This article is dedicated to the very best beaches in and around Palermo. I also included time for some golden tips you can only learn from seasoned locals.
Ciao – it is your good friend (and full-blooded Sicilian) Nico here again!
Today, we’ll be discussing everyone’s favorite summer topic: sun, sea, and relaxation. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most beautiful beaches in and around Palermo.
Firstly, I’ll share the beaches that are accessible by public transport, some easier to reach than others, and perfect for spending half a day. These are the local favorites.
After that, I’ll list some beaches that are a bit further away but definitely worth spending at least two days at.
If you don’t have your own transportation and plan on using public transport, I recommend checking out my article on navigating Palermo.
Having said that, let’s get started.
The Top 10 Beaches (Rocky and Sandy) You Can Reach for a Day Trip Around Palermo
Below I list the best beaches near to Palermo. The order begins with the closest and works to the farthest distances.
- Sandy, comfortable beach
- Public transportation options are available
- Numerous dining and nightlife options
- Free beach areas are often overrun, dirty, and chaotic
- Paid areas fill up quickly
If you only have time to visit one beach in Palermo, you have to check out Mondello. This seaside resort is about a 20-minute drive from the city center and is famous for its stunning views.
Imagine a beautiful white beach with crystal-clear waters, surrounded by mountains, Art Nouveau villas, and plenty of cool bars and restaurants along the boardwalk.
It’s a classic spot where Instagrammers come to strike poses and show off their best moves.
The beach is mostly private, with no-frills beach clubs known as “lidos” in Italian, where you can rent a spot for the day with an umbrella and chair, and enjoy perks like showers, bathrooms, and restaurants.
There’s also a small public section where you can have some good old-fashioned towel-fighting with other beach-goers. I’d recommend opting for the private section, then doing your thing.
If you plan on visiting a private beach, be sure to book your spot in advance (you can do it online), as spots fill up quickly, especially on weekends.
For those traveling with the family, for those that do not like the look or feel of rocky beaches, this sandy option is worth it. The beach is easily accessed by a bus route but tends to get crowded throughout the hottest month of the year. A small piece of advice: rent a lido if you want to be less stressed about available space. Our travel guide can show you what the best options for this include.
2. Capo Gallo
- Accessible with public transportation
- Relaxing and quiet
- Great locations for divers and scuba fanatics
- No food/drink options
- Rocks can be uncomfortable if you are not used to it
- Access to the reserve is a paid admittance
Capo Gallo is a nature reserve marked by a crystal-clear sea that will alter how you feel about the world around you. The sea looks to be bejeweled with green and turquoise gems for remarkable beauty.
When the sun is setting, the colors from the mountain change to an inviting purple, complete with a natural relaxing soundtrack as accompaniment. The instruments in this symphony are the constant crashing of the waves against the cliffs and the calls of the seagulls.
Seeing this makes anyone believe that paradise really does exist on Earth. Access to the sea itself is completed by descending the rock slopes. This can be tricky to traverse, especially considering some of the rocks can be large or even sharp.
You do not need climbing powers like Spiderman to make the journey to the water, but if you’ve got kids or pre-existing pains and aches, you might want to consider any possible hazards.
This is a nice and welcoming pebble beach, but if you do not get there early, you are never going to find a free spot to be.
To make a long story short, if you are someone that like rocky beaches, this is where I suggest that you go. If you would prefer cushy, sandy beaches, this is not going to be a place that you enjoy.
I believe the few areas are as breathtaking to see as these waters will be. It will not be the best place to visit if you do not plan accordingly, however. Bring plenty of fresh water and food to eat because there are no cafes or restaurants on this beachfront. It is an excellent place for some relaxation and rest.
- Excellent beach clubs
- Prime location for scuba enthusiasts
- Street food vendors are readily available
- Rocks could be uncomfortable
- Beach clubs can fill quickly
- Buses are infrequent or non-existent
To the southeast of Mondello is Addaura, which is a small section of seaside property spackled with expensive villas, restaurants, beach clubs, and cool bars overlooking the sea.
It is not a stretch to suggest that these beaches are the chicest in Palermo.
When you come to Addaura, many come for the crystal sea visible from the free decks, or enjoy the experience from a comfortable beach club sunbed with an umbrella.
Sure, we all like free. But you are not going to get any service here, and you are likely going to be uncomfortable unless you can blend with anyone and are not easily offended or upset.
There is a small possibility you could get lucky and find a concrete deck to lay out your towel, possibly with a street vendor nearby for food. If you are only intending to spend an hour or two here, this might be fine.
If you are willing to stay a little longer than that, you really should consider a beach club. You are going to pay a fee, but you get a sun chair and an umbrella without being overcrowded. They also provide several services like bathrooms and showers accessible to paid members.
If you’re planning to visit a beach club, remember to book in advance because, especially during weekends in peak season, if you go without a reservation, they’ll probably laugh in your face.
- Nice beach clubs
- Multiple great seafood restaurants
- Ideal for snorkelers
- Rocks can be uncomfortable
- Beach clubs fill quickly
- Difficult to reach on public transportation routes
Even more than the beach, this area is known for pre-fixed menu restaurants which feature a set price that could change based on the day.
So, from 28 to 30€, you can take part in an incredible meal featuring several succulent fish dishes. You will feel like you are going to explode when you leave. Our premium guide has a list of all the best restaurants.
Along with the delicious foods, you can look to Sferracavallo for phenomenal rocky littorals people attempt less often as they do in places like Mondello. The sea here is an emerald green with the submerged flowering plants known as Posidonia.
If you are younger, and an active single person, this area has many interesting beach clubs for you to relax and tan. You can listen to music here and meet with some of the locals. When things start going well, you might find yourself in a nearby small bar with others between the ages of 25 and 40.
One of the best places to cool off after suntanning and enjoy a conversation with a refreshing drink is one of these many bars along the beachfront. You are not going to find families with children, as this tends to be more attractive to young (or young at heart) singles looking to make new friends and acquaintances.
For your information, there is another popular beach here called Spiaggia delle Vergini. It is rapidly becoming a preferred location for nudists and naturists, so if this is your scene, this is a free beach option nearby as well.
With rocky beaches and renowned beach clubs tailored to a younger crowd, this is a preferred beach for locals. If you are looking to try it out, I would suggest you taking a trip here in a car. There are buses that can take you from the city to the beach, but they are not frequent and the trip might consume a significant amount of your precious time.
- A cushy, sandy beach
- Ideal for young children
- Many restaurants and bars nearby
- The free portion is chaotic and dirty
- Paid areas fill quickly in the summer months
When those otherwise unfamiliar with Sicily hear about Capaci, it is often only associated as the location of the violent murder of anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife, and their bodyguards.
Among Sicilians, though, this is a place to take in a stunning seaside view and some of the best restaurants and beaches you will find on the island.
Capaci has options for those maintaining a strict budget as well as those looking to be more frivolous and demanding.
You can find free Spartan areas and obviously far more comfortable premium areas. No matter which you choose, it is the same sandy beaches you get to enjoy. It is great for children.
Even with its substantial size, Capaci is overrun in the summer months (especially August) by an army of monkeys throwing balls and making noise – a quite literal hazard for anyone passing by.
Many of us Sicilians have decent manners, but if it seems too much, you can opt for your own piece of the paid beach area to avoid all the roughhousing and excitement.
The town is loaded with restaurants, cafés, and bars. Don’t just pick randomly, though, some of these you should avoid because they are nothing more than tourist traps.
If you are taking the little ones on the trip, this is one of the best spots. Grab a spot at a private lido with a sunbed and umbrella. With a lido option, you can relax all day on the sunny, fun beach. If you are not traveling by car, I would not recommend this place.
6. Isola delle Femmine (Islet)
- Untouched paradise
- Amazing stories to tell about this place
- You have to partake in a paid tour to get here
- Not easy to reach the launching pier for the tour
The Isola delle Femmine is a small islet only 300 meters (0.2 miles) from the Capaci Coast. Many native Sicilians look across the water to wonder and speculate about what is held on this islet.
Allow me to unveil the answer to this question that has troubled many Sicilians for hundreds of years.
You could only reach this natural reserve via a paid boat tour, and beside the 15th century tower and views, there is little more to appreciate here than the incredible legends.
The name Isola delle Femmine means “The Island of Women”, so many of the legends and stories have been created to explain this title.
Perhaps one of the stories with the greatest credibility was that during the 19th century, a plague devastated the Sicilian mainland, which required woman and children to have temporary homes on the islet until the threat passed.
Others would swear that the island once served as a prison for women. The list goes on and on. These stories and legends take on life of their own. No matter how the story changes, this is still an intriguing location to check out.
If you take the boat tour, it is around an hour and a half, which eventually caps off by bathing in the crystal sea.
Tour companies change regularly here, but the most reliable at this time has riders traveling to Isola delle Femmine last, (passing first through Mondello, Sferracavallo, and Capo Gallo on the way).
There’s no way to get you to this Female Island (Isola delle Femmine) without a boat ride. It has become a common mistake for writers to pen about the amazing Isola delle Femmine beach, but they mean the Isola delle Femmine Village coastline right beside Capaci Beach (even often just considered Capaci Beach as well) and not the actual nearby islet.
- Great for kids
- Sand beach
- Many places to dine and drink
- Free area is overrun during peak months
- You need a car to reach this beach
In a small village roughly 18 miles (30 km) away from Palermo, you can find a great beachfront. With a car, it is very easy and quick to reach this destination, but do not rely on public transportation unless you enjoy never getting where you want to go.
Cinisi is anything but large but offers one of the most attractive sand beaches in Palermo with many amenities and perks at your fingertips.
Whatever you are looking for is here near the beach, from food trucks and bars to bathrooms, parking lots, lido rental, restaurants, and more. This is where I would choose to go if I was looking to relax and have a lazy day.
People from all walks of life find their way to this beach. Families with many kids, young heathens trying to get the ladies to swoon over their tattoos and muscles – and everything between.
If you are looking for good cuisine, you can check out Magaggiari – it is a very popular spot. Expect larger groups here, so you might want to book in advance if you are not just going to the lounge.
Cinisi only has one major drawback in that it can be swarmed in the peak months by off-work locals. If you do not arrive early, finding a spot of your own might just be impossible.
If you are looking for a truly close alternative to the allure of Mondello, and have a car to travel, this is the place you should go. Sand beaches appeal to those traveling with their families. The free and paid areas are fairly evenly split, though I would still recommend renting an umbrella and chair. There are also many spots you can grab a bite if you feel like it too.
- Great seafood restaurants
- Ideal for snorkelers
- Enjoy incredible naturally-formed coves
- Rocks could be uncomfortable
- Difficult to reach without a rented car
- Best coves can get full quickly
Near Cinisi, the Terrasini Village can rightly lay claim to some of the most picturesque crystalline water in Sicily. Marvel at the unique red rock coastline with a white vein throughout the bathing area.
These bays are like individual paradises, each with an attractive natural pool. For those that enjoy snorkeling, this is a must-do for you.
One potential problem exists for those wanting to come to Terrasini with their children. Reaching several of the sea areas requires traversing some potentially hazardous scree slopes.
This is rarely if ever a challenge for a balanced adult without physical ailments, but for children, it could lead to an uncomfortable situation where the entire day could be ruined, and you are out a box of band-aids.
Potentially another little problem, there are no bars or restaurants close. If you do not bring food and beverages with you, you will be without them.
A final word: Head to the center of Terrasini village for local shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors and bars. There is a labyrinth of alleyways offering something for everyone. It is easy to lose several hours here after you leave the beach.
This is quite close to Cinisi – the next village over, in fact. Because there is a large expanse here against the sea without sand, Terrasini might not be the place for families with kids or anyone looking for a quiet and calm experience.
- Relatively deserted and comfortable sand beach
- Space for kids to play
- Ideal for those looking for a quiet beach experience
- Few food/drink vendors in the immediate area
About a 50-minute drive from the Palermo City Center you can reach Balestrate – a small seaside village. Never ever go by public transport. Without any other choice though, it is possible to reach this place by train in roughly an hour and forty minutes.
Unlike other beaches listed here, swift currents against this stretch of coast keep the water temperatures low (at least to us Sicilians) but clean and clear with a turquoise hue. If you love sandy beaches, this is where you should see. This place could even turn the naggers and haters in your group into believers in paradise.
Surprisingly, even during the peak months, this beach is never crowded. It is massive. You can set up wherever you want and not have to worry about getting crowded.
You can appreciate this fact when you see droves of wannabe Maradona football players running amok in certain areas with no regard for their surroundings.
A disadvantage is that the free area lacks any restaurants, meaning that you’ll need to bring along things to eat and drink. If you want, there are a couple of lidos where you can eat and drink where you rent an umbrella and sun chair.
However, this is absolutely a beach for families. If you want a livelier beach with lots of action and people, this is not the one that I would recommend. If you are looking for activity and action, I would encourage those to travel to Mondello, Addaura, or Cefalù.
I would say that this place is perfect for families or those seeking solitude on a beachfront. Be sure to pack food and water because other options to buy it or scares. You can find a couple of stops along the beach to rent sun chairs and umbrellas along with buying certain foods and drinks.
- Easy to reach using public transportation
- Lots of restaurants and bars to try
- Comfortable sandy beachfront
- Free area is often packed through the season
- Paid area can also get full quickly without booking in advance.
Cefalù is a fishing town that dates back to medival times, showing this in the town layout of narrow alleys. There is a remarkable 12th century cathedral here you need to see if you are interested in history.
People have spent their entire lives regretting their decision to “Skip Cefalù”. It is a mortal sin that only becomes a path to the flames of remorse.
Because it is one of the most famous seaside locations, you need to make sure you make the time to come here. This is the full package – a rich cultural heritage, nightlife, and awe-inspiring beaches.
Honestly, there is much to say about Cefalù, but we have to regain our center about the beaches for this list.
You can look too this village to provide several clean and golden beaches to enjoy. There are all kinds, including sand, rocky, pebbled, and Spartan. Each offers both free areas and paid options with amenities.
The most popular of destinations are the lidos on the main beach because they offer a relaxing atmosphere where you can have a few drinks with the near restaurants/bars that stay open and active until late in the night.
There is seemingly no end to the lidos and beaches of Cefalù. If you use my guide The Sicilian Way, you can see the best ones listed there. If you don’t use it you can always just ask the locals to guide you.
Cefalù is an area you should never skip if you are visiting Sicily. Anyone could easily spend their day at the beach and then progress to a aperitive in any of the incredible bars lining the beach. Something is always happening in Cefalù.
5 Best Beach Destinations for a Night Out
There are countless beaches surrounding Sicily, though the best ones can be accessed with a day trip (or even possibly a single overnight trip) starting from Palermo.
Below, I listed three beaches you should visit. If you are willing to give a night of your trip to enjoy it, these are where you should go.
1. San Vito Lo Capo
- White sandy beaches
- Among the clearest waters of Europe
- Many restaurants and bars
- The whole village can get packed during peak summer months
From the moment that the sun begins to shine in the springtime, and temperatures start rising, this area becomes a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
The worst of this happens in August, where even finding a place for your beach towel or personal space might seem impossible.
In total, there are nearly 3 km of white sand beaches here with crystal-clear waters. Locals argue it is the most beautiful in Sicily, and for many years, it has been the recipient of the highly coveted Blue Flag award.
Coastal resorts aspire to gain this recognition through maintaining a high standard for their services, amenities, and waters. If you know the beach you want is a Blue Flag beach, you are sure to be visiting a clean and well-maintained area.
San Vito Lo Capo is a place everyone should see through the warmer months, and not just for its beaches. I have more information on what San Vito can offer in a guide I wrote elsewhere on this site.
It might be a day trip for you, but if you have the ability, I would spend a night in San Vito to get a truly full experience. There is an incredible beach, a rich heritage, delicious local dishes, and an active nightlife.
- A seabed overflowing with fauna and flora
- Great destination for snorkelers
- Great seafood restaurants on the island
- No sand beaches – only rocky ones
This small volcanic island is a beautiful sight that is accessible about 52 kilometres (or 32 miles) North of Palermo. It’s sits in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Hydrofoils can get you here in about an hour and a half from the Port of Palermo.
This is become a popular destination for snorkelers from all over the world. It has a unique seabed and clear waters to make everything more visible and vibrant. For this reason, two of the beaches on the island are named Aquarium and Piscine (pool).
Below the sea surface is not the only perk of visiting Ustica. There are amazing hiking trails that show off the breathtaking landscapes across the island.
If you are visiting to appreciate the sea or any aspect of nature, this is an island that you should be sure to visit. I have put together an informative guide all about this area that you can find elsewhere on the website.
I would like to stress once more that this is a volcanic island, meaning that you’re not going to find much sand. If you are not into rocky beaches, this might not be the place for you.
This is a lovely island off the coast of Palermo with clear waters and rich seabed that resemble something you might see in an aquarium. The island itself is highly active with things to do and places to eat and drink. You will find all kinds of cuisine here, not just seafood. Spend at least a night here to acquire the full experience.
- Comfortable (albeit rocky) beaches
- Great top-rated restaurants
- Excellent destination for snorkelers
- Whole village gets backed during peak summer months
Few places in the world can affect you the way that this village can. You can find this largest islet of the Egadi Archipelago around 4 miles from the coast in Sicily between Marsala and Trapani.
When comparing this island to Ustica, it is a lot less pristine and intact come up but is far more active than the alternative. You can get drawn in by the crystal-clear waters alone, allowing you to swim and sail, basking in the warm sun, and become enchanted by this magical island.
Even when the sunsets, the island never sleeps. With aperitivo hours, many people around the center enjoy cocktails, wines, and beers before dinner.
After you have had dinner, you can enjoy another beverage or two without being overwhelmed by overcrowded locations. In truth, this can often be a very relaxing experience for those looking to unwind after dark.
It is not unreasonable to believe that you could spend several days here. If you are visiting Sicily, and this seems like a place you want to try, there are some things that you need to know about Favignana before you arrive.
Favignana is a great place to visit during the summer months, whether you are a local or a tourist. You could spend days seeing everything this island has to offer, from its excellent beaches and food to the rich history and fun nights. If you are traveling to Sicily for part of your summer, make this one of your stops.
- Rocky yet comfortable beaches
- Loads of quality restaurants to try
- Great place for snorkeling enthusiasts
- Whole village packs during the peak season
Despite being the smallest of the Aeolian Islands, Panarea is famous for several reasons. First, is that Mother Nature was quite generous when putting together this island.
You would think that this was the biblical Garden of Eden, with no cars, transparent waters, and luscious greens. The only thing seemingly missing are Adam and Eve.
Another reason that you might want to come here is that this is a popular destination for celebrities and billionaires.
Will Smith, Giorgio Armani, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Jeff Bezos, and so many others have created an extensive roster of those you could encounter.
Apart from this, this small island is a true gem of the sea. There are incredible beaches, surprisingly beautiful vistas, as well as historic attractions and an active nightlife.
Spending a few days here can allow you to have a lot of fun and relaxation. For those traveling with the family, this can also be a great destination. The island can appeal to a broad audience.
Panarea is the best of everything nature can offer from idyllic beaches and unspoiled nature areas to sunsets you will remember for the rest of your life. Remember though, the full package of this much greatness does not come with a small price tag. Along with Taormina, it is the most expensive Sicilian destination.
- Great, clean beaches with clear water
- Ideal location for snorkelers
- Great restaurants offering more than just seafood
- This village also gets packed during peak seasons
Salina is yet another destination among the Aeolian Islands. What makes this archipelago unique, is that each of the islands here have a different look, characteristic, and feeling that sets them apart from the others.
Salina is the second largest of this chain with around 26 square kilometers of surface area. Along with Panarea, these are the premier destinations for chic accommodations and vacations.
This is easily the greenest of all the islands in this chain, which is a draw in itself. The history, heritage, and breathtaking sights all play a role in the popularity of this beach destination as well.
Because of the favorable weather and rich soils, Salina has become the home of some high-yielding olive operations and vineyards producing Italian wines like Zibibbo or Malvasia DOC.
If this is interesting to you, you might want to read up on my extensive guide about Sicilian wines. It has a lot of helpful information you might wish to know.
Such an impressive display of Mother Nature that Salina (and all of the Aeolian Islands) is for travelers. Even removing the attractive beaches, there are still luscious greens, natural vistas, and flora abounding.
3 Bonus Tips to Enhance Your Experience on Sicilian Beaches
When you are traveling to Sicily, you can never have too many tips. There are three things that I think all visitors should know to get them prepared for possible scenarios they could encounter when visiting Sicilian beaches.
Here in Sicily, our swim season starts towards the end of April and the beginning of May. These are when temperatures reach 18-20 degrees Celsius or 64-68 degrees Fahrenheit. The season typically ends near the end of October. July and August are the warmest, with temperatures that could reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.
Ignore Beach Peddling
Because Sicily gets so many visitors, the beaches here coincidentally have multiple peddlers arriving around the same time the tourist season begins.
These so-called entrepreneurs sell everything from good luck bracelets to inflatable mattress is, and almost everything else in between.
In the span of an hour, you can often count between 15 or 16 peddlers on the same beach. They can be merciless, often swarming around one hapless person too polite to just walk away.
You might encounter a rude peddler. If this is the case, the best thing that you can do is to ignore and pretend you don’t hear the salesperson at all. With these types of individuals, even trying to politely say you are uninterested will allow them to continue to follow you and pressure you into purchase.
Don’t Be Discouraged by Some Dirtiness
As much as I wish it weren’t true, our beautiful and wondrous beaches can be taken advantage of by thoughtless and careless locals who wish to destroy its beauty and whatever way they can.
This often means dumping their rubbish on the beach as they migrate, entirely ignoring the multiple dustbins and trash cans standing all over to receive this garbage.
I would agree with you in how shameful these actions are, but you do need to ignore the litter and attempt to enjoy the amazing see that is right before you.
An excellent choice for anyone visiting our beaches is to rent a portion of a private beach with an umbrella and a sunbed for 10-15€.
Resist the Urge to Go Topless
It is not at all uncommon to see bare-chested women on the beaches here wandering around or sunbathing, I would recommend that you do not go topless yourself.
You aren’t going to get in any kind of trouble, or get assaulted, but you do become a subject of some stares by lower-level primates who cannot divert their eyes from an exposed chest.
If you really want to or have to remove your bra top, stay away from the sandy beaches and opt for less crowded rocky areas instead where fewer people are frequenting.
An Additional Word of Caution: the rocky beaches are full of those who might consider themselves heroic and perform spectacular dives into the sea. Please do not try this yourself. These divers know every inch of the coast, and even with that information, often still end up in the hospital with grave injuries. If the sea looks deep, it can be deceiving. I strongly advise you to stay safe rather than tempt fate.
This was a substantial amount of information, but it was what you really needed to know before you made up your mind about beaches you wanted to go to.
We have talked about many important aspects of your trip and general information here, but there are three points I want to quickly stress again:
- If you don’t have access to a vehicle, it’s best to choose a beach that is easy to reach using public transport. However, keep in mind that transportation options can be unreliable outside the city center. To navigate Palermo’s public transport system with ease, take a look at my comprehensive guide on how to get around the city.
- Opt for Private Beach Areas – the three beaches might seem and tasting, but they’re going to be overrun by people. Private beaches offer you a dedicated spot for your own. Get your spot early, because these can fill up fast.
- Rocky Beaches Require Some Adaptability – if you are looking for comfort in the sun, sandy beaches are better than rocky ones. Rocky beaches are not often comfortable to stay at unless you are using a beach club.
Before with their final goodbye, let me remind you that I have an itinerary designed to help you get the most out of your trip around Palermo. Along with this itinerary you can view a couple of short videos on Palermo with tips from the locals. You cannot find it anywhere else. Best of all, they cost you nothing. Check it out now.
I welcome all of you to join the free group on Facebook to stay in touch with those who are already visiting Sicily or have visited and want to share their stories with others to make their trips better.
Hopefully this long guide and article have helped you to appreciate just what beautiful sights await you in Sicily. If you have any questions or concerns, you can leave a comment in the box below and I will make sure to respond as quickly as possible.
PS – if you are looking to experience the city like a true Sicilian, avoiding traps and scams that waste your money and your time, it would benefit you to check out our premium guide.