Fishing is a popular
pastime, both in the sea off the Costa Blanca and in the rivers and lakes of
its inland regions. Fishing expeditions are organised from numerous ports along
the Costa Blanca’s 220 km coastline, with some of the best excursions leaving from
the port of Denia. They usually begin in the early morning hours and last for
half a day or a full day and given the wide variety of large fish species that
make their home on the Costa Blanca, the day tripper is not likely to be
disappointed. From July to September swordfish are found off the coast of Guardamar and Torrevieja. There is also tuna fishing in the
open sea. Likewise frigate mackerel, big toothed pompano, blue fish, sea bass,
dorada, amberjacks, corvina, gilthead, grouper, leer fish, barracuda, moray and
conger eels as well as some 150 kinds of shark.
More common than sea
fishing; however, is river fishing, where there are various fish species to be
netted, such as trout, salmon, gambusias, lampreys and samarugos. The rivers on
the Costa Blanca also contain carp, zander, pike, black bass and barbell. The
Amadorio and Guadalest dams are said to be the best freshwater fishing spots as
they hold the biggest carp and rainbow trout, but the latter are a protected
species and require an extra licence.
If you are resident
in Spain and want to go out fishing on your own rather than as part of a paid
excursion you will need to obtain a Spanish licence from the Ministry of the
Environment (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente). Applicants must pass an exam in
Spanish before being granted a licence. After the exam, it takes over a month
to receive the results and permit.
Three categories of
fishing licence are awarded: sea fishing, underwater fishing and river fishing.
Once approved, the licence is only valid for one region and one type of
fishing. Anyone found to be fishing without a valid licence by the police will
have to pay a fine of up to €200 and can expect to have their equipment
confiscated. Underwater fishers may use a snorkel tube, mask and mechanical
harpoon gun, but underwater fishing with scuba equipment is forbidden. A
fishing fee must be paid to fish in certain areas (pesca de pago); in others,
fishing is free (pesca libre). Fishing in reservoirs is also permitted with the
correct licence. These usually contain plentiful Carp and a lot of them have
Barbel and Black Bass, as well as Zander and Pike.
On the Costa Blanca
Coastline, between Denia and Javea is the mythical Cova Tallada. A huge cave
dug out of Cape San Antonio that for hundreds of years served as a quarry for
the stone used to construct historic buildings such as Denia Castle. Nowadays it forms part of the Cabo de San Antonio Nature Park
and offers a truly amazing experience for the adventurous souls who dare to
enter the cavern.
The partly natural,
partly man-made cave was first excavated during the Muslim era and contains
evidence of activity dating back to the 12th century. While it’s no longer a
working quarry it is rumoured to have served as a secret hideaway and supply
depot for German submarines during the Second World War.
The cave is reached
from Javea via the Cape lighthouse route or from
Denia, thanks to a 750 metre path that runs along the Mediterranean by a small
The cave itself is
about 75 meters wide and about 15 meters high, with five large
“doors” through which the sea and light can enter. The space is large
enough to allow for the entrance of canoes, which makes for another very
interesting way to take in the experience. The area outside the cave is suitable
for swimming thanks to a rocky projection that acts as a breakwater, meaning
the surrounding sea is usually calm and ideal for snorkelling.
Inside, the cave has
several large passages that you will need a torchlight to explore due to their
darkness. Among the interesting features to be seen inside are the marks on the
walls made by centuries of stonecutters and, at the entrance of one of the
cavernous ‘rooms’, an inscription on the rock that indicates that King Philip
II was there in 1599.
It should be noted
that due to the huge popularity of the Cova Tallada, especially in summer, the
number of visitors allowed to enter at a given time will be limited in order to
alleviate the ecological burden on the site. Numbers will be limited to 482
people per day, with no more than 71 people allowed in the cave at the same
time. It will also be necessary to make a reservation – allotting a specific
day and time – to visit the cave.
Those wishing to
explore the cave should bring water and food with them as well as suitable
clothing and footwear, a flashlight and a camera with plenty of storage
capacity: you might need it to capture the views and the amazing local flora
along the way.
The Costa Blanca is
home to a rich variety of culinary dishes. Being a coastal region seafood
naturally predominates, with the catch of the day including anything from tuna,
sardines, hake, red mullet, sole, monkfish, octopus, cuttlefish, mackerel, ray
and sea bream, which are usually served baked or with a squeeze of lemon. Added
to this are the dishes that originate in the mountainous and inland regions
like olleta, which is rice with pork, sausage, pumpkin, turnip, chard
stalks, chickpeas and string beans.
The Costa Blanca is
also the birthplace Paella, Spain’s most famous culinary offering.
Invented in rural
Valencia in the 18th century, it is a dish of great simplicity but one that
depends on the perfect combination of its elements to produce the desired
result, including the quality of the rice, the composition of the water, the
amount of oil, and the correct cooking temperature. Made in with dry rice,
preferably of the famous bomba variety, it is cooked in a large pan
which also bears the name of paella. Saffron is added to give its distinct
The varieties of
Paella are numerous, but the authentic version must be made with certain
ingredients: beans, chicken and rabbit, and the famous mountain snail called
xoneta. However, the most popular varieties remain the paella marinera, made
with fish and seafood and the paella mixta, made from fish and meat.
But Paella isn’t the
only rice dish to be found in the region. There’s oven baked rice, rice with
beans and turnips, which is usually served in winter, and rice topped with the
crust of an omelette. Other variations include rice flavoured with squid and
tunny fish, chicken and fillet of pork, baby squid and garlic shoots. There is
also a fisherman’s rice dish which originates from the Alicante region for
which there is an international competition that takes place every year in Denia.
Among the iconic
products of the region are the Valencian oranges known for being particularly
juicy and tangy, and horchata, a thick white drink made with dried and
sweetened tiger nuts that was brought to Spain from north Africa during the
Muslim conquest. Other Arabic influences can be found in the region’s desserts,
which often incorporate almonds and honey. Most famous among these being touron
a nougat confection, typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with
toasted almonds or other nuts.
In short, the Costa
Blanca is an epicure’s delight, and that’s without even mentioning the great
wines* the region has to offer.
When it comes to
Spanish wines, the Costa Blanca is somewhat overshadowed by the more famous
Rioja and Ribero del Duero regions. This just makes it all the more exciting to
discover that the Costa Blanca, Alicante specifically, has a long and
distinguished oenological history and remains one of Spain’s most varied wine
Alicante wine comes
from two well defined regions: The coastal area north of Benidorm, between the
towns of Denia and Calpe, is known as La Marina and has a Mediterranean climate ideal for
growing Moscatel; while the larger, more-inland of region Vinalopo, with its
dry continental climate is home to red Monastrell wine. Indeed, with more than
14, 000 hectares under cultivation, around 80 percent of the world’s Monastrell
wines come from Vinalopo.
Other notable red
grapes grown in the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tintorera
(Alicante Bouché) Merlot Monastrell, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, while whites
include Airén, Macabeo, Merseguera, Moscatel Romano, Planta Fina and Verdil.
In a category all of
its own is Fondillon: a sweet, non-fortified wine made from extra-ripe
monastrell grapes that are allowed to remain on the vine longer than usual,
before being pressed, fermented with their skins and then aged for at least
eight years in oak. It is characterised by a high level of alcohol and complex
flavour, that can range from dry to sweet depending on the on the grapes used.
Once upon a time Fondillon was as famous as Rioja is now, reaching the height
of its prestige in the 17th century when France’s King Louis XIV is said to
have refused all wines except Fondillion when he was on his deathbed.
The technique for
making Fondillon was all but forgotten after the spread of the ruinous
phylloxera plague that ravaged the region’s vineyards in the late 19th century.
Fortunately, in the mid-20th century one Alicante winemaker, Salvador Poveda
Luz, decided to re-establish Fondillon. Using a small number of old casks of
Fondillon, he experimented until he developed the proper production techniques.
Today, Fondillon is one of only five wines recognised by the European Union as
unique “luxury” wines.
Alicante wines have
also had their quality accredited by the Regulatory Council of the Protected
Designation of Origin Alicante, created in 1957. The Designation of Origin
Alicante is intended to safeguard the designation of origin recognised in 1932
and promote the wine industry in Alicante, through tasting routes, training,
tourism, and events. Added to this quality assurance is the fact that Alicante
winegrowers have united to form a cooperative that over the years has become a
modern producer of quality wines.
With more than 200 km
of coastline and some 170 beaches it’s no surprise that the Costa Blanca offers
some wonderful diving opportunities, especially on its rockier northern coast.
In the months of June
to October, the average temperature of the water is more than 20 degrees. In
the months of February and March, the sea is at its coldest, with an average of
14 degrees Celsius.
The water is
relatively calm, free of dangerous currents and home to a highly diverse
underwater life. Apart from the Mediterranean fish, you can find rays, sea
horses, crabs, octopus and moray eels. Sunfish visit the Costa Blanca coast
from late spring onwards and in September and October sardine and barracudas
heat along the coast. There are also rich and colourful seagrasses to be
observed. Lister below are Sonneil’s top five diving locations on the Costa
The Tabarca Marine
Reserve, off the coast of Alicante, was the first such reserve to be
declared in all of Spain in 1986 and occupies 1,400 hectares around the entire
island. Being one of the few protected marine spaces, it makes for one of the
most incredible diving locations on the Costa Blanca and boast of a
particularly rich biodiversity beneath the waves. As for its flora, the Posidonia
Oceanica seagrass prairies stand out, and as for the fauna, fish such as
grouper, gilthead and even some specimens of loggerhead turtle frequent these
waters. Of course, diving in the Tabarca Marine Reserve is prohibited without
first getting permission from one of the authorised dive centres in the
About 2.6 miles from
the port of Denia, lies the remains of a cargo ship, commonly known as El
Vaporet, which sank at the end of the 19th century. The considerable depth, the
likely presence of currents and reduced visibility, make it advisable that only
those with considerable experience undertake the dive and only under optimum
conditions. A wealth of fish life inhabits the ruins of the ship, including
sardines and lobsters.
The island of
Portixol is a nature reserve with a popular bird sanctuary, that also has much
to offer under the water. Its rocky bottom, covered with seagrass, is inhabited
by several species of perch, eels and damselfish. The odd squid can also be
seen. The water is easily accessible from the pebble beach, which is close to
the main road, just down some stairs.
Located in the town
of Javea, this beach is considered one of the best in Spain. It is a dream
location where sea and mountains combine perfectly. Thanks to its turquoise
waters, the experience of diving here is unmatched. In La Granadella we can
observe white sands alternating with posidonia plains, in which we can see
octopuses, dorados, nacra molluscs and other underwater species. In addition,
the beach is shallow and calm, so it is ideal for those divers who are taking
their first breaths underwater. La Granadella is also an unbeatable place for
other activities such as sea kayaking.
El Peñón de Ifach
This beautiful dive
takes place on the north side of the Peñón de Ifach, in Calpe, and is characterised by its rocky
bottom and the huge arches that have formed in some of the rocks. In this area
we can find some of the largest octopuses to inhabit the Costa Blanca, and
numerous yellow-crusted anemones. Bream, moray eels, groupers and croakers are
also to be seen. This is a deep dive, so it will be necessary to have a certain
level of diving experience.