Best Beaches in Puglia: where to have fun in the sun and sea
If you take a selfie at some of the most iconic beaches in Puglia and don’t tag your location, people may ask you if you’re at the Maldives or Seychelles, such is the beauty of this part of Italy.
When the sea glistens in the sun, platinum sparkles blend with the sapphire blue of the deeper waters, while the turquoise and emerald of the shallow natural pools meet the fine, white sand or the rocks shaped by time.
All these colors you collect through your memories are better than any Instagram shot though. And that’s exactly why Puglia beaches are so beloved.
Looking to come here on holiday? Then keep reading for our tips and our Puglia beach guide.
Practical tips: what you need to know about beaches in Puglia
Do you have to pay?
It may come as a surprise to many, but most of the beaches in Italy are not free. They can usually be divided into 3 main categories:
- Spiaggia libera
A beach where you don’t have to pay an entry fee. Usually, there are no lifeguards and these beaches come with zero additional services. You need to bring everything with you and clean up after yourself. Sometimes there may be a kiosk selling refreshments, but that’s not always the case. It may be tricky accessing the beach, you may need to climb down stairs or walk down an uneven path as these are usually the most secluded ones.
- Stabilimento balneare or lido
A beach where an entry fee needs to be paid. The fee gets you a clean beach, changing rooms, showers, lifeguards, restrooms, a bar and sometimes restaurant. Day access usually includes a lounge chair and beach umbrella too. Please note that the stabilimenti do not work on a first-come, first-served basis: you need to check-in at reception first, where a member of staff will meet you and escort you – after you paid – to your assigned spot. Locals buy seasonal passes and thus have the prime positions, for this reason, there’ll be times when you won’t stand a chance of negotiating a better spot.
- Beach clubs
These are premium stabilimenti, instead of the standard sun loungers and beach umbrella, you get cabanas and an upscale restaurant where to have lunch or dinner. Usually, you’re able to open a tab and pay at the end of the day. The upside to paying an extra is a less crowded beach and waiter service to your cabana.
Having said that, the Italian law grants you free access to the sea wherever you are, so you can technically walk through a stabilimento and dive into the water, but you cannot stay on the sand with your towel amidst the sun loungers and beach umbrellas without paying. However, said Italian law also establishes that there should be a balance between stabilimenti and spiagge libere so you should be able to find a free-access beach nearby, if that’s what you’re after.
What types of beaches are there?
Puglia is blessed with many different types of beaches, some of them are sandy, others are rocky, some are perfect for families while others are remote and less easy to access. For this reason, the itineraries we put together at Authentic Puglia Tours offer a taster of all that Puglia’s got to offer and include a good mix of beaches. When planning your itinerary, you can opt for a similar approach or stick to one beach type alone, the one you prefer to the most.
What do you need to bring to the beach?
That depends on the type of beach you choose. If you decide to opt for a spiaggia libera, you need to bring everything you may require with you, including a beach umbrella, towels, sarongs and refreshments.
If you opt for a stabilimento or beach club you can travel light instead.
Wherever you go, sunscreen is a must! You may also want to bring snorkeling gear with you, depending on the beach you choose and swimming aids if you’re not a confident a swimmer.
Where to park?
Near popular beaches, there often are private parking lots with attendants. These parking lots can be easily spotted thanks to adequate signage and they’ll offer a tutto il giorno (an all-day) rate of circa €3. The all-day tariff will undercut the rate of the regular, blue parking spaces.
Where only street parking is available, you either get there early in the morning or you’ll need to park a little further and cover the distance on foot. Usually, it’s quicker than driving around waiting for a parking spot to open up close to the beach. If you prefer peace of mind to the hassle of parking your car rental, then booking with a tour operator, like Authentic Puglia Tours, may be a better choice than DIY-ing your holiday. You’ll get reserved parking spots and/or recommendations for the best beaches in Puglia where it’s easier to park.
Read our dedicated post for more tips about driving in Italy.
What’s the best time to go to the beach?
If you want to find parking more easily and nab a prime spot on the beach, then you need to get moving quite early and arrive around 9 am. This is especially true on weekends from mid-June to mid-September, while weekdays may be a bit quieter (except in August).
Of course, if you’re visiting one of Puglia’s seaside towns you may quickly nip to the beach whilst sightseeing too.
Is there any shade?
Usually not. If you can’t be under the sun for long, get/rent a beach umbrella or limit your time at the beach. Of course, sunscreen is essential.
Italian beach etiquette
Same as everywhere: don’t be a douche! Be quiet, don’t play loud music and don’t shake out the sand on your towel in your neighbor’s mouth. Clean up after yourself and don’t let your playing get in the way of the others. Unfortunately, even locals can be rowdy but that doesn’t mean you should too!
Eating at the beach
Italians love their food and they usually bring with them hearty lunches, complete with a couple of courses that end with gelato e caffé at the bar.
You can do the same or pack a light snack. Tasty take-away delicacies can be found at panificio or panetteria (bakeries), for pretty cheap we might add, or at a bar (a café).
If you decide to go to a stabilimento you can also have a meal there, while not all spiagge libere will have refreshments, so best to check or be prepared.
What kind of swimsuit to wear in Italy?
Italian ladies love bikinis, even octogenarians won’t surrender to the one piece swimsuit! And the younger ones aren’t afraid to wear skimpy models either, while men prefer speedos. When going to the beach, Italians don’t limit the stylish flair they’re famous for. They wear jewelry, colorful sarongs, beach dresses and straw bags. Having said that, we recommend wearing whatever you feel comfortable in! Just remember that unless you’re at a nudist beach, your birthday suit is not an option! Same for going topless when you’re at a stabilimento, but you may get away with it at a spiaggia libera.
While most beaches are sandy, sometimes you might need to climb cliffs or rocks, so water shoes may come in handy for the more adventurous type.
What is a Blue Flag beach?
The Blue Flag is an international environmental award made to beaches and marinas throughout the world that demonstrates good environmental standards and good sanitary and safety facilities. Every year, there are several beaches in Puglia that earn the prestigious Blue Flag (here’s a map) and at Authentic Puglia Tours, we try to include as many as we can in our road trip itineraries.
Puglia beaches: the Gargano peninsula
140 km of coastline, with countless beaches, inlets, bays and caves, make this area in Puglia a delight for sunseekers.
Baia di Manaccora
📍5 km outside Peschici | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
Nestled between two rocky cliffs, the bay of Manaccora is one of the most popular beaches east of Peschici. The wide coastline bordered by Mediterranean vegetation is home to a large stabilimento balneare and campground but a part is a spiaggia libera.
Soft, golden sand, shallow and turquoise waters. Not to be missed is the beautiful trabucco, an ancient wooden construction in which the fishermen placed their nets.
Walking along the shoreline you can stop to visit the ‘Grotta degli Dei’ archeological site, a fascinating natural cave located on the north side of the bay, where prehistoric men settled during the Bronze Age.
Located between Peschici and Vieste, this beach is a paradise for those who practice sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Baia di Sfinale
📍12 km outside Peschici | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
A kid-friendly, sandy beach with an ancient Saracen tower in the backdrop. Unlike the other bays near Peschici, Sfinale beach is South-East facing, meaning that on days when the wind blows from the West here you can find more favorable conditions and enjoy calmer waters.
Spiaggia di Zaiana
📍5 km outside Peschici | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
A favorite place among local youth, who often stay here to party until the morning. To reach the bay of Zaiana there’s a steep staircase that connects the road/parking lot to the beach, partly occupied by a stabilimento and partly a spiaggia libera. Access to the beach is not exactly easy, which is why this beach is mainly frequented by young people. Today, the bay of Zaiana has grown in popularity so it is better to arrive early to nab a great spot. Along the Peschici-Vieste road, there are numerous signals to help you reach the bay of Zaiana.
Spiaggia di Scialmarino
📍5 km outside Vieste | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Pet-friendly
A long, sandy beach with shallow waters, loved by kite surfers. Close to the church of Santa Maria di Merino and the naturalistic-archaeological oasis of ‘La Salata’, with early-Christian ruins. The parking lot is large and close to the beach, which you can reach by walking down a trail.
Spiaggia di Pizzomunno
📍500 m from Vieste | Sand | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
An imposing, limestone monolith overlooks the beach. 26-meters tall, the rock formation is the most famous landmark in Vieste and many are the legends where it makes an appearance. Vieste is just a stone’s throw, only 500 meters away on foot, making this a favorite of local families. You’ll need to park in Vieste as there’s no parking lot adjacent to the beach.
Baia delle Zagare
📍30 km from Vieste | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
On the stretch of coast between Pugnochiuso and Mattinata, two imposing cliffs (the Diomede arch and the ‘Finestrella dei sogni’) overlook the crystal-clear sea, hiding one of the most beautiful sandy bays in Puglia. The Bay of Orange Blossoms is also known as the Bay of Mergoli. We recommend you leave your car at the parking lot near the bay of Vignanotica.
Baia di Vignanotica
📍20 km from Vieste | Sand mixed with pebbles | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
As evocative and spectacular as the Zagare, it is just as deserving of an effort to reach. Take the trail on the provinciale 53 to reach the beautiful white beach that recalls the reflections of the white cliffs framing it.
Best beaches in Salento
Salento has got so popular that most people will know the name of this area before the name of the region where it’s located (Puglia, that is). Some don’t even realize until they’re here that yes, we’re in fact in Puglia and Salento is not a region to itself. The praise is thoroughly deserved though, some of the best sandy beaches in Puglia can be found here!
Baia dei Turchi
📍near Otranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
Clear waters, white sand, emerald Mediterranean shrubs and the hypnotic lull of the waves make it one of the most beloved beaches in all of Puglia.
📍 15 km from Otranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
A crescent between two cliffs, near caves where you can admire graffiti in Latin and Greek, by ancient sailors. Backed by a pine forest, the beach takes its name from an ancient tower still visible today. Out at sea, two white limestone monolith, the ‘Due Sorelle’ (the two sisters) frame this idyllic beach. A visit here cannot be complete without stopping at the nearby ‘Grotta della Poesia’, a natural, circular-shaped cove with a pool you can dive into from 11-meter tall cliffs.
📍 8 km from Otranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Refreshments available | Blue Flag Award
Prickly pears and myrtle shrubs surround this small fjord, with caves featuring prehistoric graffiti (‘Grotta dei Cervi’).
Marina di Pescoluse
📍 14 km from Santa Maria di Leuca | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Beach clubs | Blue Flag Award
Clear waters and sandbars, backed by dunes and near an archeological site with a dolmen and an ancient tomb.
📍 23 km from Otranto | Rocks | Spiaggia libera | Refreshments available
Teeny-tiny fjord made of silver-hued rocks dotted with Mediterranean vegetation. Perched on the rocks is the only way to stay here a while longer after a swim, the clever ones bring an inflatable pool raft and lie in the sun floating on the turquoise waters.
📍 20 km from Santa Maria di Leuca | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
Extremely easy to reach, this is a favorite among those with children and toys in tow. But what really makes it a perfect is the temperature of the water, which usually benefits from a few degrees more than the Adriatic side.
📍 15 km from Lecce | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera
Part of the Marine Protected Area of Porto Cesareo, it is the ideal starting point for those who love diving. Its seabed is, in fact, almost like an underwater museum. Without any particular difficulties, you can get to a site with five Roman columns in porphyry that ended up in the sea after a shipwreck.
Baia di Porto Selvaggio
📍 9 km from Nardò | Shingle beach | Spiaggia libera
Jutting out a sea, a white and flat cliff protects an inlet with crystal-clear waters and a tiny shingle beach. It is precisely the shape of the stretch of coastline that gives the sea crystalline reflections. A good walk is needed to get there and so are water shoes.
📍 10 km from Gallipoli | Rocks and sands | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
The sun here burns the rock and the wind spreads the scents of the Mediterranean shrubs all around. You can rent a sun lounger on a rock formation out at sea, to get the most out of the breeze. A large parking lot is available.
📍 22 km from Nardò | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
A crescent carpeted in fine sand where you can choose between absolute tranquility and the most dynamic seaside entertainment.
📍 29 km from Nardò | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
Also known as ‘Li Prisuti’ or ‘Lido degli Angeli’, its crystal clear sea and fine golden white sand, earned it the appellation of “Caribbean of Salento”. The beach, with its tropical charm, is bordered by centuries-old dunes covered in green Mediterranean vegetation, now a nature reserve. Great for practicing snorkeling.
📍 33 km from Nardò | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Refreshments available
Torre Colimena owes its name to the tower nearby, built in 1568 by Charles V to protect the coast from Saracen attacks. This tower is renowned for its beauty and grandeur, as the rooms built on top of the tower increase its height, making it one of the highest in Salento.
Wild and untouched, it’s a habitat for flamingos and other wildlife, now protected by the nature reserve established here.
Spiaggia di Pilone
📍 12 km from Ostuni | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Blue Flag Award
The stark, white tower here makes for great photos, the sand and turquoise waters take care of the rest.
📍 24 km from Ostuni | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Blue Flag Award
An unspoiled, golden beach, part of nature reserve. The part of Punta Penna Grossa is easier to reach but we recommend you explore the most secret coves, those you get to only after a good trek, like the beautiful ‘spiaggia delle conchiglie’, made of thousands of shells, white, tiny and sparkling.
Puglia beaches near Taranto
The coastline in the area looks almost like an endless line of sand that connects Marina di Ginosa to Taranto, and then it turns into long, rocky stretches that give way to beautiful bays.
📍 40 km from Taranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
Long beach of fine sand, bordered by pine forests and shrubs of Mediterranean vegetation that surround the entire coastline for miles. Ideal for families with kids.
Spiaggia di Campomarino
📍 41 km from Taranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Beach clubs
Dunes of fine sand that slope down towards the sea, which throughout the day changes its colors from light turquoise to deep blue. And if you love snorkeling and diving, at a depth of 6 meters you can admire numerous marble sarcophagi from the Roman era. The beach is the territory of the locals and if you can, avoid it during the weekends in Summer.
Spiaggia di Bagnara
📍 29 km from Taranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera
Rosemary, thyme, capers, myrtle make up a bouquet of Mediterranean aromas that won’t make you regret the lack of large structures and Ibiza-like entertainment. The sea is not a tinsel, on the contrary, it is the real protagonist: blue, exceptionally transparent.
Lido Silvana di Pulsano
📍 22 km from Taranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
An enchanting beach of soft white sand, bordered by striking dune formations covered with lush Mediterranean vegetation. The waters are magnificent, turquoise, crystal clear and shallow.
📍 36 km from Taranto | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
Hundreds of meters of fine sand, surrounded by a green pine forest and fragrant Mediterranean vegetation.
Best beaches in central Puglia
Many towns in this area, like Polignano, Ostuni and Alberobello have become real Instagram stars over the last few years, as their chalky white alleys where time seems to have stopped made people fall in love with Puglia. Pairing a visit to these towns with a swim at the beach is not only possible but thoroughly recommended.
Cala Paura, Polignano a Mare
📍 35 km from Bari | Pebbles | Spiaggia libera | Blue Flag Award
If you type in ‘#puglia’ on Instagram, 9 out of 10 times a picture of this cove will be in the top 9 results. It is a cove of white pebbles that you encounter just before entering Polignano a Mare. The town sprawls upon the towering rocks overlooking this inlet and it’s a one-of-kind place. In Summer, avoid weekends and lunchtime, it’s really tiny.
Spiaggia di Capitolo
📍 53 km from Bari | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera | Stabilimenti
Long sandy beaches with any entertainment you may desire, night and day.
Margherita di Savoia
📍 78 km from Bari | Sandy beach | Stabilimenti | Blue Flag Award
Wide and long, the fine sand here has red hues, a result of the high concentration of iodine in the ground, which can also be found in the near hot springs. Plenty of entertainment here, playgrounds and more.
📍 48 km from Bari | Shingle beach | Stabilimenti | Spiaggia libera
A tiny beach made of white pebbles just outside the town of Bisceglie, making it a favorite amongst the locals on Summer weekends. It features a water playground.
📍39 km from Bari | Sandy beach | Spiaggia libera
With the chalky white “skyline” of Molfetta in the background, this small beach makes for a quick stop whilst sightseeing.
📍 67 km from Bari | Sandy beach | Stabilimenti | Spiaggia libera | Blue Flag Award
Surrounded by a nature reserve that protects the dunes this beach is famous for, Torre Canne has clear and shallow waters, perfect for families with kids.