A number of beach-hopping visitors to Spain's southern coast spend time in both Málaga and Alicante, two major coastal cities in Spain. Málaga is known as the hometown of Pablo Picasso and is famous for its Alcazaba fortress and flamenco culture, while Alicante draws crowds to its Castillo de Santa Bárbara, its beautiful beaches, and buzzy nightlife. The two cities are connected by various means of transportation, from high-speed trains to buses—each has its pros and cons.
Driving from Málaga to Alicante takes about 4.5 hours if you take the inland route along the A-92 highway, but you can also take the slightly more scenic coastal route along the A-7 highway, which takes just 15 minutes longer. The benefit to the former is that it takes you right through Granada, which is a worthwhile pit stop—visit the iconic La Alhambra palace and Generalife Gardens. Both routes will also take you through the city of Murcia, which is another great place to stretch your legs and take a break from driving. In Murcia, walk through the old streets to see all sorts of architecture, both old and new.
It takes about 5.5 hours to take the high-speed train from Málaga to Alicante, with a brief change in Madrid. Do note that Spanish high-speed trains have a guaranteed arrival and departure time and have organized transfers to be quick and easy. Rates vary based on the day of the week and season, but often cost somewhere around $150 each way. Visit the official AVE website to book tickets. Though the train takes about an hour longer than driving, it's a popular option, since you can relax during the journey and not worry about driving. It's a great option for those who don't have their own vehicle during their time in Spain.
There is a bus that travels between Málaga to Alicante—it costs between $35 and $55 and takes about 8.5 hours, depending on traffic, as there are multiple stops along the route. You don't have to switch buses, though, which is convenient. There are multiple departures each day, so you can find the bus that best fits your schedule. You can book most bus tickets in Spain online: just pay with a credit card and print out the e-ticket. While it's not the quickest transportation option between Málaga and Alicante, it's one of the cheapest.
There are no nonstop flights between Málaga and Alicante, so you'll have to take a layover in another city—many options have stops in Barcelona or Madrid, while others have stops in even farther destinations like London. Though one-way flights often cost less than $100 each if booked far enough in advance, the travel times are usually quite lengthy given the layovers. You can expect to spend anywhere from four to 12 hours en route, not including the time it takes to get to the airport and through security. For this reason, we suggest driving, taking a train, or taking a bus instead.