THE KILLER BEACHES OF SOUTHERN CORSICA

[CORSICA, FRANCE] — Smack in the middle of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea are two big islands, Sardinia and Corsica. Almost like twins, ripped apart, both jut out of the sea like breaching whales, with huge mountains in the middle and some of the best beaches in all of Europe ringing their rocking shores.

Corsica, known as Corse in French, is a magical adventure land, with an infinite amount of sporty things to do. Hiking. Climbing. Canyoning. Snorkeling. Sailing. Boating. Or just sit on the beach. The middle is spiked with enormous shark-toothed mountains, some as high as the Alps, often dotted with snow year-round.  

Corsica is only 200km long, but with a wild spread of geography that would rival entire countries 100x its size. And we’re talking gnarly mountains, huge lumps of rocky, sharp granite that looks like it just bubbled up from below. Nasty mountains, impenetrable in spots and just as hard to navigate.

There are no major highways, just windy two-lane roads that rarely have straight spots that weave through the craggy interior. Even though the island is only 200km long, travel times take forever, even over short distances. It can take several hours just to cut across the middle, with zigzagging roads working their way through up and down steep ravines and valleys.

The Best Beaches of Southern Corsica

In this post, I’m going to take you on a tour of the southern part of the island and it’s best beaches. I was only able to get to a few, there are certainly more than I’m showing you here. Check out the links at the bottom of the post for more suggestions. Consider this a little picture-tour of the beaches of Corsica in the south — at least the ones I’ve been able to get to. Moving counter-clockwise from around 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock.

Plage d’Erbaju — Domaine du Murtoli

Plage d'Erbaju waves
Plage d’Erbaju

This is not Nice. 

So this is what Corsica looks like. Not the cranky pebbled beaches you might be accustomed to in a lot of southern France and most of Italy. This is smooth, silky stuff you want to scrunch your toes into. 

The geology of southern Corsica is so similar to the dreamy velvety beaches of nearby Sardinia, it’s almost like they were brothers ripped apart from each other, which they were, long ago. Severe pointy granite mountains inland, lumps of big soft round boulders and feathery sand on the edges, with see-thru martini water lapping on the shores.

Plage d'Erbaju couple on beach
Plage d’Erbaju

This beach, while public, is really only accessible by boat as it’s withing the wonderful gated Domaine du Murtoli estate, which I wrote extensively about here after staying for a week. About the best beach I’ve ever seen.

Sailboats and yachts pull up in here and drop anchor, get in a dinghy or swim to shore for lunch at the gorgeous La Table de la Plage, a Michelin restaurant tucked in under the trees.

Plage d'Erbaju waves
Plage d’Erbaju

Plage de Roccapina — This is Where All the Sailors Anchor

And for good reason. Mountains rising from all sides. Clear, pristine water, protection from the wind. Very few people on the beach. And easy reach to have a long lunch at Domaine du Murtoli, just around the corner. Roccapina is just gorgeous. You can climb to the top of the hill to see the Lion of Roccapina.

Roccapina best beach
Roccapina sailboats
Roccapina at sunset
Roccapina from above
Roccapina — The view down from the ancient Tour de Roccapina

Plage Mucchiu Biancu

Further down the southwest coast, the beaches are numerous and gorgeous, but seems like the exposure to the western Med winds makes them not as popular, hotels fewer. Everyone seems to favor the leeward side of the island for its calm warm waters.

Plage Mucchiu Biancu

Bonifacio & Figari

Less of a beach and more of a destination, if you’re in the south of Corsica, you’ll want to go to Bonifacio, or at lease sail around its chalk-white cliffs. You catch ferries here to Sardenga, Italy and Nice. Nearby, the Figari airport has direct flights to parts of France to make the hop here happier. Most of the people are flying private.

Plage de Santa Giulia

Santa Giulia was one on my Hit List. I’d seen a picture on Pinterest, which I can no longer find, of this bright blue water in a very shallow bay and a wooden pier leading out it the shallow bay. I had to come here. Here are a few I found on Expedia’s page for Santa Giulia, photo credit goes to them.

Alas, I was running out of daylight and needed to get back to Domaine du Murtoli for dinner. I drove through the cliff-side small village and down to roads leading to the beach, there’s a lagoon to one side which restricts the access. Drove around for 20 minutes and couldn’t find a place to park and finally had to bail. But here’s a TripAdvisor post with some okay photos. I will definitely build my next visit around coming here or staying close by.

The beach is just down the road from Porto Vecchio, here’s the area’s tourism’s great website.

From the Porto Vecchio website

Rondinara

If you’re sailing, this is the place where you want to drop anchor. Gorgeous little protected coves.

Palombaggia pizza
As you can see from the map, there is beach after beach, all up the coast. The main hub of action is Porto Vecchio, but there are cool hotels and villas, expensive or not, dotted all up and down the southeast coast.
Baie de Rondinara sailboats
Baie de Rondinara coves

Tamaricciu

Tamaricciu was my favorite beach, spent most of the day here in its stunning crystal-clear waters. The sand is so clean, you can wade far out and not be stepping on anything. There are a couple of cool small hotels here, which I plan to stay at next time, or lots of cool villas tucked into the low hills, walking distance to the beach.

Tamaricciu best beach corsica
couple swimming Tamaricciu
boats in bay Tamaricciu
pine trees on beach Tamaricciu

Palombaggia

Palombaggia‘s big bay was the most popular, all sorts of everything going on here. Windsurfing. Parasailing. Snorkeling. Boating. SUP. Kayaking. The whole broad bay is lined with restaurants and beach clubs and places catering to your sports rental needs. Lovely pizza stop here.

Palombaggia swimmers
Palombaggia bay

Porto Vecchio

The first time I came to Corsica was on my honeymoon, long ago…2000 AD, before digital cameras, even. (Hence the quality of these scanned prints). We flew straight from Tuscany after a two week binge wedding/party with 100 of our best friends.

We were completely wiped out, I really don’t remember much other than sleeping by the pool a lot, eating amazing food, then sleeping again. Then moving onto Costa Smeralda after a couple of days.

Grand Hôtel Cala Rossa plage

At that time, Corsica was even less well-known and developed. We stayed at the grande dame of luxury hotels in Porto Vecchio, the Grand Hotel de Cala Rossa, or just Cala Rossa as it’s usually referred to. It was awesome, understated luxury and my first Relais & Chateaux experience, where the food and location are the reason why you’re here. It was ny first exposure to the lovely French destination-hotel way of dressing for dinner and nodding to others as you take your seat. We were by far the youngest people there.

Amazing views out the back, with outdoor dining all over the place.

Grand Hôtel Cala Rossa beach restaurant
Grand Hôtel Cala Rossa swimmer
Grand Hôtel Cala Rossa

You can see on the map, Porto Vecchio is a big broad bay, protected on three sides, with lots of private alcoves and villages loaded with restaurants and small hotels to stay. This and Casa del Mar are probably the two most popular tourist areas. Gorgeous, serene and not wave-y — it almost feels like a saltwater lake.

I tell ya, I spent two full weeks in Corsica and felt like I barely scratched the surface. There is so much to see and do on this little rocky island in the Med. I’ll break these posts into several parts of the island. Also, here’s a picto-map of where all these places are on Corse:

Corsica Picto-Map

More Information on Corsica

Here’s a post I did on the norther part of the island of Corsica. And another post on the amazing Domaine du Murtoli estate on the southwest corner of Corsica. And another post on the rugged mountains and canyons of Central Corsica.

Here’s an article from Conde Nast Traveller on the top beaches in France, which include a couple from Corsica.

Where to stay in Corsica in Conde Nast Traveler. http://www.cntraveller.com/guides/europe/france/corsica/where-to-stay

The Villages, Valleys and Views of Corsica from Fathom Way to Go http://fathomaway.com/guides/europe/france/itineraries/itinerary-corsica-france/

Garance Doré’s Insider’s Guide to Corsica from the Wall Street Journal http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324021104578550762270667192

High in the Hills of Corsica from the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/travel/high-in-the-hills-of-corsica.html?_r=1

This is a great guide from the UK Conde Nast Traveller “The Best Unspoiled Parts of Corsica” http://www.cntraveller.com/recommended/beaches/hotels-villas-north-coast-corsica

And from the UK’s Telegraph Travel Section “Corsica: An In-Depth Guide” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/corsica/733092/Corsica-an-in-depth-guide.html

This is an awesome site on Corsica, called Corsican Plaeces.  Here’s their detailed pages and pretty pictures of some of the same beaches. https://www.corsica.co.uk/beaches

And this is a fantastic article from Travel & Leisure called “Corsica’s Wild Beaches, Mountains and Beauty”  http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/corsicas-wild-beaches-mountains-and-beauty

I’ve never seen this site before, but it has cool insight into other great beaches I didn’t know were there. On World’s Best Beaches. http://www.worldsbestbeaches.net/destinations/europe-best-beaches/corsicas-best-beaches/

And here’s a video slide show of some great pics of Corsican beaches, some I’ve never heard of. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90CCkiUW4Uw

Another great overview article of the south of Corsica from Conde Nast Traveler http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2013-01-23/the-south

And finally, here’s a great overview from The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/corsica-beach-bliss-on-a-wild-isle-2346380.html

Last visited: July 2015. First visited June 2000.

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