Mediterranean Beaches


Map of popular Mediterranean beaches zones (such as Spanish Costas) marked with white stars.

Note that that entire blue region between Crete, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and North Africa is generally known as the Mediterranean though locally patches of water may go by other names – for example – The Tyrrenian Sea, but that’s still the Med!

Using Mediterranean Beaches

Mediterranean Beaches are full of character and easy to get to but they are not truly comparable with those of the Caribbean or Pacific.
The water is cooler and the sand generally coarser or even pebbles. Pretty shady, palm tree fringes are also rare, though hot sunshine, good food nearby, friendly locals and low prices are common.

In addition there is absolutely no chance of being attacked by a shark, though jellyfish do make an occasional explosive disturbance. The beaches are best June-mid October, though the water is still a little chilly up to June and, of course, crowded July-August.

Surf: Good surf is very unusual in the Mediterranean; the Atlantic Ocean is the accepted place for wave riding in Europe.

Greece: apart from Crete island most beaches are either in the Ionian Sea or the Aegean Sea.

Mediterranean Beaches Guides

nice city and sea overview, with notations, France

Nice’s stony but spacious beaches on the Côte d’Azur, France

Cannes vs Nice
Unlike stony Nice, their bigger rival a few kilometres along the Côte d’Azur, Cannes has sandy beaches that are small but offer a reasonable amount of rent-free space while nearby cafés serve excellent food at slightly elevated prices.

The promenade is as pleasant to stroll as Nice’s and a lot less traffic, though much shorter.

However, Cannes’ buildings away from the shore are frequently drab compared to some of Nice’s magnificent Belle Epoque structures while Nice’s shopping, strolling, eating out scenes and night life are much more varied and lively.

The Promenade du Paillon (aka Coulis Vert) is a brilliant place for a green stroll but especially fine for kids, with its play-fountains in the summer and wooden climbing beasts.

Furthermore, Nice is a real French city with a wonderful daily market whereas Cannes seems mainly tuned in to posh tourism or les yachties riches.

Street parking near beaches is not easy in either city. Pay carparks are the best option and both places have a good selection not far from the sea but get there reasonably early.
Alternatively take the train, though they can be erratic and inconvenient if you wish to stay for a firework display. Town traffic may be heavy in both locations.

Côte d’Azur beaches, may be sandy or stony but the less-well-known strands can be very characterful and fun if you can find a place to park, or go there by train, though some beaches are near the stations and others are not.

There are no sharks, well, no predatory sharks, but jellyfish sometimes appear, usually late in the season. Some wealthier locations such as Cannes and Monaco provide stinger nets.

During July – August there are regular, magnificent fireworks displays alongside Côte d’Azur beaches, with Cannes and Monaco leading the magnificence, though other municipalities put on a good show too.
Cagnes-sur-Mer, for example, closes the street beside the promenade at 6pm once a week (causing traffic havoc) and provides live bands (free) and good dining (not free! ) along the seafront topped off by excellent fireworks at 10 pm or thereabouts.

Good Sand: Cannes (and its adjunct La Boca), Theoule, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, St Tropez.

Grainy sand or shingle (bare feet OK): Menton, Villefranche, Monaco.

Pebbles (difficult to walk, may need water shoes): Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet.

Plage de Escalet, Plage des Graniers, Saint Tropez beaches, France

One of St Tropez’ more distant and discreet beaches, France

St Tropez has one of those resounding, sexy names, like Marrakesh and Kathmandu but sadly without the same fulfilment these days.

It’s a a great place with good size beaches, but writhing crowds and massive traffic jams (it took the bug crew 1 hour to drive to near St Trop from Cannes and 2 hours to travel the last 5 kms).

It’s not a recommended holiday spot for normal mortals with thin wallets or crowd phobias. Get there by ferry from Cannes or St Maxime if you must. St Tropez Beach Pictures.

Juans-les-Pins and Antibes beaches are in the same conurbation but on either side of the foot of the Cap d’Antibes peninsula. For some reason that we can’t fathom the rich like to eat, drink and wander along Juan les Pins’ very narrow stretch of soft sand lined with pay loungers, parasols and hideous apartment blocks. Perhaps the quality beachside dining is the attraction?

The less well off, however, who want space to play with their families or lie down without being trampled, choose the wide sandy beaches on the other side near Antibes Old Town – Plage le Ponteil and Plage de la Salis, or in the case of Plage de la Gravette, actually in the old town.

Overcooked and undersanded though it is, we do love Plage de la Garoupe on Cap d’Antibes, home to a really good value café (red stripe parasols), a fantastic walk and some cute little coves and beaches.

Corsica, palombaggia beach, France

Corsica island’s Palombaggia beach, France. Photo by Jplm.

This French island is sophisticated, flashy and one of the best places for water sports in the Mediterranean. Corsica’s 600 miles of coastline has numerous deserted shores and secluded coves.

St Restitude, near Calvi (North West): St Restitude is the place for a peaceful hideaway. A secluded small beach backed by pine woods, with soft sand and clean water.

Palombaggia Beach, Santa-Giulia Beach, Golfe di Sogno Beach, near Porto-Vecchio (South East): Port Vecchio is an upmarket resort town spread over a rocky hill with its own beach, a yacht marina, lively streets, and good range of accommodation, cafes, and restaurants.

The best beach is Palombaggia Beach, southeast of the town, a perfect crescent of white sand sandwiched between an azure sea and a cluster of dunes, with an excellent beach restaurant; other pristine beaches are Santa Giulia Beach (good for watersports) a few miles to south, and around Golfe di Sogno to the north.

For more isolation take a boat or have a very long walk from St Florent across to either Saleccia Beach or Loto Beach. Neither have facilities or many visitors, just lots of soft yellow sand – including a mini-desert – and clear water. Saleccia has a camp site beside the desert. See Corsica beaches page

Best May-June, & Sept. OK July-Aug , though hot and crowded like the rest of Europe.

Larvotto beach, Monaco

Larvotto beaches, Monaco.

Monaco is surprisingly pleasant and  Larvotto beach’s half kilometre of imported, smoothed gravel offers clean waters protected by jellyfish netting (rarely needed but hedge fund managers like to take precautions! ).  Good exposure to the sun is divided evenly into pay and public sections, with a kid’s play area at the Italy end. There are plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants with a spread of prices.
Free toilets are available under the promenade and the stretch is an easy 10 minute walk from the city’s core, Casino Square.

Menton, practically next door to Italy is quiet even in high season and has a fine micro-climate even better than the rest of the Riviera, some stylish architecture and a couple of good size beaches bordered by promenades and cafés. Our favourite is Les Sablettes, the smaller beach near the port on the Italian side. Shallow, calm and with comfortable though coarse sand it’s a winner for families but popular with everyone.

On the Nice side is a huge curve of the Baie du Soleil and beaches beginning with Plage du Fossan beside the unpleasantly modern new museum. It’s one curve and beaches are pretty well identical, though the onshore cafés would disagree. The surface ranges from mid-size pebbles thru shingle to almost-sand while the Fossan corner of the Mediterranean does appear to collect jellyfish in season due to currents.

Cap d’Agde near Montpellier is naturist-friendly, in other words get your kit off. Not just in terms of nudist beaches but the entire city – from restaurants to banks – goes for the natural look.

Camaiore free beach, Versilia, Italy beaches

Camaiore, one of the very crowded free sections; most of the beach is occupied by pay areas. Versilia Coast, Italy

Versilia Coast

A stretch of the Italian Riviera known as the Versilia Coast encompasses Italy’s best mainland-based Mediterranean beaches. It extends from Marina di Carrara through Marinas di Massa and dei Ronchi to Forte dei Marmi, Camaiore and finally Viareggio.

The beaches are very similar, wide, soft and beige, with the sea shelving gradually and rips almost unknown. The biggest problem is that pay parasols occupy 90% of the best sand and parking is very difficult. However, if you arrive early and are prepared to pay not a lot (25-80 euros per day for parasol and two loungers, then you’ll be comfortable.
From June to September the sea will be an acceptably warm temperature, though crowds hoover up free spaces late July-August. Versilia Coast information.

Terracina, 1. 5 hours SW of Rome, on the way to Naples.
One of the best beaches on Italy’s mainland, Terracina’s is very long, wide and offers plenty of comfortable sand that is pay-parasol free, yet is within easy reach of cold drinks or simple meals from beach cafés.
The town itself is quiet and pleasant but not immediately adjacent to the sea so wheels or at least 20 minute’s walk will be necessary to get wet.

Lampedusa island

This small island is more African than European. It has clear sea and superb shores, and it offers some of the best swimming and skin-diving in the Mediterranean. Most of hotels are within a short walk of the beaches ; there are campsites as well. It’s essential to book ahead in July-Aug.

Getting there: by ferry from Port Empedocle, or by air from Palermo. In summer time you can fly directly from Milan. Best May-Sept, but avoid July-Aug if possible.

La Costa Verde, Sardinia island

Sardinia is quite wild and less developed than many islands and has a spectacular, cove-pocked, beach-packed coastline. One of the prettiest stretches in the Mediterranean is of course the Costa Smeralda, the island’s best-known resort area with 5 star development.
If you want to get away from the crowds, grab wheels and drive! Also Santa Teresa di Gallura (a daily ferry service goes there from Palau) has stunning coves and beaches.

Best May-June, & Sept. OK July-Aug , though hot and crowded.

Also see Sardinia

La Concha beach in San Sebastian Donostia, Basque country, North Spain beaches

La Concha beach in San Sebastian-Donostia, Basque country, North Spain beaches

Spain’s Costas

Costa de la Luz (south-west coast)

800 metres of fine, white sand and low key developement make Agua Amarga village – embedded in the Cabo de Gata National Park – a classic, relaxing beach resort, with excellent wild walks in the Park too.

Tarifa is another popular, attractive, low-key beach area with few hotels but lots of activities. Due to it’s location on the most southerly tip of Europe winds are usually pretty strong which is great for wind/kite surfers but can be irritating for swimmers or tanners.

Bolonia beach, near Tarifa, is a 3 km long nudist beach, unspoilt and unsophisticated but a little breezy and coarse sand, with all major services are provided. If it’s too busy for you try towards Cadiz, there are even less visited beaches along the road.

Costa Brava (far north-east coast)

Cap de Begur is a charming area about 40 mins from Girona offering plenty of Spanish culture old and new (Dali’s weirdness lurks nearby at Figueres or Cadaques). But also it hosts a collection of superb little beaches, ranging from Aiguablava to nudist L’Illa Roja or family-oriented Llanfranc and Platja de Raco.

Croatia beaches (Adriatic Sea, which is close and similar to the Med)

Zlatni Rat, Croatia

Croatia has low prices and a lengthy coastline dotted with islands and fine beaches, many of them shingle (small stones like rounded gravel).

Kolocep is one of the Elafiti islands on the Adriatic coast, near Dubrovnik down south. It has some of the loveliest, secluded beaches in Europe while Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) on Brac Island, with its azur sea and crescent shape is a primary target for beach lovers.

Shingly Zrce has three 24/7 beach clubs that encourage Ibiza-style beach boogies, while Banje beach just outside the ancient walls of Dubrovnik is perfectly located for mixed days of hot culture and cool water.

Croatia also offers some great scuba diving walls, reefs, caves, wrecks off a few of their 1, 000 + islands.

Best May-June and Sept. OK July-August, unless crowds are a problem. See Croatia Beaches.

North African beaches: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco

We’ve removed these from best Mediterranean beaches listings since many are poorly developed and lack water controls as well as facilities (e. g. Marsa Matrouh in Egypt), others are not very safe ++ (Tunisia) and some are just style-free, featureless and uninviting (Morocco’s Tangier beaches).

Water quality

EU beach water tests on Mediterranean beaches for bacterial pollution (especially Streptococcus and Enterococcus, usually caused by sewage or decaying matter):

The best water hit the beaches of Cyprus and Greece, with Spain 3rd, Italy 4th, Portugal 7th, Britain 13th, France 14th.

The worst beach water quality was found in Poland and Belgium though some French sand – often on the Atlantic coast – is surprisingly washed by a lot of dirty seas.

In some cases – such as UK – the Environment Agency blames unseasonal rainfall washing farming residue into rivers and down to beaches.

Inland beaches

The best freshwater bathing sites tested by the EU were in Denmark, Estonia, Germany and Austria. Britain’s, including Hampstead Heath ponds, were very poor.


pelagia noctiluca, Mediterranean jellyfish, Sardinia

Pelagia noctiluca, a typical Mediterranean jellyfish.

Some summers many Mediterranean beaches – from Spain’s Costa del Sol thru France’s south coast and down Italy as far as Sicily – suffer from jellyfish invasion, specifically the mauve stinger or Pelagia noctiluca (so called because they glow at night).
The stings are painful and unpleasant but not generally life-threatening, unless a swimmer has a weak heart, a sever allergic reaction or panics on encountering a shoal of blobbies and drowns.

The cause of the stinger explosion is the usual suspect – global warming boosting water temperatures by a couple of degrees as well as increased pollution-derived nutrients and reduced cool freshwater entering from rivers.
However, overfishing of anchovies (which compete with jellies for plankton salad), turtles and tuna fish (which eat jellies for dessert) has also aided the mauve climate avenger’s expansionist tendencies.