Javea: A little gem on the Costa Blanca, Spain

In Spain, Travel Guides
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Javea Arenal and the Montgo

Javea Arenal and the Montgo

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to live in Javea (or Xábia to give the town its name in the local Valenciano dialect) for the last two years and it continues to delight me.

Javea is a costal town situated on the Costa Blanca of Spain. It is located around 100km south of Valencia, and is a fairly large town with a population of over 30,000. Though Javea is a popular holiday destination for the Spanish and other Europeans alike, it also has a large expatriate community. Things may slow down a little during the off-season, but there is plenty of life in the town at any time of year.  The region is exceptionally verdant for Spain and has numerous ‘Green Zone’ areas. It also boasts a fantastic microclimate, which causes the weather to be dry and sunny for the majority of the year.

The town lies in the shadow of the Montgo Mountain, a local landmark which aside from providing a beautiful backdrop provides shelter from much of the colder weather and winds affecting the northern areas of Spain. The Montgo Natural Park, a protected green area, has many hiking and walking routes, including the paths to the top of the Montgo and to the cave on the south side known as the ‘eye’ of the mountain. From these points there are outstanding views of the Javea coastline and the bay.

The silhouette of the Montgo at sunset

The silhouette of the Montgo at sunset

 

Javea Old Town

The Old Town is located in the north west of Javea. It is a compact area with traditional houses and buildings, and beautiful examples of Gothic style architecture. There are a couple of quirky local art galleries, a local history museum and some great shopping opportunities in the many independent boutiques. Generally it is a very tranquil area, with a laid back feel and plenty of options for enjoying a relaxed coffee or drink (or a long lazy lunch). During the weekly Thursday market however the area is brimming with locals and tourists, and there are many bargains to be had in the multitude of stalls lining the streets and the Plaza de la Constitición, selling everything from fruit and vegetables, local delicacies and fresh Valencian orange juice to clothing, homewares and traditional Spanish crockery.

A typical street in Javea Old Town

A typical street in Javea Old Town

Heading off of the main road through the Old Town (which still has the foundations of the original town walls dating from the late 15th century running alongside it) you will find a warren of quiet and mainly pedestrianised streets. The central square area Placa de l’Església contains the Town Hall and the Church of Saint Bartholomew which dates from the 14th century. Nearby on Plaza Celestino Pons is the Municipal Market, which is housed in a beautiful Gothic style building and sells all kinds of local produce daily.

The pretty front entrance to a traditional townhouse

The pretty front entrance to a traditional townhouse

At weekends and during the summer there is a lively nightlife in the old town, and a leisurely nighttime wander along from the square through Calle San Buenaventura (which has rows of tiny lights strung up across it and some fantastic local bars and restaurants) makes for a lovely evening out. During a Fiesta the Old Town comes alive with packed streets and an absolutely buzzing atmosphere, this is an experience not to be missed if your visit coincides with fiesta dates.

The Church of Saint Bartholomew

The Church of Saint Bartholomew

Javea Port

The Port area, east of the Old Town, is the hub of Javea. It is bustling and full of life and this is where many of the locals come to shop, run errands and eat. There is also a busy nightlife here, and for such a small area a wide selection of bars to choose from! Much of the fiesta celebrations begin in the Port, with processions then winding their way up to the Old Town. The International Food and Tapas fairs held once a year in the Port (in June and September respectively) are a good (and cheap) way to sample different dishes with many free tasters being offered.

A peaceful side street

A peaceful side street

There is an attractive and busy marina and harbour, overlooked by stunning villas perched on the cliffs of Cabo de San Antonio.  The skyline is characterised by the rows of disused windmills (mollinos) in various states of deterioration leading along to the Port lighthouse. Walking up the cliffs to the mollinos from the path at the far end of the harbour will give you a stunning view across the bay. From here you can also discover the tiny beach of Cala de Tangó tucked away in a hidden cove.

Javea Port looking towards the cliffs of Cabo de San Antonio

Javea Port looking towards the cliffs of Cabo de San Antonio

Javea still has an active fishing port; there is a morning fish market when the boats bring in their hauls and thus there are some excellent seafood restaurants with views over the marina and bay. The pedestrianised strip running along the seafront boasts some lovely cafés and shops. A local landmark of the Port is the Church Igleseia de Nuestro Señora de Loreto dedicated to the Virgin of Santa Loreto, a patron saint of fishermen. Hidden slightly back from the busy street leading to the harbour (Plaza Adolfo Suarez) and completed in 1967 the church boasts striking modern architecture.

The Church Igleseia de Nuestro Señora de Loreto

The Church Igleseia de Nuestro Señora de Loreto

 

The Arenal

A ten-minute walk south of the Port along the rocky beach will take you to the Arenal Beach, which is the main sandy beach of Javea  (also locally considered to be the main tourist beach). The walk from the Port to the Arenal is especially lovely in the summer as there are many temporary café bars set up along the beachfront, ideal for a quick pit stop. There are a multitude of places to eat and drink along the pedestrianised promenade of the Arenal. The majority of these are open all day, however it can be more expensive to eat here than in other areas of the town. Nightlife on the Arenal during the summer is busy, with a mixture of nationalities coming together to eat, drink and be merry in the evenings. Often there is a choice of live music available at the weekends (there are some very talented local bands) and there are a few nightclubs, which in the Spanish tradition stay open through from late evening until breakfast time! In and around the area you can also find the usual tourist orientated shops along with some lovely independent stores and boutiques selling clothing and homewares.

The Arenal beach

The Arenal beach

The beach is wide and sandy and is a WHO recognised ‘Blue Flag’ beach. It is great for families with well maintained play areas and a long, shallow shelf of water leading out to sea. Watersports such as kayaking, snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding and surfing are readily available. Surfing here is good for newbies (especially in the winter months) with long, gentle waves rolling into the bay. The climate means that these activities can be enjoyed all year round, which is a definite bonus off-season when the beach is less busy. In the evenings stalls pop up along the promenade selling all kinds of trinkets and souvenirs, with the occasional street artist sketching and earning a living here too. The council runs a temporary open-air cinema on the beach on summer nights, which is a lovely alternative evening out and shows films in both English and Spanish.

A great day for learning to surf!

A great day for learning to surf!

Head a street or two back from the Arenal and you will discover many more restaurants, cafes and bars, where you can eat at a much more reasonable price. There are also a variety of small supermarkets and take away premises for those in self-catering accommodation, or for picking up supplies for picnicking on the beach.

Bars and restaurants at the south end of the Arenal offering stunning views of the bay

Bars and restaurants at the south end of the Arenal offering stunning views of the bay

 

Scenic Areas and Beaches

Isla de Portixol

Isla de Portixol

Heading south past the Cala Blanca area, then up the winding Portixol road through the sprawling urbanisations that make up this area you can discover some absolutely beautiful scenic areas. Platja de Portixol  has gentle walks with views to the Isla de Portixol to the east and views south to Cap Negre. From here it is a short walk to Barraca Beach, a rocky beach which is generally filled with locals and has clear waters great for snorkelling or diving.  Continuing south and heading towards the lighthouse at Cap de la Nau there are restaurants on the headland with amazing views out to sea, and access to more cliff walks to take in the views.

Barraca beach

Barraca beach

The lighthouse of Cap de la Nau

The lighthouse of Cap de la Nau

Granadella Beach situated at the edge of the protected Granadella Natural Park is accessed by heading down into the cove on a winding road. The beach is simply stunning, and off-season it is usually very quiet and peaceful. Again there are fantastic opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving in the crystal clear water, and also for kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. There are various walks up the paths around the cliffs to explore the nearby coves and small caves, or just to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The beach does get very busy in the summer months however. There are a few seasonal restaurants, but during the off-season it is more common to see couples or families enjoying a picnic in the tranquility of the cove.

Granadella beach

Granadella beach

...and again!

…and again!

 

Staying in Javea

Accomodation

There are various hotels and hostels in Javea, including the very highly rated Youth Hostel Javea.  However the main preference for visitors to the area seems to be for holiday lets. A multitude of accommodation is available to rent for periods ranging from a few days up to several months, and this can work out to be very reasonable in cost for groups. There are also several campsites, the most popular of which Camping El Naranjal is very conveniently situated just off the Arenal.

Food and Drink

Quite simply you’re spoilt for choice. There are restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes. Many do value set menus, or Menu del Dias which are cheap, include two or three courses and a drink, and usually consist of fresh and tasty seasonal produce. The majority of cafes and restaurants offer healthy and great value breakfasts. Heading away from the main streets pays off; there are some little treasures of eateries to be found.

Coffee is nearly always good quality and very cheap, and local wines and beers are also very reasonable. There are several take away outlets of the usual variety and also premises offering local dishes such as the famous Valenciana Paella – they will deliver a huge pan of hot and fresh paella to your accommodation, then return to collect the pan the following day. many of the local restaurants will provide a take away service if requested. Other local dishes based around wild boar, rabbit and hare are extremely tasty and reasonably priced when in season. The supply of fresh fish into the town also means that there are some lovely seafood restaurants around.

Activities

Javea is well suited to those who enjoy outdoor pursuits. There are far too many hiking and walking opportunities to list. Cycling is very popular, both on and off road, and again there are countless routes to chose from. Water based activities are big in Javea; there is jet ski hire available, boat tours and rentals , and kayak and stand up paddleboard tours (the tours running to the nearby Tallada caves are a great day out). There are also several padi registered scuba dive centres. Waterskiing, wake boarding and kite surfing/boarding are becoming more common, and there is a small skate park in the old town. Other leisure activities such as horse riding, golf, tennis, go-karting and paintballing can be found either in the town or nearby, and for motorbike riders the curving mountain roads inland of Javea are quiet and well maintained. One of the joys of living here is the climate, which allows outdoor activities to be enjoyed all year round.

Getting here and getting around

The nearest airports are Valencia and Alicante, both just over an hour away by road. A local company Benniconnect offers a fairly priced shuttle service from these airports. The city of Denia (around 15km north of Javea) and the neighbouring town of La Xara (there are regular local buses to both) have train stations. Denia Station is larger and has direct links to Valencia and Alicante. The local Tramvia train runs through here also, and is an enjoyable and inexpensive way to explore the towns dotted around the coastline. Denia also has a ferry terminal with routes to Ibiza, Palma and Formentera.

Staying in one of the central areas of Javea it is entirely possible to go about on foot, but there are also many cycle or scooter/motorbike hire shops. For longer trips out and about in the area there are some very reasonably priced car hire outlets.

 

 

P.S. Thank you very much for reading, I appreciate it!  This has only been a brief overview of Javea, but the town really does have so much to offer (not to mention the surrounding areas…) and I hope to cover this in more detail soon.

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