In the summer on northeast Sardinia, Italy, the glamorous Porto Cervo bubbles over with yacht owners and charterers who want to live the luxe life — seeing and being seen, shopping in the chic boutiques, and dining at the high-end eateries. But for crew who might prefer to escape to a more scenic, quiet, and adventurous slice of life, there is another side to this island. The southernmost coast of Sardinia is a haven for its wild beauty, long beaches, and plentiful chances for outdoor activities, from rock climbing to scuba diving.
This placid yet captivating paradise can be found at the island’s southernmost tip, even farther south than the town of Cagliari, which is about three hours south of the Porto Cervo area by car. If you’re into rock climbing, then plan to start the day tackling one of southern Sardinia’s popular climbing areas. Just southeast of Cagliari is Sarrabus, a spot known for its granite rock bouldering. To scale some big walls, head west from Cagliari to the town of Iglesias, which is the hub for one of the island’s largest rock-climbing areas. In this area, you can climb at the Domusnovas site, which boasts more than 500 climbing routes from easy walls for beginners to challenging overhangs for experts.
If hiking along cliffs is more your speed than climbing them, then make a beeline for the area of Chia, and specifically Chia Beach. Here you’ll find a dreamy little golden sand beach overlooked by an ancient tower, which was originally constructed to fend off pirate attacks. You’ll also find the trailhead for the start of a coastal path, a stunning hike that takes you right along the coastline, admiring the pure blue-green waters that crash upon the rocky shore. Of course, crew know well that one of the best ways to admire such a shoreline is from the water, so another excellent option is renting a little boat for the day and tucking into the quiet coves where you can swim and snorkel in the clear waters.
Southern Sardinia is replete with gorgeous beaches — just one kilometer from Chia Beach, you’ll be spoiled with choice. Su Giudeu is an expansive and wide beach, where you will find some relaxed beach clubs where you can sip an Aperol Spritz, enjoy a meal, and while the day away. A bit further along the coast are the equally inviting beaches of Porto Campana and Sa Colonia. The best way to take in the entire area is to hike up to the lighthouse at Sardinia’s southwesternmost point, where you can admire the entire stretch of coastline from this lofty point.
There are a few dive shops in the Chia area as well, should you fancy a jaunt below the surface. The I Padiglioni dive site boasts several archaeological finds that can be discovered at a max depth of 30 meters, and there’s a cool wreck dive with Relitto del Dino, the remains of a cargo ship sunk at 23 meters. There are also interesting archaeological finds on land in southern Sardinia, namely the ruins of Acropoli di Bithia, set right beside the sea. Over the course of history, these ruins were the base for myriad rulers, from Phoenicians to Romans, and beautiful columns and a small arena are still intact for visitors to admire.
After a day of adventures — or doing absolutely nothing at all on the beach — set course for the resort of Forte Village to enjoy sundowners and party into the night. Perched right into the cliffside is the tiki-themed Mahiki bar, which serves up some amazingly creative cocktails served in treasure chests and coconuts. There is also a wine bar within the village where you can sample local Sardinian wines, should you crave something more refined. Continue the night at the resort’s disco, and if you time your trip right, you might be there during one of Fort Village’s unforgettable concerts that happen every summer — they’ve hosted performances from icons like Sting and Chic with Nile Rodgers, to name a few.
Although northern Sardinia earns its acclaim with the superyacht set, there is much more to this island to be discovered. Wild and beautiful yet entirely relaxed and at ease, southern Sardinia is a hidden gem on this luxury laden island and certainly an escape for those who need a dose of nature followed by a rum chaser, served up in a treasure chest, of course.
This column originally ran in the July 2020 issue of Dockwalk.