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.
Mediterranean Beaches Guides
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 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.
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).
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.