This post was originally posted in May 2017 but I have completely rewritten it. This is the updated version.
Oliva, Spain. Not typically the first place that springs to mind when people think about living in Spain – in fact, most people moving to Spain have never even heard of Oliva – but this small town is increasingly becoming a popular place for foreigners to buy property.
My parents decided to buy a house in Oliva around 5 years ago. They wanted to find a place that was nothing like the typical gated community that retired Brits often flock to. They wanted to live in Spain, not just England with more sunshine.
They didn’t want full English breakfasts and sunburnt bald men complaining that ‘nobody speaks English in this damn place.’
They wanted to fully integrate into a Spanish community where they could eat Spanish food, drink Spanish wine and be friends with Spanish people. That said, they also wanted a place with at least a small expat community to make the move as easy as possible and so that they would have some English-speaking friends there to help them with anything they might need.
On a short trip to Valencia, they fell in love with Oliva and immediately decided that this was the place for them, quickly snapping up a two-bedroom house in the heart of Oliva’s old town.
Once the sale had gone through, I decided to visit Oliva with them to see just what had made them fall in love with this little-known Spanish town.
Things to know before visiting Oliva
Oliva is part of the Costa Blanca, and is close to 10km of golden coastline. It is in the province of Valencia.
The closest airport to Oliva is Valencia Airport, which is actually 70km away! To reach Oliva you will have to take a metro from the airport to the centre of Valencia, before taking a train to Gandia and getting a bus or taxi from Gandia to Oliva. The second closest airport to Oliva is Alicante which is 80km away.
If you’ve landed on this page because you are thinking of moving to Spain then I have good news for you – house prices in Oliva are cheap. My parents paid €40,000 for a 60m, two-bedroom house with a roof terrace right in the heart of the old town – muy bien!
Oliva is a small town, meaning that you can walk anywhere. It is a little uphill in parts, but it is definitely manageable for most people.
There are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants in Oliva. There is a market every Friday selling clothes and fresh groceries on the main promenade (paseo), a cinema that shows English movies every Thursday, as well as a couple of museums and an art gallery.
Eating out in Oliva is not too expensive, especially if you go out for lunch – most restaurants on the promenade have a menu del dia for less than €7, which includes 3 courses and a drink.
Oliva is home to lots of orange and tangerine plantations, as well as avocado, loquat, fig, banana, prickly pear and olive. Yum!
Oliva has a population of 25,000, with a large expat community (over 25%). Most foreigners in Oliva are from Bolivia, Ecuador, Morocco, Romania and the United Kingdom. Many bars in the old town are owned by or geared towards expats. The population in Oliva tends to be middle-aged+, with lots of people moving to Oliva to retire.
Oliva has great weather, with more than 230 days of the year being above 20C and more than 300 days of sunshine!
Oliva is a safe town with very little crime.
Visiting Oliva Spain
I visited Oliva for 11 days in April, when the weather was sunny but not too humid. My first day was a lazy one.
My Mum and Dad showed me around the old town, taking me to some pretty churches and quaint side streets, patiently waiting as I took a million pictures! The old town gently slopes down, ending at the paseo, or promenade – this is the centre of life in Oliva, and is where you will find people drinking coffee and smoking, children playing, and elderly people sitting on benches and watching the world go by.
We stopped in a cute little bar for our first glasses of tinto de verano (wine of the summer), and then went home to enjoy the last few hours of sun with our books before heading out for dinner. My parents took me to a restaurant called El Pelut for stacks of sticky BBQ pork ribs and crusty bread with alioli followed by a bar called Honey Dukes for huge glasses of wine and interesting conversation with the Romanian barmaid, who was fascinated by my upcoming Romania travels.
(If you are wondering what the best restaurants in Oliva are then stick with me because I’m dedicating a whole section to them!)
It didn’t take long for me to realise that visiting Oliva is less about ticking sights off a to-do list and more about relaxing and enjoying the laid back Spanish way of life.
One of the main things to do in Oliva is to walk up to the ruined castle, Castillo de Santa Ana, and admire the gorgeous views over Oliva from the top of the hill. My mum and I walked up here several times, often taking up little treats and wine to enjoy picnics in the sun with chorizo, cheese, tortilla, aioli and mini tostadas.
The beauty of Castillo de Santa Ana is that aside from the odd dog walker, you probably won’t run into anyone, and so it’s the perfect place to go and sunbathe, read a book or just enjoy the peace and quiet.
Perhaps the second most popular thing to do in Oliva (and while visiting Spain in general!) is to walk to the beach. Oliva’s white sand coastline stretches for 10km, meaning that if you are prepared to walk far enough, you will be sure to find a quiet spot to sunbathe. When I visited in shoulder season, the beach was almost empty!
The beach is around a 40 minute walk through the orange groves from the paseo, but with the stunning views, cute little ducks and even a resident donkey, you’d be forgiven for taking longer! My mum and I used to take little snacks to feed the ducks (remember that bread is bad for them – they enjoy leafy greens and raisins!), and it made the walk fly by.
When you get to the beach, there are more houses and apartments, as well as a few local bars and restaurants. This means that even in the cooler months, when it’s warm outside but sunbathing isn’t an option, it’s worth walking down to the beach, stopping for a drink or a bite to eat, and ambling home again.
On the Friday we went to the market and had fun rummaging for bargains on the second-hand clothes stalls – I came away with an oversized leopard print t-shirt for just 1 EUR and a huge winter coat for 3 EUR! We made sure to sample many of the menu del dias at the local restaurants, and stopped for coffee (or wine!) whenever we felt like it!
One evening we sipped cool Prosecco on our balcony while my dad BBQ’d fish, mussels and ribs as the late afternoon sun kept us warm – heaven!
I also managed to travel to Valencia with local tour company Valtournative to explore the nearby hot springs and waterfalls – I highly recommend this as the nature in and around Valencia is truly breathtaking!
Aside from that, we didn’t really “do” a whole lot while visiting Oliva. We relaxed in the sun, we read our books and we strolled around lazily, not worrying about having to cram in a million and one activities.
Oh, and we ate. We ate a lot.
Best restaurants in Oliva
We ate out every day while in Oliva and perhaps one of the best things about this trip for me was the abundance of great quality affordable restaurants in Oliva. I have been to almost every place on this list and highly recommend every single one of them. My parents have visited each place multiple times and also consider these to be the best restaurants in Oliva.
El Llok was our favourite restaurant in Oliva and it specialises in Mediterranean cuisine, with lots of seafood, pasta and paella. If you want to treat yourself then be sure to get the gigantic T-bone steak – it’s absolutely massive and so tasty. I also sampled the menu del dia here and it was delicious.
La Rustica is a great Italian trattoria that cooks its pizzas in a proper wood oven. It has an abundance of traditional Italian comfort food at very low prices, but the pizza is true Italian style and highly recommended.
Cafe-Bar Molino is the place to go if you’ve been in Spain for a while and are missing your home comforts. Molino is British/German-owned and has Fish & Chip nights every Friday, pie and mash, and German delights such as bratwurst, currywurst and goulash. You can enjoy your meal outside in the charming old town square.
El Pelut is a great family-run restaurant in Oliva’s old town and is the place for great meat (think steaks, ribs and burgers with grilled veggies) and lots of seafood.
Placebo is a restaurant on the beach and is famous for its paella. My parents have returned to this place time and time again for their Valencian paella with chicken, rabbit and ribs, and they also have the traditional seafood paella. They also have lots of grilled seafood and meat dishes. If you want the paella then you must call and tell them the day before.
Hamburgueseria Manb’ys is famous for having the best beer and burgers in Oliva, and with rock bottom prices, you can’t complain! I got a huge mixed plate when I was there, full of chicken nuggets, wings, loaded fries and breaded cheese, and it definitely hit the spot!
Asiatico Fortuna – there are a couple of Chinese restaurants in Oliva but the one I recommend is this one. Not only do they have a huge menu with great value dishes but they also do a buffet on weekends.
Kiko Port is another beach restaurant and is the most high end place on the list. Many say that this is the best restaurant in Oliva, and you will feel like you are the member of a fancy yacht club if you eat here. The food quality is second to none, and the presentation is stunning.
Oliva, Spain – Final thoughts
While Oliva didn’t steal my heart in the way that other places have, I definitely think that Oliva is a great place for anybody considering moving to Spain.
While there is a decent size expat community, the town still feels decidedly Spanish, which is what the expats in Oliva love. With a beach on one side, mountains on the other and a tonne of great bars and restaurants, I can’t fault Oliva as a destination for those with dreams of living in Spain.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Oliva to people my age, as most young people move away to Valencia to study and so the population tends to be a bit older, but if you have dreams of retiring to Spain then Oliva is the place to go.