The Golfo di Orosei (Gulf of Orosei in English) is one of the most intact places in Sardinia. For a long time and until very recently, it was nearly impossible to get to many of its coves and beaches because of the terrain’s conformation. The beautiful scenario, the cliffs and mountains surrounding the area, and the peaceful vibes you get once there make the (now minimal) trouble for the trip completely worth it: a holiday in the Gulf of Orosei is bound to be engraved in your memory forever.
Curious to find out more about what this area of Sardinia has to offer? Continue reading for a short overview of the best beaches in the Golfo di Orosei, the activities you should not miss, and a practical guide to help you plan your trip.
What To See And Do In The Golfo di Orosei, Sardinia
The best beaches in the Golfo di Orosei
The main attraction in the Gulf of Orosei are indeed the beaches. The favorable geography has kept these waters a pristine turquoise color and the sand incredibly white. Humans haven’t been able to go there and exploit the area as much – at least compared to the neighboring places.
This has allowed nature to stay wild and as stunning as ever. Even nowadays, many beaches can only be reached by boat – and some with a good hike.
Here’s a list of the best beaches in the Gulf of Orosei.
Cala Goloritzè cove originated from a landslide in 1962 and is therefore a quite recent tourist destination, but the most famous in the area nonetheless.
The main points of interest, other than the crystal-clear water, are its rock formations, especially the arch – many dive from there, but it’s actually forbidden and there is no lifeguard on duty at the beach; and the pinnacle, which has become the symbol of the Golfo di Orosei itself (and a hot spot for climbers from all around the world).
Boats can’t really dock on the beach, so if you take a boat tour you will only see the beach from the sea. The only way to get there is via a hike that starts in the Golgo Plateau.
Cala dei Gabbiani
This cove is not as famous as other beaches in the Golfo di Orosei and can only be reached by boat, but it’s very scenic and gives off a peaceful vibe thanks to its small dimensions and the rocks surrounding it. Its name, literally meaning “the seagull’s cove” comes from the fact that there is a huge colony of those birds that, every night after the human visitors leave, fly down to the beach and feed.
The beach is particularly pretty because of the birds’ footprints in the morning and because of the very unique white pebbles that compose it – you can’t miss a stop in Cala dei Gabbiani!
Cala Sisine can be reached by boat or with an easy hike that starts in the Golgo Plateau and is one of the broadest beaches in the Gulf of Orosei. In terms of fame, it’s not the most crowded cove around there but it’s also not completely unknown: expect to meet some other people.
Like the surrounding beaches, Cala Sisine offers a wild, natural vibe and pure, turquoise water. It’s the ending stop of the Selvaggio Blu trail (more about it later) and was formerly used as a docking point for the boats that transported coal in and out of the island.
Read my post A Useful Guide To Cala Sisine.
Cala Biriola is yet another stunning cove in the Golfo di Orosei. It can be reached with a (challenging) hike or with a (much more comfortable) boat tour. If you opt for the hike, make sure to go there with a guide and bear in mind that it’s a very hard and tiring itinerary that includes some climbing.
Whichever way you choose to reach Cala Biriola, you will be enchanted by its beauty. It’s a stunning cove with clean water and tiny white pebbles, giving off a paradise-like vibe. If you stay there for long enough, you will feel like you conquered some remote piece of land and you now own it.
Cala Mariolu is one of the most famous beaches in the Golfo di Orosei. A popular myth says it got its name from the monk seals that used to steal the fresh fish from the fisherman boats and were therefore considered thieves (marioli) by them.
The beach can be reached via boat – every boat tour along the Gulf of Orosei includes a stop there – or by a rather strenuous hike. Either way, the view once there will leave you breathless: it’s rare seeing such colors and contrast between the water and the white beach, which is made of tiny white pebbles that looks like snow (hence its Sardinian name: “is puligi de nie”- literally, snow flakes).
The sea is quite shallow and is filled with fish, making it the ideal spot for families and snorkeling lovers. Plus, the scenario around Cala Mariolu is stunning: you will remember your stay forever.
Head over to my post A Quick Guide To Cala Mariolu.
Cala Luna is the result of millennia of erosion by a small river, which has its estuary here. Its constant flowing has caused the formation of the 800-meters long beach, which is however surrounded by high cliffs and can only be reached with a hike (that starts in Cala Fuili, another of the beaches in the Gulf of Orosei) or a boat.
For a guided hike to Cala Luna, click here.
Behind the beach, the river has slowly carved a small pond, now encircled by a small forest, where you can find a kiosk serving food and drinks and some shade during the warmer part of the day.
Cala Luna is indeed one of the places you can’t miss if you spend a holiday in the Golfo di Orosei. It’s one of the best beaches for snorkeling and the nature around the beach is simply amazing. You can even visit a portion of the small caves (five in total) along the northern side of the beach.
Make sure to read my post The Ultimate Guide To Cala Luna.
Piscine di Venere
Piscine di Venere (literally Venus Pools, in English) is among the prettiest natural pools in Italy. The only way to visit them is to get there by boat and dive directly into the water, which is so clean that the boat themselves look like they are floating in the air!
To be fair, the cove can also be reached with a trekking/hiking course that’s however deemed extreme – you would need to hire a local guide to take you there.
Perda Longa (or Pedra Longa, as it is sometimes written) is the symbol of the Gulf of Orosei and marks the beginning of Baunei coastal area of jurisdiction. It’s a huge rock pillar (128 meters or 420 feet tall) that had broken from the nearby mountains and fallen into the sea a long time ago. The beach underneath is a great spot for snorkeling thanks to the rocky bottom, which makes it a perfect living place for fishes of every kind.
Perda Longa is also the only touristic spot in the Golfo di Orosei that can be reached by car – you will even find a kiosk there!
The rock was used as a reference spot in the ancient navigation books because it’s easy to spot from afar. Also, its traditional name (Agugliastra) is believed to be the one from which the area’s name, Ogliastra, derives.
A series of small coves located in a natural oasis complete with a pine forest and a pond, Oasi Bidderosa is a truly wonderful place that you can visit when in the Golfo di Orosei. The beaches are characterized by powdery, white sand, beautiful rock formations and very clear waters which make it perfect for snorkeling. The rest of the park is a great place for hiking and biking too.
The Oasis is located about 13 km (8 miles) from Orosei, and is best reached by car or bike. As it is a protected site, access is limited and you will have to reserve your spot before going.
You can book via the official website here (the website is in English and easy to use) or by calling +393423559975 or +393331798335.
Check out my post A Short Guide To Oasi Bidderosa.
Boat tours along the Golfo di Orosei
Boat tours are a great way to enjoy the Gulf of Orosei. You can join a hop-on hop-off boat trip; a private zodiac cruise with a guide; a sailboat; or you can also rent your own or even a small sailboat if you have the right license. Keep in mind that prices vary depending on the season and that unless otherwise specified lunch is not included.
Boat tours start in Cala Gonone, Santa Maria Navarrese, Arbatax, and Orosei, and stops vary depending on the cruise you opt for and on the departure point (for example, tours departing from Santa Maria Navarrese don’t usually go all the way to the Sea Oxen Grotto).
Here are the various options available.
From Cala Gonone
You can enjoy the Golfo di Orosei in full with hop-on hop-off boat tour along the coast. This is literally a drop off service and the most budget friendly option – expect to pay in the range of €30 to €35 per person.
A better option is a zodiac cruise. Prices start €45 per person, so it’s more expensive but on the other hand you will be making more stops (hop-on hop-off cruises don’t stop at Piscine di Venere, for example).
You can also rent a small zodiac for around €200 for the whole day – a good option if you are traveling with a group of friends and you are comfortable driving it.
From Santa Maria Navarrese
There are several options departing from Santa Maria Navarrese too. Much like in Cala Gonone, you can opt for a cheaper hop-on hop-off cruise or a smaller zodiac cruise (usually around €50 to €55), unless you want to rent your own zodiac.
To book your boat trip around the Golfo di Orosei departing from Santa Maria Navarrese, click here.
If you are traveling in a group, you may want to consider booking a sailboat. For more information, click here.
The options are the same as everywhere else in Arbatax: hop-on hop-off cruises, or private tours with a zodiac.
You can also rent a zodiac in Arbatax and design your personal Golfo di Orosei itinerary or you can join a guided boat tour of the various coves and beaches. Check out the prices of zodiac rentals in Arbatax here.
You can board a mini cruise from Orosei as well. Zodiacs are available to rent but, if you don’t have a boat driving license, you can only rent smaller and slower one, which will however still give you the full freedom to explore the Gulf of Orosei.
Make sure to read my post The Best Gulf Of Orosei Boat Tour.
The peculiar geology of the Gulf of Orosei has created several unique natural wonders: among them, the Golgo Plateau and the enormous Su Sterru hole are worth mentioning, and so are two of the most beautiful caves in Sardinia – and in the whole Europe, the Ispinigoli and the Bue Marino caves.
Read my post The Nicest Caves In Sardinia.
Ispinigoli Cave is actually the only one open to visitors in a huge Karstic cave complex, which hasn’t been explored in full. The cave was first opened to the public in 1974 and is considered among the most unique in Europe. Its main attraction is the 40-meters(131 feet) tall limestone pillar in the middle of the main chamber.
People have been using the cave since ancient times, as the many findings have shown: in the past, it was thought to be a place where the Phoenicians performed human sacrifices, but after more accurate research the whole place turned out to be a simpler, less cruel Nuragic burial ground.
Grotte del Bue Marino
The Bue Marino (Sea Oxen) Caves complex is one of the best known attractions in the Golfo di Orosei. It gets its name from the monk seals that used to populate the area until very recently. Unfortunately, the competition between the fishermen and the animals led to the first hunting the latter and to their gradual extinction. Some believe that they still live in the deepest part of the cave, where the humans can’t reach, but no signs of their presence have been found.
You can book a guided tour of the cave complex, the area open to visits is around 800 meters long (about half a mile). The tour goes to the four main chambers, each with its unique features: the candelabra room, with tons of limestone hanging from the ceiling; the mirror room made of several small lakes; the organ room where the rocks resemble this instrument’s pipes; and the beaches room, where a freshwater river brings sand every year, creating a small beach.
The Selvaggio Blu (Wild Blue) is a trail that follows the old shepherds’ ways in this part of the island and that has been opened to the general public about 30 years ago. it has been defined by many as one of the most challenging hikes in Italy.
The trail starts in Perda Longa and goes all the way to Cala Sisine, and it is definitely not suitable to hiking newbies: you will need five days (in its original formula) to hike the whole itinerary.
You will need a guide and proper organization to embark on this hike, whose trail twists and turns around the wild Ogliastra trails and cliffs, offering breathtaking views at every step. You will be sleeping in tents and eat simple meals. This is not a walk in the park! If you decide to hike the Selvaggio Blu tour, be ready to challenge every bit of yourself.
The Golfo di Orosei has some of the best climbing spots in Sardinia, suitable for climbers of intermediate to expert level.
There are several great climbing spots along the Selvaggio Blu trail (ask your guide for tips and directions). Moreover, many of the cliffs and rocks nearby the various coves are equipped for climbers. The most famous place is probably Perda Longa, as well as the Pinnacle at Cala Goloritzé.
Orosei’s municipality itself has a few great climbing spots to offer, and they are less crowded than their seaside relatives: among the best ones, you can try Conca Arrubia and Monte Bellavista.
No matter which rock(s) you choose to climb, remember to be careful and bring all the right equipment with you!
The Golgo Plateau
The Golgo Plateau is located only 8 km (around 5 miles) from Baunei and is home to several unique attractions. The most famous is the deep abyss that the locals call “Su Sterru” a hole on the ground that goes down to 270 meters (886 feet) inside the mountain.
The legend says that, in ancient times, there was a dragon that used to destroy the land and petrify its inhabitants, until one day St. Peter promised to get rid of the monster in exchange for the locals’ eternal gratitude and prayers.
The dragon (which is actually described as a basilisk) was caught by the Saint and smacked so hard on the ground that a hole (Su Sterru) opened: according to the locals if you listen carefully, you can still hear the monster’s growls. Once the land was finally free of the terrible basilisk, the inhabitants built the small church of San Pietro in the plateau, which is still open to visits: mass is celebrated there on special occasions.
The Plateau was inhabited since pre-Nuragic times, and the human traces are still quite evident. From Domus de Janas to nuraghe, it really does feel like you’re having a trip back in time. Among the unique things you can only see here, you can’t miss the Piscinas, natural tanks where the rainwater is collected all year long, and that were supposedly used as an ancient religious ground to celebrate the Water Goddess.
Another very special natural formation is the so-called “Anthropomorphic Bethel”, a big human-shaped menhir located right in front of St. Peter’s Church, which is considered an essential relic from prehistory because of its clearly defined shape, in contrast with the majority of bethels which usually have less precise features.
Finally, many trails leading to the beaches of the Gulf of Orosei depart from the Golgo Plateau.
Practical Guide To Plan Your Visit
The best time to visit the Golfo di Orosei
If the purpose of your trip to the Gulf of Orosei is to hit the beaches, definitely plan to go there in the summer months – though you can expect the beaches to get quite crowded. Comes the summer, you can definitely reach the beaches by boat and relax in the beautiful resorts of Cala Gonone or Santa Maria Navarrese.
If you intend to hike and climb, avoid going in the summer as it may be too hot for that, and plan to visit in the spring (April and May, and even early June, are ok) or in the early fall between the end of September and mid October.
How long to stay in the Gulf of Orosei
Many say that three days are enough to visit the Gulf of Orosei; but I suggest you need at least one week to enjoy the area to its fullest, and if you have time you may even want to spend ten days there!
Of course, it depends on what are you planning to do, but if, say, you wanted to try a hike, visit one of the caves and then one or two beaches, three days hardly be enough.
How to get to the Gulf of Orosei
There are several places where you can base yourself to explore the Golfo di Orosei, and they are all best reached by car. Unless you are arriving to Sardinia by ferry and with your own car, you should plan to rent a car from one of Sardinia’s airports to explore the area.
Here are concise instructions to reach the key spots along the Gulf of Orosei by car:
To Santa Maria Navarrese / Baunei
Santa Maria Navarrese/ Baunei are only a few minutes from Arbatax harbor, so you will just need to follow the road signs if you are getting to Sardinia by ferry and landing in Arbatax.
If you are coming from Olbia, take State Road SS 131 to Nuoro, where you will have to take SS 389 to Villagrande Strisaili. Once there, take SP 27 towards Tortolì, until you merge onto SS 125 from where you will find road signs to Baunei. If you need to reach the coast, turn right on SP 63 and follow the directions to Santa Maria Navarrese.
If you are coming from Cagliari, you will have to follow SS 125 all the way to Tortolì then follow the directions to Baunei or Santa Maria Navarrese.
To Cala Gonone / Dorgali
To get to Dorgali from Olbia, you will have to drive along SS 131 and take the exit to Dorgali. Once there, follow the easy directions to Cala Gonone (it’s literally just one road).
From Cagliari, you will have to drive along SS 131 to Nuoro and from there follow the directions to Dorgali and subsequently to Cala Gonone.
From Olbia, you will have to follow SS 125 southbound, past San Teodoro and Posada. It’s about 1.5 hour drive.
If you are coming from Cagliari, drive along SS 131 towards Nuoro and from there take SP 25 and SS 129 to Orosei.
Where to sleep in the Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia
You will have the option of basing yourself in several locations to explore this beautiful part of the island. I have selected the best place to stay in each location around the Golfo di Orosei.
Hotel Nettuno – Located at only 200 meters from the beach, this hotel offers every comfort you may possibly need for a wonderful stay. You can enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast and relax in the swimming pool. Free parking is also included, and so is Wi-Fi. Book it here.
Rifugio Gorropu – Located in the heart of the mountains, this rifugio accommodation offers great rooms with breathtaking views. Every room has a private bathroom and you can choose between buffet or continental breakfast. Wi-Fi is free and pets are welcome! Book it here.
B&B Sa Domo de sos Massaios – This Bed and Breakfast in Orosei has free Wi-Fi, private bathrooms, and a great breakfast waiting for you every morning. It’s also close to the beaches – not within walking distance, but only about two kilometers. Book it here.
B&B I Cinque Mori – Providing easy access to the Golgo Plateau from where you can reach Cala Goloritzè, this bed and breakfast offers free Wi-Fi, comfortable rooms, and a common living space where you can socialize with the other guests. Book it here.
Santa Maria Navarrese
Hotel Nicoletta – Located at walking distance from the beach, this hotel, albeit small, is one of the top picks in the area. The rooms are clean and equipped with everything you may need for a wonderful stay, and you can have a free parking spot in their garage. You’ll be staying in an excellent area of the Gulf of Orosei, so as to enjoy any activity you were planning to do. Book it here.
Make sure to also read my post The Best Hotels In Santa Maria Navarrese.
La Bitta – Right on Porto Frailis beach, this hotel is one of the best in the area, and it’s complete with its own bar and fabulous restaurant where you can taste incredible seafood and fish dishes. Rooms are plain but comfortable; there is a pool and a serviced beach to enjoy too. Book it here.