Although I have been to La Maddalena Archipelago and Caprera Island countless times, I only visited Cala Brigantina during my last trip. I actually went there twice – once by boat and once on a hike – and loved it, so I thought I’d share with you all the information you need to visit.
Cala Brigantina is a tiny cove located in the eastern part of Caprera Island, one of the islands of La Maddalena Archipelago (and of the La Maddalena National Park) in north-eastern Sardinia.
Caprera is well known for its natural beauty and for having been the place where Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian unification hero, lived the last years of his life and where he died in 1882.
Cala Brigantina is lesser known and not nearly as popular as other beaches in Caprera, such as Cala Coticcio, Cala Napoletana or Spiaggia Del Relitto, but it definitely has its own charm and peculiarities.
Make sure to read this entire post. Cala Brigantina is a protected beach and you can’t go there independently. Don’t worry though. Here I will explain everything you need to know.
You should also read my post A Guide To Caprera Island, Sardinia: 8 Best Beaches And More.
Table of Contents
What You Must Know About Cala Brigantina
Cala Brigantina Beach
There are two small coves you can visit at Cala Brigantina: the main one, which is the one you get to via the hike (more about that in a bit); and the smaller one which is slightly detached from the main one and can be reached by walking over the rocks or by swimming.
The sand at Cala Brigantina is light-colored and fine the cove is surrounded by granite rocks and a dense Mediterranean scrub. The sea is incredibly clear and transparent, with colors ranging from turquoise to emerald green and cobalt blue; the seabed is shallow and sandy.
Cala Brigantina is sheltered from the winds and compared to other beaches in Caprera Island it is little frequented even during the summer months, partly because it can only be accessed on foot and with a guide or by boat – so it is a true oasis of peace.
Services at Cala Brigantina
Since this is a protected beach, you won’t find anything here in terms of facilities. You will need to bring everything you need for your time at the beach.
Bring water and snacks, sun lotion and a straw beach mat (the latter is mandatory if you want to sit on the sandy shore), and a towel (which however you aren’t allowed to lay on the sand); and everything else you might need.
Keep in mind that beach umbrellas are not allowed, so you’ll be exposed to the sun for as long as you stay at the beach. Make sure to bring a hat!
The hike to Cala Brigantina
The only way to get to Cala Brigantina is via a guided hike or during a boat tour (more about that in a bit). There is no direct road access to Cala Brigantina.
Hiking to Cala Brigantina
You’ll begin the tour by visiting Poggio Raso Superiore Fort, an abandoned military fort built at the end of 1800. This was the largest fortification (around six hectares) of Caprera and now is completely integrated with the Mediterranean scrub.
Poggio Rasu Superiore was the center of sighting and placement of cannons to fire against enemies approaching from the sea. It is located on a hill at around 100 meters (roughly 329 feet) above sea level.
During the visit, you will see the rooms where the dynamite was kept and the rails by which the explosives were transported. The view of the coast from the fort is stunning. Poggio Rasu Inferiore, the lower part of the fort, is where the barracks, storerooms, kitchens, infirmaries, dead ends and tunnels were located.
The trail to walk to Cala Brigantina starts from Poggio Rasu Superiore fort (hence why the fort is normally included in the visit). The hike is completely downhill on the way to the beach, and takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
You will be walking along the same trail (and uphill) on the way back. The hike back up should take around 20 minutes.
The hike is fairly easy and even accessible to children – though not infants. The trail is well marked, but the terrain can be uneven in parts so you really should wear hiking shoes or boots – sandals and flip flops are not recommended at all.
The guide will stop several times for shade and to point out vegetation and wildlife. You will get to spend between 2 and 2.5 hours at the beach, which is plenty of time to relax, snorkel and see the seabed and fish of the protected area. You might see sea breams, sea urchins, gilthead breams, sea stars, octopuses, morays and much more. Please do not touch any of them.
Make sure to bring a straw mat in case you may wish to sit or lay on the sand – it’s forbidden to lay towels directly on the sand, as they normally carry away a lot of sand! Before leaving the beach make sure to shake your straw mat well to avoid taking back with you even the smallest amount of sand.
Guided hikes to Cala Brigantina depart between 8:30 and 9:00 am (back between 1:30 and 2:00 pm) and at 02:30 pm (back at 6:30 pm).
Picking a guide
While the trail to Cala Brigantina is well marked and easy to follow, you will need a guide for the hike. This is because Cala Brigantina is a highly protected beach: only a limited number of visitors are allowed every day, and guides make sure that everyone respect the rules and the beach remains as pristine as possible.
You can find the list of guides approved by La Maddalena National Park on the national park website here. The list will show the guide’s name, email address and phone number. You can send them an email or call them, however I recommend using whatsapp as a means of communication if you can, as that is significantly quicker than sending emails.
I suggest getting in touch with a guide a week or two before your intended day of visiting, because admission to the cove is limited and the guides of the national park may be busy, especially in July and August.
When I visited, I opted for a local guide (residence is reported on the list) because I personally preferred someone who lives on the island and knows it well. I recommend Giuliano Gaio, who speaks very good English too. You can find him at +393478488803 or send an email to [email protected]. The guided hike costs about €20 to €25 per person – but make sure to ask for the fee upon making your reservation.
What I truly liked about Giuliano is that he is a very friendly person, he has in depth knowledge of the the flora and fauna of the area, he shared everything about the Poggio Rasu Fort which is visited as part of the hike and he is available to answer any questions. His love for the island is truly visible in the way he talks about it!
I also really appreciated how much Giuliano cares about preserving the beauty and sustaining the ecosystem of the park.
Paying the National Park admission fee
In addition to the guided hike, you also need to pay a small fee to access the National Park. You will have to do this about 48 hours prior to the hike, once everything is confirmed with the guide. The admission fee is €3.00 per person; children up to 12 years old do not have to pay the ticket.
Paying the national park admission fee is easy. Here is how to do it:
- Go to the PagoPa payment system website – this is the site we use to make payment to anything related to the public administration.
- Click on “Ticket Ingresso Cala Brigantina”.
- You will be taken to a page where you will have to specify how much you are paying (which depends on the size of the group); what you are paying for (just write Cala Brigantina + day, month, year of visit) and your name. You can tick the button “non si conosce il codice fiscale del versante” since you are not a resident of Italy.
After having paid and once the receipt is ready, you’ll receive an email. Download your receipt as you need to show it to the guide on the day of the tour. Keep in mind that tickets are valid only for the specific day and time of your guided hike and cannot be refunded in case of you decide not to go.
You may be subjected to a fine if you don’t pay the national park admission fee and if you hike to the beach without a guide.
Where to park to access the trail
The starting point of the hike to Cala Brigantina is Poggio Rasu Superiore fort. You can reach the meeting place by bike, motorbike or car.
From La Maddalena Town, where you will likely be staying, you need to follow directions to Caprera. Cross the bridge that connects La Maddalena to Caprera, continue straight and, at the first crossroads, turn right then immediately left.
At the first intersection with another paved road turn right again and you will easily reach the Opera di Poggio Rasu inferiore. You can park there and continue on foot till Poggio Rasu superiore.
Phone reception in the area is actually good, so you can simply look for the place on your GPS and it will guide you there. If you have any issues finding it, call your guide as he (or she) will be happy to find you and guide you to a good parking spot.
Boat tours that go to Cala Brigantina
Cala Brigantina can also be reached by boat. There are boat tours of La Maddalena Archipelago departing regularly from La Maddalena, Palau or Cannigione that stop at Cala Brigantina every day. No boats will take you directly to the beach – there is no docking spot – but they will dock nearby and you can swim to the shore.
When I visited Cala Brigantina by boat I joined a half-day zodiac tour operated through Villa del Parco Hotel, where I was staying. The tour departs from La Maddalena tourist harbor and also picks up passengers in Palau.
I booked it directly through the hotel when I was there already. I know they take external guests. Unfortunately the site does not mention the price of the excursion, but you can email them at [email protected] to enquire.
Alternatively, I recommend this private boat tour around Caprera Island that departs from Cannigione and also makes a stop in Cala Brigantina and Cala Coticcio. It is a fairly expensive tour, so it makes sense to do it if you can share it with other people.
You should also read my post The Best Boat Trips To La Maddalena.
If you prefer you can rent a rubber dinghy from one of the companies mentioned on La Maddalena National Park website here. Ask the company for more information on how far you need to drop the anchor in Cala Brigantina.
Simple rules to follow when visiting Cala Brigantina
I’m sure you’ll love the peace and the nature of Cala Brigantina. To keep this tiny cove as magical as it currently is, please follow a few simple rules to help protect its delicate ecosystem (and to avoid a fine):
DON’T PLACE UMBRELLAS – Don’t ever bother taking one with you, as placing it is anyways forbidden. You can find some shelter from the sun close to the rock formations and under the trees. Bring plenty of sunscreen with you.
When we got to the beach, a couple was already there: they had descended without a guide (which is forbidden) and planted their umbrella. The guide told them that they could not stay as they had not paid the ticket or hired a guide, and that they were contravening the rules by planting an umbrella. He gave them 15 minutes to leave the beach. Thankfully, they did not challenge him and left soon afterwards. Don’t be this person! Don’t set a bad example!
USE A STRAW MAT – Don’t lay your towels directly on the sand but put them on the straw mats to avoid carrying away the precious sand. Before you leave shake the mat strongly.
DO NOT STEAL SAND – Taking sand with you is actually forbidden in Cala Brigantina and anywhere else in Sardinia. You may receive a fine if you are caught with it (and trust me, police officers at customs and security in airports and harbors search for that specifically!).
TAKE ONLY MEMORIES – It’s absolutely forbidden to pick up flowers and plants; it is also forbidden to catch (and even simply touch) fish, marine stars or jelly fish and to harass animals that live in the area such as boars and goats.
PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF – There are no trash cans at the beach. Take any trash you may have with you and dispose of it once back. Any waste, and especially plastic waste, harms the environment and takes years to get decomposed. Remember we do separate and recycle in Sardinia.
LEAVE YOUR PETS AT HOME – Unfortunately dogs can’t access Cala Brigantina.