Cala Mariolu, in the Gulf of Orosei, is one of Sardinia’s most famous beaches. This is a place of mesmerizing beauty; a (well-known) lost paradise that is quite the perfect spot to spend a day in the summer months.
This is a very isolated beach: you can only get there by boat, or via a very challenging hike. Yet, its fame is such that it’s never empty. Go during the peak summer months and you’ll struggle to find a spot to lay your towel. However, this should not put you off from visiting: the crowds hardly take away from its beauty!
In this post, I share all the useful information to plan your visit to Cala Mariolu, with tips on how to get there and make the most of it.
Everything You Need To Know About Cala Mariolu Beach
Cala Mariolu Beach
Locally known as is pùligi de nie (the snow flees) because of the tiny white pebbles mixed to bright white sand, Cala Mariolu is actually named after the monk seasl that used to live in the region (in the famous Grotte del Bue Marino, known in English as Sea Oxen Grotto) which local fishermen nicknamed “mariolo” (thief) as they’d steal their catch of the day on a regular basis.
This is a small beach, divided into two small coves and surrounded by 500-meters high cliffs on both sides. Water is almost immediately deep, but as the beach is nicely sheltered from the wind, currents are minimal, making it a safe place to swim and snorkel. In fact, you can visit several small nearby caves just a quick swim away.
The northernmost cove is where boats carrying visitors dock – they usually stop by a large rock known as “sa perda ‘e su saltatori” – the rock of the person that jumps. In fact, that massive rock is the perfect spot to jump directly into the crystal clear waters.
It’s not uncommon to spot dolphins swimming offshore. The beach is also a good birdwatching place. On a lucky day, you may be able to spot golden eagles, peregrine falcons, Eleonora’s falcons and even European shags.
How to get to Cala Mariolu
There is no easy access to Cala Mariolu – and you’d imagine that it’d be unknown to most because of that. But alas… here’s how to get there.
You can charter you own rubber dinghy in either Cala Gonone or Santa Maria Navarrese. Prices for a full day rental (from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm, by which you have to be back at the harbor) vary based on season and range between €100 and €250 for the day, not including fuel. Ask for a boat with a shade or parasol for the peak hours.
Boat services to Cala Mariolu depart daily at various times from Cala Gonone – the closes access point – Arbatax and Santa Maria Navarrese. You can opt for to go on a beach hopping trip that stops at the various beaches in the gulf (in which case, join a private tour as it’s much faster and with less people), or opt to visit just Cala Mariolu, in which case you will be stopping at other beaches for other people to get off before you reach Cala Mariolu.
The price of boat rides varies between €35 and €50 per person depending on the season.
These boat tours can be bought online:
- Cala Goloritze boat tour – departing from Santa Maria Navarrese, it actually goes to a selection of beaches in the area, including Cala Mariolu.
- Orosei gulf hop on – hop off boat tour – similar to the one above, but it departs from Cagliari.
Make sure to read my posts The Best Boat Tours From Cala Gonone and The Best Gulf Of Orosei Boat Tour.
On a hike
The hike to Cala Mariolu is very challenging and you should only do it if you are an experienced hiker, confident in your step and ready for some abseiling bits. The trail starts in Località Piredda, in the Golgo Plateau, about 45 minutes drive from Baunei.
Here are some technical data you may find useful:
DISTANCE – 6 km one way.
WALKING TIME – About 3 hours.
ASCENT – 100 meters uphill; 560 meters downhill.
The trail isn’t well marked in places. You should plan to travel back to Santa Maria Navarrese – the best access point to the Baunei and the Golgo Plateau – by boat, as going back up is even more challenging!
TIP: You really do need hiking shoes for this hike.
Check out my post The Best Hikes In Sardinia.
Other useful information and advice
To make the most of your time in Cala Mariolu, here are some useful tips.
GO EARLY – If you are chartering your own private boat, make it a point to get to Cala Mariolu no later than 8:30 am, to be able to admire it when it’s still empty.
BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS – Cala Mariolu can get extremely crowded in the peak summer months. Be polite to others – try not to get on top of them with your towel or umbrella, even if it’s easier said than done!
WATCH OUT WHEN JUMPING FROM THE ROCKS – The water is deep enough to safely jump, but make sure there is nobody in your way.
BRING WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE DAY – There is nothing in the way of services in Cala Mariolu. You will need to bring food and water for the day, and an umbrella for shade.
DON’T TAKE SAND – There is no actual sand in Cala Mariolu – just tiny white-as-snow pebbled. You can’t take them – not unless you are ok getting a fine, in case you get caught. They will check your bags at the airport or harbor to search for that. Don’t say I did not warn you! Read more about this topic here.
TAKE YOUR TRASH BACK WITH YOU – There are no trash bins in Cala Mariolu. Bring all your garbage home with you – including cigarette butts.
THERE’S NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY – And no phone signal. Keep this in mind!
Other nearby beaches and points of interest
Cala Mariolu is located in the Gulf of Orosei, home of some of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia. Here are the ones you may want to visit:
CALA FUILI – North of Cala Mariolu, this is the last beach you will be able to reach by car from Cala Gonone, and where the hike to Cala Luna starts.
GROTTE DEL BUE MARINO – The Sea Oxen Grotto are accessible by boat and among the best known caves in Sardinia. Another cave closer to Cala Mariolu that you may want to check is Grotta del Fico.
CALA LUNA – Known for being the set of many movies, it’s accessible by boat or on a hike departing from Cala Fuili. You can read more about it in my post An Easy Guide To Cala Luna.
CALA BIRIOLA – Quite similar to Cala Mariolu, it can be reached by boat or on a very challenging hike that requires abseiling too.
PISCINE DI VENERE (VENUS POOLS) – A stretch of transparent, turquoise water.
CALA DEI GABBIANI – Similar to the the other beaches in the gulf, you can get there by boat or on a difficult hike.
CALA SISINE – This lovely beach is found at the end of a ravine which was once a river bed. It can be reached by boat or on an easy hike. You can read more about it in my post A Quick Guide To Cala Sisine.
CALA GOLORITZE’ – One of the most famous beaches in Sardinia thanks to the famous Pinnacle that is a paradise for rock climbers, boats don’t go there – you can only access it on a hike departing from the Golgo Plateau. You can read more about it in my post A Useful Guide To Cala Goloritzé.
Where to stay to easily access Cala Mariolu
The best place to stay to access Cala Mariolu by boat is definitely Cala Gonone. Alternatively, you can also stay in Santa Maria Navarrese
For places to stay in Cala Gonone, click here.
For accommodation in Santa Maria Navarrese, click here.
To hike to Cala Mariolu, your best access point is the Golgo Plateau. The best place to stay there is the Rifugio Cooperativa Goloritzé.
Traveling to Sardinia? Make sure to read my other posts:
- A Useful Guide To Cala Zafferano
- A Complete Guide To Mari Pintau
- A Complete Guide To Masua Pan Di Zucchero Beach
- A Quick Guide To Is Arutas Beach
- The Best Beaches In Sardinia
- Where To Go Surfing In Sardinia
- A Quick Guide To La Pelosa, Stintino
- A Complete Guide To Villasimius, Sardinia
- A Useful Guide To Porto Giunco, Sardinia
- The Inside Scoop & Best Kept Secrets: Costa Rei In Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To Diving In Sardinia
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia