In the quaint town of Villajoyosa on Spain’s Costa Blanca, it’s easy to be mesmerized by the great blue-green yonder of the Mediterranean, by the serene beach where you sit shaded beneath a cluster of rather photogenic date palm trees, or by the tidy apartment buildings behind you lined up along the beachfront promenade like crayons in a box. They are painted in vibrant colors as a nod to the fisherman who had done this years ago to guide them in mooring their boats at night. Villajoyosa literally means “Joyful Village,” and visitors will quickly discover why.
Conveniently located between the more populous cities of Valencia and Alicante, this cozy fishing village of about 30,000 attracts few foreign tourists (and is therefore more affordable) even during the country’s busy summer season. Many British and northern Europeans, however, come here to retire. Sea view apartments with balconies can be rented for as little as 600 euros per month.
Staying in Villajoyosa offers a slice of real Spanish life. You can mingle with locals in the town’s outdoor market or in its tempting mix of small cafes, bakeries and seafood restaurants that feature well-priced and regional dishes, like tapas of congealed pig blood cubes or mouth-watering rabbit paella. You can find more local specialties and artisanal crafts at the various festivals celebrating the town’s heritage, including the popular Medieval Market that takes place in early May.
No matter when you go, here’s what you can’t miss.
Even near the end of October, the tranquil Mediterranean is as warm as a cup of the thick, hot chocolate served at the nearby Chocolaterías Valor. If you hit the beach in the morning, the strong, sweet scent of fresh chocolate from the cafe will hypnotize you. You’ll have no choice but to flip-flop over to the outdoor escalators that glide you up the slope to where the cafe sits on a main road, perched right over the beach with one of the best views in town. Head straight for the panoramic window seat in the back, from where you can watch fresh, fat churros being golden-fried by the dozen for families who have arrived for a typical late morning breakfast. Order the classic Valor hot chocolate (with or without churros) or the divine chocolate sampler, and gaze out over lazy palm treetops into the mesmerizing sea. To round out your Valor experience, visit the Valor museum and chocolate factory.
Photo by Suchi Rudra
While Valor is quite famous as a chocolate brand throughout Spain and its neighboring countries, the smaller scale, family-run Chocolates Pérez is not sold outside the country and remains a well-kept secret in this town that used to boast 33 (yes, 33) chocolate factories. But the Pérez family is willing to let you in on its secrets, offering personalized tours led by family members and an up-close look at the old-fashioned way they’ve been making their chocolates since 1892, sometimes bursting with locally grown almonds.
But wait, there’s more: true chocoholics can satisfy their needs in Villajoyosa’s third still-operational chocolate factory and museum belonging to the Chocolates Clavileño brand that was established in 1882.
A three-kilometer stretch of clean, tranquil beaches with clear waters awaits you in Villajoyosa, and the best part is that you’ll often have the beach mostly or entirely to yourself. The town’s central beach is none other than Playa Centro, with a wide, stroll-worthy promenade. A bit further out, on the edge of town, are several smaller beaches, including the spacious and pebble-strewn Playa El Paraiso, which boasts palm trees for shade, and Playa del Bol Nou, with coarse sand and smooth waters.
Photo by Suchi Rudra
In between Playa El Paraiso and Playa del Bol Nou, sitting atop a small rock formation known as Punta del Bol Nou, is the Torre de la Malladeta. Constructed in 1905, this tower, now somewhat in ruins, served as the former office of Villajoyosa-born psychiatrist José María Esquerdo, who brought modern psychiatry into Spain in the late 1800s.
What’s also lovely about Villajoyosa is how bike-friendly it is. Rent a normal bike or an e-bike and head west along any of the roads parallel to the coast from the center for a leisurely, 15-minute bike ride that brings you into the rural edge of town. Pause for photos as you take in the beauty of the surrounding hills where you’ll spot hares bouncing around the open fields. Meander through the narrow lanes dotted with 300-year-old villas of all shapes and sizes and ride past the tree branches heaving with lemons, oranges, carob and olives, and carefully tended vegetable and rose gardens. Feel free to stop for a chat with the local goat herder and his loyal flock.
Photo Courtesy of El Paraiso de Tarsila
Passionate supporters of ecotourism and a sustainable lifestyle, Spanish-Italian couple Cinto (a Villajoyosa native) and Michela are owners of the bed-and-breakfast El Paraiso de Tarsila. Aptly named, this beautiful four-bedroom B&B opened its doors in 2013 by transforming an abandoned villa and property. From the upstairs bedroom and the enormous terrace, you’ll have a sea view to soothe the soul. Although its location is technically on the outskirts of town in a lovely rural setting, you can bike to the center or walk to Playa El Paraiso in 10 minutes. Cinto sometimes treats guests to a fabulous, authentic Valencian paella (his grandmother’s recipe), cooked on the front patio over a wood-fire, while Michela whips up unforgettable meals with ingredients plucked directly from their permaculture garden (guests are free to help out in the garden) and also runs a pasta-making workshop. Michela’s creative talents also lie behind the magazine-perfect, rustic-chic décor of the B&B’s interior. Stop in for a fun and informational chat with the amicable owners or stay the night.
Born in the cornfields of the midwest, Suchi Rudra is a writer and “digital nomad” who enjoys singing, street food and long walks on the beach.