The Baunei Coast of Sardinia, is a hidden gem that must be included in your next travels to Italy. Being a little off the beaten track, you can expect jaw-dropping, unspoilt nature with relatively small crowds. Add to the mix incredible locally sourced foods and classic Italian seaside vibes, and you are in for a treat!
Where is the Baunei Coast?
The Baunei Coast is a region on the Eastern coastline of Sardinia, an Italian Island in the Mediterranean Sea. We found Sardinia to be generally untravelled when considering how affordable and beautiful it is (and compared to other Mediterranean destinations).
The Baunei Coast spans between the two coastal towns of Santa Maria Navarrese and Cala Gonome. It is most recognised as the stunning stretch of coast that boasts sheer cliffs, rock structures, caves and tiny beaches, as well as emerald waters. Only possible to reach by boat (except for a few hiking paths), this coastline is protected from mass tourism and development thanks to its geography. And herein lies the charm.
Note – you may also hear this region referred to as the Gulf of Oresei. The Oresei Gulf includes most of the Baunei Coast, though technically extends a little further North to the town of the Oresei.
How to get to the Baunei Coast
There are three main airports into Sardinia, however Olbia is the closest airport to reach the Baunei Coast. From Olbia it’s around a 1.5 hour drive to Cala Gonome and a 2.5 hour drive to Santa Maria Navarrese.
Where to stay on the Baunei Coast
This is a great question. I wasn’t able to find many answers to this online before I travelled.
Basically you have two main towns to stay on the sea – Cala Gonome or Santa Maria Navarrese.
Since the boat travel distances are roughly the same from both towns to the main points of interest along the Baunei Coast, it really comes down to what each town has to offer. You can of course split your stay across both areas like we did, but be aware that it is a very windy 1.5 hour drive between both towns, so organise your boat trips from the town you plan to stay.
This was our favourite of the two towns to enjoy in its own right. The size of the town is small and cute, with some amazing restaurants and cafes (more on this later). There is also a really nice beach named Spaggia da Palmasera to enjoy if you want to hang for the day and not rent a boat.
Santa Maria Navarrese
This is also a really nice place to stay. It’s a little bigger than Cala Gonome, and we found it also has slightly more boating options that leave from here as the marina is quite large.
The other highlight of staying in Santa Maria Navarrese is that you can spend some time in the extremely adorable town of Baunei. This little spot is on the mountain road between Santa Maria Navarrese and Cala Gonome, but just 5-10mins from Santa Maria. Baunei is built into a very steep hillside, with incredible views out over vineyards and farms planted across the valley floor below. We stayed at the epic guest house Via Roma Charming Rooms in Baunei for a few nights when we wanted to be near to Santa Maria and would highly recommend!
The Best Places on the Baunei Coast
This is one of the postcard spots on the Baunei Coast, and with good reason. Turquoise water meets a cream-coloured rocky coast, with pinnacle structures extending into the sky. Despite the fame, we were surprised that this spot was relatively uncrowded. This was probably because you can’t get to shore here via boat, so it’s a spot to anchor outside the buoy line and admire the view. Swim to shore or jump off your boat and float in the clear water. Maybe have your pizza lunch here too!
Note – you can reach this beach by hiking as well. We didn’t get to take this trail as we ran out of time, but it’s a good option if you didn’t want to take a boat. It’s a cheaper option or an alternative if there’s rough sea conditions getting to this spot via boat.
Another famous spot and this was extremely busy. The white pebble beaches are a drawcard here and the water tones are so vibrant. It’s such a unique beach and stunning on a clear day. Go first thing in the morning before the excursion boats arrive (around 9:30am/10am) at the jetty and the beaches become packed with day trippers. But even then, there’s a mood to grab an espresso from the beach hut and blend into the crowds soaking up the sun and sea.
Note – if you have a small rental boat, to reach the shore you need to drop off your crew and gear at the designated spot on the beach (with a small cash fee paid to the beach attendant). Then the skipper needs to anchor your boat outside the buoy line and swim ashore.
Pools of Venus (Piscine di Venere)
This was our favourite spot. It’s a tiny beach with a few dry caves and the clearest blue water that we experienced. Because of the size, it was only really shared with others also on small rental boats. So we visited early in the day and had a very peaceful experience swimming and lounging in the shallows.
Other spots worth checking out:
- Cala Luna – largest beach on the coast with a huge iconic cave, making it popular for day trippers. Closest beach to Cala Gonome and can be reached by foot too.
- Cala Sisine – another large beach with emerald water that can be reached by foot. Even with the large frontage of beach, it always seemed busy when we cruised past.
- Cala Biriola – a larger version of the Pools of Venus, where you can find a small cove of sand and submerged boulders in clear blue waters. A great little spot next to Cala Goloritize where you can anchor with a shorter swim to shore.
What to do on the Baunei Coast
Rent a Boat
It’s all about the sea on the Baunei Coast. Because the highlights cannot be reached by car, we organised a few boat days during our time in this region.
You can choose to see the sights via boat excursions, otherwise if you want to go at your own pace, we’d suggest renting a small boat yourself. It’s a great way to experience the area with complete freedom to stay where you like. If you request an early time, you can be at the busiest spots before other boats arrive (especially the big excursion boats). We rented with Nautica Sea Service in Santa Maria Navarrese and would highly recommend. Great information and the boat was comfortable and perfect for our needs!
Private Boat Trip
Another option to explore on your own, but without the hassle of navigating your boat is to organise a private excursion. We did this with local company Luuxya Charter in Santa Maria Navarrese and absolutely loved it! We cruised around in style on our luxury boat, and the team helped us with the perfect itinerary to see all the best places (and some lesser known ones too). Growing up here, the crew knew when to visit each spot based on weather, lighting and crowd conditions. We sang Italian songs, swam all day and ate seafood lunch with local white wine. It was the perfect day!
TIP: Many people hire their own boats without any experience (which is perfectly fine) and we saw a few having issues. Especially with anchoring and steering at slow speeds. So consider your own confidence, experience and be sure to understand your briefing instructions from the rental company!
For those wanting to explore in a different way, you can hike to a few of the key spots for the same beach access and amazing views along the way. It’s also a good way to save some money!
Hiking is possible to many of the popular beaches, including Cala Luna, Cala Sisine and Cala Goloritze. Some of these hikes can be tough and also will require a car to access the trailhead, but the views and swim at the end is sure to be well worth it!
TIP – For hiking to a Cala Goloritze and accessing the beach, you’ll need to book in advance. There is a limit of 250 people per day so make sure to head to Heart of Sardinia app to reserve your spot.
Visit the donkeys at Golgo
Golgo is tiny spot just above the town of Baunei. It only has a church, so there isn’t much to see, but there are plenty of donkeys that will come up for a pat if you stop your car along the gravel road!
Note – Golgo is also the place you drive to if planning to hike in to Cala Goloritze.
Where to Eat on the Baunei Coast
This part of Sardinia has been named as one of five of the world’s ‘Blue Zones’ where people generally live longer than the rest of the world! No doubt the local food is a major part of this, and you can tell by how fresh and flavoursome the produce is here that you are eating at the highest quality. It seems like everything you pick up says it was made in Sardinia, from wine to pasta sauces.
Here’s our recommendations on where to eat on and around the Baunei Coast:
- Retro Vino (Cala Gonome) – perfect spot for apertivo with great cocktails and tagliere (tasting board). Also has a great breakfast menu including eggs. Very reasonably priced too.
- Pizzeria Zio Pedrillo (Cala Gonome) – popular spot for amazing pizza and pasta.
- Ristorante 4 Mori (Cala Gonome) – delicious fresh seafood in a casual setting down a side street.
- Lanthia Resort Restaurant (Santa Maria Navarrese) – stunning restaurant setting in a very aesthetic hotel serving great local dishes with a fine dining edge.
- Hotel Su Gologone (Oliena) – a 40 min drive down into the valleys in the interior of Sardinia will take you to rolling hills and farms. It’s here you will find this stunning hotel, where you can enjoy a late lunch on the terrace overlooking the countryside. The food here is SO fresh, largely grown onsite, and well worth the drive to experience the other part of Sardinia.
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