Where to stay in Sardinia

Sardinia is number 1 destination for Italians thanks to its sea colour and the most magnificent beaches in the world.

My lovely friends back in Italy every time tell me “Sardinia is better than the Caribbean, better than the Maldives, better than Bora Bora”. Is it true? Nobody really knows because they have probably never been to the Caribbean and the Maldives, and surely not in Bora Bora!

Let me say first that this is a big island. Now, where to stay in Sardinia? The answer is really based on the type of holiday you are after (beach? family or couple? driving or not a car?).

This guide will answer all of your questions and it will possibly provide new ideas, especially with some great bars and restaurants.

And you know the best? It’s all updated and ready for this year. No close restaurants or crumbling hotels.

And now let’s get into it

You can read also

Exploring the old city of Cagliari
Exploring the old city of Cagliari

A quick tip: the Nuova Sardegna is a great source of information for local news and events. Unfortunately, it is in Italian language but you can activate the real-time Google translator to read it, easy.

Where to stay in Sardinia – In a Nutshell

There are obviously many great areas to stay in Sardinia, this is a big island in size. 

For example, you need to drive 4 hours from Cagliari in the south (capital of Sardinia) to Porto Cervo in the north.

I would personally suggest to either book a single location or split your holiday between the north and the south of Sardinia (at least 1 week each). 

In this way, you can enjoy the place where you are and you can also plan a few excursions or day trips.

You will be more flexible with a car, however, without a car, it can be as enjoyable. Just a different experience.

Here below a map with a few quick tips. Keep reading for more information.

Best areas to stay in Sardinia
Best areas to stay in Sardinia
  • Where to stay in Sardinia North or South: it’s always a hard choice and if you ask any local, be sure, that you will end up with a 50-50 choice. I guess the biggest difference is in the popularity level, very high in the north (therefore they touristy), less in the south (therefore with more locals around). Read below for more information
  • Best places to stay in Sardinia without a car: you have two possibilities here. If you are after a resort to spend a week, then there are a few which are absolutely amazing close to the Olbia and the Cagliari airport. Alternatively, if you prefer to visit around you can base yourself in Olbia or Cagliari and use public transportation from there, easy. Read more on a trip without a car
  • Best places to stay in Sardinia for couples: one of the most beautiful and romantic beaches is Chia, down in the southernmost point of Sardinia, not too far from Cagliari. This is a great location, especially in peak season, less busy than the north of the island. Alternatively, on the north coast of Sardinia, you can check out San Teodoro, again with beautiful beaches and enough nightlife for a nice meal and a drink. La Maddalena island is an amazing option but only till mid-June and from mid-September (July and August this island is absolutely packed, probably not as romantic). Read more on a trip for couples
  • Where to stay in Sardinia for best beaches: such a hard call! Stintino in the north with La Pelosa beach has been rewarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, not only for the quality but also the fact that it’s well repaired by any wind making the water so flat and amazing. The Maddalena Archipelago is one of the most unique places in the world, it’s a little Caribbean micro cosmo. True, it’s busy on peak season but this should not put you off. Another great destination is the Ogliastra area, on the east coast, with the amazing coastline made not only by beautiful beaches but also imposing cliffs. Villasimius, with the many beaches around, is also a great base. Read more on a stay for beaches
  • Great places to stay in Sardinia for families: here are two amazing areas of Sardinia where you will find amazing beaches with shallow water not too far from the airport. Santa Teresa Gallura, in the north part of Sardinia, is a great colourful town with easy access to some lovely small sandy bays. In the evening you can have a walk in the main square, enjoy dinner and have a nice ice cream. Villasimius in the south, not too far from Cagliari, is another amazing place to go with kids, especially if toddlers or small ones. The beaches are amazing, it’s so quiet, a few restaurants here and there, perfect for a relaxing holiday with small kids. Read more about a family trip in Sardinia
  • Best places to stay in northern Sardinia: there are lots of amazing destinations you can choose from in the North of Sardinia. You may also think to rent a car and move a bit to explore the area. You could spend a few days here and there. Or you can just spend some time on the Costa Smeralda to mix with celebrities and the wealthy people. Read more on the North Coast.
  • Best places to stay in southern Sardinia: the South of Sardinia is quieter, calmer and less pretentious. There are as many amazing places as in the north, however, they are different, wilder possibly. You can be based in Cagliari and do local trips or even better you can rent your car and go around and explore. There are so many amazing places. Read more on the South Coast.

Where to stay in Sardinia north or south

Sardinia is a beautiful island with a lot to offer in terms of Italian culture from amazing food and wine to great music.

The island is also home to some of the most breath-taking sceneries including beautiful beaches, picturesque mountains and grassy plains that are just begging to be picnicked on.

The best part is that whether you decide to stay North or South you get to enjoy all this awesomeness.

In short, book your accommodation based on your arrival point. If at an airport in the North, stay there. Otherwise, enjoy the south. You will have time to explore the other part of the island on the next trip.

There are 2 main airports on the island. One in Cagliari in the south and the other in Olbia in the north (there is also a third airport, Alghero in the north, however, there are not as many flights landing there)

The best idea is to book your stay based on which port you arrive on. This, of course, is for the sake of convenience given that you will get pretty much a great experience whichever part of the island you end up on.

If you land in the North, then you have a lot of beautiful bays to explore when you are done soaking up the sun on their beautiful beaches.

They also have some pretty awesome attractions including the Giants’ grave of Su Mont’e s’Abe and the medieval Basilica of San Simplicio.

If you end up in the south, expect more wilderness, less pretentious beaches and towns, and a quieter environment overall.

It is a great place if you are a big fan of snorkelling, surfing and many other water and wind sports.

It is also rich in history with remarkable spots to visit like the Nora Ruins and The Castle of Acquafredda.

Best places to stay in Sardinia without a car

Sardinia is a whole lot of Island to explore. While driving offers the convenience of allowing you to explore more remote areas it can also be an unnecessary extra cost.

Then there is the stress of getting parking which can be challenging when you decide to drive to the beach.

It can be easier for you to rely on the public transport system on the island. 

If you are renting a car you will, of course, have a different experience, with more freedom and possibility to explore whatever you want whenever you like. But it all comes at a cost

If you do decide to go for public transportation then the best places to stay in Sardinia without a car are probably two: Olbia and Cagliari.

Base in Olbia and explore the North-East coast

Located in North-Eastern Sardinia, Olbia is one of the most important tourist hubs on the island.

And with beautiful beaches like Spiaggia di Cala Sabina as well as attractions like Parco Fausto Noce it is not so hard to see why. 

As a result of this popularity, the town has one of the most extensive public transport systems with numerous bus routes and trains at the Olbia Transit Station.

This makes it easy to navigate around the town and to surrounding hubs for a wholesome trip.

Check directly on the ASPO website the transportation schedule and all the destinations you can reach in the north-east coast.

The station also happens to be a short walking distance from the wildly popular Dolceacqua – Cucina Ligure & Sarda. This seafood restaurant would be ideal for a quick snack before your trip or a proper end-of-day meal after a long day of exploring the island.

Another great restaurant in the area is Ristorante Pizzeria La Lanterna Olbia Italy. This classy little spot is perfect for solo meals, romantic dates and group dinners with their perfect combination of stylish décor and amazing Italian dishes. Make sure to try their popular pasta dishes and unique fish balls.

Isola di Tavolara close to Olbia
Isola di Tavolara close to Olbia

Base in Cagliari and explore the South coast

The south coast is ideal if your main agenda for your holiday is to have some beach bumming fun.

In this case, you can access a lot of them from the city just by taking a bus.

These include the famous Poetto Beach and Calamosca Beach

Check directly on the CTM Website the scheduling and destinations you can reach by bus.

The best thing about these beaches is that most are close to or attached to eateries so you don’t even have to leave the water to eat.

One such restaurant is Le Palmette Beach Club. This high-end spot is popular for their fresh catches and craft cocktails you get to enjoy with an amazing view of the water.

Another popular spot is L’Iguana Lungomare Poetto. This is a seaside café with amazing hot and cold drinks as well as snacks to enjoy on the beach.

So if you want a waterside picnic and you don’t want to cook this would be a great option on your way to the water.

Cove close to Cagliari
Cove close to Cagliari

Best 2 resorts close to Olbia and Cagliari

If you prefer to book a resort, seat and relax for the whole holiday then the below two places may be just what you are looking for.

  • Hotel Colonna San Marco in Porto Rotondo: This quaint little bed and breakfast spot is a mere 45 minutes by bus #2 from the Olbia airport. It is one of the top-rated hotels on the island with a wonderful combination of great service and state of the art facilities. When you are not sipping craft cocktails by the pool, the hotel also offers quick access to the beach as well as to the town for shopping and restaurant hopping.

Check availability at Colonna San Marco

Hotel Colonna San Marco
Hotel Colonna San Marco
  • Hotel Aquadulci in Su Giudeu Beach: The hotel is 2 hours by bus from Cagliari airport and is worth every second of the commute. You will get to enjoy luxurious 4-star accommodations in a place that combines both traditional Italian styles and modern décor. Its location also makes it perfect if you are looking for a peaceful getaway with amazing views.

Check availability at Aquadulci

Hotel Aquadulci
Hotel Aquadulci

Best places to stay in Sardinia for couples

Sardinia has been likened to other popular island destinations globally like the Caribbean for being ideal for couple getaways.

I mean who wouldn’t want a baecation on a beautiful island with lots to do and see both on land and in the water right?

If you are considering a romantic trip to Sardinia, below are 3 of the most beautiful and peaceful places to book your stay.

Chia Beach on a windy day in late September
Chia Beach on a windy day in late September

Chia Coast (in the south, less busy)

Chia is a beautiful little coastal village in the south famous for having some of the most breathtaking beaches.

Chia Beach was in 2017 voted the most beautiful beach in all of Italy by Lega Ambiente.

Is this a big deal? Heck yeah. Lega Ambiente is an Italian Association in charge of monitoring the quality of the Italian landscape. So if they say that place is beautiful then you can bet your bottom dollar it is.

In addition to the crystal clear waters and clean white sandy beaches, the village has many cute little spots you and your partner could explore including the nature trails and the Faro Capo Spartivento lighthouse.

It also has many awesome restaurants including Torre Chia. The best part about this casual spot is the outdoor sitting option which is simply mesmerising at night. They also have amazing food with their black pasta, seafood and meat sauce being their most popular options.

Another romantic spot to go for a couple’s night out is Mirage. This classy restaurant is mainly a seafood spot but it is their amazing pizza and house wines that keep guests coming back time and again.

Su Giudeu price  Aquadulci availability

San Teodoro (in the north, more action but not too crazy)

If you are looking for something more vibrant but not too wild then this is the place for you and your partner.

Located in the North-Eastern part of the Sardinia, this town has some of the most awesome views of the water.

Beautiful water of Sardinia near San Teodoro
Beautiful water of Sardinia near San Teodoro

When you are not soaking this all up, you should spend some time in the town shopping, sightseeing and of course eating.

With that last part in particular, San Teodoro is overflowing with options including Marino di Puntaldia which is right next to the scenic Spiaggia de La Marina di Puntaldìa.

They mainly serve seafood with fresh salads and spaghetti inspired dishes definitely being worth a try.

La Runcina is another great option for a romantic night out. This Italian restaurant lives up to all the positive regional stereotypes with their awesome Italian food, a wide selection of wine and vintage mood-setting décor.

Bonsai price  Scintilla availability

La Maddalena (off-peak season)

Finally, you could consider the small island of La Maddalena as a great place to stay in Sardinia with your partner.

Valle Dell'Erica in La Maddalena
Valle Dell’Erica in La Maddalena

This is a destination famous for its nightlife, however, if you visit it off-season (till mid-June and from mid-September) La Maddalena becomes a more romantic (and less expensive) destination to experience.

You will have also a wide choice of restaurants including Zi Anto. This bar and restaurant has the perfect food and drinks menu to ensure your night out is truly one to remember.

Osteria Il Rifugio dei Peccatori is another fantastic option. This is one of the few places you will actually get to try rare and authentic Sardinian dishes like octopus salad and a variety of local meats.

La Maddalena is also great for some late drinks and a bit of nightlife even off-season.

When you are not sunbathing and eating your hearts out, this tiny island has a lot of attractions to check out including the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene as well as Studio Fluido art gallery. 

Tatiana price  Punta Nera availability

Where to stay in Sardinia for best beaches

Sardinian beaches are truly remarkable whether it is the rugged northern options with rocky bays or the smooth long and wild southern ones.

I like here to highlight 3 beaches that are truly out of this world, some of the best not only in Sardinia but also in Italy.

Exploring La Maddalena
Exploring La Maddalena

Stintino (north of Alghero)

This beautiful Northwestern village is home to some of the most beautiful beaches famed for having clear waters, clean beaches and spectacular rocky backdrops.

What is probably one of their most popular beaches is La Pelosa. It has won numerous awards over the years for its beauty and tranquillity.

Beaches on this quaint little paradise village also benefit from the general location away from prevailing winds.

This means that the water is always nice and calm and therefore perfect for swimming and other water sports like snorkelling, kayaking and even water skiing.

The Maddalena Archipelago (the Caribbean micro cosmo)

Maddalena is one of the most famous seaside destinations in Europe and for good reasons. It’s just as amazing as unique.

As a result, it tends to be very busy especially around the peak season between mid-June and September.

While you might have to put up with crowded beaches during this season, it is safe to say that the experience is more than worth it.

The beaches are like something out of a travel magazine catalogue and they have a way of making you feel like you are the only one there.

Back in town, you will find many amazing restaurants and cafes around, when you feel you need a break from the crowds.

One of the best, in this case, is Mama Pizza. This pizzeria is a hidden gem popular mainly among the locals. If you do go there make sure to try their Neapolitan pizza. It is a real island treasure. 

You could also try La Roca. This cosy little spot offers calming views of the town around and is ideal for nights out.

In terms of the food, they have some of the best flavours and presentations around whether you go for a steak dish, pasta or even pizza

The Ogliastra area (quieter and spectacular)

Ogliastra is the hidden gem of this big island, the best area to stay in Sardinia if you are looking for a more isolated experience.

A little cove in Orosei on the East Coast
A little cove in Orosei on the East Coast

In addition to the beaches that you will essentially have all to yourself, the location offers amazing views of coastal nature from the spectacular cliffs.

The only downside is that these picturesque scenes are not very easy to get to. Sometimes these amazing coves are accessible only from the sea.

However, the sheer beauty of them, as well as the great value for money of this area, makes it all worth it.

One of the best places to book your stay is Santa Maria Navarrese. It is closest to some of these amazing beaches and other coastal attractions and is great for a low budget trip.

Tortoli is slowly but very surely coming up as a great alternative. This is mainly because of the active urban scene littered with numerous shopping opportunities as well as amazing restaurants.

These include the likes of Sa Buttega. Don’t let the low price tags on this one fool you; they have some of the best Italian food around served in their beautiful indoor and outdoor settings.

Another option would be Ristorante Pizzeria La Baia. What sets this one apart from other Italian restaurants around is their accommodation of special dietary needs clients. They have it all from vegan options to gluten-free pizza and even lactose-free ice cream. 

Best places to stay in Sardinia for families

What makes Sardinia ideal for family trips are the numerous beautiful beaches.

These are ideal for everything from building sandcastles with the clean white sand to snorkelling in the crystal clear waters.

Valle dell’Erica beach in Santa Teresa Gallura
Valle dell’Erica beach in Santa Teresa Gallura

However, for the sake of safety, it is best to stick to locations that have the least turbulent waters. Below are two of the best destinations.

Villasimius (if travelling with toddlers or small kids)

This southern village has a lot to offer families with small kids including a variety of attractions like the Punta Molentis cove and the nearby Castle of San Michele.

This location also offers easy access to Cagliari with its airport and numerous attractions. 

Another wonderful thing about Villasimius is its abundance of child-friendly restaurants. If you have picky eaters for kids, Santa Maria would be your best choice.

They serve great pasta and pizza in a nice casual little setting that is perfect for families. They also have a wide variety of seafood dishes for the grownups if you are feeling a little adventurous.

Another option is Mama Grill. They are widely regarded as being among the best establishments in terms of professional service and being child-friendly. They serve mainly Italian dishes and it is their steaks and desserts that they are best known for.

Fenicia price  Cormoran availability

Santa Teresa Gallura (with grown-up kids)

Santa Teresa Gallura is just one hour drive from Olbia airport so if you choose North Sardinia for your family trip then this is the best place to go.

It is one of the northernmost parts of the island and is home to numerous attractions that older kids would definitely find interesting.

These include Torre di Longonsardo o Torre Spagnola, Capo Testa Lighthouse and Tomba Dei Giganti.

In addition to all the attractions, the kids will also have a lot of fun restaurant hopping in town. Head to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele I for a casual walk, a meal and an ice cream. 

If you are in the mood for some pizza you should also check out Spabi Express. They serve craft pizzas unlike anything you will find elsewhere in town. This is ideal if your kids are up for a food adventure.

Gioietta price  Zodiaco availability

Best places to stay in northern Sardinia

I have mentioned already a few of the best places to stay in Northern Sardinia for families, beaches and couples.

I also suggested Olbia as a great place to be based if you do not have a car. From there you can explore the North East of Sardinia.

However, if you fly to either Olbia or Alghero it makes also sense to rent a car and explore the North of Sardinia. It’s such an amazing region that it would be somehow a pity to see only one resort or town.

My recommended website to rent a car is RentalCars.com. This is a Booking.com owned website that compares prices from over 30 rental companies. I use it wherever I travel, also because of the special deals they have

Best deal at RentalCars today

Here below one possible itinerary. You do not need to move every day. You can also split your stay between two towns, one in the North-East and one in the North-West and organise day trips from there.

Olbia and Stintino are, for example, two great places to be based.

Best places to stay in northern Sardinia
Best places to stay in northern Sardinia

Best places to stay or visit in northern Sardinia

  • San Teodoro: already mentioned above as a fantastic spot for couples. 
  • Costa Smeralda: for a trendy stay between celebrities and wealthy people. You will see some of the most beautiful boats around
  • La Maddalena Archipelago: a Caribbean micro cosmo, unique in Europe, quite popular in July and August, otherwise a very easy-going place to visit. 
  • Santa Teresa Gallura: a lovely town with a few shallow beaches, perfect for families. You can also take here a quick ferry to Corsica.
  • Castelsardo: a town stuck in the past with a nice beach on a beautiful bay
  • Stintino: a must to explore for La Pelosa Beach, heaven. July and August can be really busy though. 
  • Alghero: a lovely town, a great base to explore the North-West coast. Best spot for sunset drinks
  • Bosa: one of the most picturesque town in Sardinia and possibly in Europe, with its coloured houses along the Temo river. A great spot to sit and relax, far from the tourists

Between these towns, on the coast, you will always be able to discover small coves, amazing beaches and interesting villages, especially in the countryside.

Colourful houses of Castelsardo
Colourful houses of Castelsardo

Best places to stay in southern Sardinia

The South of Sardinia is more for an unpretentious stay, far from the more popular north, wilder, probably with less infrastructure, especially for the beach, but with cheaper accommodations and restaurants.

Cagliari has the main International Airport in the South of Sardinia. You can decide to be based in Cagliari and explore with local transportation or rent a car (check out RentalCars.com) and explore the coast and islands around.

If you have only one week then focus either on the South-East or the South-West coast. Doing both in one week is probably asking too much.

Best places to stay in southern Sardinia
Best places to stay in southern Sardinia

Best places to stay or visit in southern Sardinia:

  • Cagliari: it’s a big city, though an interesting one, where you can easily base yourself. Plenty of nice bars and restaurants and the beautiful local Poetto Beach.
  • Villasimius: a fantastic area for beaches, with shallow water, ideal for families with little kids. Very quiet in total opposition to the North coast.
  • Ogliastra area and Tortoli: technically this area is more in the centre of Sardinia, however, it is easily accessible from Cagliari. Base yourself in Tortoli for a few days to explore the unique coast made of little coves and high cliffs
  • Chia: voted multiple time as the best beach in Italy, perfect for couples looking for a romantic stay.
  • Sant’Antioco: an island connected by an artificial isthmus built during the Roman Empire. Famous for its coloured houses and the great trekking options.
  • San Pietro Island: second biggest island in Sardinia, famous for snorkelling and diving with a unique landscape made of huge cliffs falling in the sea.
  • Iglesias: historical city in the countryside to explore on a day trip.

And of course, if you drive around, you will bump in so many unknown spots and hidden gems. The beauty to take the day as it comes.

Miniera di Masua, close to Iglesias
Miniera di Masua, close to Iglesias
Photo credits on a few photos in this post

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