Forming the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot, Puglia is a breathtaking region dotted with pretty hilltop towns, verdant olive groves and vineyards, and pristine beaches. It’s home to an undulating coastline of over 800 kilometres. Along the Adriatic and Ionian coastlines, you’ll find a myriad of white sandy beaches, hidden coves and natural swimming pools. We love a beach day here at Plum Guide, and Puglia promises some of the best in the world. So whether you’re looking to relax on the sand or set out on a snorkelling adventure, take a look at the finest selection of Puglia’s beaches.
Small boat in turquoise waters with limestone cliffs in the background at Gargano, Puglia
Gargano is a scenic and wild region of Puglia, where you’ll find limestone cliffs and fairytale grottos against a backdrop of sparkling seas. Vignanotica is one of the most spectacular beaches in the region, where the turquoise waters contrast beautifully against the stark white limestone cliff which towers over the beach. Spend the day relaxing on this pebble and sand beach, getting up only to snorkel or explore the surrounding caves of Grotta dei Colombi, Grotta dei Sogni, Arco Ricamato and Grotta Campana Grande. Although Vignanotica takes a bit of effort to get to (a short trek through olive groves and pine forests), the views along the way are completely worth it.
Marina di Pescoluse
Aerial view by drone of Marina di Pescoluse, Puglia
Unravelling for eight kilometres on the Ionian Coast, Pescoluse is one of Puglia’s best beaches. Separated from the main road by sand dunes dotted with acacia trees and white lilies, the beach boasts beautiful scenery wherever you look. One section of the beach is nicknamed the ‘Maldives of Salento’ for its stunning golden sands and clear blue waters. Naturally, this is the most crowded part of the beach, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, follow the beach further along to Torre Pali. The shallow, calm waters are ideal for small children to splash about in, and the sand is the perfect consistency for sand castles (we’ve tested it out).
View of Torre Guaceto nature reserve with medieval guard tower in background
Torre Guaceto nature reserve is one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in Puglia, a unique ecosystem for biodiversity. As a protected area, you can swim in two of the three zones the reserve is split into. Along the coast, you’ll find various sandy beaches with crystalline waters teeming with marine life. You’ll find that it’s a welcome break not to be surrounded by any tourist development, with only sand dunes and the Mediterranean scrub of junipers, myrtles and holm oaks around you. If you fancy a break from sunbathing and swimming, visit the sailing centre where you can try out catamaran, sailing and windsurfing.
People swimming in the clear waters at Torre dell’Orso, Puglia
Although Torre dell’Orso is the town’s main beach, a forest and sand dunes separate the beach from the town, which gives it a more secluded feel. It may get very busy during peak months, but its size means there’s always space to find pockets of calm. The water here is clear and shallow, and plenty of amenities like sun loungers, umbrellas and snack bars make it ideal for families with young kids. Towards the southern side of the beach is a natural rock formation called Le Due Sorelle, or the two sisters. We recommend hiring a kayak and paddling out to explore these twin rocks steeped in local legend.
We’d be lying if we said we didn’t choose this beach purely for its name. Translating literally to ‘ham point’, it’s just as well that Punta Prosciutto is one of the loveliest beaches in Puglia. This is where impossibly blue waters kiss soft white sands backed by vast expanses of vegetation-topped dunes. The sea is shallow and flat, so it’s a great place to take the kids. On days when there’s a breeze, sailing and windsurfing are common activities here, as well as horse riding along the sand.
Rocky cove with view of the natural park at Porto Selvaggio, Puglia
The rocky cove of Porto Selvaggio is one of the more unique beaches in Puglia. Surrounding the beach is a protected area covered in dense pine trees, olive groves and eucalyptus trees. Take a stroll through the peaceful forest, which gradually opens up to a mesmerising view of the sparkling ocean. Although there isn’t a sandy beach here (you may want to bring some beach chairs), this is made up for by the crisp cool waters and rocky seabed, which offers fantastic snorkelling and diving. Keen bird watchers should keep an eye out for kestrels and hoopoes.
Grotta della Poesia
People swimming at the natural sea cave of Grotta Della Poesia, Puglia
Although it’s more of a swimming hole than a beach, we couldn’t resist adding the rather romantically named Cave of Poetry to this list. Not too far from the seaside town of Roca, this sheltered natural sinkhole is a lovely place for a dip on a hot day. It’s separated from the ocean by a thick wall of rock, which doubles up as a sunbathing platform and diving board into the clear waters four metres down. If heights aren’t your idea of fun, don’t worry, there are stairs etched into the side of the cave. From here, you can even swim out to the sea and explore the surrounding coastline.
Torre di Roca Vecchia
A short walk from Grotta della Poesia is Torre di Roca Vecchia, a stunning landscape of caves, coves and craggy islands sculpted from limestone. We highly recommend bringing a pair of walking shoes as you’ll want to climb over rocks to make your way down to hidden beaches. The surrounding cliffs also make for the perfect launching pad to dive into the clear waters. Backing the shore is an archaeological site where Bronze Age architecture and Mycenaean pottery have been excavated, as well as ancient caves and dwellings.
People relaxing on the sand at Lama Monachile, Puglia
Also called Lama Monachile, this has to be the most photographed of Puglia’s beaches. It’s located in Polignano a Mare, where the oldest part of the town overlooks the beach from atop the limestone cliffs. It may be modest in size, but with its green-blue waters and small white pebbles, you’ll find it hard to put your camera down. The whole area is surrounded by cliffs and caves such as Grotta Nera and Cavernone dei Monumenti, and the best way to explore the magical coastline is to take a boat trip out to snorkel and dive in the crystal waters.
Baia dei Turchi
Not too far from the city of Otranto, Baia dei Turchi (Turks Bay) is named after the Ottoman fleet, who landed on this part of the coast and besieged Otranto in 1480. The aroma of pine greets you as soon as you arrive, and a short walk through a shady pinewood forest takes you to a gleaming stretch of white-gold sands. The water is wonderfully warm and shallow, with hardly any waves. It can get quite busy during the summer, but you can easily avoid the crowds by walking further along the beach to the smaller bays.
Tremiti Island of San Domino and Cretaccio, Apulia
Just off the coast of Gargano are a group of islands called the Tremiti Islands. We could write a whole article on the countless picturesque beaches in this archipelago, so recommending just one beach certainly isn’t easy. Having said that, Cala dei Pagliai on San Domino island is a very special place and one of the most photographed spots in the archipelago. Reachable only by boat, the small crescent of sand is protected by a series of rocks shaped like giant haystacks rising out of the water. The seabed is shallow and sandy, perfect for swimming.
Sand dunes and view of crystal clear sea at Lido Marini, Puglia
The resort town of Lido Marini is home to a long, golden stretch of beach popular with holidaymakers. With plenty of space for ball games and sandcastles, as well as calm, shallow waters and a sandy bottom in most places, this is one of Puglia’s most family-friendly beaches. The town itself is just a short walk away and has plenty of cafes and shops for when the kids get peckish. Despite its proximity to the town, walk further along the sand, and you’ll find that the beach is relatively undeveloped. Backed by sand dunes, there are still pockets of calm away from the main tourist strip.