What to do in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia?
Visiting the Costa Smeralda, in the north-east of Sardinia, is discovering the most exclusive coast of the beautiful Italian island.
With its ultra-luxury hotels, yachts moored in the port of Porto Cervo, luxury boutiques and renowned designer, the place has become one of the favorite destinations of the international jet set for a holiday in the sun. This is the place where you have to be seen in summer!
But the Costa Smeralda (the Emerald Coast in French), it’s not necessarily only the bling bling side. You will also find sublime beaches and places of interest, certainly a little less known, but worth the detour. I am thinking in particular of the nuragic sites around Arzachena or the rural village of San Pantaleo.
Discover now our top 10 things to do and see on the Costa Smeralda, as well as our selection of the best accommodations for all budgets.
So where to go on the Costa Smeralda?
Visit Costa Smeralda: the must-sees
1. Porto Cervo
Porto Cervo is the place to see on the Costa Smeralda.
Considered the capital of this part of Sardinia, Porto Cervo was created from scratch to welcome billionaires and celebrities from around the world. For the record, it is the Aga Khan, who in 1962, fell in love with this place in Sardinia and decided to found a consortium to buy part of the coastline. The stated goal is to create luxury infrastructure to develop tourism.
Successful bet ! Today big names in finance, politics and jet-set have a villa on the Emerald Coast to spend their holidays lounging.
Porto Cervo is a little gathering place for all this beautiful people. The marina, the best equipped of all Sardinia, can accommodate the largest yachts and sailing stars. And in case they miss the latest fashionable luxury bag or jewelery ideal for going out, Porto Cervo also has plenty of luxury shops to do some shopping.
You will understand, the city is entirely dedicated to luxury tourism. For the ordinary citizens we are, it will be enough to admire the yachts and do a little window shopping on the 2 main shopping streets: the Sottopiazza and Passeggiata.
If you are looking for personalities, head to Piazzetta in Porto Cervo, a small square in the center of the city, where you can have a drink or go shopping.
And if you like to party in cool clubs and trendy clubs, Porto Cervo is also for you. However, it can sometimes be difficult to get in unless you have some knowledge or be ready to consume a lot!
Do not miss also in Porto Cervo: the chiesa di Stella Maris. This small church built by a famous architect is located above the harbor and offers a nice view of the city.
The best time to play paparazzi are the months of July-August . The concentration of people is then maximum. And yes it’s a bit like going to observe the whales in Canada, there is a good and a bad season!:-P
2. The Most Beautiful Beaches on the Costa Smeralda
Visiting the Costa Smeralda is also lounging on some of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia.
I have therefore prepared a selection of the best beaches of Costa Smeralda:
- The beach of Grande Pevero and that of Piccolo Pevero, located next door. Clear water, fine sand and views of the Li Nibani Islands in front, the 2 beaches are very famous. They are particularly suitable for families because the water is shallow. You will find a snack bar and can rent parasols and deckchairs or go for a pedal boat ride.
- Capriccioli Beach: a favorite destination if you visit the Costa Smeralda with your children, it has ample parking and is easily accessible. Rental of sunbed possible.
- The famous beach of Principe, nicknamed as it would have had the preferences of the Aga Khan. This beach, very pretty, is very popular. On the other hand I do not advise you if you move to the beach with all your equipment for children or picnic, the last 50 meters are really narrow and steep, better not to have too much to lug around.
- The beach Romazzino: pretty beach with turquoise water and thick vegetation to have some shade
- Cala di Volpe: beautiful beach with translucent water. Umbrellas and deckchairs rental.
- Liscia Ruia: it is the largest beach on the Costa Smeralda. It is well appointed and you will find a lot of private beaches in high-end version! If you are looking for something calmer and more natural, do not hesitate to continue a little on the way to reach the beach of Petra Ruja.
- Rena Bianca: it offers a beautiful view of the Gulf of Cugnana.
- Cala Granu: it is famous for the transparency of its waters and its fine sand
- The beach of La Celvia: the beach most frequented by the jet set of the Costa Smeralda.
3. Poltu Quatu
To continue this tourist guide of the Costa Smeralda, I then take you to Poltu Quatu.
This small seaside resort located 4 km from Porto Cervo is one of the most chic and upscale of the coast. With its many white villas with red tile roofs and harbor at the end of a fjord surrounded by cliffs, the city is the image of a postcard.
Here there is not much to do except admire the boats, do some shopping and enjoy a good meal on one of the terraces of restaurants overlooking the Maddalena archipelago.
If you like diving and snorkeling, 2 activities to do on the Costa Smeralda, day trips are organized from Poltu Quatu. For example, you can dive at the Tavolara marine reserve or around the Maddalena Islands. Boat trips to see whales and dolphins are also on the agenda.
4. Baia Sardinia
Another sight to see on the Costa Smeralda: Baia Sardinia.
This renowned seaside resort is home to several hotels and vacation rentals, numerous restaurants and shops selling local produce and typical Sardinian handicrafts.
You can enjoy your visit to Baia Sardinia to swim on the beach of Cala Battistoni in clear and transparent water. Here too, day trips to the islands of the Maddalena archipelago are organized daily.
To go out at night, it is at the Ritual, located at the exit of the city , that it happens. This club, which has the distinction of being dug in the rock, is renowned throughout the Costa Smeralda! Jet setters from all over the world meet there.
If you are wondering what to see on the Costa Smeralda and you are not really a fan of jet-set and glitter, I suggest you go to Arzachena.
I advise you to visit the surroundings of Arzachena if you are interested in the history of Sardinia and archeology. There are many remains of the Neolithic period but also the famous constructions of the island, the nuraghi and the tombs of the giants.
The historical sites to visit to Arzachena, on the Costa Smeralda:
- The nuraghe di Albucciu: count € 3 for about 1/2 hour visit
- The nuraghe La Prisgonia: the most important of the region
- The tomb of the giants of Coddu Ecchju
- The archaeological site of Li Muri containing 4 megalithic tombs
- The tomb of the giants of Li Lolghi
- The temple of Malchittu
You can also stop for a ride in the city of Arzachena. If you want to have a break in a café, you will find it in the main square, Piazza del Risorgimento. And do not miss a chance to take a photograph of the giant mushroom rock, a natural curiosity that has become a symbol of the city.
If you want to visit all these sites, consider buying a combined ticket , it will make you save some money.
6. San Pantaleo
Where to go on the Costa Smeralda to escape the world and the luxury atmosphere?
In San Pantaleo! San Pantaleo is a traditional rural village and one of the most beautiful beauties of Sardinia. It is located about fifteen kilometers from Porto Cervo.
You will be able to walk on its charming little place, where a market is held every Thursday. Admire his church and walk the streets to discover the many small craft shops. The atmosphere is authentic and warm!
Well, we must recognize that it is very small and the trick is quickly done but if you go through there, it deserves a stop. If only to enjoy a nice panorama of the mountains from the village square.
During your Costa Smeralda itinerary, you can go to Cannigione, on the western shore of the Gulf of Arzachena.
Old fishing village, like Poltu Quatu and Baia Sardinia, it is today a seaside resort with its lot of hotels, campsites, restaurants and souvenir shops. It is still a bit more wild and authentic than the other places of the Costa Smeralda but for how long?
Near Cannigione, I recommend you go swimming at the beach of Tanca Manna. If you are traveling with your family, it is more convenient to play in the water because it is shallow.
Of daily departures by boat are also possible to go to visit the Maddalena islands from Cannigione.
8. Porto Rotondo
Sightseeing on the Costa Smeralda is also going through Porto Rotondo.
It is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the Coast and Sardinia in general.
Second most important marina after Porto Cervo, Porto Rotondo also attracts a lot of celebrities. It is particularly known for being the resort of Silvio Berlusconi, which has the effect of attracting paparazzi from around the world.
No big difference with Porto Cervo, you’ll also find upscale hotels and villas as well as luxury boutiques. Here too, the village was created from scratch for a very well-off population.
With its small stairways, cobblestone streets, bridges and Piazza San Marco, Porto Rotondo is often compared to a little Venice. Floral and well maintained, we must recognize that the village is quite photogenic. In summer, you can also watch one of the shows playing in the amphitheater.
And of course, do not miss strolling along the waterfront and the harbor, to watch the beautiful boats.
What to do around the Costa Smeralda?
If you spend your holidays on the Emerald Coast and want to visit the surroundings, I recommend 2 other places to see in the vicinity of the Costa Smeralda.
9. The Maddalena Archipelago
I’ve talked about it several times in this article, since the Costa Smeralda, including the resorts of Poltu Quatu, Baia Sardinia and Canniogione, you can go on a day trip by boat to discover the islands of Maddalena.
If you rented a car for your stay, you can also easily reach the island by taking a ferry. Departures are from the city of Palau, about 40 minutes from Porto Cervo. It will take your car on the ferry which takes about 20 minutes to cross to the main island of the archipelago: that of Maddalena.
The archipelago is composed of 7 islands of which 2, Maddalena and Caprera are accessible by car. The others are only by boat. It’s up to you to decide whether you prefer to go on a boat trip or be more independent during your visit.
In any case, you can of course enjoy the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago for swimming and relaxing.
The islands of Maddalena are one of the must-see places around the Costa Smeralda!
If you want to know what to visit in La Maddalena, check out our article: What to do and see on the Maddalena Archipelago?
10. The Capo d’Orso
The Capo d’Orso is located in the vicinity of the Costa Smeralda, about 40 minutes from Porto Cervo and 12 minutes from Palau.
So you can stop there when leaving or returning from your day on the archipelago of Maddalena.
The cape is nicknamed this because you will find the Roccia dell’Orso, a rock carved by erosion and evoking the shape of a bear. To go see it, park on the paid parking (3 €) then go up by a path (10 to 15 minutes) to the rock. You must add 3 € of entrance per person to access it.
I think that in total, it is a little abused for a simple rock but you remember that we are around the Costa Smeralda and here everything is a little more expensive!
You will however be rewarded by the superb view of the coast and the islands of Maddalena from the rock of the bear.
How many days to visit Costa Smeralda?
To visit the Costa Smeralda, there is not really an ideal duration. Everything depends on your desires.
You can spend a whole week of holidays seeing more in one of the hotels of the Costa Smeralda and enjoy the beaches in the day + make one or 2 boat trips to the Maddalena or in the village of San Pantaleo.
You also have the option of staying there for just 2 or 3 days to laze on the beaches, enjoy the luxury amenities, and visit some of the archaeological remains to Arzachena.
Or, you can also go on the Costa Smeralda during the day during your itinerary in Sardinia (it is only 55 km long). In this case, you will select one or two beaches for swimming and take a tour by Porto Cervo or one of the other seaside resorts.
Accommodation in the Costa Smeralda
As you can see, the Costa Smeralda is an upscale part of Sardinia. So, there is a large concentration of luxury hotels, and if you are looking for an upscale hotel to spend a romantic holiday, this is the place. On the other hand it is absolutely necessary to reserve in advance and to envisage a rather high budget.
- Residenza Capriccioli: Just a 3-minute walk from the beach of the same name and 8 km from Porto Cervo. Studio and apartment with kitchenette and balcony or terrace from 100 € per night. For the Costa Smeralda, this is one of the cheapest accommodation you can find so book in advance !!! Most: access to the beach on foot, swimming pools, location.
- Grand Hotel Poltu Quatu: Located in Poltu Qautu and a 12-minute walk from the beach. Double room very spacious and bright, with typical Sardinian furniture from 190 € per night, breakfast included. Pros: location, excellent breakfast, nice staff. This is one of the best choices for accommodation on the Costa Smeralda, the value for money is exceptional!
- Cervo Hotel, Costa Smeralda Resort: Located in Porto Cervo, a 15-minute walk from the beach. This 5 * establishment offers cozy and comfortable double rooms from 280 € per night, breakfast included. The most: the exceptional setting, the availability of staff, calm, the decor of the hotel. This is our recommendation for a romantic trip to the Costa Smeralda.
- Cala Di Volpe, a Luxury Collection Hotel: Set in green surroundings, just a 6-minute walk from the beach. This luxury hotel on the Costa Smeralda offers superb double rooms overlooking the gardens or the bay of Cala di Volpe, from € 400 a night, breakfast included. Most: the benefits of an upscale hotel, the private beach, the beautiful setting, the friendliness of the staff. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay on the Costa Smeralda.
How to get to Costa Smeralda
Sardinia has 3 international airports that welcome flights from France.
Here are the travel times from the 3 cities to reach the Costa Smeralda.
- From Olbia: Porto Cervo is only 40 minutes from Olbia. For a stay on the Costa Smeralda, the best option is to land in Olbia.
- From Alghero: Join Costa Smeralda in 2h15 by car.
- From Cagliari: Count 3h30 by car to reach Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda
Are you going to Sardinia? Read also
- What to do in Sardinia? The TOP 25 must-see places on the island
- Itinerary: A week in Sardinia – 2 itineraries to visit the North or the South of Sardinia
- Itinerary: 8 days in Sardinia – Ultimate itinerary to visit North Sardinia in 6-8 days
- Itinerary: 2 weeks in Sardinia – Itinerary to visit the North of the island
- Itinerary: 15 days in Sardinia – Road trip in the South of the island
- Itinerary: 3 weeks in Sardinia – Complete tour of the island from South to North
- Itinerary: Visit the North West of Sardinia – Departing from Alghero
- Alghero: The Ultimate Guide to Things to Do and See
- Maddalena Archipelago: All our tips for visiting the islands
- Cagliari: the 10 things to do and see