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Catching Off-Season Vibes in the Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca spans the middle of the eastern coast of Spain, from the beach towns of Dénia, Calpe, and Altea, past Alicante to the border of the Murcia province, beyond which begins the Costa Cálida in the southeast. Due to the seasonable weather for most of the year, the region is very popular for vacation homes and apartments for both Spaniards and expats. Since I was finishing up a yoga retreat near Denia in late February (more on that later in the post), we decided to spend a weekend exploring the area. We stayed at a Home Exchange, which we’ve been doing a lot more of here in Europe.

Our home base was in Dénia, which has a very impressive, well-preserved medieval castle. You can climb to the top of the former palace for scenic views of the coast and surrounding mountains. The ruins are so fascinating that even our four-year-old didn’t complain too much about the number of steps to the top.

Dénia’s old town is pretty typical of other Spanish towns of its size (at least of the medieval times footprint), with some pretty plazas, snaking cobblestone streets, and pedestrian-only thoroughfares. Dénia’s broader sprawl is certainly not as scenic, so between visiting the castle, old town, and central market, half a day is sufficient; in good weather, the rest of your time could be spent enjoying the waterfront walk and beaches. We happened to catch a regional festival and parade the weekend we were in town, with plenty of medieval costumes, music, and partying.

Finally, in Dénia we enjoyed eating at Els Magazinos @elsmagazinos, a former warehouse for shipping goods for the port and a toy factory, converted in 2019 into a food court of curated food stands, restaurants, cafes, bars, and some open-air seating areas. This is a great option for families to enjoy relatively quick and tasty meals, where everyone can choose a different cuisine option.

Beyond Dénia, we explored some of the other coastal coves (calas) such as Playa de la Granadella, near Javea. This gorgeous, rocky beach, at the end of a very windy, remote road and quite secluded (at least in the off-season), reminded us of some of the picturesque calas we visited in Ibiza last year. We also visited another beach town, Calpe, but did not find it as visually charming (at least in the city center). We could certainly imagine it flooded with visitors in the warmer summer months.

As part of the yoga retreat I attended, a few of the other women and I spent the day near Moraira at Playa El Portet. We found it very pretty and relaxed in the off-season, and with just a few beach-side cafes on the cove, it was a really enjoyable place to relax.

The yoga retreat with Yoga Sutra Shala was set in the Valley of Valle de Laguar, inland from Dénia. I had no idea these kinds of dramatic valleys and mountain landscapes could be found so close to the coast near Valencia. The retreat center had a huge terrace with mesmerizing views of the valley; after morning class, meditation, and breakfast, I often found myself here reading, journaling, and sun-bathing while gazing at the bulls perched in an enclosed yard on the northern steep slope of the valley, their clanging, echoing bells the only sounds to be heard for miles. As part of the retreat we also went on meditative afternoon walks/hikes to explore more of the valley setting and surrounding villages, lined with abundant orange groves, different types of trees, and vineyards. This Valle de Laguar and surroundings are an excellent area for hiking.

In addition to a daily traditional Hatha yoga practice, meditation, pranayama (breathwork), and educational and philosophical discussions, a highlight of the retreat was the vegan and plant-based menu for our meals. The food was not only delicious but it was a real treat for me to have someone else cook these kinds of meals for me; as much as I do enjoy cooking, it can get tedious. Chef Bev’s vegan cooking was truly inspiring. Even though I’m not intending to become fully vegan or plant-based, I left with a few recipes, special ingredients, and products I would certainly incorporate at home for my family.

I had intentionally picked this week for the yoga retreat because it coincided with the anniversary (yahrzeit) of my dad’s death. Choosing to be unplugged from technology was a meaningful experience, inviting in more time, space, and mental bandwidth to reflect on many things, including the ever-evolving grieving process and relationship with my dad while still deeply missing his physical presence here on earth.

I also felt fortunate to be able to take this solo trip for myself, with Dave taking care of Jacob and with the support of school and babysitters. We try to give each other time to do solo getaways or trips with friends, so not all of our travel is a family-focused trip. This perspective on the continued and necessary value of solo travel, whether for yoga, golf, or other individual interests, has been crucial for us as parents, for our family dynamics, and for prioritizing these periodic “resets” as we navigate daily life, work, and the inevitable stressors.

Leaving the retreat, I felt nourished, relaxed, and restored, hoping to carry over the appreciation and peaceful feelings back to Valencia.