Sardinia: Best Beaches, Restaurants and Hotels

Sardinia: Best Beaches, Restaurants and Hotels

Sardinia has fantastic, gorgeous beaches in the south, north east and west. Picking the best, and surprisingly affordable, places to eat and stay.

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THE NORTH

pelosa beach in stintino italy
La Pelosa beach, near Stintino, northern Sardinia. Photograph: Alamy

Across the north from the Costa Smeralda, Alghero is the choice of ordinary Italian families. The city’s beaches are a little gritty and noisy, but to the north, near the surprisingly appealing fascist-era town of Fertilia, Lazzaretto and Bombarde beaches offer kayaks and windsurfing for those who want them, plus expanses of silvery sand. Bombarde does have an ugly hotel at one end, but turn left and it grows quite wild, with low rocks enclosing little sandy “rooms”. For a romantic evening, park at Baratz lake, 10km to the north, and walk through woods (or drive in a 4WD) to wild, golden, west-facing Porto Ferro beach. 

The area’s famous beach is La Pelosa, at the northern tip, but its white sand perfection and proximity to the Porto Torres ferry terminal mean it gets busy, and parking is expensive. The nearby town of Stintino, however, is a delight, squeezed between two harbors; south of it, follow signposts to several fine shingle beaches, including one called Coscia di Donna (Lady’s Thigh).

Where to eat

Family owned restaurant Il Paguro (via Zara 13, +39 079 930260) sits on a residential street in Fertilia. Its seafood spaghetti (€16) is excellent, and a starter of “roasted Sardinian pecorino” (€4) is a wicked bowl of runny cheese, with flatbread hot from the pizza oven.

Where to stay

Domominore Country Hotel Alghero

Domominore Country Hotel Alghero

Putting you within a 10-minute drive of Nuraghe di Palmavera and Anghelu Ruju Necropolis, Domominore Country Hotel Alghero offers an airport shuttle (available on request) for EUR 25 per person. You can visit the outdoor tennis court for a workout or unwind with a drink at the bar/lounge. An outdoor pool and a seasonal outdoor pool are other highlights, and rooms at this Mediterranean hotel offer LCD TVs and minibars.

THE EAST

cala goloritze
Cala Goloritzè is one of Lonely Planet’s European top 10 beaches. Photograph: Alamy

South from Olbia you are soon in mountains. After Orosei, the coast is so steep that beach access becomes an issue – unless you take to the water. Every morning from the town of Cala Gonone, boats depart for the beaches around the gulf, including Cala Goloritzé, one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 beaches in Europe. Returns cost €10-€28pp though, and run to strict timetables: a fun alternative is to hire an inflatable (gommone) with outboard motor (from €80 a day, max 12 people) and cove-hop at will.

South again is the Costa Rei, an area said to rival the Costa Smeralda for beauty, but which beats it for unspoiled charm. Just to the north is one of my favorite beaches – wide Colostrai, backed by a nature reserve, with golden sand sloping into water kept warm by a sandbar just offshore.

cala gonone small
Cala Gonone beach 

It was near here that we found our private paradise. Just before Capo Ferrato village on the SP97, red-and-white panels mark a footpath between an olive grove and a wheatfield, leading to the multi-hued sea and white sand of Porto Pirastu. Seaweed washes ashore at its northern end, but we turned right over some rocks and had the fine beach, with views down the whole Costa Rei, to ourselves on a July afternoon.

Where to eat

Culurgiones with potatoes, mint and tomato sauce.
Culurgiones with potatoes, mint and tomato sauce. Photograph: Alamy

Feast on excellent culurgiones (Sardinian ravioli) with cured tuna roe at Sa Serbidora in Arbatax town (Piazza Sindaco Porrà 5, +39 328 337 4338). Carnivores will love the typical cena sarda at Torre Salinas’ on-site restaurant: a ham, salami and cheese antipasto, followed by speciality pasta, wood-roast suckling pig and/or braised goat, and a seadas pastry costs €30 a head with wine, coffee and liqueur.

Where to stay

Monte Turri Luxury Retreat

Monte Turri Luxury Retreat

Monte Turri Luxury Retreat offers a private beach where you can enjoy the shade from a beach umbrella or relax in a sun lounger, plus you'll have access to onsite scuba diving and snorkeling. 2 outdoor pools provide fun for everyone, while guests in the mood for pampering can visit the spa to indulge in facials and aromatherapy. MonteTurri Sky Terrace, one of 8 restaurants, serves international cuisine and is open for breakfast and dinner. A nightclub and a poolside bar are other highlights, and rooms at this upscale hotel offer up nice touches like rainfall showerheads and bathrobes.

Villaggio Camping Torre Salinas

Villaggio Camping Torre Salinas

Villaggio Camping Torre Salinas offers an airport shuttle for EUR 120.00 per vehicle one way. After getting a workout at the outdoor tennis court, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant or unwind with a drink at the bar/lounge. Accommodations feature kitchenettes and patios.

 
su giudeu beach sardinia
The wide soft sands of huge Su Giudeu beach in the south of Sardinia. Photograph: Alamy

Italy offers so much to holidaymakers: food and wine, art and architecture, high peaks and Tuscan hills, Italy simply doesn’t do seaside very well: beaches are often given over to hotel and bar concessions, with rows of sunbeds differentiated only by the color of their umbrellas and the trashiness of their euro-pop. Only a corner at the least attractive end will be spiaggia libera – for people who just want to rock up and lie on a towel.

Sardinia isn’t like that: lists of the island’s best beaches run into the hundreds, and there are many more unnamed coves and wedges of white, silver or golden sand around its 1,000km-plus of coastline, peninsulas and islands. Some popular beaches are concessionised – though even these tend to be so spacious that plenty of spiaggia libera remains. There are wild beaches for those prepared to tote their own supplies, but most have a shack selling drinks, ice-creams and snacks.

And if you think Sardinia is expensive, think again. Its image is skewed by the Costa Smeralda, an undeniably beautiful area in the north-east around the town of Porto Cervo, developed by the Aga Khan in the 1960s. Its rash of yachting, golfing, millionaire-style development has spread as far as Palau in the north and south towards Olbia. But elsewhere, from the Catalan-flavored north-west to the south’s white dunes, from the rocky east to sometimes surfable west, Sardinia’s coast offers space, surprisingly low prices (not in peak season) and a friendly welcome. Add budget flights to Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia, ancient villages, nuraghe (neolithic remains) for history buffs, and all the pizza, artisanal gelato and great-value wine you’d expect, and Sardinia is the perfect holiday island. Here are a few coastal favorites, with places to sleep and eat.

THE SOUTH

ChiaSuportu
Su Portu, the most intimate of Chia’s five beaches. Photograph: Alamy

East of the island’s capital, Cagliari, beaches suffer from proximity to the city and the SP71 coast road. But an hour’s drive west and south – blue sea on your left, flamingo-dotted lagoons on your right – is ridiculously fortunate Chia. For a little resort to have not one perfect crescent of pale sand but five can only be called greedy. Even better, the beaches are backed by a strip of protected dunes, so there’s barely a building visible from the shore; most holiday homes and hotels cluster on a hillside a mile away.

The central beach, Campana, slopes gently into clear water and has several bars (with sunbeds) plus windsurf and kayak hire, but the most impressive is huge Su Giudeu to the west, on a spit between lagoon and sea, its couple of bar concessions lost in the wide soft sands. My favourite is eastern Su Portu, under the stone watchtower. One end is slightly stony at the water’s edge, but its intimate size and almost circular shape make up for that.

Another hour round the coast, linked by causeway to the “mainland”, is the laid-back island of Sant’Antioco. From the harbor, steep streets lead to the old town and one of Europe’s oldest churches, fifth-century Sant’Antioco. It’s worth paying €5 to tour the Roman, Punic and early Christian catacombs, complete with frescoes, and at a pleasant year-round 18C. Young guide Marco told us how there are catacombs under the whole old town, and one elderly resident uses those below her house as cool summer sleeping quarters.

calasetta
Sotto Torre Calasetta. Photograph: Panoramio

South of the causeway, Maladroxia beach is justly popular, if narrow by Sardinian standards, but the town of Calasetta, on Sant’Antioco’s northern tip, is almost as well favored as Chia, with three white-sand bays in increasing sizes. The one nearest Calasetta, Sottotorre, is a pretty, perfect locals’ beach, with clear water and no concessions – but it’s worth driving a few kilometers to Le Saline and Spiaggia Grande, with their wide sweeps of sand, barely a building in sight, and free parking.

calasettas tower
Calasetta’s watch tower. Photograph: Alamy

Calasetta’s grid of 18th-century streets is also home to a modern art gallery, the MACC (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Calasetta, via Savoia 2, €3, open 6-9pm only). Nearby, Piazzale Torre has a 1756 watchtower, a great setting for sunset yoga classes (7.30pm Tuesdays and Thursdays), and there are great views towards San Pietro island from the belevedere, where older people chat on granite benches still warm from the day’s sun.

Where to eat

The outdoor restaurant at Torre Chia campsite (pizzas from €4, fish mains from €10, +39 070 92 30 054, via del Porto 21, campeggiotorrechia.com) behind Su Portu beach is a good budget choice. Sardinians are less fixated on carb-heavy primi piatti than the mainlanders: it’s normal to leap straight from antipasto to the main meat or fish event. A shared fish antipasto of six little plates was €9 and felt like a main meal.

You can dine on fish with your feet almost in the sand at Calasetta’s La Caletta (mains from €15, Via Sotto Torre 22, +39 345 253 3184), but we also enjoyed an evening in the hubbub of the central square. A few streets back on aptly named Piazza Belly, portions at Il Pirata (+39 078 188 025) were huge, service chaotic but friendly, and dinner for two with wine under €50. Try fregola sarda (pasta balls) with seafood sauce, and mussels with fresh tomato.

Where to stay

Hotel Spartivento

Hotel Spartivento

Hotel Spartivento offers an airport shuttle for EUR 110 per vehicle roundtrip. After having fun at the outdoor pool, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant or unwind with a drink at the bar/lounge. Other highlights include an outdoor tennis court, a seasonal outdoor pool, and a garden.


Related: Cavallo The Peaceful Mediterranean Island

THE WEST

Torre Grande beach
Torre Grande beach is 3km long

An hour’s drive north-west from Cagliari is the elegant provincial capital of Oristano, and some of the west’s best beaches are on the nearby Sinis peninsula, which is quiet, flat, and perfect for exploring by bike. At its edge, Torre Grande has 3km of south-facing beach, backed by pinewoods and low grassy dunes. This is a good base for older families (the sand shelves steeply under the water – not for toddlers). The low-rise town is nicely buzzy, with lots of cafes, a long traffic-free seafront full of cyclists and skateboarders, and teenagers playing football by the “big tower”.

Wild beach beauty is a short drive away. San Giovanni di Sinis at the far south of the peninsula is a gentle arc of fine sand backed by low, fossil-laden cliffs: perfect for snorkelling, it also has impressive Greek ruins. Further north, Is Arutas glistens white between ochre-colored rocks, the “sand” actually tiny quartz pebbles like so much risotto rice. It’s very pretty, comfy to lie on and doesn’t get everywhere, unlike sand – no good for sandcastles, though. Parking is free and plentiful. The peninsula’s west-facing beaches are also one of Italy’s few surf spots.

su pallosu 01
Su Palluso Beach

In northern Sinis, try parking almost anywhere on the Su Pallosu road and pick a footpath down to the shore. The corrugated headland hides myriad tiny sandy bays.

Related: ECO Glamping in Italy

Where to eat

Grilled calamari at Stella del Mare
Grilled calamari at Stella del Mare, Putzu Idu

Unpretentious beach restaurants are the norm in Sinis: at Turroi in San Giovanni (via Lungomare, +39 334 302 9630) a marinated mullet antipasto was delicious and the pizza the best I’ve had in years (dinner for two with wine €50 including tip). Stella del Mare in Putzu Idu (via Benedetto Sanna, +39 342 311 8005) was similar – hectic but smiley, with great prawns and calamari. Ring ahead to bag a table on the sea-view terrace.

Related: Turquiose Beaches of Cala Gonone Sardinia

Where to stay

Hotel Gran Torre

Hotel Gran Torre

A great choice for a stay in Oristano, Hotel Gran Torre features an airport shuttle (available on request) and a rooftop terrace. You can splash around at the outdoor pool, grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, or unwind with a drink at the bar/lounge. A poolside bar and a fitness center are other highlights, and rooms at this Mediterranean property offer balconies and minibars.

Active families would enjoy Sa Mola (doubles from €80 B&B, bungalow sleeping four from €110 B&B, on Facebook) in nearby Bonarcado at the foot of the Montiferru hills, which is gearing up to add horse riding to its walking and mountain biking activities (there’s no pool). Half-board deals are good value (€630 for a week for two in September) and food is very Sardinian – malloreddus pasta (like fat white grubs) and mint and rosemary flavorings, rather than the usual basil.

A good option in cooler weather is Antiche Terme di Sardara (from €81 a head full-board if you stay three days, termedisardara.it), inland and half an hour south of Oristano. A spa in the grand old European sense, it has two outdoor pools at a natural 38C – perfect for a warming dip after seaside walks. Stays here are quite a retro experience: the dining hall serves good but slightly institutional food, fussed over by a white-jacketed maitre d’. Treatments in the brand new wellness center start at €16.


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