Costa Smeralda easily could be the Monaco of Sardinia, beating it’s property prices with 300, 0000 EUR per m2 for some properties, throwing a strong competition in a luxury yachts market sailing crystal clear waters of Tyrrhenian sea and beating number of millionaire & celebrities coming here every year for a luxury escape. Originally developed by Prince Aga Khan as a luxury holiday resort for rich and famous, today Costa Smeralda is a busy, seaside destination which attracts thousands of holiday makers who would love to get a glimpse of celebrity lifestyle, even if that’s just watching them off the shore with binocular in their hands.
To experience Costa Smeralda in style, you might need a yacht or boat of some type to explore this stunning place as most of the the hidden bays, islands of close by La Maddalena Archipelago are only reachable by boat. But don’t worry there are plenty of beaches, which are still accessible by land, and here are just few of them.
Porto Cervo being the capital of Costa Smeralda has several beautiful beaches located in a short driving distance – Liscia Ruja being the longest and probably the most popular. Besides the super long white sandy beach and shallow waters, this is a perfect place to spot celebrity yachts, so don’t forget your binocular at home. While this could be one of the longest beaches in the area, it is also one of the crowdiest, so definitely come early in the morning if you want to get one of the front row seats by the shore. There are plenty of beach bars and restaurants, so absolutely no need to pack your picnic bag, just take your wallet – you will need it here. Parking is available at the back of the beach (as I said wallet will be essential also here).
As you can see I am not really a crowd lover, and large beaches packed to the top is definitely not my thing. So I am on a mission to find the one and only boutique bay which hopefully is harder to find and therefore would be less busy, hopefully would have food truck parked in the dunes (in Sardinia those are the best) and hopefully I could just lay in the perfect colour sand watching tiny waves washing off the perfect colour beach. Unfortunately I am in the wrong place, as I arrive in tiny peninsula of Spiaggia Capriccioli, where every side of the land stretching into the sea should reveal small sandy bays. The beaches are definitely smaller, they are quite pretty, but number of people is not smaller…both bays of Capriccioli are packed, and even the nearby Spiaggia del Pirata Capriccioli is full too. Possibly in lower season, these beaches do have potential, but not in July. There is a camping style cafe & plenty of parking on the back of the beach with self-service parking machines (maybe somebody actually is paying taxes here?).
Spiaggia del Principe
First attempt of finding dreamy Costa Smeralda beach has failed – but I am not giving up just yet. My next stop is Prince’s Aga Khan allegedly favourite beach Spiaggia del Princippe. There is no car access to this beach, the only way to get there is either by sea (but waters are so shallow, that you might struggle getting anywhere close to the shore) or taking the footpath through the Mediterranean jungle. I have never done so much effort for getting to the beach, but I am determined for this one. As I start my walk down the hill (carrying my sunbrella, bag with towels, water and newspapers) it looks picturesque – Caribbean like sea, tiny bay enclosed by stretch of white sand – DREAM! This keeps me going, even the bag becomes heavier as I start melting under the mid summers sun. The climb is bearable, but the destination is not that rewarding as I would have hoped – despite the difficult access to the beach it is jam-packed. The only place to put my towel is borderline water, with any bigger wave threatening to wet my belongings. The so much dreamed off food truck is there, but I am too late as all the panini’s and Buffala cheese & pomodoro salads are gone. I am left with coffee, which I half spilled while stumbling over some strangers bag. Mission not complete, miserably I give up on the natural treasures of Costa Smeralda and drag myself up the hill to go home (and cry).
Spiaggia Pevero Picollo
Just before I go back to the hotel, I decide to stop at two more beaches just around the corner of Porto Cervo. Pevero Picollo is the first, which first of all does not require walking or climbing, parking is just across the street and is charged at the market premium prices. To absolutely no surprise, beach is less than attractive – with bar/restaurant and stray sun shaders, this place is clearly designed for the lazy people staying in the apartments around the corner, who are not in interested in putting any effort in exploring the island, but would prefer laying on the sun lounger and sip cocktails all day long. Well that’s not my mood of the day and I go straight into looking for the Pevero Grande beach (suggesting it is definitely a bigger and better version of this one), but after 3 attempts of get to the beach by road, always stopped by a sign “Private Road”, me and google maps give up on finding any other way how to get there – it might have been a footpath from the same parking for Pevero Piccollo, but I am not sure. It is said the favourite bay to show off your super expensive yachts, so probably access for mortals is actually not really that welcomed.
Next day, I try to forget my failures of the previous day and decide to go slightly further away from the epicenter of celebrity spotter beaches and we head towards north. Half an hour from Porto Cervo we stop at long wild strip of shorelines called Spiaggia Mannena, a wild, all natural and real sandy strip of sandy beach. This finally feels like Sardinia, the natural beauty before anybody tried to make it into a commercial success at it’s best. I decide to go for a little walk and find several completely deserted bays, where you could feel pretty much like on deserted island. Pack your picnic bag and get proper rest here with no distractions. There is still parking at the road, which to my surprise is free.
After spending half a day in Barca Bruciata, I feel so adventurous, that decide to stop at one more beach on the way back to Porto Cervo. Baja Sardinia is a small seaside town 20 minutes away from Porto Cervo, with a decent, but not particularly spectacular beach, if this would have been first beach of the day I might have felt quite disappointed, but knowing that there are better places to be you can always tick this one off the list.
Where to stay?
If you want to do Costa Smeralda in style, villa is pretty much ‘a must’ (here are a couple of sunning villas from a Sardinia vacation rentals if you are going in bigger company). Alternatively stay in Porto Cervo in one of the more affordable accommodations in the center of the hustle and bustle, with walking distance to the harbour and all the restaurants & bars. If you decide to stay on the other side of the bay from the harbour, walking is out of question, but there are plenty of reasonably expensive taxi’s to take you home. Certainly a much better place to watch fireworks, which is quite a normal thing even on Tuesday evening. That’s Porto Cervo style.
Where to eat?
One thing that we didn’t manage to explore in full was food scene, our only restaurant for the night was restaurant Madai, which was the only Michelin Guide in the town, food was great, but definitely overpriced, and as me and my boyfriend do not look like Russian millionaire or supermodels, service was exceptionally slow compared to the other tables – so dress to impress, this really matters here.
How to get there?
Olbia is the closest airport & port, either you arrive with plane or ferry. Getting a rental car is definitely the best way to get to Porto Cervo & Costa Smeralda area, as well is essential for exploring beaches (unless you have budget for a mini yacht, then definitely do it on a yacht or boat).
Map to all the beaches: