaurant.
Milord's Suites (Passeig de la Carretera, 52; 34) 966-831-600), 28 apartments near beach and gay scene, 12 with beach view terraces, pool, cafe and ice cream shop, WiFi.
The Royal Queens Hotel (Plaça de la Constitució 5; 34 966-812-966), mixed clientel, 36 en-suite guest rooms include single, twin, double and quadruple rooms, most with balcony, some with sea view; breakfast, lunch or brunch anytime during kitchen hours; roof and street-level terrace bars, cabaret bar.
Senabre Palais (Plaça del Torrejo 5; 34 965-857-565), seafront promenade at Levante Beach, air-conditioned self-catered apartments, flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, wood floors, living-dining room, kitchenette.
Sol Costablanca (Av Alcoi, s/n, Levante Beach; 34 965-855-450), adults-only rooms near gay scene, sea-views, swimming pool, dinner shows.
Villa Venecia Boutique Hotel (Plaça Sant Jaume 1; 34 902-165-454), 26 rooms, luxury five-star accommodations at the head of Old Town overlooking the sea, roof-top pool, spa/gym, terrace, concierge, fine restaurant.
In Calp (Calpe), just beyond Altea to the north of Benidorm, Casa La Diferencia (Canuta de Ifach 45A; 34 965-832-786) is a 5-room gay guesthouse “home away from home” with swimming pool, Dutch hosts, good breakfasts, and bar.
With a large British and North European expat community and the many visitors here, Benidorm has more gay places to hang out during daylight hours than most Spanish cities, staying open through afternoon hours when Spanish businesses normally close, and happy hour crowds more like those found elsewhere in Europe. On the other hand there are plenty of places to party until 4am or later, on the more traditional local schedule.
Here you'll find the best of both worlds, various food options all day and late into the night to fit any agenda. Hearty British breakfasts and Sunday roasts, or light continental breakfasts, tapas, bocadillas, or Dutch meat balls might be found at pubs and hotel bars, complimenting a wide variety of full-service restaurants and fast food joints. Bars, restaurants and dance clubs below are in and around the Old Town gay village, unless otherwise indicated. An indoor public smoking ban went into effect the first day of 2011, so head for a terrace bar if you need to puff.
Going out - early / all-day
Babylon (Alacant 28), 8am to 2:30am, at hotel street level, before or after-beach drinks and meals, free WiFi.
Bar 69 (Plaça de la Constitució 4), gay terrace bar next to Queens at the center, friendly and relaxed staff, mixed crowd.
Bar Domino (Martinez Oriola 15), restaurant/cafe/bar, games room, free WiFi internet access, mixed crowd, 11am to 5pm, and 9pm to 2am.
Bar Siesta Fiesta (Sant Miguel 5), gay terrace cafe/bar, mixed crowd, craft cocktails, crepes, snacks and shakes.
Caspers (Sant Miguel 6), breakfast to late night snacks, veggie-friendly gourmet snack foods, full bar happy hours 9pm-midnight, Thursday drag shows, big-screen music videos, British TV.
Don Juan Cafe & Bar (Santa Faç 35), popular bar at hotel street level, mixed crowd, game nights, busy gay people-watching corner, open 2pm to 2am.
Olivers (Plaça de la Constitució 7), one of three pubs in the square at Old Town center, gay-friendly, terrace seating, cozy inner bar, lunchtime through evenings.
Refuel Cafe (Sant Pere 10) terrace cafe/bar overlooking Eix Park, giant American-style sandwiches, baguettes, breakfast pastries, lunch, brunch, after-beach snacks, Indian curries and tandoori, drinks and refreshments.
Royal Queens (Plaça de la Constitució 5), hotel, cafe/bar, roof and street terrace, early bird and full dinner menus, all-day breakfast and pub grub from 8am, British favorites, cabaret shows.
Two Palms (de la Palma 30), menu del dia, early bird menu from 4pm, open late; Sunday brunch.
Going out - evenings
Bar Code (Alacant 8), centra lgay bar, mixed crowd, good drinks prices.
Brief Encounter (Santa Faç 21), gay party bar, 5pm-2am daily, men/women mix.
Bulges Bar (Sant Vicent 12), 10pm-2am Wednesday-Sunday gay bar, satellite TV sports/events.
Company Bar (Sant Miguel 16), straight-friendly gay bar, sidewalk tables, camp videos, theme parties, bear gatherings.
Dark Angel (Alacant 13), nightly gay men's fetish and cruise bar from 5pm, dark room, play cages.
Déjà Vu (Santa Faç 9), international cuisine, rump steak, lamb shanks to chicken dishes, 12-euro 4-course set menu, veggie options, holiday specials, gay-family atmosphere.
Diva Divo (Alacant, 11), British/Dutch gay bar mixed crowd, laid-back friendly atmosphere.
Drift Bar (Santa Faç 5), modern gay bar next to Eagle Sitges, men/women mix, food and drinks at good prices.
Eagle Bar (Santa Faç 5), black and blue neon leather/uniform/rubber/skin head men & bears' late night bar, dark room, videos.
El Papagayo (Santa Faç 31), terrace bar, Dutch and international crowd, multi-lingual staff, conversation, music, wines, beers on tap.
Intimate English Bar (de Palma), long-established Old Town gay pub, karaoke bar, mixed crowd, open 9pm to 2am.
JJ's Private Bar (Av Uruguay 4), weekdays nightly from 8pm, weekends from 6pm, older crowd.
Kafee Klee (Pal 9), drag cabaret show bar, open from 8pm, no cover charge.
Levi's Show Boat (Av Doctor Severo Ochoa 7) Levi G shows, comedy, drag, dancing, karaoke, sports bar, rooftop sun deck, pub grub.
O'Mara's (Alacant at dels Quatre Cantons), gay-friendly bar and cafe at center of the gay village, Irish food, roof terrace.
Out Bar (Vincente 17), "boudoir meets shots bar, meets cocktail lounge" - fresh, simple, massive cocktails, .
Paneil's (de Palma 12), contemporary British and Mediterranean restaurant, veggie options, dining from 7pm, traditional big British four-course meals Sundays from 3pm.
Rich Bitch (Pal 4), renowned local drag cabaret show bar, from 9pm.
Sensations (Alacant 41), friendly new bar and lounge, gay Dutch couple; black light parties, strippers, country/western nights.
Spirit (dels Quatre Cantons 9), gay bar at the center, next to Casa Don Juan, "everyone welcome."
Going out - late night bars
7th Heaven (Alacant 18), long-time gay favorite, recently re-opened, 10pm to after 4am.
Bear's Bar (Plaça de la Constitució 9), cruise bar for bears and big guys bar, Spanish and international men, 11pm to 4am.
Peppermint (Sant Vicent 11), men-only bar "for bears, boyz, blokes, and leather men," 10pm until after 4am.
Going out - dance clubs
Mostly straight, KM Disco (Alcoi at Bilbao, Levante Beach), the biggest dance club in town, young, relaxed crowd beachside all-night summer partyers; top-name DJs, three dance floors, 12 bars, swimming pool. Their year-round Beach Club has coffee and snacks from 11am.
The Look (Santa Faç 12), modern dance bar, dark room cruising, busiest in late hours.
Lovers Pub (Dels Quatre Cantons 3), hot staff, sexy videos, open nightly until after 4am, mixed crowd of all ages, busy dark room.
Mercury (Alacant 10), dancing on ground floor, darkroom upstairs, Spanish and international mostly male crowd, all ages, busiest 2-4am.
Penelope (Av de la Comunidad Valenciana, at Partida de Tolls), another large, mostly straight disco with occasional gay party nights.
H2O Sauna (Tomas Ortuño 46), 2-10pm, in Clement Building, young international crowd, sauna and steam, Jacuzzi, video lounge, cafe/bar, massage, dark rooms.
Sex Shops & Services
Passion (La Parra 12), daily 10am to 1am, video salon, dark room, DVDs, oils, lubes, erotic accessories.
Sex Cinema El Sofa (de la Parra 5), sex cinema, 4 movies, gay/bi/straight, 3 rooms with leather sofas.
Super Cinema X (Sant Roc 6), daily 10am to 1am, videos, magazines, toys and accessories, cabins, dark room.