Costa Rei is a magical place. Situated on the southeast coast of the Italian island of Sardinia, approximately a one hour drive from Cagliari, Costa Rei is where the mermaids live. Kidding! But seriously, I did already say that Costa Rei is magic. These world-renowned balmy beaches dwell in the realm of the astounding.
As a local, born and raised on the island of Sardinia, I have been taking trips to Costa Rei since I was a newborn. We would camp right on the beach and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves lapping the soft, sandy shore. As the years rolled by, we rented a holiday house, and later on, we actually invested in a property as a family. To this day, my parents spend five months a year in Costa Rei.
Since Costa Rei is, in fact, my home away from home, I’m eager to share all the best-kept secrets of Costa Rei and to get you all as excited to visit Costa Rei as I feel each time I step foot on the shore.
Ready to deep dive into my Costa Rei guide and all the best things to do and see in Costa Rei? Let’s go!
The Top Things To See And Do In Costa Rei
Take Pleasure in The Balmy Beaches
Costa Rei Beach
The main beach in Costa Rei sure doesn’t have a complicated name to remember— it’s simply Costa Rei Beach. With 12 kilometers of powdery, golden sand and crystal-clear waters, Costa Rei is a slice of paradise. That being said, Costa Rei Beach does get quite windy, so you may want to tuck yourself into one of the coves on Costa Rei Beach to get some protection from the wind.
There are limited parking lots available sprinkled at various points along the 12-kilometer strip of beach. Some parking lots allow access to the beach for those with strollers or wheelchairs, while others are only small foot trails.
You’ll find a variety of kiosks and shops selling snacks, meals, and beverages all along the shore. There are also vendors where you can rent umbrellas and beach equipment. Moreover, some booths organize activities like boat trips to nearby islands; if you’re feeling adventurous, I definitely recommend a boat trip. I’ll circle back to that topic later!
PRO-TIP: Sadly, dogs are not allowed at the main beach in Costa Rei. However, you may randomly encounter a family that has a dog in tow. If they’re sneaky and don’t get kicked out— more power to them! Your best bet for visiting a dog-friendly beach is Tiliguerta – there is a camping site and access to the beach, which welcomes all of our four-legged furry friends! You don’t have to be a guest to go.
Santa Giusta Beach
Santa Giusta Beach is one of the best beaches in Costa Rei and a favorite of locals and tourists. There are two different focal areas of Santa Giusta Beach – the crowded resort side that allows access to a megalithic rock called Peppino’s Rock (Scoglio di Peppino), and the other side, which is a small, lovely cove protected from the wind and is more remote. My favorite spot is to get a blissful dose of privacy by tucking myself into the cove and steering clear of the buzz of hundreds of tourists— but to each their own!
PRO-TIP: Make your way to Santa Giusta by following the signs directing you to Santa Giusta: the signs are located near the villas and the resorts. Santa Giusta has one main, large parking lot that is the only place you can legally park your car. Police patrol the area, and unfortunately, they do give out a lot of fines to those who don’t park in the designated parking lot. Avoid the fine and park in the parking area. The walk to the beach from legit parking is only about 500 meters— no sweat, friends!
Monte Turno (Castiadas)
Monte Turno is one of the most scenic beaches – and yes, one of the best beaches in Costa Rei. Just a bit south of Sant’Elmo—one of the top resorts in Costa Rei— sits a small cove with wonderfully crystal-clear water and unique rock formations standing like sentinels on both sides of the cove. That means that Monte Turno is one of the best places in Costa Rei to go snorkeling! Plus, it’s an Instagram shot just waiting to happen (and waiting to make your friends drool)!
Since it is such a spectacular spot, Monte Turno gets fairly crowded during the summer’s peak tourist season. Given that it is a cove, it is also protected from the wind— so it’s a great spot to hunker down during one of those wickedly windy days!
As a heads-up, there is only one kiosk on the beach called Iki Beach; it serves snacks, very light meals, and drinks. They also rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
PRO-TIP: Find your way to Monte Turno by driving south on SP18 for about five kilometers from Costa Rei. There will be a small sign that directs you towards Monte Turno beach, so keep your eyes peeled! Also, note that you will have to make a turn so sharp that it’s almost a U-turn. Drive slowly!
Cala Sinzias (Castiadas)
Located just ten minutes south of Costa Rei by car, Cala Sinzias is one of my favorite beaches in Costa Rei. It has powdery white sand and turquoise-blue waters. The genuine beauty of Cala Sinzias beach still makes my heart flutter.
It’s important to be aware that the water at Cala Sinzias is immediately quite deep! While anyone is fine to hang out on the soft sands, I wouldn’t recommend this beach for swimming if you are not a confident swimmer. You don’t have to be a strong swimmer necessarily, but you do need to be able to tread water and swim.
The beach is spotless, there’s almost always a lifeguard on duty, and it’s very easily accessible… that’s the recipe for a very crowded beach! Plus, there are many kiosks at Cala Sinzias that sell snacks, drinks, food, and beach rentals. Cala Sinzias definitely gets busy during peak summer season.
PRO-TIP: Take the SP18 south from Costa Rei and follow the road until you see the sign directing you to Cala Sinzias. Even though there are multiple access points to Cala Sinzias, parking is quite limited. Don’t leave your car on the main road, though, because police patrols are eager to ticket cars with big fines!
Cala Pira (Castiadas)
Lying farther south from Cala Sinzias, still only a 15-minute drive from Costa Rei, Cala Pira is a heavenly beach. It has shallow, transparent waters, which makes it a favorite spot for families. Also, there’s a lifeguard on duty— another reason why families love this beach! Standing tall at one end of Cala Pira is an Aragonese watchtower, which is a real treat to keep in your peripheral.
There is a kiosk on site serving light meals – nothing fancy or huge, but very pleasant and tasty snacks. This kiosk also rents out all the beach gear you could possibly need. The parking lot is large, and the beach is quite close to the lot.
PRO-TIP: From Costa Rei, start on the SP18 and continue along it until you spot the sign that directs you to Cala Pira. You’ll definitely need to drive slowly, as the sign is small and you could easily miss it!
GOOD TO KNOW: The video above was filmed by my cousin last summer, when dolphins showed up in Cala Pira. I can’t say that you will get to see them if you go there – but it is nice to know that these beautiful animals roam the waters of Sardinia.
Portu de S’Illixi and Cala sa Figu (Muravera)
Right here, dear readers, I’m about to share the best-kept beach secrets of Portu de S’Illixi and Cala sa Figu. These blissfully peaceful beaches stay relatively uncrowded, even during peak summer season. They are adjacent to each other and aren’t as easily accessed by the road as the other beaches I’ve mentioned. To get from the road to the beach takes a bit of a walk over uneven terrain, and the roads aren’t that well marked, but if you’re looking for a more private beach experience, Portu de S’Illixi and Cala sa Figu are the way to go!
If I had to choose between the two, Cala sa Figu is my favorite. It’s a tiny beach with soft powdery sand and pure, crystal-clear water that I’ve gone snorkeling in hundreds of them. There aren’t any kiosks or vendors, so there’s nothing to buy and no one to bother you.
PRO-TIP: To find these two beaches, head north towards Olia Speciosa. After you’ve traveled for about five kilometers, turn right onto the SP97 heading towards Capo Ferrato. It will take approximately 25 minutes to arrive at Portu de S’Illixi and Cala sa Figu. Lastly, there’s no lifeguard on duty at Portu de S’Illixi and Cala sa Figu, and there aren’t any toilets on site either.
Water Sports in Costa Rei
If you are a water sports aficionado, or just want to give it a try for the first time, Costa Rei is the place to do it! There are lots of perfect beaches with high winds, making it a veritable paradise for kitesurfing and windsurfing. There are also many kiosks that will rent you a tube, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, so you can take to the Costa Rei water and explore the shoreline your way!
Diving in Costa Rei
While Costa Rei isn’t filled with tropical waters—the Mediterranean waters may be on the cooler side of life—there is still incredible marine life to witness. In fact, I wrote a whole separate post on all the best diving spots in Sardinia – check that out here.
Tour The Nearby Islands
Not too far from Costa Rei lie a few small islands you can check out on a boat trip. The largest island near Costa Rei is called Serpentara. This island actually appears to be in the shape of a crocodile’s head, and it belongs to the protected marine area of Capo Carbonara. Unfortunately, it is forbidden to explore the island on foot— but you can still pull up really close to it by boat!
The other island close to Costa Rei is named Isola dei Cavoli. This roughly translates to ‘crab island.’ Sitting just one kilometer away from Capo Carbonara, this island also belongs to the protected marine area of Capo Carbonara. It’s the perfect place to boat to, as you can hop out of the boat into the water and go snorkeling. It’s one of the best snorkeling spots in Costa Rei!
Other than marine life, one of the most unique things to see underwater is a statue called the Virgin of the Sea. This statue was purposefully placed underwater back in 1979 by the Sardinian artist Pinuccio Sciola.
PRO-TIP: Keep in mind that boat trips to Isola dei Cavoli take off several times per week from the main Costa Rei beach. My favorite spot to inquire about boat trips is the kiosk you can access from Via dei Gigli. The boat trip takes about five hours in total and goes to the island, as well as to multiple beaches in the Villasimius area. Generally, you can expect the boat trip to cost around €45.
Running and walking
One of my favorite activities to do around Costa Rei is to go for walks. While I may not always be in the mood to put on my tennis shoes and go out for a run, there are plenty of beautiful walks to enjoy around Costa Rei. My absolute favorite walk is one that goes to a lighthouse in Capo Ferrato. You’ll walk through stunning Mediterranean pine forests and end up at the majestic lighthouse. How does that sound for an evening stroll? To get there, drive north until you reach Capo Ferrato. To get to the pine forest is pretty obvious as it’s right there in plain view!
Speaking of views, for the best scenery in Costa Rei, meander up the “Casa della Contessa” – also known as the Countess’ House – perched atop a hill. This house is an old, abandoned building that can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Costa Rei. A fun fact about Costa Rei is that there are several rumors and local legends about that abandoned house.
The most popular legend is that the countess left during a fire and hid precious treasures inside the walls. Lots of people have tried to find the treasure, and have vandalized the property to do so. That’s quite sad, as this beautiful old structure has been defaced and damaged, but there have been no reports of a treasure being found.
If you happen to be a runner and are looking for a good running trail in Costa Rei, follow the Via Ichnusa. Start running north, and you’ll notice that after about the first kilometer, the road turns into a lovely trail. I recommend going in the early morning or late afternoon so that the weather isn’t too hot.
During the fall and the spring, if you’re looking for a hike around Costa Rei, head out to the Sette Fratelli mountain range, accessible from Castiadas. There are lots of trails to explore, and it’s a perfect way to get the heart rate pumping, all while immersing yourself in stunning Mediterranean beauty!
Other easy hikes around Costa Rei include the trail running from Monte Turno to Cala Pira, and another one that goes from Cala Pira to Cala Sinzias. Moreover, there are quite a few trails around the Villasimius beaches.
Sunrise and Sunset in Costa Rei
As we’ve already touched on, Costa Rei is on the eastern coast of Sardinia, which means it’s not a good place to be if you are hoping to catch a beautiful sunset. However, if you set your alarm early and are willing to yank yourself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, you can expect stunning sunrises from the beaches of Costa Rei.
If you’re dying to see a sunset, drive south towards Monte Turno. For an even more epic sunset, you’ll have to drive around 45 minutes from Costa Rei towards Baccu Mandara. While it does take a while to get there, it’s worth seeing those peaches and purples unfurl against the Sardinian sky.
The Pools of Sarrabus
Ahhh, the Pools of Sarrabus! Situated not too far from Costa Rei, in proximity to the small towns of Muravera and Villaputzu, is the beautiful wetland known as the Pools of Sarrabus. While I’m not entirely sure how the wetland came by this name, I can attest to the fact that the Pools of Sarrabus is home to stunningly diverse wildlife, and the perfect place to go bird watching! I recommend going early in the morning or right before sunset, as you’ll likely see more birds that way.
PRO-TIP: To find the Colostrai and Feraxi ponds, take the old SS125 towards Muravera. Once you arrive at Capo Picci, follow the signs that will point you towards Torre Salinas. Just as a heads up, Piscina Rei pond is easier to access from Costa Rei. It’s easy enough to get to by following the panoramic road north, then just follow the signs!
Castiadas Prison is a perfect rainy day activity, and is a pretty unique place to visit in Costa Rei. Castiadas Prison opened in 1875 and was fully functional and operational until the 1950s. Guided tours of the prison happen daily in Italian or English. There might be tours held in other languages, but I’m not positive either way. On the tour, you’ll visit the cells, the torture chambers, and the backyard areas. The admission fee is just €5 euros and includes a guided tour.
PRO-TIP: Castiadas Prison is just a 15-minute drive from the center of Costa Rei. You’ll follow the road as if you want to go back towards Cagliari, but rather than getting on the SS125, you’ll continue straight for just a few minutes until you come to a small square, where you’ll see the prison.
The Festivals in Costa Rei
While Costa Rei doesn’t actually have any festivals, the nearby town of Muravera has a couple of festivals each year. My favorite festival is the Citrus Festival, Sagra degli Agrumi, in which the town celebrates the delectable citrus fruits produced in the region. The Citrus Festival takes place each year in March or April. It’s a festive occasion and the perfect excuse to gorge yourself on everything citrus!
The other popular festival is the Muravera Carnival, which can get pretty rowdy! It happens each year in August, and you’ll see tons of masks and parades. It’s a bright show of color in which the city of Muravera becomes a throbbing mass of singing, dancing, and celebration.
Other Useful Information To Organize Your Trip To Costa Rei
Where to stay in Costa Rei
Lucky for you, Costa Rei has lots of incredible accommodation options. From camping sites and holiday rentals to Airbnbs, there are tons of places to stay in Costa Rei. While I don’t want to go too far into the details, I do want to touch on the best camping sites and resorts, just to be clear on a few points.
Check out my post The Most Beautiful Beach Resorts In Sardinia for more information on the best resorts in the area of Costa Rei.
Where to eat in Costa Rei
Unfortunately, eating options in Costa Rei are a little on the slim side. Since I’ve spent so much time in Costa Rei, practically every year of my life, I have eaten at almost every restaurant in the area. Here are my top recommendations for restaurants in Costa Rei:
CHAPLIN – Chaplin is an inexpensive restaurant close to the beach. I love their pasta dishes, and they have a very good calamari dish. Booking in advance is usually a good idea in tourist high season!
SA CARDIGA E SU PISCI – Sa Cardiga e su Pisci is hands down the best restaurant in Costa Rei. They focus on locally-sourced ingredients with a modern twist. However, expect things to be on the expensive side. Reservations are highly recommended!
LIDO TAMATETE – Situated right on the beach of Cala Sinzias, Lido Tamatete is a seafood restaurant that has positively divine desserts. Yes, it is expensive, but it’s totally worth it. Book in advance, so you are guaranteed a heaping dose of deliciousness.
PIZZERIA SU TOSTOINI – Pizzeria su Tostoini is one of the most budget-friendly restaurant options in Costa Rei. It’s right at the intersection on the way to Villasimius. Reservations are not accepted here, so it’s not exactly the best place for large group dining.
I MENHIRS – This restaurant is located in Olia Speciosa and has a fantastic menu geared towards local specialties and gastronomic delights! Dishes range from 35 to 40 euros, and booking in advance is recommended.
LA BOTTEGA PANE E VINO – The perfect spot for a little wine and cheese plate!
PRO-TIP: As a local, I feel that it’s my duty to warn you about a couple of restaurants that you really should avoid. It’s my responsibility to wave the warning flag about Su Nuraxi, as the food is very low quality. Sadly, I also would advise you to avoid Oasi Pizzeria, where the service is so slow you’ll want to bang your head against the table and eat your own napkin. Lastly, even though l’Aragosta was once one of the most popular restaurants in Costa Rei, it has taken a big turn for the worse in recent years. I would avoid eating at l’Aragosta unless you want to be disappointed.
Groceries in Costa Rei
Grocery stores are sprinkled throughout Costa Rei. In fact, there are three in the main village of Costa Rei. In my opinion, the best quality fruits and vegetables are found at the greengrocer in Piazza Sardegna. There is also a butcher and a fishmonger situated right next to the Farci supermarket.
However, my favorite way to pick up fresh produce in Costa Rei is at the little farm stands that sell their own farm-fresh products, including eggs! The best farm stands are around the area of San Pietro. Drive towards Cala Sinzias, and make a right on the big intersection, then immediately turn left. There is a little road where you will find signs broadcasting what the stands are selling. Support local, and be dazzled at the fresh flavors these farms delight in sharing with you.
Local Services and shops in Costa Rei
Blessedly, Costa Rei has lots of shops to make your holiday a comfortable one. There is only one bank, though, Banco di Sardegna, which is located at Olia Speciosa. There’s also a post office next to it! If you are on the hunt for an ATM, you’ll find them sprinkled throughout the main road, next to the supermarkets.
There are beauty salons located in Piazza Italia, and one on Via Ichnusa. Two pharmacies are located in the same areas. A veterinarian is located in Muravera; the clinic is in Via Roma.
I also wanted to mention that the local police station, Carabinieri, is situated on the northern side of the resort in the Piazza Rei Marina. If you need to call the police, their number is +39 070 991 6112.
Lastly, there is a doctor on duty at Camping Le Dune.
How to get to Costa Rei
How to Get to Costa Rei By Bus:
Buses leave from Cagliari main bus station multiple times a day. The trip takes about two hours.
How to Get to Costa Rei By Car:
If you’re driving, take SS554, follow the signs that will point you towards Muravera, and hop on the SS125. There are two exits for Costa Rei. Usually, the drive takes about one hour.
Make sure to check out my post “How To Get To Sardinia: Routes From Italy And Europe.”
When to visit Costa Rei
While the busiest tourist season is during the warm summer months, in my opinion, there isn’t a bad time of year to visit Costa Rei. The crowds of tourists leave in September, and the beach is more tranquil. Even in October, the weather is pleasant and warm – and not being surrounded by buzzing tourists is a blessing. The weather really is very pleasant, not overly hot or too cool either.
During the winter, Sardinia feels kind of empty. The tourist shops close, and most of Costa Rei is shut for the winter, so you won’t even be able to buy groceries in Costa Rei. Instead, you’ll have to pick up necessities in Olia Speciosa or Muravera, or bring them in from Cagliari. Although Costa Rei can feel eerily quiet in the winter, it’s one of my favorite times to visit Costa Rei. I feel like I have the whole place to myself! I go for long walks or cozy up with a blanket and a book on the beach.
Final (VERY IMPORTANT) Note
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Please do not take shells from the beach. It is forbidden to do so! Also, when you take starfish from the water, you are killing them. Please leave the shells and marine life alone, or you could face fines.
Further readings about Sardinia
Make sure to read my other posts about Sardinia for more ideas and planning tips:
- The 15 Best Beaches In Sardinia
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- 15 Great Things To Do In Cagliari, Sardinia
- The Most Incredible Day Trips From Cagliari
- A Complete Guide To Villasimius, Sardinia
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