SURROUNDED by orange groves, salt marshes and pine forests… oh, and a climate with around 325 days of sun a year. What’s there not to like about Urbanisation La Marina?
Add in sandy beaches, great communications and the world’s most emblematic bird – the flamingo – and is it any wonder this enclave, sitting inside the municipality of San Fulgencio, keeps rising in popularity among those in the know.
Built from the mid-1980s in the heart of Alicante province, near Torrevieja and Elche, Urbanisation Marina-Oasis (to use its correct name), perfectly combines the best of the northern European and Spanish way of life.
An ideal spot to have fun in the sun, with a touch of tranquillity, it is popular for couples, retired people, and holidaymakers of various nationalities.
Not to be confused with La Marina coastal village, which is administered by Elche, La Marina Urbanisation sits in privileged setting near protected pine forests, popular beaches – many of which have the coveted blue flag status – and golf courses.
Then there are its wonderful salt marshes, which turn pink at certain times of year, due to local mining, and are inhabited by flocks of flamingos and other birds. This is a true bird watcher’s paradise.
The urbanisation is conveniently located a 20-minute drive from Alicante-Elche airport and 45 minutes from Murcia airport. This makes it an ideal hub for holidays or for residents to hop back and forth to the UK (or Holland or Sweden).
Although the urbanisation is self-contained, offering all the facilities residents might need, it is also within easy driving distance of a number of large commercial centres home to the best European chain stores.
It’s also just a stone’s throw from the renowned Guardamar del Segura beach (5km), the La Marquesa golf course (3km), the Santa Pola amusement park (15km), and the massive international camping resort, only 1km away.
Attractive builds on a huge estate
One of the largest urbanisations in Spain, and possibly in Europe, San Fulgencio has 9,000 full time inhabitants, 66% of whom are foreign nationals and approximately 3,000 are British.
Back in La Marina, many of the European residents fly their countries’ flags on their properties, so you conveniently know where they came from.
The urbanisation comprises a big range of villas, bungalows, chalets, and new builds with ample terraces, on private plots – some of which have their own pools.
Many have covered space for parking motorhomes or other larger vehicles. British people might be reminded of a well-appointed residential estate, but with more attractive vistas and climate.
It is like a mini town, with various supermarkets, opticians, dentists, banks with staff who speak English and German, a car hire outlet, solicitors, charity shops and spacious recreation areas, offering football, bowling, and barbecue areas.
There are two private swimming pools/leisure complexes, where locals relax and while away the day.
Dog walkers can easily stroll to the beach in a quarter of an hour, through an attractive pine forest. Unlike in some urbanisations, the amenities remain open all year round.
The urbanisation is divided into three areas – La Marina, La Escuera and El Oasis – and it falls within the municipality of San Fulgencio, a peaceful farming village that is well worth a visit – you can even install a new app to find your way around.
To help non-drivers, an urban bus service has been launched, running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
A home from home for Northern Europeans
With such a strong population of extranjeros ‘the urb’, as it is affectionately known, is designed to make English-speakers feel at home.
Having said that, the Olive Press encountered some Spanish residents strolling around on a quiet Sunday evening.
Some of the supermarkets have a British feel – but with palm trees outside. Consum has its own square with ample parking and you’ll find daily baked bread, pastries, fresh fruit and vegetables and delicacies of Spanish, English, French, and German origin… and, of course, your favourite English newspaper, the Olive Press, every fortnight.
A good choice for Brits, the Overseas supermarket – encompassing Iceland and Waitrose – lies at the bottom end of ‘the urb’. This store is full of British favourites, such as Ambrosia rice, Bistro, chicken and mushroom soup, and curry sauces – you’ll be dazzled with delight at what can be taken home. Mum has gone to Iceland – and might never emerge again! The store is part of a growing commercial centre that is expanding with the addition of new shops and some bar/restaurants.
La Marina is jaw-droppingly huge, and it would be easy for a newbie to circle round wondering where to find the recreation club or the ‘satellite roundabout’, so-called because it has radio masts there.
Luckily, the tourist office is available with friendly staff who can lend a helping hand with maps, advice, and leaflets.
They can provide information on a series of guided walks run by San Fulgencio town hall, that take in the sand dunes and other points of interest.
Some of the walks occur at night, to avoid the hot summer daytime overheating the participants. But you can, of course, go on your own.
Where to eat
Really, whatever your foodie tastes, you’re spoilt for choice in La Marina. The diverse eateries are arranged in four main areas, for you to explore. You’ll find Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and German restaurants, pizzerias, curry houses cooking spicy treats, steak houses, fish and chips, bars serving snacks, and traditional British roast dinners.
We tried Curry Mahal, where a chicken curry truly hit the spot. The Grill House, in Consum square, has an enticing cocktail menu and a large terrace, as well as a well-appointed interior that could easily be in London. This is a great place to sip a chilled vino.
On the main strip, you’ll find restaurants mingled with businesses such as a furniture store, solicitors, estate agents, and an electrical store.
If you head along the Avenida Londres road from the strip, you’ll arrive at the Fase IV (Grey Area), where restaurants surround a bustling square. In this location, street buskers are rumoured to sometimes play accordions and guitars to ‘amuse’ the diners!
When you reach the Dialprix supermarket in Calle Amsterdam, there’s another selection of restaurants serving a variety of meals. You won’t go hungry here!
Where to stay
There are good places to stay near La Marina. A 15min drive north past the salt marches – which are pretty at sunset – the Hotel Gran Playa at Santa Pola is a popular and economical choice for travellers, including single people. It serves a good continental and English breakfast, with the bacon and sausages done to perfection. It also has its own swimming pool – which is overlooked by the balconies of its various apartments – and offers ample parking.
Heading 1km in the direction of Guardamar, you’ll find The Marina Camping and Resort – a 5-star campsite, which is rated as the best in the region. Providing fun for the whole family, it offers more than one swimming pool (the bungalows have their own pool), various water slides, a gymnasium, restaurant, shop, and entertainment centres. It is also located a few minutes from a stunning beach. Set over 60,000 square metres, it has 430 camping plots and 90 bungalows for hire. However, it is likely to be fully booked during the high season.
La Marina is an ideal base to explore Vega Baja and its 27 towns, where you can seek Spanish culture and lifestyle.
However, you can just stay put and enjoy what La Marina has to offer. Every Thursday from 9am to 2pm, La Marina holds a market in the square on Calle Lisboa.
Also, on Saturdays, a batch of stallholders set up on the edge of the urbanisation and sell their goods. The market is the place to buy locally grown fruit and vegetables, fresh breads and meats, ceramics, gifts, bedding, clothes, shoes, and accessories – or just take in the scene – maybe from a nearby bar.
Those who want to be active, and like water, can opt for one of two private swimming pools / leisure centres – The Hillside and The La Marina Sport Complex – which have water fountains, children’s play floats, mini water slides, etc. You can chill out at the poolside bar and restaurant or enjoy a game of snooker on the nearby terrace. The public swimming pool in San Fulgencio is also available for visitors.
There are also tennis courts set among the residential areas, as well as bowling. A short drive away, you can play golf.
If that all sounds too active and you simply want to bag a shopping bargain, the charity shop is well-stocked and helps protect abandoned and mistreated animals in nearby Torrevieja.
La Marina isn’t a beach resort, but it is close to some great expanses of sand. If you stroll south from the ‘urb’, down a road bordered by a pine forest, you’ll come to Playa La Marina: this doesn’t belong to the urbanisation, as it is administered by the town of Elche. It has an expanse of golden sand and a watchtower for a lifeguard. Down from there is Playa Rebollas and Playa Toassales. There’s also a naturist beach to the north, for those brave enough to disrobe.
Nearby places to visit
The village of La Marina is a 5-minute drive from La Marina Urbanisation. Playing home to around 3,000 people, it is bordered by a pine forest and golden, sandy beaches (one of the longest on the Costa Blanca is 17 kilometres long and comprises El Pinet, La Marina and El Rebollo). Here, you’ll find beach bars (chiringuito’) where you can enjoy delicious plates of fresh calamari.
San Fulgencio, the nearby town, was founded in 1729 when a local notable called Cardinal Belluga obtained marshy land around the delta of the Segura River from Orihuela and Guardamar del Segura. He wanted to drain the wetlands and make them fertile and productive. San Fulgencio was named after the patron saint of Murcia. It has diversified from traditional farming to serve the tourism industry. The town has fiestas, a selection of shops and a market every Tuesday.
Just 15km away is La Laguna de Torrevieja, where waters turn pink at certain times of year. Although this is usually from August, some already had a pinkish hue in June. Like what happens in the Dead Sea, this phenomenon, unique in Spain, is produced by a bacterium that releases a pinkish pigment in water that has a high concentration of salt. Some 800,000 tonnes of salt are extracted from the lakes annually and exported. One thing to remember: you’re not allowed to bathe here.