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The isle of Elba is a beach paradise, Mediterranean at its best with a hint of the Caribbean thanks to its crystal clear waters - as long as you don't come in July or August. Elba in high season is obviously still beautiful, but the time spent enjoying the beach will be amazingly short. Most of the day you'll be looking for parking, a free parasol or an unoccupied square meter of sand to lay down your towel before you join the queue for ice cream. 

The clear waters of Biodola beach on the isle of Elba

Elba may be the biggest of the seven isles in the Tuscan archipelago and after Sicily and Sardinia already the third largest island of Italy, but it's still... small. In any case too small to absorb the huge amount of tourists scouting for the best beach on Elba from mid June to the first week of September (Italian school holiday time).

Hence, the most important advice in regard to beach hunting on Elba is timing. Napoleon's isle is paradise on earth from the second week of September to the second week of June, and hell in between (unless you own a private beach or a mighty yacht). However, once you get the dates right Elba will roll out one picture perfect beach after the other. So let's nail them down.

View from Biodola towards Scaglieri beach in early September


The paper map you can get at any tourist office in Elba indicates something like 76 beaches which can be reached without a boat. Most of the big ones are close to a road, some of the small ones ask for a bit of a walk. Whether pebble, rock or sand, they come in all shapes and sizes and most of them wouldn't quite count as a beach in Queensland or California. But the charm of Elba's cale or coves lies exactly in their small dimensions.

Scaglieri beach on Elba in early September


The two beaches sharing one bay on the island's north coast are often named as Elba's most beautiful. Clear waters for snorkeling and finest sands, plus the lovely Mediterranean ambiance in the tiny villages around them. Order a glass of white wine in the bar on Scaglieri beach, lean back and enjoy one of Tuscany's best sunsets whilst the rocky silhouettes of the isles of Capraia and Corsica appear on the horizon. 

Sunset from Biodola beach with Corsica on the horizon


The famous white beaches of Elba are perfect if you're staying in Portoferraio. Capo Bianco and Sansone's white gravel and the steep cliffs at the back of the narrow beaches make for a beautiful sight. You can walk to Capo Bianco from Napoleon's former headquarter, but there's also a designated parking area (on payment) if it's too hot for a stroll. For Sansone beach drive on further and leave your car on the roadside near restaurant Tre Colonne. A lovely walk will take you to the beach (walk via spiaggia Sorgente). Remember to bring water as there is no bar on this beach. 

The cove of Fetovaia beach


The beaches of these three small bays on the south-western coast of Elba are tiny but lovely, with finest sand and a bit of rocks on the side for climbers and clear water for snorkelers. All of them are quite protected and are a good option when northern winds make swimming or sunbathing a little more chilly on the opposite coast of Elba. 


Capo Sant'Andrea is Elba's boulder beach. The perfect holiday location if you're fussy about sand and prefer beautiful rocks to lie on or jump off from.  

Capo di Sant'Andrea - best rock beach on Elba

The bays of Chiessi and Patresi don't have a single grain of sand. Which allows them to stay off-the-beaten path since the main tourist assault happens mainly around Elba's sandy beaches (but don't think you'll be on your own here in August). The atmosphere is lay-back, and Corsica seems a stone's throw from the western coast of Elba. 

Patresi on western Elba


This sandy beach on Elba's south-eastern shore still has some leftover constructions from the islands industrial past. The soil and sand around Cala Seregola contain iron, hence their reddish color. The beach makes for a great sight and stopover for a refreshing bath, if you explore Rio Marina and this less touristy corner of Elba. 

Cala Seregola - red sand beach between Cavoli and Rio Marina


The only way to ditch the crowd in high-season is a boat. Renting one and enjoying Elba's bays which aren't accessible from a road is definitely one of the best options once the island gets packed in summer. However remember that if you plan to sail around Elba in July or August, jetties for sailing boats get booked out too and rubber dinghies have to be reserved a day in advance. 

We were very happy with Rent Boat Bagnaia, friendly service and good tips on where to stop for a bit of snorkeling.

Sailing to Portoferraio

If you don't mind a bit of dried up seaweed which often collects on this pebble beach, Bagnore is a lovely and relatively quiet bay even during high season, with gorgeous sunset views towards Portoferraio and Monte Capanne (Elba's highest mountain). 

Don't care about romantic coves and rock climbs? Just need a bit of shade for your children and a cold beer for their stressed-out parents? Procchio, Lacona and Marina di Campo offer deckchair, pedalo and parasol rental on the longest (and busiest) sandy beaches on the isle of Elba.  


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