Travelers often rush through the Cinque Terre in a day or two and don't spend a longer summer holiday here, as they think there are no good beaches in this area. Well, it's true that the Cinque Terre is not famous for its long sandy beaches, but for me, the sea around here is so much more exciting. The coastline is varied, full of small bays and beaches, some of them in the middle of nature, others just below the colourful houses of a fishing village. The wonderfully turquoise Ligurian Sea is all around you, so you can enjoy sightseeing, hiking or eating, then jump in the water wherever you feel like it.
If you prefer more ordinary but still breathtaking beaches, you will find many close to the Cinque Terre so you can enjoy them doing short day trips. Once you see the photos below, I am pretty sure you will bring your swimsuit with you. I recommend spending more days in the Cinque Terre, so once you have walked around the five towns and hiked the blue path or some other hiking trails, enjoy a relaxing beach day and choose one of the best Cinque Terre beaches.
When visiting the Cinque Terre you'll surely come to the stunning marina of Riomaggiore, for the best view of the village. Although people sometimes swim here, it's actually not allowed, as boats come and go in the small bay. Many travellers don't even know that Riomaggiore has a beach with big rocks and pebbles. You can find it if you follow the path to the left from the little fishing harbour.
It's in a beautiful natural environment, just rocks and sea. Don't look for locker rooms, beach clubs or ice cream vendors here. Can be a bit difficult to walk around the big rocks but it's a nice place for a swim if you are staying in Riomaggiore. If you are planning to stay in Riomaggiore and visit this beach often, I recommend bringing a pair of water shoes with you.
There is also a hidden beach south of Riomaggiore, towards the Tramonti coast, the Canneto beach. It's the locals' best kept secret and it will never get crowded as you need to rent a boat to go there. It's a wonderfully wild, untouched, secret spot. Make sure to take enough water with you as there is no bar around.
It's another great beach between Riomaggiore and Portovenere, a wonderful hidden spot of the Tramonti coast. The Tramonti is one of my favourite areas of this region, wild and quiet, great for hiking. To reach the beach of Fossola rent a small boat with skipper from Manarola and ask him to take you to Canneto and Fossola beaches.
In the small harbour of Manarola, you can sunbathe on the rocks, and dive into the sea (or use the small ladder). The water is deep, so for good swimmers only. This is one of my favourite swimming spots in the Cinque Terre, especially late afternoon. I just love floating on my back and looking at the vivid colours of the houses of Manarola right above me.
Bring your snorkeling equipment with you as there is plenty of fish around. If you swim under the crane to the corner, you can find a small cave. Climb inside, it's really cool!
Of course the bay of Manarola is very central and popular, so there are usually many people there, sitting on the rocks. If you are looking for something more relaxed, start walking towards Corniglia. The hiking trail is closed, but you will find another access to the sea, with less people. If you are a strong swimmer you can also swim along the coast towards Corniglia and after a while you will reach the beach of Corniglia, located under the railway station of Corniglia.
Corniglia can be found 100 meters above sea level so many believe that the village does not have a beach. Well, there are actually 3 areas for swimming around here. My favourite is the hidden little bay behind and below the village.
You can reach it following the Marina sign. Of course, you have to walk down many steps, for about 5 minutes. To me, this is paradise. The water is beautiful and clean, and while you are swimming, you can enjoy the view of the green terraces in the background. The water is deep, so for good swimmers only.
You can find a beach below the railway station of Corniglia. You have to go down the steps at the station and start walking towards Manarola. When you get to the end of the row of old cabins on your left, you will find an entrance to an underpass. It's kind of hard to notice first, so look for it. The steps will take you down to the beach. You will also see some directions written on the ground.
Alternatively, you can keep going and you will find some steps on your right going down to the beach. The last time I was there, the bottom part of the steps was missing but it was replaced by a wooden ladder. So it's a bit of an adventure to get there but you will find a nice relaxed beach with big stones, many of them are beautifully shaped by the elements of nature.
If you are even more adventurous, visit the secluded Guvano beach between Corniglia and Vernazza. You can reach it through an old railway tunnel. (Update: currently closed, but you can always check.) Walk down the Lardarina steps from Corniglia, turn right and walk towards the lonely house there. You will find the tunnel entrance near the house. The tunnel is completely dark, so take a good flashlight with you. You'll be walking in pitch dark for about 20 minutes and at some points you will feel that it's just an endless tunnel. Someone even called it a "horror tunnel".
But don't worry, it will end and you will find yourself on the other side of Corniglia, in a beautiful oasis of olive trees. From here, you can descend to the beach on a steep path. If you are scared in the dark or feel claustrophobic but still would love to see this beach, just rent a boat and get to Guvano from Vernazza or Corniglia. Another way to reach Guvano is by joining a guided kayak tour.
Guvano used to be a cultic nudist beach in Italy, and a favourite spot of hippies. It's a "clothing optional" beach so only go there if nude people do not bother you. There are usually not too many people around so you can surely find a peaceful corner for your towel. If you are looking for a secret, wild beach, totally immersed in nature, don't miss Guvano beach. One warning though: I was told that sometimes there are weird people around. So don't go alone as a woman, and don't take valuables with you. Otherwise, don't worry, just enjoy this magical place.
And here is another photo of Guvano beach for you, as seen from San Bernardino.
In Vernazza, there is a small sandy beach (good for kids as well), and you can also swim at the end of the pier, among the boats. (The water is deep here, so this area is for good swimmers only.) This is one of my favourite places; it is a fantastic experience to swim among the colourful boats with Vernazza's beautiful main square in the background.
During the horrible flood of October 25, 2011 Vernazza was devastated. At the same time, the forces of nature have created a new rocky beach. You can reach it from the main street, crossing a small rock tunnel. (Update: it's closed, but you can always check.)
In Monterosso, there are two long beaches with sand and pebbles, Fegina beach being the most famous one, in the new town. You have probably seen hundreds of photos of this beach, with the large rock in the sea and the green and orange umbrellas. Most of the area is private with lidos, sunbeds and parasols, so you have to pay for it. Bagni Eden is a local favourite, you can find it close to the rock.
However, there are also free beaches, for example the area right in front of the train station. In front of the station, you can also use the locker rooms for a couple of euros. You can also rent watersport equipment in Monterosso. In the low season the entire beach is free. There is also a beautiful promenade along the beach, which gets busy in the evening with people walking around or enjoying an Aperol in one of the beach bars.
There is another free beach at the right end of Fegina, towards the huge statue of the Giant. This is called La Spiaggia del Gigante, and the free beach here is larger and quieter than the central one. Look for the impressive statue of Neptune sitting on top of the rock.
You will find this quieter beach by the old town, near the small harbour of Monterosso. It has a lido and also some free areas. It's just a few steps from the historical center, or right in front of you if you arrive by ferry boat. If you arrive by train, after exiting the station turn left, walk a few minutes and cross the pedestrian tunnel. You will find Tragagia beach on the other side of the tunnel.
For the best swimming experience along the Cinque Terre coastline, just rent a boat or book a boat tour from Manarola or Monterosso. When we went on the "Cinque Terre from the sea" tour we swam under a small waterfall, in a cave and stopped at a hidden beach, which was the smallest beach I have ever seen. It was a fantastic experience, the water had amazing colours and there was nobody around us. If you love swimming and don't like crowded beaches, you should not miss this experience, and this way you can also visit secluded beaches like Guvano or Canneto beach.
We have also created a map of the Cinque Terre beaches for you.
Don't be afraid to get out of the five villages and visit the towns and beaches beyond the Cinque Terre. You'll find some real gems, cute villages, hidden beaches and less people. Below I share with you the ten best beaches beyond the Cinque Terre. Of course this is my personal opinion, you might just love something that is not even on my list. All beaches can get busy during the main season of July and August, but otherwise some of the beaches below you might have all for yourself.
If I had to choose one favourite, I'd say the Bay of Paraggi. Paraggi is basically the beach of Portofino, as you can't really swim in the town itself. It's about a 30-minute walk through the forest, or you can take the bus there. Even better, rent a private boat from Portofino and ask your skipper to take you to Paraggi and the other stunning bays nearby. The water here is absolutely amazing, so turquoise!
We usually don't go to the beach itself, we prefer the rocks on the side of the bay, towards Santa Margherita Ligure, where you will find a ladder to get into the sea. Lots of fish here, so make sure you bring snorkeling equipment and some bread with you. Put some bread in the water ahead of you and you will feel like swimming in an aquarium. If you prefer the beach, you will find some private beaches here, and a small free beach in the middle. There are also a couple of bars and restaurants right by the beach. It's Portofino, so you can expect the same price range.
Another stunning bay of the Portofino peninsula, that you can only reach by hiking from Portofino or Camogli or by boat. If you are staying in the Cinque Terre, you need to take the train to Santa Margherita Ligure (about one hour), then ferry boat or private boat from there. Swimming at this beach with the 10th-century abbey in the background is quite a unique, magical experience. You can also find a couple of bars and restaurants in San Fruttuoso. If you enjoy diving, you should also visit the Christ of the Abyss, a large bronze statue of Jesus 15 meters under the water.
Tellaro is the place where I would love to live. Just as stunning as the Cinque Terre villages, but without the crowds. I love quiet places. In the small bay of Tellaro, just below the colourful houses, you can swim and sunbathe on the rocks. That's what locals do as well.
Just a short walk from Tellaro (towards Lerici), you will find the beach of Fiascherino. It gets busy with Italians in July and August, but most of the year it's relatively quiet.
The best thing about this beach is that you can rent sea kayaks or join a guided kayak tour and visit the breathtaking bays, caves and rock formations between Fiascherino and Lerici. It's one of the most exciting coastal areas around here. You can access tiny bays only locals know how to reach from the land, swim under rock arches and into caves, and admire Tellaro from the sea. If kayaking is not your thing, you can rent a boat from La Spezia or Le Grazie, with or without skipper, and visit this area by boat.
If you are looking for traditional beaches with sand and pebbles, you can find many of them between the Cinque Terre and Genoa. They are all suitable for the whole family, so great if you are travelling with kids.
Just hop on the train and go to Bonassola. If you rent a bike in Levanto and ride along the coastal bike path, you can enjoy the beaches of Levanto, Bonassola and Framura in the same day. While relaxing on the beach of Bonassola, make sure you pick up some focaccia at my favourite focacceria on the small square close to the beach.
If you take the train a little further, you'll reach the beach of Deiva Marina, which is a long, quiet, sandy beach, great for families with smaller children. Deiva Marina is really off the beaten track, and only a few stops from Monterosso.
Framura has some great beaches mainly local people know about. For a fun day, take the train to Levanto, then rent a bike and ride to Framura on the coastal path. Once you get to Framura, lock your bike and take the elevator to the small harbour with the colourful boats. Walk under the bridge to the right, then through the tunnel, and you'll find yourself at the railway station. Or get off here if you come by train.
From the station take the stairs down to the underpass and you'll find yourself at a cute local bar, where you can have a cold beer with great bruschetta. Just under the bar, you'll find the first beach. Or you can start walking to the right on the path called Via del Mare and you'll reach two more beaches. Usually they are very quiet, but in the middle of summer it gets busy with local people and you can even rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
Camogli is located in the corner of the Portofino peninsula and has a nice long beach and a promenade with many bars under the row of colourful houses. You can choose from several beach clubs, but you will also find free areas if you don't insist on having a sunbed. After your beach time don't rush home. Camogli is great for watching the sunset and for joining locals for an aperitivo and an evening stroll. Perfect place to immerse in real Italian life.
Levanto is just 5 minutes away from Monterosso and the train ride there is also included in the Cinque Terre card. Levanto has a nice long beach, both private and public, and some cute beach bars as well. It's a very pleasant town, so make sure you walk around. Great for food and shopping as well.
If you are staying in La Spezia, you can quickly get to San Terenzo by bus or car. Buses leave from the street below La Spezia Centrale station, you can buy your tickets at the newsstand at the railway station. The beach and the promenade run all the way to Lerici, and you can choose from several private and free beaches. The main square of San Terenzo has a nice local vibe, great for lunch or a drink. San Terenzo is popular among locals, so you can enjoy being in the middle of Italian life.
I am generally not a big fan of top lists, but let me give you a few more hints about the best beaches.
There is no such thing as the best beach of the Cinque Terre. It all depends on what you like. If you are looking for comfort, sunchairs, umbrellas and shower, then Monterosso's Fegina beach is your best bet. But if - just like me - you prefer tiny rocky bays, then jump into the water in Manarola or in Corniglia's marina, or rent a boat and ask your skipper to take you to some hidden beaches like Guvano.
If your kids can swim and enjoy jumping off the rocks, then any rocky bay will make them happy. But with smaller kids you probably want a proper beach with umbrellas and some sand. So go to Monterosso, Levanto, Bonassola, Deiva Marina, Moneglia, Sestri Levante, San Terenzo or Fiascherino for some family fun.
OK, this is not the Red Sea, but you can still have some fun snorkeling and chasing fish. My favourite spots are the bay of Manarola and Paraggi near Portofino. Also a great idea to rent a small private boat, and ask your skipper to take you to the best snorkeling spots. They know the area better than anyone else.