The beaches of Malta tend to be dramatic, rocky and sea-sculpted, with fewer soft and sandy curves of Mediterranean coastline than you might expect. Despite this, the Maltese make the most of every swimming spot, and on these compact islands, water sports abound, and you're never far from the sea.

With crystalline waters, historic wrecks, and interesting underwater formations, Malta is also Europe’s best diving destination, but even snorkeling from the island nation's coastline offers a remarkable insight into an underwater world.

Whether you're keen on splashing around in the waves, spending an afternoon relaxing on the sand, or enjoying a leisurely lunch of local seafood, here are the beaches to head to on Malta, and its smaller sister islands of Gozo and Comino.

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Malta's Blue Lagoon, a beach with shallow turquoise water, in which a few people swim while others sit on the sand. Further out a few boats are moored.
The Blue Lagoon snags the top spot for Malta's best swimming spot © Emma Shaw / Lonely Planet

Blue Lagoon, Comino

Best beach for swimming

Beating many strong contenders, Comino’s Blue Lagoon snags the title of Malta's top swimming spot. Ringed by rocks and framed by gleaming white sand, Comino's limpid and sheltered inland sea glows periwinkle bright, and it's a heavenly place to swim. The only caveat is that the Blue Lagoon is definitely not a secret, so in high season you’ll be sharing the pool with a few hundred others. A better option is to skip the hordes by taking a boat trip here in the afternoon after many people have left for the day.

A sweeping view of Golden Bay in Malta with large waves lapping the beach, which is packed with sunbathers. In the distance a few hotels are perched on the top of the hill
Overlooked by a strip of hotels, Golden Bay is one of Malta's prettiest and most popular beaches © telesniuk / Shutterstock

Golden Bay, Malta

Best beach for soft sand

Malta and Gozo don’t offer many big sandy beaches, but there are a few gems. Golden Bay, on Malta’s northwestern coast, arguably the most beautiful, is a wide curve of orange-gold sand that shelves gently into the dark-blue Mediterranean. This is a place to lie down on the island's softest sand, mull over the watersports and boat trips on offer, or peruse the menus of nearby restaurants overlooking the bay.

Tourists gather on the beach at Mellieha Bay, Malta
Mellieha Bay is a playground for water sports and active family fun © Peter Thompson / Heritage Images / Getty Images

Mellieħa Bay

Best beach for watersports

You’re never far from a watersports provider in Malta. For variety, Mellieħa Bay is one of the best beaches for messing about on the water, with windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing, canoeing, banana boating or parasailing all on offer. This is Malta’s largest sandy beach and has a reliable northeasterly breeze that makes it ideal for wind-based water sports. Other top choices for water sports include Xlendi, Marsalforn and Golden Bay.

Wied il- Għasri in Malta is a narrow 'river' of sea water, running from the sea to a small sandy beach. In this image, two snorkellers swim through the narrow passage, with steep rock faces on either side of them
Malta is a dreamland for those who love to snorkel © Florian Augustin / Shutterstock

Wied il-Għasri

Best beach for snorkeling

Snorkelers note: Malta is underwater heaven. On the Gozo coast, Wied il-Għasri is a coastal chasm that creates a narrow river of seawater, finishing in a tiny sand and shingle beach. You access the beach via a staircase hacked into the rock. Some of Malta’s finest snorkeling can be had by launching off into the channel, although it’s best avoided in rough weather. Other prime snorkeling spots include the rocky inlet of Mgarr ix-Xini, the natural sea pool of Għar Lapsi, and Gozo's Blue Hole. If scuba is more your thing, there are plenty of diving centers; a popular spot for diving is the Blue Hole near Gozo's Dwejra Bay.

The bay and cliffs at Fomm ir-rih on Malta
Fomm ir-rih is remote, inaccessible, and peaceful © scimmery / Shutterstock

Fomm ir-Riħ

Best beach for peace and quiet

Fomm ir-Riħ is Malta’s most remote and inaccessible beach, and its name means the ‘mouth of the wind’. It’s accessed from close to the small town of Baħrija on the northwestern Maltese coast. A steep and sometimes tricky path leads down to the beach, a walk of around 20 minutes. Such difficulty brings rewards, however, and if you’re looking for peace and quiet, gin-clear water, and magnificent coastal views, this is the beach for you. If the scramble down doesn’t appeal, you can always approach by boat.

Għajn Tuffieħa

Best beach for sunbathing

Neighbor to popular Golden Bay, and sharing the same lovely outlook and soft, silky, butterscotch-colored sand, Għajn Tuffieħa is a quieter choice for sun-worshipping. Unlike Golden Bay, it's not backed by hotels, and the slightly longer walk to get there also helps to thin out the crowds. When all you want to do is lie in the sun and occasionally cool off in the sea, this is an ideal choice. Other great suntraps include the rocks around St Peter’s Pool and the remote peace and tranquility of Fomm ir-Riħ.

An aerial shot of Ramla Bay, with its terracotta-coloured sand and pale, light-blue waters
Ramla Bay is a great choice for families © Petroos / Getty Images

Ramla Bay

Best beach for families

Easily accessible by bus and car, the terracotta-colored sands of Gozo's Ramla Bay are backed by a restaurant that hires out umbrellas and sunbeds. The beach slopes gently into the water, the views up across the hills are delightful, and there’s a scramble up to Calypso’s Cave to consider if anyone’s getting bored. Ramla Bay is one of Malta’s best family beaches, although Golden Bay, Mellieħa Bay and Paradise Bay are also worthy contenders for the title.

Mġarr ix-Xini

Best beach for lunch

Reached via a narrow, winding road, Gozo's Mġarr ix-Xini (Port of the Galleys) was once the island's main harbor for the Knights of St John, and the rocky bay's pebbled beach is now the location of quite possibly Malta's most laid-back beachside restaurant. Service at the ten-table Rew Rew can sometimes be a little too relaxed, but lunch plates overflowing with seafood – including excellent calamari – and salad and homemade potato chips, make the experience all worthwhile. Try to visit on a weekday for a shot at securing a spot in the adjacent car park, or charter a boat around the coast from Xlendi or Mġarr harbor.

Groups of people relax on the rocks surrounding St Peter's Pool, a naturally formed sea pool
On a hot day, there's nothing more refreshing than jumping from the rocks into St Peter’s Pool © trabantos / Shutterstock

St Peter’s Pool

Best natural swimming pool

Natural swimming pools, sea-sculpted from the coastal rock, are a scenic summer highlight in Malta. Located on the southeastern coast, St Peter’s Pool is one of the loveliest – a ladle-shaped scoop out of the rock that forms a sheltered lagoon for a swim, after which you can bask seal-like on the surrounding rocks. Nearby, and usually much quieter, is the swimming hole at Il-Kalanka Bay. Note the platform for jumping into the water at Il-Kalanka is higher than at St Peter's, so extra care should be taken. 

Also worthy of special mention is Għar Lapsi, a rocky inlet that lies at the base of Malta's Dingli Cliffs. It's popular with snorkelers, divers, and especially children who like leaping into the sea from the rocks. Offering brilliant views of Għar Lapsi's rocky cove, Carmen's Bar & Restaurant is another top spot for a relaxed meal.

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This article was first published July 2019 and updated May 2022

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