Whether you're a beach bunny or water sports fanatic, touch down at Murcia-San Javier airport and hire a car to check out Spain's sun-soaked Costa Blanca and Costa Cálida. Book car hire Murcia-San Javier airport
Why hire a car at Murcia airport?
Located on the north shoreline of Mar Menor, the airport is 28 miles from the city centre. With no direct trains and just three daily direct buses into Murcia, public transport is limited, while a taxi will set you back roughly 70 euro. Instead, hop in a hire car and explore La Manga's beaches and neighbouring cities of Cartagena and Torrevieja at your leisure.
That all-important first mile:
driving out of Murcia airport?
Take a few minutes to get used to driving on the right-hand side of the road, before heading inland on the Autovía C-3319. This busy road links the region's main towns and cities, so try to avoid the morning and early evening traffic as locals and holidaymakers travel to and from La Manga's beaches.
"We're the Spanish city that even the Spanish haven't discovered yet. We've got stunning architecture and are surrounded by big, impressive mountains."
Murcia city is indeed a gem, but the region itself - with its great beaches and hot climate - is fast becoming a tourist haven. Go now and beat the rush.
There's a friendly atmosphere, thanks mainly to the surrounding area being so totally gorgeous to look at. And the pleasant weather, of course.
A warm, sociable, fiesta-loving bunch. There's a thriving student population, giving the place a vibrant, youthful feel.
Known as the City of Sun, Murcia enjoys over three hundred days of sunshine every year, with temperatures soaring up to 36 degrees in summer.
Murcia produces its own caviar, called huevas de mujol. You'll find it in most supermarkets.
X Factor fans will know all about bosomy rock chick Ruth Lorenzo. Murcia is her home city.
Every May, Murcia hosts the Three Cultures International Festival, celebrating the fact local Christians, Jews and Muslims live happily side by side.
"The only place Adam would recognise if he returned to Earth." - English writer and raconteur Augustus Hare
Car hire desks are located in the luggage hall and outside the terminal building in the long-stay car park.
Stock up on seasonings - Murcia is renowned for its sun-roasted paprika and locally produced salt. Olive oil and juicy red wines from nearby vineyards are also worth stashing is your suitcase. However, with only a couple of shops in the arrivals and departures halls, you are better off stopping at a supermarket on the way to the airport.
Yes, cashpoints can be found in the terminal building, alongside a bureau de change.
Casa Tomas Cafeteria offers cheap and simple local dishes. Try ensaladilla - tuna salad served with lashing of mayo and crunchy vegetables - or tortilla murciana, the city's signature omelette is made with chunks of sweet red pepper and aubergine.
Take advantage of the airport's location and head to San Javier before take-off, you'll be rewarded with a charming coastal town without the tourist crowds of La Manga.
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A 14-mile strip of land separating Mar Menor (the largest saltwater lagoon in Europe) from the Mediterranean, La Manga enjoys around 320 days of sunshine a year and is dotted with some of the most popular coastal resorts in the region. Don't forget to pack your swimmers - Mar Menor is the place to hone your sailing, windsurfing and kayaking skills. Looking for something a little less active? Soak in the lagoon's mineral-rich waters at one of La Manga's thermal baths.
Steeped in Moorish, Roman and Phoenician history, the recently revitalised port city of Cartagena offers a great cultural diversion from beach life. Check out the hilltop La Concepció castle and step back in time among the ruins of the Teatro Romano. As the sun goes down, make for the buzzing seafront cafés and bars, or take an evening stroll along the harbour promenade Paseo de Alfonso XII.
Fishing village turned sun-seeker's paradise, Los Alcazares is all about the good life. Boasting a prime position on the Costa Cálida the town's waterfront is dotted with beach bars - set up camp under a parasol and tuck into plates piled high with delicious tapas. Hire a bike (the area is very flat) or jump in a pedalo to work off your gourmet indulgences.
One of the biggest water parks on the Costa Blanca, ride the near-vertical slides or make a splash in the wave pool. For a more sedate watery afternoon, head to the salt flats on the outskirts of town - home to over 250 species of bird, including flamingoes.
This impressive building started life as a mosque back in the 14th century. Since then it's had more makeovers than Madonna and now consists of a hotchpotch of architectural styles - from the Baroque facade to the Gothic interior.
There's a public car park just a short walk away, in front of the Town Hall, which costs €0.50 an hour.
On the outskirts of the city, sitting atop a hill, is this magnificent monument to the days when cities needed castles. And it's seen a lot of action - archeologists have found remains dating from Roman times back to the Bronze age.
You'll have no problem parking your hire car for free on the streets surrounding the castle.
With its date palms and Mediterranean pines, Murcia's botanical garden offers shady walkways lined with benches that are perfect for a quiet stroll away from the heat of the sun.
There's a free car park on on Paseo del Malecon, just behind the garden.
This is how casinos should be: cool, classy and glamorous. Losing money here is almost a pleasure.
You can park in the streets surrounding the casino for about €0.50 an hour.
This museum of science and water is one for the kids - there's loads of buttons to press, knobs to twirl and stuff to play with.
Head for the car park on Glorieta de Espana, which costs €1.65 an hour.
Laze about in a thermal pool of natural spring water with reported medicinal qualities and enjoy a range of spa treatments.
Head north out of Murcia on the A30, then take exit 121A towards Archena. It's a 17-mile journey.
Explore the region's Arab heritage in the fertile plains along the River Segura, where history meets stunning scenery.
Take the A30 north and come off at exit 116 where, via Ulea, you head towards Ricote. It's a 40-minute drive.
Cut out of a sheer rock face at the bottom of the valley of the River Segura, this shrine is a great place to visit on an off-the-beaten-track day trip, where you can picnic in beautiful mountain scenery along with in-the-know locals.
Head north on the A30 to exit 91, where you follow signs to Calasparra and then to the Santuario itself, a few miles to the north. It's about an hour's journey.
This sandy strip is where you'll find the region's most popular beaches, along with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.
Follow the A30 south onto the AP-7 and then the MU-312. La Manga is about an hour and 15 minutes' drive from Murcia.
" The traffic in Murcia is normally pretty smooth, but the frequent roadworks on the main streets make driving round the centre of town a crazy adventure - I'd avoid it if you can. There are some free parking areas available around the city, so you can park in one of those and then walk to the areas you want to see. "