Boasting more than a dozen offshore islands and over 930 miles (1500km) of coastline on the Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean seas, Sicily has beaches for every taste.

While Sicilian beaches are often of the pebbly variety, with fewer sandy expanses than other Mediterranean hotspots, the coastal scenery here is some of Europe’s most dramatic, with deep-blue, turquoise, and emerald green waters framed by rugged rocky outcrops; swimming conditions are at their best from June to early October.

Whether you're in search of shallow waters perfect for little paddlers or isolated swathes of sand you can enjoy all to yourself, here's our pick of some of the best beaches in Sicily.

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

Bask on Spiaggia di Cefalù

Best beach for families

Cefalù's long crescent of soft, golden sand is a dreamy place to spend a day… or a week. Basking here in the sun, gazing across the blue-green waters at the palm-fringed medieval cathedral backed by craggy cliffs, you may just be seduced into staying longer than expected.

The calm, warm waters – perfect for families with kids – coupled with Cefalù’s proximity to Palermo (an hour away by train) make this one of Sicily’s perennial favorites. The town also boasts an enchanting historic center, making for atmospheric strolling and gelato shopping when dinnertime rolls around.

In summer it gets crowded, so get here early to snag a prime spot. The section of beach closest to the old town is public.

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People climbing on a smooth wave of white rocks at the edge of the sea
A dramatic staircase-like rock formation backs the beautiful Scala dei Turchi © mikyso / Getty Images

Marvel at Scala dei Turchi's alabaster beauty

Best beach for scenery

Named Scala dei Turchi for the Arab pirates (colloquially known as "Turks") who, according to legend, hid out here in stormy weather, this blindingly white, staircase-like rock formation is Sicily’s most dazzling beach backdrop.

Enjoy this glowing white geologic spectacle from the adjoining sands and wait for the ethereal glow at sunset. Set a good example for others by not climbing on or walking across the rocks as they are very fragile.

The expansive Torre Salsa beach, with grassy dunes in the foreground and a white headland in the far distance. The sand is golden and the water is dark blue.
Get a huge expanse of beach all to yourself at Torre Salsa © R. Carnovalini / DeAgostini / Getty Images

Get away from the crowds at Torre Salsa

Best beach for solitude

Most people traveling between the superstar Greek ruins of Agrigento and Selinunte don’t even notice the turnoff for Torre Salsa beach – and that’s a good thing! Despite being one of Sicily’s prettiest, this long stretch of golden sand, backed by white cliffs, remains remarkably secluded. Yes, you do have to navigate a rugged unpaved road to get here, but once you arrive, you won’t have any trouble finding a tranquil place to lay your towel.

The surrounding Riserva Naturale Torre Salsa, administered by the World Wildlife Fund, offers some nice trails with sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and coast; excellent walking tours with WWF naturalists are available if you book ahead.

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

Join the "it" crowd at Mondello beach

Best beach for nostalgia buffs

When summer rolls around, Palermo’s entire population packs a beach towel and a pair of D&G shades and heads almost 7 miles (11km) north to this popular 1.5-km-long (1mi) strip of white sand sandwiched between the handsome rocky promontories of Monte Pellegrino and Monte Gallo. In fact, Mondello has been the darling of Palermo’s see-and-be-seen crowd since the early 20th century, when a local aristocrat drained the surrounding swamplands and launched the fad of building Art Nouveau villas by the waterfront.

Nowadays the ultimate landmark for nostalgia buffs is the Antico Stabilimento Balneare, a gargantuan turn-of-the-century bathhouse whose pale yellow facade and perky turrets rise photogenically from the grand Art Nouveau pier at the center of the beach. For a splurge, you can dine here, with the elegant Alle Terrazze restaurant boasting gorgeous views of the water and surrounding headlands.

Amidst the toney beach clubs, there is also a wide swath of public beach crammed with swimmers and noisy jet skis. 

An aerial view of Isola Bella beach - a thin strip of white sand connecting the mainland to a small rocky island surrounded by shallow turquoise water.
The clear waters around Isola Bella beach are perfect for snorkeling © Romas_Photo / Shutterstock

Explore the bays of Isola Bella

Best beach for snorkeling

As photogenic a cove as you’ll find anywhere in the Med, Isola Bella boasts a prime location just 10 minutes by cable car from the chic hilltop resort of Taormina. Named after the adjacent island nature reserve, it’s reached from the main road via a long staircase and is popular with Italians who come to sunbathe here.

The semi-circular beach is rocky rather than sandy (bring footwear and follow the locals’ lead by renting a sun lounger) but the water is blissfully translucent, and there’s great snorkeling just offshore. You can also hire a boat and pootle around the rocky bays. The site was once home to gardener and conservationist Florence Trevelyan; it’s her house that sits in silent solitude on top of the rocky islet.

Valle Muria beach: a curving rocky beach surrounded by a grassy headland. Two bathers swim in the shallow water.
Valle Muria beach is surrounded by dramatic scenery © Federica Grassi / Moment Open / Getty Images

Take in the views above Spiaggia Valle Muria

Best beach for boat touring

Surrounded by sheer cliffs, Spiaggia Valle Muria on the southwestern shore of Lipari is among the Aeolian Islands’ most dramatically beautiful swimming and sunbathing spots. Buses from Lipari Town will drop you at the spectacular Quattrocchi (four eyes) viewpoint. Stretching off to the south, great cliffs plunge into the sea, while in the distance plumes of sinister smoke rise from the dark heights of neighboring Vulcano.

From the viewpoint, backtrack 980ft (300m) to a signposted turn-off and walk 25 minutes steeply downhill to the dark, pebbly beach. On lovely days, look for the congenial, wild-haired Barni, who sells refreshments from his rustic cave-like beach bar and provides scenic boat transfers back to Lipari’s Marina Corta dock at day’s end. Navigating through the towering sea stacks off Lipari’s western shore at sunset is the perfect ending to a long day in the sun.

Colorful beach umbrellas cover the sand; the water is a clear and pale turquoise
Relax on the protected nature reserve of Spiaggia dei Conigli on the island of Lampedusa © Natursports / Shutterstock

Journey to Lampedusa's remote Spiaggia dei Conigli

Best beach for white sand

Lapped by iridescent turquoise seas, this sandy beauty in the remote Pelagic Islands regularly wins awards as one of the world's finest beaches. The catch? Lampedusa is closer to Africa than to the Sicilian "mainland", meaning that you’ll need a flight or a four-hour hydrofoil trip to get here.

Those who make the journey to Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) will be rewarded with a stunning arc of white sand, with crystal-clear, shallow waters for splashing or lolling about. The entire cove is protected within a 12-hectare nature reserve, which means that no boats can enter, making it one of Italy's most pristine beaches.

The beach is one of the few places in Italy where Caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtles) lay their eggs and is strictly off-limits at night during peak nesting season (typically between May and August; watch for signs advising of current restrictions). 

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This article was first published July 2019 and updated November 2021

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