The best beaches in Puglia and where to stay

Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, is home to unspoiled Mediterranean vistas with clusters of whitewashed villages resting on lush hilltops. Dusty rural roads are decorated with architecture unique to Puglia, which is a blend of traditional Masseria rectangular and the cone-topped Trulli. Adding to the region’s picturesque aesthetics and are the fresh flavours of local produce that are a treat for all the senses. And then there’s Puglia’s beautiful beaches, which remain off the map for many visitors despite being some of Italy’s most breath-taking. Trust us – stunning weather, diverse coastal sights and the longest coastline of any region in Italy make Puglia a must-visit for ardent beach lovers. Italy’s southernmost region is bordered by both the Adriatic and Ionian coast, which lap against beautiful coastal spots that include sprawling golden beaches, rocky coves, dramatic white cliffs, and mysterious grottoes. From their fabulous seaside views to their paradisical surroundings, the most beautiful beaches in Puglia really are what dreams are made of. With over 800 kilometres of Shoreline to explore, Puglia ensures that visitors are never far from a little slice of heaven. Check out our pick of the best Puglia beaches and beach resorts to make the most of your time in the sea, sand and sun.

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Lama Monachile, Polignano a Mare | Photo: Nassim Wahba

1. Spiaggia di Pescoluse (Maldive del Salento)

Located near the southern tip of Puglia, Spiaggia di Pescoluse is characterised by its white sandy stretch, tropical ocean shades of blue, azure and green, and acacia-covered dunes. This idyllic spot goes by the nickname ‘Maldives of Salento’, which gives a nod to just how spectacular this place looks. With a length of around five kilometres, Spiaggia di Pescoluse is ideal for long walks, sunbathing and soaking up the view, and that’s not to mention the breath-taking sunrises and sunsets. Thanks to its size, Spiaggia di Pescoluse usually has plenty of space for visitors to enjoy a touch of privacy. For a more exclusive siesta under the sun, you can pay to enter certain areas that boast bars and a little extra security for your possessions.

Spiaggia di Pescoluse stretches from Torre Vado in the south to Torre Pali further north, passing through Pesculose along the way. The beach is 39 kilometres from Gallipoli and just 10 kilometres from Santa Maria di Leuca, making it a stunning day-trip destination from some of Italy’s prettiest urban centres. You’ll also find many stylish abodes near Spiaggia di Pescoluse for if you fancy spending a night or two in the area. Occupying a space of two hectares surrounded by the gorgeous Apulian countryside, Masseria Sant’Antonio has just three spacious rooms, keeping the focus placed firmly on guest comfort and relaxation. These ultra comfortable rooms offer views of the Renaissance courtyard and seawater pool, and the grounds are home to an organic vineyard and olive trees. Also set amid the surrounds of olive groves is the Antica Masseria del Fano, a farm building turned stylish bed-and-breakfast. Chic yet rustic rooms feature exposed stone walls and vaulted ceilings. The buffet breakfast is to-die-for, followed by a morning of poolside relaxation.

Photo: Massimo Virgilio

2. Beach of Purity, Gallipoli (Spiaggia della Purità)

Connected to the mainland of Puglia by a 16th-century bridge, the historic centre of Gallipoli enchants all visitors with its largely intact defensive walls, medieval roads and amazing architecture. But Gallipoli also boasts some of the best beaches in Puglia, with our favourite being the Beach of Purity (Spiaggia della Purità). Golden sand is gently lapped by the waters of the Ionian Sea, and the view of the iconic lighthouse on Sant’Andrea Island only adds to the place’s wonder. Beach facilities are few, but the sandy strip is seconds from bars, restaurants, and the winding streets of Old Town. The Beach of Purity is also one of the best sunset spots in Puglia, and there are fountains to wash the sand off your feet when you’re ready to hit the town after sundown.

If you’re looking for a place to boogie in Gallipoli, we recommend Lido Zen, which is not explicitly a gay club but does attract a young, open-minded crowd, making it a top choice if you’d rather not trek all the way across to the gay scene in Salento. For a fantastic place to stay during your time near Gallipoli and the beautiful Beach of Purity, take a look at the rooms at Critabianca, which occupies a charming country house in Cutrofiano’s picturesque countryside. There’s also an on-site fine diner and swimming pool.

Gallipoli | Photo: Edoardo Galati

Photo: Andrew Davie

3. Santa Maria al Bagno

What it lacks in tourism popularity, the Santa Maria al Bagno beach more than makes up for with serenity. Sheltered by sea walls with calm waters lapping a stretch of fine white sand, the Santa Maria al Bagno provides a scenic respite from the more crowded beaches along the Ionian coastline. When space on the sand is limited, the locals jump from a rocky ledge into the ocean, which looks like a vast natural infinity pool. Just across the road from this secluded enclave are lunch spots that offer a postcard-perfect view of the bay. Bring your snorkelling mask to make the most of the Santa Maria al Bagno’s crystal-clear waters.

4. Spiaggia di Punta Prosciutto, Porto Cesareo

With its white sandy dunes and clear waters, Spiaggia di Punta Prosciutto entices families, couples and water sports enthusiasts to its shores. Windsurfing and diving are popular activities, but most people come to simply soak up the sun and the laid-back atmosphere. The sandy stretch of this beach is brought to life by a single bar that plays music and serves refreshments. And in places that aren’t sandy, rocks double up as natural decks on which to relax and take in the view.

Just five kilometres away from Spiaggia di Punta Prosciutto is the beach of Torre Colimena, a must-visit sight for those who can spare the time. The nearby city of Porto Cesareo is also home to some of Puglia’s best sandy beaches, including the famous Torre Lapillo. Porto Cesareo also hosts a diverse selection of restaurants, shops and accommodation options, making it a good base if you want a cosy place to your feet up after exploring the Puglia region.

Photo: Mireille Van Manen

Photo: Thibault Ludwikowski

5. Spiaggia di San Pietro in Bevagna, Maruggio

If you’re searching for a truly exquisite stretch of sand on which to lay your towel, head to the protected beach of Spiaggia di San Pietro in Bevagna, Maruggio, which gives new definition to the words exclusive and luxurious. Almost unknown to foreign visitors, Spiaggia di San Pietro is usually all but deserted. You might have to share this white sandy stretch and its majestic dunes lapped by azure waters with a few locals, but you’ll be able to claim a significant slice of this Italian paradise for yourself.

Due to the beach’s seclusion, you won’t find many areas with rows of sunbeds, but serviced sections boast comfy loungers and bars. One accommodation option that parallels the serenity of Spiaggia di San Pietro is Masseria Palombara Resort & SPA, an adults-only hotel in a historical limestone farmhouse that serves produce from its own farm at its revered restaurant. When you want to lounge around at this lovely hotel, you can keep yourself occupied with facilities such as a gym, spa, swimming pool, and outdoor cinema.

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Spiaggio D’Ayala is one of the best gay beaches in Puglia. The entirety of the beach area is bordered by the ocean and a forest that separates the strip from the main road, making it incredibly private

6. Spiaggia D’Ayala, Maruggio

Located an hour from Gallipoli by car, Spiaggio D’Ayala is one of the best gay beaches in Puglia. The entirety of the beach area is bordered by the ocean and a forest that separates the strip from the main road, making it incredibly private. Unsurprisingly, D’Ayala beach is a haven for nudists, ensuring there’s plenty of natural scenery in all directions.

Spiaggia D’Ayala is just one of the sandy highlights of Maruggio, though the beach at Campomarino deserves a special mention. Here, dunes topped with Mediterranean scrubs like juniper, thyme and rosemary rise as high as 12 metres, forming a scenic barrier between the road and the beach. The shoreline features stretches of sand separated by rocky patches, and the ocean’s shades range from green to blue cobalt. The beaches of Maruggio are about 62 kilometres from Gallipoli and just 40 kilometres from Taranto.

Photo: John Fornander

7. Lama Monachile, Polignano a Mare

One of the most photographed beaches in Puglia, Lama Monachile – also known as Cala Porto – is a small white pebbled beach by the historic town of Polignano a Mare, which overlooks the sea from the edges of the limestone towering cliffs that surround the tiny bay. The beach’s name is taken from the bridge that can be seen stretching between the cliffs behind, a remnant of the city’s Roman Via Traiana. During weekends and holidays, crowds that flock to the beach and its azure waters leave little space for sunbathers, though Lama Monachile is geared more towards adventurers than sunseekers. Popular activities include cliff diving, snorkelling and sailing through sea grottos such as the Cavernone dei Monumenti and the Grotta Nera.

For the best Adriatic Sea views during your trip to Lama Monachille, consider spending the night at the Borgo Egnazia, a plush resort with an architectural style that reflects the beauty of a traditional Puglian village. Besides six elegant diners and a bar with private terrace seating, the Borgo Egnazia boasts a luxe spa, tennis courts, four indoor and outdoor pools, and a convenient location adjacent to the San Domenico Golf Course. Not far from the Borgo is the Canne Bianche Lifestyle Hotel, home to a restaurant and bar, stunning garden and outdoor pool, plus a private beach, spa and sauna.

Lama Monachile | Photo: Stephan Valentin

Polignano a Mare | Photo: Giacomo Rondelli

8. Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area

As a protected marine area in a secluded spot, Torre Guaceto is a sandy beach that’s adored by naturalists and nudists alike. The Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area is about 25 minutes from Brindisi, making it rather remote, but there’s always space to grab a peaceful spot on the several kilometres of sand that attracts gay men in tight speedos from all over Italy. When you’re not admiring the views on land, you can dive underwater to see seagrass and colourful coral reefs in the calm and clear ocean. Pack your snorkelling gear to swim alongside fish that visit the shore. Some of the best photos can be taken near the 16th-century watchtower that overlooks the beach.

Within driving distance of the Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area is the Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & SPA, which occupies an 18th-century abode complete with antique furnishings, an underground spa, seasonal swimming pool, and restaurant and bar. You can also take part in local wine tasting sessions as well as Pilates and yoga lessons.

Polignano a Mare | Photo: Vincenzo de Simone

9. Mora Mora Beach

Mora Mora Beach is a tranquil oasis on the Adriatic coast between Roca and Torre Specchia Ruggeri, right on the doorstep of the Salento capital, Lecce. Cherished for its semi-rural appearance, Mora Mora Beach is bordered by the gently swelling ocean on one side and dense shrub on the other. Near the beach’s free parking area is Mora Mora Bistro’ del Mare, an upmarket restaurant that serves hand-mixed drinks and gourmet delights. For a more laid-back drink, order from the beach kiosk while relaxing on a sun lounger. If you’d rather not pay for a lounger, you can find a peaceful spot beyond the rows of sunbeds. There are also a few secluded swimming spots hidden from the crowds.

If you want to spend the night in nearby Lecce, we recommend booking a room at the Pollicastro Boutique Hotel, a former 16th-century palace filled with exclusively made items of furniture that complement the building’s design.

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10. Torre Dell’Orso Beach

White sands, crystal-clear waters and gentle winds make Torre Dell’Orso Beach popular with windsurfers, snorkellers and kayakers, though sightseers also flood the beach to see the forest-fringed sandy strip and the 16th-century watchtower that overlooks it. The northern end of the 800-metre strip attracts crowds, while the quieter southern end invites leisure seekers looking for a shaded spot under a canopy. The beach is flanked by cliffs, and the Two Sisters cliffs just off the coast are a popular spot for diving. After visiting this blue flag beach, take a short walk along the coastal trail to the spectacular Torre Sant’Andrea, where natural limestone cliffs and sea stacks create a fabulous backdrop. The tiny Sant’Andrea Beach provides access to the sea, though the locals prefer exploring the area’s sea caves after diving into the ocean from the cliffs.

Located in the nearby town of Palmariggi, the Masseria Corte degli Aromi is one the best hotels in Puglia for those who prioritise wellness and wellbeing. The hotel boasts a cocktail bar, restaurant and facilities including a swimming pool, fitness centre, wellness centre, and barbershop. For a luxurious retreat in this historic centre of Otranto, book a stay at the Masseria Longa Boutique Hotel by BarbarHouse, where guests have access to a solarium, a delicious on site restaurant, swimming pool, private gardens, and a Turkish bath.

Photo: Massimo Virgilio

Photo: Marvin Meyer

11. Grotta della Poesia

Just two kilometres north of Torre Dell’Orso Beach is Grotta della Poesia (Cave of Poetry), a 100-feet-wide, pearl-shaped sinkhole that borders the ocean. Visitors can dive into this natural swimming pool from the rock sheaths that rise as high as 15 feet. Those less enticed by heights can climb down the stairs of the Grotta della Poesia walls. Daring swimmers can leave the cave walls and venture out into the ocean for views of pockmarked sea walls and weathered coastline. Because the Cave of Poetry is popular with locals, it’s best to arrive early, giving you enough time to explore nearby attractions that include archaeological sites and ancient cave networks.

The Torre di Roca Vecchia is just a short stroll from the Grotta della Poesia. At this treasure trove of craggy limestone islands and caves, archaeologists excavated Bronze Age architecture over a period of 30 years. Just outside of the site’s fenced-off area, you can explore ancient dwellings and caves. Swim through a narrow channel to find the Tower of Maradico on a deserted island. Or, simply find yourself a quiet spot on the beaches hidden between battered bluffs to soak up the view of the Salento coast.

After a day of exploring the Grotta della Poesia, consider staying at the Vigna Corallo to make the most of a scenic location amid a wonderful vineyard. This sophisticated agritourism resort pampers guests with warm hospitality and emotional experiences. Its refined and minimal villas take on the style of the ancient Masseria farmhouse buildings unique to the Puglia region, all facing a gorgeous pool.

Grotta della Poesia | Photo: Giulia Gasperini

Tremiti | Photo: Luca Scalmani

12. Tremiti Islands

The Tremiti Islands form a stunning archipelago in the Gargano National Park. Because the islands lie within a protected marine reserve, they’re popular with divers looking to explore clear turquoise waters, underwater caves, and a range of unique environments. However, in this jewel of the Adriatic, the beaches are pristine, often showcasing soft white sand nestled in coves flanked by raggedy cliffs and bordered by a pine forest. Better still, many beaches of the Tremiti Islands are only accessible via boat trips. While only the islands of San Nicola and San Domino are inhabited, the other three islands are accessible, and all boast picturesque beaches. If we had to recommend just one beach, we’d suggest heading to the Cala dei Pagliali on San Domino. It’s one of the region’s most photographed sandy strips that can only be accessed by boat.

Photo: James Barr

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