Caprera is the second largest island of the Maddalena Archipelago and one of the islands of Maddalena National Park, located in the northern part of Sardinia. Characterized by beautiful natural beaches and the typical Mediterranean vegetation, Caprera is also an important place in Italian history.
If you are planning a trip to the Maddalena Archipelago, you really don’t want to miss Caprera. I visited a bunch of times and I am actually planning another trip there for next summer, so I thought I’d write a short guide to help you plan your visit. Continue reading to discover everything you need to know!
You should also read my post Which Are The Islands Of Sardinia?
Table of Contents
The History Of Caprera
The name of the island, Caprera, is a clear reference to the wild goats living on the island – capra is the word for goat in Italian.
However, some researchers suggest that the name of the island derives from the Accadic word qabru (cavity or tomb), which is similar in the phonetics and even in the meaning to the Aramaic and Hebrew word kpr, the Arabic word qabr, and the Etruscan capra. This is apparently a reference to the presence of many caves on the island – which were used as tombs.
Caprera had only been inhabited only by the Romans. It was only in the 19th century that a group of shepherds chose the island as their home. Nowadays the island is still mostly uninhabited – there are only 77 registered residents according to the last census; and in fact its wild nature is still intact.
Historically, Caprera is well known for being the last abode of Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the most important figures for the Unification of Italy, when the country was divided in several small states.
Known as “the hero of the two worlds” Garibaldi was a resistance fighter, a poet, a patriot and a born leader. In the 19th century, Garibaldi fought against the Empire of Brazil and alongside Uruguay in their war against Argentina. Back in Italy, Garibaldi battled the Austrian Empire for the Italian independence.
One of his most famous feats was the conquest of the southern part of Italy, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Regno delle Due Sicilie in Italian), which at the time was under Spanish rule.
Garibaldi bought half of Caprera to build his own house, the “Casa Bianca”. There, he spent his last years with his family, working as a farmer, planting seeds and breeding horses, poultry and sheep. After his death in 1882, his family donated the house to the Italian State, which transformed it in a museum which you can actually visit.
The Best Time To Visit Caprera, Sardinia
Most people visit Caprera in the summer to enjoy the beautiful beaches and swim in its pristine waters. Last time I visited I went in July, and while it certainly was very hot, swimming made everything more pleasant.
However, Caprera is a gorgeous place to visit in spring and fall months too, when it’s also significantly less busy to the point that you can have the beaches to yourself. Spring time is perfect to enjoy the island when it is in full bloom – though the water in Sardinia will be still too cold for swimming.
If you visit during the fall, the days will be shorter, but in turn the temperature of the sea will be actually perfect for swimming so you’ll be able to make the most of Caprera, its fabulous hikes and even the beaches. October is a great month to be there.
What To See And Do In Caprera, Sardinia
As mentioned in the introduction, Caprera is mostly an un-spoilt island. Its many visitors land on the island of La Maddalena from Palau. La Maddalena town has a lovely town center with restaurants, shops and lots of accommodation options.
From La Maddalena, Caprera can be easily reached via a bridge. Precisely because of its wild nature, Caprera is a very popular destination for people who enjoy hiking, for biking enthusiasts and, of course, for those who want to spend a nice day at the sea, on a natural beach.
In general, most tourism is concentrated on the eastern part of the island, characterized by pine forests and flat terrain. The eastern part, a nature reserve, has granite rocks, Mediterranean vegetation and steep terrain.
Here are the main activities and attractions you can enjoy in Caprera, Sardinia.
Garibaldi House Museum
Giuseppe Garibaldi spent his last years of life in his house in Caprera, built after the death of his first wife, Anita, and after the fall of the Roman Republic.
The architecture of the building is reminiscent of the Brazilian fazendas, which Garibaldi’s learned to appreciate during his southern American campaigns. Therefore, the “Casa Bianca” features a simple structure made of granite and white plaster. Inside, the house is divided into eight communicating rooms, with a terrace that faces the entire archipelago.
In the museum, you can learn about Garibaldi’s daily life. After his various exploits, he had decided to lead a frugal existence, dedicating himself to farming. The furniture and memorabilia inside the house hint at the simplicity of life, an aspect decidedly at odds with Garibaldi’s worldwide fame.
In the cupboards, you can admire the typical red shirt of the Garibaldi’s army “I Mille”, and other memorabilia. Garibaldi’s room contains the bed where he died, as well as a clock stopped at 6:21 am, the time of his death on 2 June 1882.
Don’t forget to read my post The 18 Best Museums In Sardinia.
Memorial to Garibaldi
In addition to the Garibaldi Museum, Caprera also houses the Memorial to Garibaldi, specifically inside Fort Arbuticci. The fort was restored precisely to house the memorial, where it is possible to retrace the history of the Italian Unification thanks to various multimedia projects.
The memorial is divided into various exhibitions that include films, original documents, paintings, objects and busts of Garibaldi. In the museum, you can also admire a reconstruction of the Lombardo, the ship on which Garibaldi and his “Mille” sailed from Genoa to Sicily.
The geo-mineralogical nature museum of Caprera, also known as the Stagnali Museum, presents two different exhibitions, both set up in an old Navy building. It is a very interesting stop for nature and sea lovers, as you can admire samples of rocks, sands, minerals and fossils from different locations on the island of Caprera.
Among the various minerals on display, there are also samples of bertrandite and garnet crystals. The museum has a space dedicated to mineral extraction, with an exhibition of work tools, documents and photographs.
Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore
Easy to reach by car, this is one of the many fort scattered around Maddalena Archipelago. More specifically, Poggio Rasu dates back to the end of the 19th century. You will find walls, cisterns and wells, storage rooms and more.
The site is pretty much abandoned, but remains a fascinating place to visit – you can go either independently or – if you are keen on learning more – with a local guide.
Since Poggio Rasu Superiore is where the trail to Cala Brigantina starts, you can easily combine the visit of the two places.
My recommended guide to visit Poggio Rasu Superiore is Giuliano Gaio: you can reach him via whatsapp at +39 347 848 8803 – he speaks excellent English.
This is probably my favorite place on the island! Unlike Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore, Fortificazione Candeo (Candeo Fort) was built at the beginning of the 20th century so as to completely hide in the landscape.
It’s a fairly spread site, but well signposted so you can follow the path that leads you to the main landmarks. There also is a tiny cove where you can swim, so bring your swimsuit and a towel, and also bring your goggles as there’s lots of marine life.
You can only get to Fortificazione Candeo on a hike that starts from the Arbuticci Parking lot. It’s an easy to follow trail and it will take you about 25 minutes to get to the site, on a downhill path (you will have to walk back on the same trail). Make sure to bring lots of water as there really is nothing around, and wear a pair of hiking shoes.
Go on a boat tour around the island
One of the best ways of exploring Caprera is definitely by boat. Several hotels in La Maddalena will offer either taxi boat services to take you to the beaches in Caprera, or boat tours around the island and the archipelago.
Tours normally include several stops around the island, to the most famous beaches, lunch, drinks and a live guide, depending on how big the boat it.
For boat tours departing from La Maddalena, click here.
For boat tours departing from Palau or Baja Sardinia, click here.
The island of Caprera offers various opportunities for hiking enthusiasts. Given the wild nature of the island, the paths can be challenging for those not used to hiking and some hikes are not suited to families with small children.
To tackle each route, it is recommended to wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring water and snacks, a hat and sunscreen. In some cases, you will need to hire a guide.
Cala Coticcio hike
This is a 60-minute (one way) hike that starts from the area of Mount Tejalone, Caprera’s highest peak. From here, you follow a marked path to Cala Bianca, a small cove. From here, to reach Cala Coticcio, you will descend along a cliff with large rocks. The descent is a bit tricky, so it is necessary to be very careful.
This is not a hard hike and the trail is actually easy to follow, but because the beach is protected and the entire area is part of a national park, you will actually only be allowed on the trail with a guide and there is a small fee to access the trail. You can hire one on the official site of Maddalena National Park – make sure to book one well in advance if you are visiting in the summer.
Staff from the park is actually present at the main gate to the trail to make sure you are actually joining a guided hike and you have paid your entry fee.
I recommend Eleonora Amoroso: she’s an excellent local guide, speaks great English and can be contacted at +39 335 582 9321.
For more information, read my post How To Visit Cala Coticcio, Sardinia.
Mount Teialone hike
Path No. 7 in Caprera leads to the summit of Mount Teialone, located to the north of the island. The path is quite steep at the beginning and continues until the top of the mountain through a flight of steps made of blocks of rock.
The route is short along an easy to follow trail and will reward you with a breathtaking view of La Maddalena Archipelago (you can see Cala Coticcio from here) and the Gallura’s coast.
Eleonora Amoroso runs a fantastic sunset tour that includes an aperitif with local products and wine overlooking the sunset. You can get in touch with her at +39 335 582 9321.
Cala Garibaldi to Cala Napoletana hike
From Giuseppe Garibaldi’s White House, a spectacular trail leads to Cala Garibaldi, the beach where the hero moored his boats. Along the hike, you can admire the panorama of the east coast of the island of La Maddalena. From Cala Garibaldi, you can also reach other beaches, such as Cala Serena, Cala Caprarese and Cala Napoletana.
You should also read my post A Guide To Cala Napoletana, Sardinia.
Snorkeling and diving
For your visit to Caprera, don’t forget to pack your snorkeling gear. All of Caprera’s beaches have a spectacular seabed, although one of the most recommended locations is undoubtedly Cala Coticcio, where the surrounding reefs are home to a rich marine life.
As far as diving is concerned, you can book dives with the diving centers located in La Maddalena town. The dive sites on Caprera are truly impressive, including the marine canyon dive site near Cala Coticcio and the cave of San Francesco.
For a snorkeling tour of Caprera, click here.
The Best Beaches In Caprera, Sardinia
The beaches of Caprera are one of the main attractions of the island, and one of the reasons why tourists visit La Maddalena Archipelago.
Make sure to also read my post The Best Guide To La Maddalena, Sardinia.
Probably one of the most popular beaches of the Maddalena archipelago and perhaps of the whole Sardinia, Cala Coticcio is also known as Tahiti, a name earned for thanks to its emerald-blue sea. It is characterized by fine, soft sand, granite rocks and the typical Mediterranean vegetation.
These elements, combined with the sea, create a truly spectacular landscape. As you may have already read in the part of the guide dedicated to trekking, getting to Cala Coticcio is not easy. Remember that you’ll have to hike to get there and to get back. Some boat tours go to Cala Coticcio, but boats can only dock at a distance from the beach.
Spiaggia del Relitto
One of Caprera’s most popular beaches, so called because of the presence of the wreck of a boat on the beach, which was washed ashore in the 1950s. The remains of the boat and the clear sea make Spiaggia del Relitto a suggestive place, and sometimes also one of the most crowded!
Spiaggia del Relitto was awarded a Blue Flag by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education). It features fine white sand and it is surrounded by typical Mediterranean scrub.
To get there, you have to drive along a scenic two-way road that leads to a large car park. If you want to visit Spiaggia del Relitto, I recommend doing so early in the morning to secure a good spot on the beach and at the car park.
For more information, read my post A Guide To Spiaggia Del Relitto, Caprera.
Located on the north coast of the island, Cala Napoletana is a small beach with white sand bathed by crystal clear sea. The wind smoothed, pinkish-colored granite rocks meet the green Mediterranean vegetation.
Cala Napoletana features a transparent seabed that combined with the landscape, creates a unique atmosphere, especially in the late afternoon. It’s also a favorite of boars living on the island, so if you are bringing food with you make sure to store it properly and never leave it unattended, as food attracts them and they may steal your bags!
You can get to Cala Napoletana on an easy to follow trail that starts from the Arbuticci parking lot. It will take you about 40 minutes to get there. From Cala Napoletana, you can also follow a trail that takes you to the more remote Cala Caprarese.
This is one of the most secluded beaches in Caprera. You can only get there by hike, on a trail that connects Cala Garibaldi to Cala Napoletana, and can be quite tricky in parts as the signaling is not too clear. Once there, you will be able to appreciate the incredibly shallow water and chances are you will have the beach to yourself!
During his exile in Caprera, General Giuseppe Garibaldi used to moor his boats at the jetty of this small cove, hence the name Cala Garibaldi. The beach is located on the north-western coast of Caprera and features soft sand, crystal-clear waters and a shallow seabed. It is a perfect location for a family with children, as well as for snorkeling enthusiasts.
Cala Andreani, located between Caprera and La Maddalena, is a beach that can only be reached by sea, so those who do not have a private boat can rent one or book one of the many boat tours of the archipelago.
Precisely because it is impossible to access it by land, Cala Andreani is the ideal place to relax away from the crowds of tourists. Soft sand and Mediterranean vegetation meet the emerald sea with its shallow, sandy seabed.
Spiaggia dei Due Mari / Cala Portese
The Spiaggia dei Due Mari (Beach of Two Seas in English) is also known as Cala Portese and located in the southern part of Caprera.
Like the Spiaggia del Relitto beach, the Cala Portese has been awarded a Blue Flag by the FEE. It’s a nice cove with a large beach close to various services and to a parking spot, perfect for for those who prefer a place that is easy to reach.
A good alternative to the island’s other beaches, which are often only accessible via footpaths or by sea. The beach has fine sand and a turquoise sea with a mixed bottom of sand and small pebbles. There are dunes and vegetation behind but keep in mind they are protected.
There is a kiosk on the southern side, where you can rent umbrellas and loungers and get drinks and food too.
Located on the east side of Caprera, Cala Brigantina is actually made up of two small coves, with fine sand washed by the transparent sea. The beach can only be reached on a hike, but as this is a protected beach you will need a guide.
I recommend Giuliano Gaio for this: you can reach him via whatsapp at +39 347 848 8803 – he speaks excellent English.
You must also pay a small fee to the Maddalena National Park to access. You won’t be able to lay towels and place umbrellas on the beach; boats can reach the cove too but won’t be able to take you to shore.
For more information, read my post A Guide To Cala Brigantina, Sardinia: 6 Best Things To Know
How to get to Caprera
From La Maddalena
Caprera is directly connected to the island of La Maddalena through the Ponte Moneta, a 600 meter (0.37 miles) long bridge built in 1958. The bridge makes the island pretty easy to reach by car or bike if you stay in La Maddalena, or if you get to the archipelago via ferry from Palau.
Alternatively, you can get to Caprera from La Maddalena by bus. There are 2 bus lines that work from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm and that take visitors to the main beaches on the island.
If you are in mainland Sardinia, you can board the ferry in Palau – on foot, with your car, motorbike or with your bike. There are departures every 15 minutes throughout the day, and even at night.
Make sure to also read my post A Guide To Palau, Sardinia: The Best Beaches And Things To Do.
Boat tours that go to Caprera
There are also boat tours to discover the entire Maddalena Archipelago. These are usually one-day tours, often with lunch included, and include stops at the various coves around the islands of the archipelago, including, of course, those on Caprera.
Boat tours depart directly from La Maddalena tourist harbor, Palau and some also from Baja Sardinia or Cannigione, in the Costa Smeralda area.
For boat tours departing from La Maddalena, click here.
For boat tours departing from Palau or Baja Sardinia, click here.
Don’t forget to read my post The Best Boat Trips To La Maddalena.
How to move around Caprera
You can definitely drive around Caprera if you have a car – most of the roads are good, well marked if only a bit windy. I have done it myself and had no major difficulties. There are also buses that take you from La Maddalena to the main beaches.
However, the best way to move around the island is by motorbike or bike. First of all, it’s a lot of fun as the roads are incredibly panoramic. Also, since the roads are very narrow and can get jammed during the week end, when the island gets literally flooded with tourists, this is actually a bit more efficient and you won’t have issues parking either.
Alternatively, it is possible to book a minivan tour and even an e-bike tour of Caprera.
For more information on minivan tours, click here.
For information on e-bike tours, click here.
Where to sleep, eat and drink in Caprera
While there are some permanent residents in Caprera, the island has no accommodation options for tourists so most of them will base themselves in La Maddalena or Palau for their visit – I stayed at Hotel Villa del Parco in La Maddalena.
With regards to food and drinks, there are a few kiosks spread around the island where you can get a sandwich, a salad, or a full meal if you wish. There is a nice kiosk that serves simple but tasty pasta and seafood dishes at the Spiaggia del Relitto.
I also ate at Chiosco Garibaldi, a nice kiosk in the pine forest on the main road that goes around the island. They have an excellent choice of gourmet sandwiches. Finally, there’s a brand new kiosk in the parking lot of Arbuticci, where the trails to Fortificazione Candeo and Cala Napoletana start from, that serves delicious sandwiches and light meals.