Outside of the summer months, there should be plenty of surplus and cheap accommodation on the Costa Calida (and Costa Blanca).
Apartments and Hotels near Murcia Airport (Costa Calida)
If you're a family, it's probably cheaper to rent an apartment (self-catering). One I have used a lot and which has the advantage of being attached to a 4* hotel is "Lodos del Mar Menor" in Lo Pagan / San Pedro del Pinatar (see map below). Close to Murcia airport (San Javier), it scores heavily on convenience value, and for what you are getting, is good value. Off season the price is around 40€ a night plus 7% VAT (around £30 in total at current exchange rates). Provided they're not too busy, you can book for any period from a single night upwards, at a constant price per night (and they seem flexible if you need to leave early for whatever reason, or cancel). There is usually availability, even at the very last-minute, because they have so many self-catering apartments (even in the summer).
The above apartments are attached to a 4* Hotel (click here for details and photos) means that there is a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, health centre and 24 hour English-speaking desk personnel. There is a bedroom with twin beds and a sofa bed in the lounge-kitchen area. Air conditioning units in both rooms, vital in summer and winter (provides heat). It is located in San Pedro del Pinatar, which is about 45 minutes drive south of Alicante airport, but only 10 minutes from Murcia airport (San Javier). Beach is fairly close, 5+ minutes on foot; because it is on the Mar Menor, the water is warm from May onwards, unlike the Mediterranean.
Other hotels in Lo Pagan (which is the sea end of San Pedro del Pinatar, and close to Murcia airport) include Hotel Neptuno (Avda Generalisimo 19, tel. 0034-968181911, fax.:968183301. It has a nice location facing the beach. I have stayed there briefly; the room was OK but basic ( I paid 45€ off season incl. breakfast for a double). (Photos) Breakfast (standard: toast, coffee, freshly pressed orange juice) overlooking the Mar Menor was good. It is quite near the main clubbing area of Lo Pagan, which can get noisy especially in the summer so might be worth avoiding at weekends in high season. They told me they are closed during the winter.
Hotel Los Molinos 1* (Calle Campoamor, 80, tel. 968178010, Fax: 968178129); their price list from last year was until 1 July, double room at 45€+7%, single 35€+7% and double with supplement (not sure what this is) at 60€+7%. Summer prices last year were about one third higher. There is no breakfast. Rooms look quite decent, and the location is good, right opposite the north end of the beach. Not much else in the hotel, but there are cafes etc nearby. I don't think it is noisy.
At the budget hotels end, Hotel La Paloma (+34 968183171) in Lo Pagan (near the north end of the beach) is pretty cheap, and there is plenty of availability off-season. Again this is pretty close to Murcia airport. Rooms look OK but smallish; it's fine if you just want somewhere to sleep. (A friend of a friend used it and seemed happy). They have a nice "all you can eat" lunch buffet at the end of the road for about 8€ midweek (there was a fire earlier in the year, but it should be going again now). They also have a couple of decent self-catering apartments which they will give you a very good deal on outside of peak season if you let for a month or more (but no air conditioning). It is family run but most of them don't speak English, so booking may be tricky. Closed over Christmas and into January.
Somewhat closer to the airport, there is the two-star Hotel Ribera (00 34 968 570 200, hotelribera.com, doubles from €42 in 2005) which looks across the Mar del Menor (the biggest saltwater lagoon in Europe) Also the tourist office for Santiago (+968 571 70, firstname.lastname@example.org) is reputed to be very helpful.
Hotels on the Costa Blanca
If you're looking for a hotel, I can also recommend from personal experience Hotel La Zenia, which is located a few miles south of Torrevieja (about 30 mins south of Alicante). This can be good value, especially if you want full board (lunch is about 2€ extra), and there is a good buffet. I am told it is currently being uprated to 4*, and has a great location overlooking the sea with a nice beach just below. There is a tennis court and salt water swimming pool. The internet site seems to quote different prices from the desk at the hotel, so it is probably worth checking out both.
One tip: beware of staying anywhere during winter that does not have heating, as insulation tends to be poor.
This map from Expedia.com shows the location of San Pedro del Pinatar at the northern end of the Mar Menor lagoon. (Murcia airport is located on the coast by San Javier.) Click for more detail.
Also check out the Accommodation ads page.
The Owl and the Sparrow
The Owl and the Sparrow is a book about a battle that takes place in a forest. The battle is between the birds on one side of the forest, which they themselves call the good side of the forest, and the birds (vultures) on the other side, the dark side of the forest.
Owl is the leader of the good forest and his adversary is the Condor, reputed as being the darkest force in the forest. Into the story enters an apparently naive sparrow who is seduced by Condor into the dark side of the forest against the rulings of Owl. Owl refuses to send help because he does not want to endanger the lives of more birds, but also because he is furious with the sparrow. He says that sparrow was asking for trouble.
Also on the good side of the forest are an incredibly silly group of finches who like to play games and torment the vultures. But their silliness and game-playing skills are no match for the profound darkness of the vultures, and some are captured, and terrorised.
Golden Eagle rules over the whole forest, but he gets little involved because he has left Owl a set of rules. Finally he gets angry with what he sees happening on both sides of the forest, and realises that rules are not enough. So out of his concern and love for the birds , he sends his son, Silver Eagle, to the forest. The book covers the events that follow including a bitter battle and the discovery that there is an unknown traitor within their camp.
Author Ruth Thomas
Editor Joan Mitchell
First version typed up and suggestions made by Deborah van Welie