- Recently Updated: November 2022
The stunning and unspoiled Maddalena Islands are one of the best beach vacations in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. If you’re looking for island getaways, this is an ideal travel places for beachgoers.
Do you often see photos of pristine sand beaches with crystal clear water that make you want to hop on a plane and fly to the Maldives? What if I told you there’s a beach getaway that’s pretty much closer than you thought!
The La Maddalena Islands in the Maddalena Archipelago will fulfill all your tropical vacations dreams. It’s not every day that you get unspoiled islands to visit with no villages, garbage-filled beaches or traces of civilization.
The La Maddalena National Park is now a protected marine reserve. This part of the world has always grabbed my attention because of the local commune’s respect about protecting the environment.
Everything you need to know about visiting this beach destination is right here including how to get there, activities to do and best way to totally explore the breathtaking La Maddalena Islands by boat.
Best Time To Visit Maddalena Islands
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not summer that you want to visit Maddalena Islands. Although the weather in July to August will be spot on with warm and sunny days, the crowds can be pretty overwhelming.
Locals from Italy and tourists from all over the world come to Sardinia in the summer to enjoy these magnificent islands.
A tropical getaways on the softest white sand beaches is not very pleasant if there are no places to relax on the beaches.
If you go around the islands by boat, you often can’t visit the best beaches because there are too many other boats moored along the coast. Personally, I recommend you plan your trip around June.
The weather is already warm, the days are still long and even though the water may be slightly cold but it’s not too chilly to swim. At this time of the year, the beaches will be much less crowded with holiday makers.
In September, the weather is still similar and the water is a little warmer but the days are pretty much shorter. Even if you have to end your beach frolicking earlier, there’s still a beautiful sunset to relax and unwind.
Location Of La Maddalena Islands
The Maddalena Archipelago consists of seven main islands and several small ones. Only Maddalena, Caprera and Santo Stefano are inhabited. The rest: Spargie, Budelli, Santa Maria and Razzoli have human activities.
The cluster of islands lies in the Bonifacio Strait sandwiched between Corsica in France and north-east Sardinia in Italy. There were once military bases on these secluded islands with abandoned buildings and lighthouses at this point of time.
The La Maddalena National Park is an incredible European holiday destination that offers a totally laidback island ambiance and gorgeous crystal clear waters with a range of sand colors from pink to powder white to even darker hues.
Visit La Maddalena Islands Town
La Maddalena is the archipelago’s largest island town. It’s approximately 2 kilometers (1 mile) from Sardinia’s northeastern coast and is surrounded by government agencies, commercial shops, restaurants, and pubs.
The medieval ambience that has imprinted its stamp on this port town has been left by centuries of travelers and explorers.
It’s quaint and beautiful pathways are a great place to spend a day exploring the quiet streets. La Maddalena town is the only urban island in the National park and one of my recommended places to visit. (day trip)
How to go
- It takes approximately 55 minutes from Olbia and slightly 3hours+ from Cagliari to arrive in Sardinia which is a province of Italy.
- During summertime, direct bus transfers from Olbia Airport (nearest point of entry to the Maddalena Archipelago) directly to Palau harbor front.
- The archipelago’s primary entry and exit points are pretty frequent via boats and vehicle ferries that operate from Palau to La Maddalena Island.
- Mainland Sardinia – La Maddalena Islands boats and ferries leave from Palau harbor in northeastern Sardinia.
- Renting a vehicle from your hotel in La Maddalena town can be arranged, which may also be limiting during peak season.
- Another better option is to rent a vehicle from Palau and drive via car ferry to the island (15-20mins trip)
Things to do:
This main island town fun things to do is to explore the entire commune. Just like popular tropical islands like Koh Samui in Thailand, it features a 20 kilometers long picturesque and scenic route, looping around the island.
- Viewpoint overlooking the breathing sea
- Watch sunset at secluded beach
- Swim in your favorite crystal clear lagoons and bays
Best Places To Stay
The Maddalena Islands is a protected National park and most of the islands are uninhabited. A better option is to stay in the nearby town of mainland Palau in Sardinia where there are more activities to do.
In Palau, I recommend you stay at this gorgeous La Vecchia Fonte Hotel (click here to get 12% off at Agoda booking) which is close to Palau commune and harbor front.
Central location for tons of activities to do and fun places to go including easy access to island hopping boat tour.
Reasons to stay in this hotel
- Near To Airport
- Best location to ferry port
- Friendly and helpful staffs
- Clean and spacious rooms
- Italian and Continental gluten free breakfast
On the other hand, La Maddalena island beachside town is a little compact but it can be easily boring on a small island. And if you want to go out at night, you need to hop on a ferry across to Palau and back again.
The ferry from Palau to Maddalena costs 10 EUR per person ( 20mins) and longer if you drive along with your rental car. You also need to take the weather into consideration.
This becomes more expensive if you take a car or a scooter along. Personally, I prefer to park myself in Palau because it is easier to catch a ferry to La Maddalena and spend a day exploring the laidback atmosphere there.
If you need to relax and unwind in one of those island getaways, just book a day trip boat tour from tons of operators with competitive prices on Viator/Tripadvisor. Or enjoy a good time shopping and eating out in Palau’s lively nightlife and excellent restaurants.
Del Porticciolo is one of my favorites. It’s not the fanciest restaurant but the portions are large and the bill is affordable.
It’s also easy to get here because it’s in the center of tourist attractions. So yeah, you get the best of both worlds making your base in Palau.
Activities At La Maddalena National Park
The La Maddalena National Park is a sheltered area between the islands of Budelli, Santa Maria and Razzoli and the waters are always calm.
Even in very rough and windy weather, you can still snorkel, kayak, relax and immense yourself in the natural pools. Family activities in these natural pools should be on your bucket list.
It is called multi-pools because it looks like many small pools from above due to the diversity on the seabed in the clear water (algae, sand, rocks etc)
Swimming and snorkeling at this location is a blast and the breathtaking sights of the area will stay with you forever. The colors are fascinating, glistening in every shade of green and blue from milky white to emerald green.
The crystal clear water is incredibly flat and the ground is sandy. The charming pisinas tucked away in secluded coves…the bocca di bonifazio…it was all like paradise on Earth.
In my opinion, La Maddalena National Park is one of the best beach vacations for couples. Nevertheless, if you wish to visit Sardinia in July or August, it is so packed with boats that it is not pleasant anymore.
One of the reasons is the Italian public holiday of Ferragosto and tons of Italians will flock to this exotic islands. The archipelago of the Maddalena Islands is truly an extraordinary place and if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend the famous La Maddalena boat tour.
Onboard meals will be provided by the boat operators and some will also offer guided tours of the Maddalena archipelago including the finest beaches on the beautiful islands.
Spargi Granitic Island
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Spargi is a granite island notable for the “Testa della Strega” (Witch Head) and “cane Bulldog”, a natural rock sculpted by wind and water. It’s the biggest island compare to the other 3 neighboring islets.
The presence of old shipwrecks such as the remains of a Roman ship in the seabed, characterizes this beautiful island. This isle is one of my favorites because it’s one of the closest beaches to Palau and you feel like you are swimming in a natural pool.
There is another bay, Cala Corsara on the island of Spargi that I personally find very inviting. The beach is not as nice as in Cala Soraha but there are rocks to climb and do some swan dive into the crystal clear water.
Budelli Pink Beach Island
While our boat tour cast off and passed by the island of Budelli, a stunning beach called Spiaggia Rosa, which means pink beach.
Because of the Spiaggia Rosa, Budelli is undoubtedly one of the most well-known Maddalena Islands in the archipelago.
Budelli is a small rocky islet located a few hundred meters south of Razzoli and Santa Maria islands, separated by a rocky sand dune “Secca del Morto.”
A beacon of the La Maddalena National Park, emphasizing its importance as one of the most significant natural sites.
Indeed, the sand was once pink because of particles of a microorganism known as Miniacina miniacea but because ugly tourists took the pink sand as souvenirs, the island access has been closed since 1994.
Boats can only sail pass behind the line of buoys, 70 meters from shore. No one is allowed to walk or swim on the beach in the hope that the pink sand will eventually recover and replenish itself.
Santa Maria Islands
A visit to Santa Maria Island, which is located in the northern part of the La Maddalena National Park will reward you with a magnificent beach of fine white sand as seen from this fantastic shot by @giuseppe_chironi.
In contrast to the other Maddalena islands, Santa Maria is known for its flat fertile ground largely planted with greenery. Cala Fosso and Cala Santa Maria are two of the most spectacular beaches.
The remnants of the Benedictine monastery, constructed by the resident priests, the archipelago’s earliest occupants in the thirteenth century are located near Santa Maria Bay.
Following a lovely picturesque trail, you’ll arrive at Punta Filetto Lighthouse, where you can take in a spectacular view of nearby islands. For bird lovers, there is a swarm behind Cala Santa Maria where you can find nesting sites for endangered species.
Maddalena Islands and it’s National Park are the best beach getaways for those who want a Maldives-style tropical vacations. You’ll also save more cash on expensive flight tickets and beach resorts as well.