A wild and rocky island, where snorkeling is possible almost everywhere

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. It is almost twice the size of neighboring Corsica, from which it is separated by the about ten kilometers wide Strait of Bonifacio.

With nearly 1,850 km of mostly rocky coastline and dozens of islands and islets, Sardinia is home to hundreds of snorkeling locations. While it is impossible to list them all, several regions of the island stand out for their crystalline beaches and coves, as well as for the diversity of their marine life.

Passo Cecca di Morto, La Maddalena Archipelago
Aerial view of Passo Cecca di Morto, La Maddalena Archipelago.

La Maddalena Archipelago

La Maddalena Archipelago National Park, created in 1994, includes 7 islands and countless islets and granite rocks. It stretches off the northern tip of Sardinia, and can easily be reached from Palau and Porto Pollo. Its protected seabed, where fishing is prohibited, makes it the Sardinian snorkeling hotspot.

On the island of La Maddalena, the main island of the archipelago, you can explore Punta Tegge, Cala Spalmatore and Cala Francese, all accessible from the shore.

A little further north, between Budelli and Santa Maria islands, is the Passo Cecca di Morto, kind of a “lagoon” with turquoise and shallow waters. This picture-perfect landscape is arguably the most famous (and most visited) snorkeling location in the archipelago. It can only be reached by boat.

Snorkeling in La Maddalena archipelago, Sardinia
Snorkeling in Passo Cecca di Morto gin-clear waters.

Olbia region

The Olbia region is also worth a visit. While there are many suitable rocky coves along the coast between Olbia and Porto Cervo, don’t miss a visit to Tavolara Island, a few minutes by boat from Porto San Paolo. Near the jetty, you can snorkel in the turquoise waters that bathe Punta Spalmatore.

A few kilometers further south, you’ll find two great snorkeling locations at Cala Brandinchi, nicknamed “Little Tahiti” (around the rocks north of the beach) and at Capo Coda Cavallo, a small natural granite peninsula.

Finally, if you are staying near Budoni or Ottiolu, you might consider getting into the water at Cala dei Francesi and Porto Ottiolu (from the shore) or exploring the Pedrami Rocks (by boat).

School of saddled seabream
Saddled seabream use to gather around the boats and snorkelers on the most crowded spots.

Gulf of Orosei

Looking for remote and wild snorkeling spots? Head towards the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu National Park, which covers the mountainous coast that stretches between Dorgali and Baunei, in the Nuoro region.

Here, we recommend three spots located in exceptional settings, which can be reached by boat trips or by hiking. Cala Goloritzè (3 hours return walk from the Golgo Heights, admission 6 euro pp. in 2019) is undoubtedly the most famous location. This stunning cove, with crystal clear waters bordered by an arch and cliffs, was declared a “natural monument” in 1990.

2km further north, superb Cala Mariolu and its sheer cliffs are also worth a detour (5h30 return walk from the Golgo plateau). Finally, a third spot, Cala Luna, is accessible from the north, from Cala Fuili (in about 4h30 return walking).

Cala Fuili, Sardinia
Cala Fuili, just 2km south of Dorgali.

Sassari region

The region of Sassari, in the northwest of the island, also offers many snorkeling locations. Around Alghero, explore one of the coves of the Costa Corallina, named after its abundance of red coral. While you won’t see them while snorkeling (red coral grows mostly from 100ft/30m deep), the rocky coves are home to many fish and invertebrates at snorkeling depth.

Opposite Alghero, the Porto Conte Regional Natural Park is a superb playground for lovers of the underwater world. Cala del Bollo (difficult to access from the shore) and Cala d’Inferno (access by boat only) are particularly recommended.

Following the coast towards the north, you will discover a series of coves, each more beautiful than the next. Spiaggia di Lampianu, Spiaggia di Rena Majore and Spiaggia della Nura, with their chaotic rocky beds, offer the most intense snorkeling.

At the tip of Capo Flacone, in La Pelosa, take a look at Spiaggia della Pelosetta, where you explore shallow rocky bottoms at the foot of a Genoese tower.

Octopus hiding between rocks
Octopuses are pretty easy to spot in the protected areas, such as here in Passo Cecca di Morto.

Cagliari and Southern Sardinia

About 50km east of Cagliari, Villasiumis and the Marine Protected Area Capo Carbonara are Southern Sardinia snorkeling hotspot. It boasts great shore snorkeling, particularly at Punta Molentis, Cala Porto Giunco and Spiaggia di Simius, known for being home to the uncommon grey triggerfish. Several companies in Villasimius also offer boat tours in the area, which are the only way to reach the Madonna del Naufrago, a statue immersed near Isola dei Càvoli.

If you are in Cagliari, you’ll find decent shore snorkeling in Calamosca (accessible from shore), but we recommend booking a boat or kayak tour to go exploring neighboring Cala Figuera or the waters surrounding Grotta dei Colombi.

In the southwest of the island, some good spots are found along Teulada’s coastline, for example at Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Spiaggia di Piscinnì and Cala Cipolla. Isola di San Pietro, which can be reached by boat from Portovesme, is another great option.

These different areas are best known for snorkeling, but there are hundreds of other locations you can get in the water, just about anywhere where the water is clear, the sea calm, and the seabed mainly rocky. If you discover some nice spots in Sardinia, don’t hesitate to send us your reports and we will add them to the map.

What can you see while snorkeling in Sardinia?

The Sardinian coastal waters are renowned for the diversity of their underwater life, particularly in protected areas. Seabream, mullets, ornate wrasse and rainbow wrasse are common in most locations. In the rocks, look for small Mediterranean morays, while you can sometimes see wide-eyed flounders in the sand.

This is where fishing is prohibited that you are most likely to spot some of the Mediterranean emblematic species, such as the common dentex, gilt-head bream, amberjack, or dusky grouper. If you’re into invertebrates, you’ll easily spot in Sardinia red sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemones, and sea cucumbers, even at very shallow depths.

If you go snorkeling in Sardinia soon (or elsewhere in the Mediterranean), take with you the comprehensive Europe and Mediterranean Marine Fish ID guide, which will help you the different fish species you’ll spot along the coast.

Damselfish hiding under a rocky outcrop
Damselfish shelter under a rocky outcrop at Passo Cecca di Morto.

When to go snorkeling Sardinia?

The climate in Sardinia is mild and sunny. On the coast, average temperatures are between 70 to 80°F (20 to 25°C) from June to September, and from 55 to 70°F (14 to 20°C) the rest of the year. July/August is the peak season for tourists in Sardinia, and you can expect high visitor numbers on some parts of the coast.

Water temperature varies between 75 and 80°F (24 and 26°C) from July to September and around 70°F (20°C) in June and October. Outside these months, snorkeling is limited by the cooler water temperatures, unless you have an adapted wetsuit.

Even during summer, we recommend wearing a rashguard, which will protect your back and shoulders from the strong UV that occur in the Mediterranean. Our selection of the best rashguards and wetsuits for snorkeling may help you to make your choice!

Each year in Sardinia there is an “Indian summer” in September and October when the water temperature hovers around 80°F (25°C) at the surface. Most tourists have already left the island, and this is probably the ideal period for a visit.

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