Sicily’s 7 loveliest beaches: swim surrounded by stunning scenery

When the summer sun shines down on Sicily, the beach is the only place to be.

An island between three seas, home to a wealth of islands for exploring and some of the most crystalline and blue waters you’ll find in all of Europe, Sicily’s beautiful beaches offer something to suit everyone. Here, family-friendly beach towns alternate with secluded swimming holes only accessible by intrepid hikers. 

The water is unbeatably blue, but you can expect a rocky terrain on the majority of, but not all, beaches in Sicily. To really dig your toes in the sand, stick to the western side of the island and the beaches around Palermo and Trapani, but don’t expect these spots to be a secret. 

You’ll have more space to yourself if you venture towards the harder-to-reach strands, on foot or by ferry, but there’s nothing wrong with renting a lounger from the lido and letting the whole day get away from you. After all, that’s how the Italians do it.

1. San Vito Lo Capo, Trapani

A long sandy beach with an expansive and shallow lagoon in the shadow of a picturesque mountain – no, it’s not Waikiki – it’s San Vito Lo Capo. With 3 km (1.8 miles) of white sand located on the tip of the cape, this beach town is a summer hotspot popular with Italian families on vacations and Sicilians looking to get a break from the heat. Although it can get crowded, you’ll find plenty of room to spread out in the calm blue sea, where you can walk a long way with the water at hip or chest level. 

Detour: For a wilder beach experience, the legendarily beautiful trails and swimming coves of the Zingaro Reserve are located on the eastern side of the cape. 

Cefalù beach, Sicily
It’s easy to lose track of time on beautiful Cefalù beach © Fernando Fernández Baliña / Getty Images

2. Cefalù, Palermo

If you’re in Palermo, it’s just one hour to get to Cefalù, where a charming medieval village is pressed right up to the sea along a sandy beach. Not only are there plenty of opportunities for meals with a view (try Vecchia Marina for sunsets and seafood), but you can explore the historic landmarks in town or take a hike up to the hilltop castle for a vista of the city and the water. You’ll find lidos to rent chairs and every convenience in this buzzy beach town, now basking in its recent fame as a filming location on HBO’s The White Lotus. 

Planning Tip: You can take the train here, but that doesn’t mean the schedule is forgiving for under-planners. Make sure you buy your return ticket in advance if you plan to head back to Palermo.

3. Scala dei Turchi, Agrigento

On the southern coast of Sicily facing the Mediterranean Sea, Scala dei Turchi is a rock formation defined by the articulated layers of a natural rock formation. Although you used to be able to walk on top of the rocks, access was closed off to visitors to prevent further erosion. You can still enjoy the beach, which is a mix of sand and rock, at one of the lidos nearby – just prepare yourself for the stairs before the stairs. It’s a long walk down to the water from the road and a big climb back up to the top.

Detour: From here, you are only a 20-minute drive from the Valley of the Temples, an enormous archaeological complex where you’ll find the massive Greek ruins still standing tall and proud on the horizon.

People swim in the turquoise cove at Rabbit Beach. The beach is surrounded by orange rock and there's a small island in the distance.
The natural pool at Rabbit Beach is an incredible place to swim © Davide Seddio / Getty Images

4. Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa

Frequently topping the lists of Europe’s dreamiest beaches, the island of Lampedusa is considered part of Sicily but is technically over 200km (124 mi) away and technically closer to the North African coast than it is to any European landmass. This white sandy beach doesn’t have any rabbits, but it does have fluorescent aquamarine water protected on both sides by the land that forms a natural pool.

Planning Tip: Direct flights from Lampedusa are only available from either the Palermo or Catania airport, so you will have to get to Sicily first.

5. Cala Rossa, Egadi Islands

Although the Aeolian Islands are more popular with the jet-set crowd, the Egadi Islands offer some of Sicily’s most cerulean vistas. The largest of the island trio has a mix of sandy and rocky beaches, but the most stunning view requires a bit of scramble down the trail to the rocky outcrop of Cala Rossa. It’s more like a wide, expansive cove than a beach, so you will have to sit on the rocks (and be prepared to swim in deep water), but the view is well worth the long journey. 

Detour: There are beautiful swimming spots all over Favignana, but you’ll find more accessible and family-friendly facilities and white sand at the beaches of Lido Burrone and Cala Azzurra.

Many people lounging on a sandy beach or playing in the calm sea on a sunny day
Be seen among the crowds at Mondello beach © Holger Leue / Getty Images

6. Mondello, Palermo

The beloved beach day destination of Palermitans, Mondello is a city beach that delivers beautiful water with a retro twist. In the center of the beach, the main landmark is the yellow art-noveau pavilion that dates back to the early 20th century. Two cliffs shelter the natural bay, and for a small fee, you can access the seafront trail of Capo Gallo right from town. 

Local Tip: In the summer – and especially on the weekends – Mondello can become the most crowded beach in Sicily, so do your best to go on a weekday or come early to claim your spot.

7. Isola Bella, Messina

A beach that played a pivotal role in the second season of The White Lotus, many legends surround the island connected to this rocky beach. Down the hill from the chic clifftop city of Taormina, the centerpiece of this rocky beach is its namesake island. Once privately owned by an eccentric English noblewoman, it is now a nature reserve with a small museum that you can get to by walking along the sometimes exposed, sometimes underwater path that connects the island to the mainland. 

Planning Tip: It seems like a long way to the beach from all the way up in Taormina, but there is a cable car that regularly shuttles visitors up and down the mountain until 1:30am in the summer and 8pm in the winter.

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