Wary of sea-bound threats, Sardinians long avoided settling near the coast, but today’s visitors can frolic in the Mediterranean with abandon – and much of the island’s finest accommodation takes full advantage of the remarkably unspoilt coastline.
In the 1960s, the Aga Khan (leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims and savvy businessman) saw potential in Sardinia’s northeast coastline and proceeded to make it a playground for the rich and famous. Stays on Italy’s second-largest island have had the air of the high life ever since. The charms of the Aga Khan’s favoured patch – the glittering Costa Smeralda – are undimmed to this day, and some of the best Sardinian hotels are in this northeast corner. But if ever an island bore exploration, it’s Sardinia, so Culture Trip has picked out gems at all points of the compass.
Resort Valle dell’Erica
Resort, Hotel, Luxury
Courtesy of Delphina
This five-star oceanfront resort is set back from 1.5 kilometres (one mile) of private coastline that dances between rugged coves and lovely, parasol-specked beaches. The resort combines two sections stretching across a landscape of granite and Italian macchia shrubland: the Hotel Erica and the even more charming Hotel La Licciola, where an emphasis on Galluran design enhances the already harmonious sense of place. While this is Costa Smeralda country, there’s so much more to see in these parts than the millionaires’ yachts; excursions range from the Maddalena Archipelago to the culture-rich Galluran hinterland. Sip a sundowner on the terrace with Corsica glowering in the distance and then choose from one of the resort’s seven restaurants. Infinity pools and a large thalassotherapy spa seal the deal.
Pomegranate trees line the driveway of the S’Arenada Hotel – in the local dialect, s’arenada means ‘pomegranate’ – and the rooms feature tiles of the same vibrant colour. Located near Villasimius, among the island’s most popular destinations, the S’Arenada Hotel features eight light-filled and cosy rooms, some with balconies (and one with a veranda).
The four-star ‘Falcon’s Bay’ resort occupies a gorgeous spot at the edge of the balmy Golfo di Arzachena, beyond the mouth of which spreads the Maddalena Archipelago. Defining itself as a resort, Cala di Falco does boast all the facilities that the word implies (including a tennis court, pool and outdoor gym), just with none of the downsides. The architecture is restrained and the landscaping verdant, with the property melding into the fragrant shrubland that surrounds it, while the various buffets on offer achieve a refinement you might not imagine possible. The rooms and suites are coolly furnished, with plenty of local influence both in design and materials. Step outside the resort for easy beach access or a stroll round laid-back Cannigione.
Located seven kilometres (four miles) northwest of Olbia in the small village of Pittulongu, Hotel Abbaruja offers 16 rustically stylish en-suite rooms, some enjoying panoramic ocean views. Breakfast is served as a buffet, and there’s a veranda-facing reading room where you can while away a balmy afternoon or two. There’s no swimming pool, but the local beach is just 150 metres (492 feet) from the hotel, meaning that a cooling dip is always within reach.
Villa Las Tronas Hotel and Spa occupies a marvellously stately villa, perched on a private headland, just outside of Alghero in Sardinia’s northwest. Formerly an Italian royal holiday residence, the hotel’s 24 rooms and suites do the old place’s aristocratic heritage proud, as does the gorgeous ocean-facing, seawater swimming pool. You can walk to the beach or into Alghero in a matter of minutes – head into town for dinner one evening and try the local speciality paella algherese, a fine introduction to the town’s Catalan past.
Tucked tightly into Sardinia’s northwestern-most tip, Hotel Cala Reale does the basics very well, without frills or fuss. After all, the real star here lies just three kilometres (two miles) down the road – the heavenly La Pelosa Beach, with its powdery white sand and startlingly turquoise waters, is served by a regular shuttle bus to and from the hotel. If you prefer your water chlorinated, there are two swimming pools on-site, along with a pair of tennis courts and bike rentals. Some rooms have sea views, and Stintino village centre is within easy walking distance.
Located in Costa Rei, amid a huge and wonderful natural park, this luxury hotel ticks all the right boxes. It boasts a private beach with a bar, where it is possible to have lunch with fresh local ingredients or an aperitivo while contemplating the horizon. There’s also an infinity pool, which merges seamlessly into the blue of the sea, wonderfully decorated and ornamented rooms with all the fittings anyone could dream of, and a staff who are cordial and extremely accommodating.
Hotel Costa Dei Fiori lies on the wonderful southern coast of the island, in Santa Margherita di Pula (a 45-minute drive from Cagliari). It boasts a spellbinding infinity pool, a free shuttle service to the beautiful Chia Beach and a range of suites perfect for romantic holidays and memorable honeymoons.
Inspired by the architecture of the nuraghe – the enigmatic ancient megaliths that are peppered across Sardinia – Maria Caderina Green Village is a wonderfully secluded agriturismo option located near Posada, on the eastern coast of the island. The setting might be rural, but the warmly toned en-suite rooms are well-appointed, the pool inviting and the breakfasts abundant.
Built around a courtyard, this hotel features 10 spacious rooms, including suites with a double bedroom, living room and bathroom, plus a veranda, balcony or terrace. This layout makes La Corte Rosada a fine place for a romantic holiday with a certain degree of independence and isolation. The bayside location and gorgeous beach don’t hurt, either.