I have a bunch of friends who travel the world in search of good waves and tell me there’s plenty of good surfing spots in Sardinia. Simone has moved to Lanzarote because he wants to have good weather year round and warm waters to catch waves. Alessandro plans a surf-stop wherever he goes. When he planned his trip to Central America, he was enthusiastic to find that there is great surfing in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
To read more about Nicaragua and where to surf there, check my post “The Most Awesome Things To Do In Nicaragua.”
However, our very own Sardinia has some incredible surfing spots. Acclaimed for its amazing beaches, its nature, its beautiful small cities, the unique archeological sites, the great hiking trails and the ancient culture, Sardinia offers good surfing year round.
To find out more about the beautiful beaches of Sardinia in my post “The Ultimate Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia.” Discover more about what Sardinia has to offer in my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”
Biderosa is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia
Sardinia enjoys a very favorable position in the Mediterranean, such that it always gets small to medium sized waves year round, especially along the west coast. If winter is by far the best season to catch good waves, it is also possible to do so in other seasons, especially when the strong mistral wind sweeps the island. Those who are fortunate enough to travel to Sardinia in the summer may get the best of both: incredible beaches to relax on sunny days, and great surfing spots on windy ones.
Following is a selection of the best 11 surfing spots in Sardinia, as recommended by my friends who love surfing.
11 Amazing Surfing Spots in Sardinia
Su Giudeu, Chia (Domus de Maria)
Don’t be fooled by the picture: while Chia is a fantastic beach to hang out on quiet days, it also is an incredible surfing spot. Located on the south coast of Sardinia, Su Giudeu, Chia is a favorite of locals for many reasons.
There is a lagoon right behind the beach, where pink flamingoes live; the sand is fine and golden and has formed gorgeous sand dunes; there is a small island that can he reached easily from the shore and, as if this is not enough, when the winds blow from the north east or the north, Su Giudeu, in Chia is ideal for surfing.
Wonderfully still Su Giudeu becomes and excellent surfing spot when the wind blows – photo courtesy of Elena Giglia (flickr)
San Nicolao and Portixeddu (Buggerru)
San Nicolao and Portixeddu are located on the south west coast of Sardinia. They are two beautiful white sand beaches that are not far from the former mining village of Buggerru. They get excellent waves, up to 3 meters high, when the mistral winds blow. It’s been the location of competition run by The European Professional Surfing Association.
Portixeddu – photo courtesy of mezzosakko (flickr)
Not far from Portoscuso and on the south west coast of Sardinia, Guroneddu is an excellent surfing spot in the winter months, while summers tend to be mostly flat. The best time to go is when the wind blows from the west. It is an exposed reef, and there’s also rocks and urchins to watch for. Guroneddu isn’t easy to reach, but worth the search.
Guroneddu – photo courtesy of Alessandro Abis
Putzu Idu and Capu Mannu (San Giovanni di Sinis)
On the west coast of Sardinia and not far from Oristano, one of the main cities on the island, there’s the Sinis peninsula. At the north of the Peninsula there’s a beautiful strip of white sand called Putzu Idu, which is ideal for any water sport, such a windsurf, kitesurf and even surf. Capu Mannu is close to Putzu Idu, to the north, and get some of the biggest waves in the Mediterranean. They get the best surfing conditions with either mistral or south west winds.
Capu Mannu – photo courtesy of Simone Piras
Porto Ferro (Alghero)
Porto Ferro is a beautiful unspoiled beach close to Alghero, one of the most beautiful cities in Sardinia. It is a stretch of sand of around 2 km of sand, with clear azure waters, where surf junkies love going right after storms from either south west, west or north west. It’s a good surfing spot even with active south west wind.
Isola Rossa and La Marinedda (Trinità d’Agultu e Vignola)
Isola Rossa and La Marinedda are located on the north coast of Sardinia, not far from the lovely village of Castelsardo and in what is known as Costa Paradiso. Isola Rossa takes its name from the small island located just 400 meters from the shore. Its main feature is a large coastal Spanish watch tower built in medieval times in order to protect the area from the invasions of pirates.
The nearby La Marinedda, is a small cove where some easy hiking trail afford splendid views of the clear waters. Both beaches are perfect for surfing whenever the mistral wind blows.
Sa Marinedda, one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, turns into an excellent surf spot when mistral blows
Porto Giunco (Villasimius)
On the south east coast of Sardinia and at about one hour drive from the main city, Cagliari, Porto Giunco, not far from Villasimius, is one of the most amazing beaches on the island. It is a beautiful bay with incredibly fine, soft, white sand and the most amazing blue waters; right behind it the salt pods of Notteri are inhabited by pink flamingoes. With south east and east swells, Porto Giunco becomes a fantastic surfing location.
Porto Giunco is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, and a great surfing spot – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
Racca Point, Capitana (Quartu S. Elena)
Located on the south coast of Sardinia at about 25 minutes drive from Cagliari, Racca Point is a lovely beach with clear waters and one of the best places to surf in the island. The best time to catch waves is when the wind blows from north east. That’s when there are long waves to ride.
Have you ever surfed in Sardinia? What were your favorite surf spots on the island?
Pin It For Later
I am really bad at keeping secrets, so before the word gets out and someone else says it for me and there is a huge misunderstanding, I suppose it is better that I actually say what I have been holding down for a while, since the day I got back from my trip to Indonesia. The truth is that I really didn’t enjoy Bali. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think I spent nearly long enough there in order to develop a proper, informed opinion on it.
I went to Bali as part of a very large press trip to Indonesia where I did not get to establish the itinerary (or else, I would have never picked to stay in Kuta Beach) let alone the food I ate, and I stayed along a little longer after the trip was over, to explore on my own. To be fair, I have seen a thing or two that were quite nice and I have actually enjoyed. And had I researched a bit more, I would have found good alternatives to the most touristy attractions in Bali. But that was definitely not enough to make me fall in love with Bali and make me want to go back. It was more like a good and welcomed distraction from all the things I did not like.
Read more about the Indonesia on my post “Fantastic things to do in Indonesia.”
Living up to the “Eat, Pray, Love” legacy
It would be fair to assume that I arrived Bali having in mind the images of tropical paradise as portrayed in Eat, Pray, Love. That very popular movie (and book) has fed a lot of people with beautiful sights of empty tropical beaches, interesting traditions, and an overall peaceful place.
Eat Pray Love picture-perfect Bali – photo courtesy of Anna and Michal (flickr)
Or so I have been told, because I haven’t watched the movie and I haven’t read the book, and so I had no Eat, Pray, Love – induced expectations to meet. In fact, I have never really had Bali in my bucket list, so I did not have in my mind the fantasy of a location I would have to look for to quench my thirst for something beautiful and take that exact same perfect photo. All I had were recollections of some friends who had been – some coming back very enthusiastic (but they are into surfing), other a bit less so. I had not even seen their pictures. If anything, what I have learned in Bali is that it is actually fairly easy to take the perfect photo even in what may be the most imperfect place (more of this later).
Capturing the perfect shot in Monkey Forest
The whole problem is that I am all about first impressions, with people and even with places. I either love something or someone at first sight, or I don’t. There is either an immediate spark, or there isn’t. There is either a special chemistry, or none at all. And if there isn’t that famous chemistry, the only thing I can hope for is a honest friendship. It is not even a matter of how beautiful a place is. It is a question of vibes. And it hasn’t happened often (although it has, to be fair) that I went somewhere for a second time and finally, magically liked it and enjoyed it. And Bali really didn’t spark in front of my eyes. It’s like I went on a date with a man and he put up his worst attire for the occasion, stick his fingers up his nose, burped loudly and talked on the phone during dinner – that is how Bali was to me.
Relaxing at the pool – the only way to escape the heat in Bali
I may even try to justify the fact that I didn’t like Bali by saying that the extreme heat killed whatever little energy I had in me at the end of a very demanding and at times truly exhausting trip. I may say that the persistent stomach bug that caused me a lot of discomfort did not exactly put me in a good mood to let myself be infused with the magic of Bali. But really, that is not the case. I have still managed to enjoy Cartagena, in Colombia, or Leon, in Nicaragua, despite the suffocating heat. I have been sick all over the world (now, that is something to be quite proud of!) and it has hardly put me off a place (unless there were other reasons involved, obviously). What happened in Bali is that the first impression I got of it is that of an extremely congested, incredibly polluted, very dirty, truly commercial and way too crowded place for me to be able to enjoy it. I am not even sure it is fair to talk about “impressions” because, I’d dare to say, Bali is congested, polluted, and crowded. I really couldn’t wait to get out of Bali. So much so that the Eat, Pray, Love fantasy to me was more like a “Fast, Wish for the best and Get Out ASAP”.
Bali is too congested and polluted for my taste
The impression I got in Bali is that nobody likes the idea of walking or biking. I like walking, and I tried to do that. But the minute I stepped out of the hotel, I was invested by a stream of cars and motorbikes, none of them taking notice of me, unless it was to honk loudly so that I would move out of their way. Each and every person in Bali – locals as well as tourists – moves around by car or, even better, by scooter or motorbike. All I saw were scooters and motorbikes: entire local families jump on one, keeping the Indonesian tradition alive (they take bonding really literally) and making the most of the gasoline. It was quite common to see 4 persons riding the same tiny motorbike, none of them wearing a helmet and a small child literally tied to the chest with a rope, to hold him tight while zipping through traffic. I stared at them, curiously and, at the same time, terrified of what may happen if a stray dog crossed the street all of a sudden and they had to break. Those drivers do have skills, because (as anybody who holds a motorbike license would say) keeping a balance when carrying that much weight is no easy task. I guess they were just as curious to see my stare, as they often smiled back at me as they passed (but never stopped, God forbid!).
As rural as it gets – photo courtesy of Josh (flickr)
My first taste of Bali’s extreme traffic was the night I landed in Denpasar, its main city. I hopped on the bus, hopeful for a short ride to the restaurant in Jimbaran, right by the beach. I told myself it couldn’t take that long – it looked quite close on the map. I soon realized that I could have not been more mistaken. It took the bus I was on a good hour to get out of the airport terminal (a total of, perhaps, no more than 500 meters). Scooters zipped through the buses and the cars, left and right, in those narrow streets, careless of pedestrians and other vehicles coming from other directions, causing the bus driver to hit the breaks all the time (forget about being car sick!) and to press that horn at regular intervals. Too bad I did not have my iPod to listen to some music, so that loud horn noise was as close to music as it got for me. Not pleasant, especially for someone who is very sensitive to noise.
As I got off the bus, I tried to cross the street. Nobody (cars, motorbikes and buses alike) would ever stop to allow me and other pedestrians to cross. Scooters would rather drive around me than stop. I was pretty certain that they would have hit me had I not run, screaming in terror, to get to safety. No distraction was allowed, unless I wanted to risk my life. I have later on tried lots of tricks to demand drivers to stop – including putting my arm out, rigidly – with little or no success. The only thing that worked when I wanted to cross the street was finding a policeman or even a hotel employee that, whistle and torch in hand, would stop the traffic so that I and other tourists could cross the street.
Safety first – photo courtesy of Simon_sees (flickr)
I found it really hard to get away from traffic in Bali. If Denpasar and the nearby Kuta – which didn’t take me long to realize that is not another city, or a resort: it pretty much is just a huge neighborhood of Denpasar, and there isn’t any city interruption, let alone traffic break – are the most congested places on the island, I didn’t exactly have a joyride when I tried getting to other parts of Bali. In order to get from Kuta to the theoretically more rural Ubud I had to fiercely haggle a taxi which would have gladly ripped me off (although I had a very clear idea of the price I would have to pay). I was told it would take about 1 hour, I expected the ride to last about 90 minutes, and it eventually took 2 hours. I guess by then I was used to the different perspective on timings that Indonesians have compared to Europeans.
As if the traffic was not a problem in and of itself, I was exhausted by the pollution that plagues the most crowded destinations in Bali. I spotted several locals and the occasional tourist wearing a mask to block the exhaust smoke and the bad smell coming from the piles of garbage being burnt, but I have doubts that it helped much. I was surely disappointed at this. Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bali, but sure enough, coming from a city, I would never pick to go on holidays to a place that is seriously polluted and where traffic is a huge issue – it just isn’t my idea of a relaxing time.
I found Ubud a bit better in terms of traffic and even more so Bedulu, a smaller city right next to it where traffic seems to slow down at least at night, and there are a few and very welcomed oasis of peace where I could enjoy some much needed silence.
The Bali I saw is dirty, crowded and commercial
Not exactly a secluded beach – photo courtesy of Aaron Toth (flickr)
Bali isn’t nearly as rural and pristine as I imagined it would be. I had to check a few facts when I got there, because I could not really understand what I was seeing unless I put it in perspective. So, what I have discovered, is that it is a rather small island (a little over 5600 square km) inhabited by a whopping 4.5 million people. That isn’t a small number for such a small place. Just to give you an idea, I come from Sardinia, which is 5 times as big in size and has a quarter of the population. Not exactly crowded!
I then added to the already large population of Bali the huge intake of tourists that visit the island all year long and I got a better understanding of how crowded it was. Most of the time I just felt that there were people everywhere and it was hard for me to get away from them, and from an urban area altogether (because these people do have to live somewhere, so houses and apartment buildings have to be built).
A gorgeous sunset in Kuta Beach – it doesn’t show what’s behind the scenes
For each postcard picture of Bali that circulates on the web, showing a tropical beach, a perfect sunset and a beautiful rice field portraying a lost paradise, there should be one that shows what is going on behind the scenes, and what the rest of the landscape really looks like. Admittedly, I could not resist the temptation of making Kuta Beach look way better than it really is, to get all my friends back home a bit jealous in front of the magic I was experiencing. But that was just a perfectly concocted show, where I waited for the perfect time to take a shot. I took a few pictures at sunset and the light was lovely and looking at the waves breaking on the shore was quite an impressive show. But as I looked back, right behind me, all the magic was gone and I could once again see Kuta Beach for what it really is: not a lovely, white, sandy and secluded beach, but one where the sand is dark, there is garbage all over and right behind it there is mall after mall, shop after shop, chain restaurant after chain restaurant.
Try and find a quiet spot there – photo courtesy of Surf 30 (flickr)
And, just to make it even less appealing to me, there were the crowds. Not just the crowds there are on a Sunday in any popular Sardinian beach. I am talking about so many people that I thought I would never find a spot to sit and relax, and just stare at the ocean. I am talking about crowds that exasperate the desperate conditions in which the island verses. I am talking hordes of drunk tourists that find it ok to casually forget plastic bottles and bags on the beach, as if it wasn’t dirty enough already and Bali wasn’t struggling with its garbage. So much garbage there was, that when I saw rats roaming among the piles of trash I was actually not that surprised but just a bit disgusted.
This isn’t exactly my idea of pristine – photo courtesy of Jon Rawlinson (flickr)
So many people there were on that beach, that I just wondered how they could surf without risking hitting others in the water.
It was not a pretty view, at least not to me. And between all the garbage, the dark dirty sand, all those people everywhere and the vendors who tried to push flowers, trinkets and what not on me, I just thought I’d better leave and go back to the hotel and find tranquility in the privacy of my room.
I am not sure where the image of a lost tropical paradise comes from, because the more I saw Kuta, the more I thought it looked like the Benidorm of Indonesia.
Had I been a shopaholic I would have seen the benefit of visiting a huge mall-city. Bali surely is a shopping paradise and one could spend days browsing through the shops and the market stalls in search of a good deal, which inevitably implies the ability to haggle fiercely with the vendors in order to avoid being ripped off (the same goes for taxi rides, by the way). Too bad I can’t be bothered with shopping!
I may have noticed all of this because I am a spoiled girl from Sardinia, used to beaches that despite getting crowded in the summer months, never get dirty and most definitely never get commercial (it is actually forbidden to build anything even just close to the beach, that is how much we value our territory). I do understand that being from Sardinia is at times a limit, as I can’t help compare whatever place I visit to my beloved homeland. Perhaps someone who isn’t as spoiled as I am is able to enjoy the beaches in Bali.
To be fair, I found Ubud to be better than the rest of the Bali I saw. It has a bit more of a genuine feel and a bit more of character. But I can see that the impact of mass tourism and commercialization is seeping deeper and deeper here too, with more“high street” and chain shops opening to replace the smaller boutiques and the local businesses. I saw taxi drivers becoming more aggressive – they would not take a “thanks, I do not need a ride”. But at least, it was not as loud, not as “right in my face” and not as tacky as Kuta. Here’s a guide to Ubud with plenty of things to do.
Is Bali really that bad?
I don’t like being completely negative. And I would lie if I didn’t point out that Bali actually does have its charms and that there are a few cool things to do in Bali. I saw some really beautiful sunsets and sunrises – so gorgeous they were, the light so beautiful, that for a while I forgot about all the other things I did not like about Bali. I thought that seeing the traditional boats as they navigated the ocean, at sunset, from the view point of Ulu Watu temple, was a mesmerizing view.
Read more about Bali on my post “Things to do in Bali in one week.”
The striking sunset seen from Ulu Watu Temple
The rice fields took me to a world that I hardly knew existed, with their bright green color.
The gorgeous rice fields in Bali – photo courtesy of Juan Jerez
I was captured by the traditional dances such as the Kacak – yes, it is mostly a show for tourists but it was fun to watch and experience, it was engaging and I really laughed hard at the jokes. I enjoyed spots such as the Elephant Cave. And I had a blast in Monkey Forest, where monkeys always put up a good show and I had to fight with a naughty one who thought it would be ok to steal my sunglasses (I got them back, I won!).
I found a few good restaurants in Bali – from the most traditional Balinese and Indonesian cuisine, to other international cuisine, I could have a different meal every day (that is, as soon as the trip was over and I could actually make my own orders!).
I saw some gorgeous resorts and hotels in Bali where I managed to relax and unwind for a real steal.
Bali has some fantastic resorts
And, when I looked around, asked and haggled, the prices were really convenient and it was a real budget destination where it was easy to splurge without breaking the bank.
All in all, my impression is that tourism has had an overly negative impact on Bali and I am afraid that this once beautiful island has lost much of its character and its uniqueness for the sake of mass tourism. While I understand that tourism can give the local economy a huge boost (again, I shall point out I am from Sardinia and tourism is the biggest revenue here), I appreciate the need to protect the environment, the authenticity of a place, its culture and traditions.
I would have liked to see a more traditional, more slower pace, more cultural Bali – where people, locals and visitors alike, can still appreciate the little things in life. I would have liked to have more interaction with the locals, one that involved more than begging them not to hit me with their scooters while I tried to cross the street. I am sure there is a better Bali – I just did not get to see it, and that is a shame because it should be everywhere and not just in the hidden spots.
I really hope that the Balinese people can take the protection of their culture, traditions and environment a bit more seriously and invest in them, even as a way to attract a more responsible kind of tourism, one that has less impact on what could otherwise be a really nice place. Till the day this happens, I will prefer to stay away from it. And perhaps travel to Raja Ampat, where apparently my friend Margherita found plenty magic.
Have you been to Bali? What were your impressions on it?
I arrived in Nicaragua after a long bus ride from Copan Ruinas (Honduras). It took me 18 hours on what probably was the least comfortable private transportation of Central America. Leon was my first stop in Nicaragua, and I took the chance to take it easy there. It is a very interesting city, with a rich history (it actively participated in the revolution), and it retains all of its original character. I relaxed in Poneloya beach, on the Pacific Coast; I hiked Volcano Cerro Negro – where I also tried volcano boarding; I browsed around the city many museums and churches; I explored its history and visited the ruins of Leon Vieja.
After a while, the heat in Leon took its toll and I went to Estelì (not before stopping in Managua for a few hours), where I enjoyed the lovely fresh air and chilled atmosphere. I then headed to Granada to enjoy its splendour, explore the lake and its Isletas, visit the Laguna de Apoyo and eat in its great restaurants. Granada is definitely the most touristic destination in Nicaragua, yet I managed to get a hostel bed for as little as 5 USD per night.
From Granada, I reached Rivas where I boarded a ferry to Isla de Ometepe and went to spend Christmas at Finca Magdalena, in Balgues. It was lovely, immersed in the forest and isolated, and reading while laying on the hammoks was a great pastime. I rode a motorbike around the island, explored the laguna and the volcanoes. A few days later I managed to find a Tica Bus from Rivas to San Josè (Costa Rica) and left Nicaragua – but not forever!
Care to know more about Nicaragua? Read here!
Puerto Viejo is the perfect place to be a beach bum or to practice one’s surfing abilities in the pristine Caribbean waters of Costa Rica. It has some of the best beaches in Costa Rica. The lush nature around town, its dusty streets, artesania shops, good bars and seafood restaurants and its relaxed rastafarian community (be prepared to listen to reggae music all day long, see the typical colours of rastafarians all around town and being served by a waitress who will laughingly admit to having smoked marjiuana) make this place charming and therefore one of Costa Rica attractions. The good news is that there are plenty of cheap accommodation, eating options and activities not to blow anyone’s travel budget.
Waves and wildlife are among Costa Rica attractions
Things to do in Costa Rica:
Surf and snorkel
Salsa Brava is thought to have the best waves of the country and is among the best beaches of Costa Rica for surfing. The coral reef almost emerges from the waters, so make sure to catch that wave unless willing to crash on the reef: in other words, it is only good for experts. Playa Cocles, about 2 km east of Puerto Viejo, has great but less dangerous waves, usually in the first hours of day. To catch the best ones, go between December and March. Not a surfer but willing to give it a try? Enroll in one of the surf camps.
Playa Negra is a great beach for swimming and body board. Snorkelling is best enjoyed in the areas between Cahuita and Manzanillo – for better visibility go when there are no waves. For scuba diving, there are over 20 good sites in the area where it is possible admire various species of fish. For information, the best option is Reef Runner Divers – it is even possible dive with a temporary permission for those who do not have a patent.
Sand, coral reef and forest in one of the best beaches in Costa Rica
Hike and bike
Puerto Viejo is a great starting point for other things to do in Costa Rica, such as a hike in the rain forest, kayaking, walking. And then go back to town to enjoy a delicious rondon soup (a traditional fish soup with vegetables and spices typical of the area). There are organised tours of the parks, but it is easy to hike around (and for free) independently in the Parque Nacional Cahuita and in the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo where toucans and sloths can be spotted. South-east of town the jungle meets the sea, contoured by palm trees and inhabited by toucans, sloths and monkeys: it all gives this a special aura. Carry lunch and plenty of water.
For those who want to be extra lazy, the best option is to just walk around, browse the artesania shops, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and mingle with the local artists.
Biking around? One of the many things to do in Costa Rica
Where to stay and eat:
Backpackers looking for cheap accommodation in Puerto Viejo will find Hostel Pagalù a great quality option: comfortable beds (dorms are 12 US dollars), rooms and bathrooms are spotless, there is a cozy common area with books, wifi and computers, a well equipped kitchen to prepare meals. No reservations are accepted but those lucky enough to find a bed, will never be kicked out unless they decide to leave!
There are good supermarkets to buy and prepare meals. Those too lazy to cook who would rather eat out shoudl go to Soda Mirna, in the main street, as it is the best budget option with its set meals and large portions. Bread and Chocolate is perfect for a very filling breakfast, and everything is organic and prepared from scratch, not to mention delicious.
Various bars have live music at night.
Getting to Puerto Viejo and away:
It is possible to get here by catching a bus from the Gran Terminal de Caribe in San Jose. From Tortuguero, catch a bus from Cariari to Guapiles and then hop on another bus to Puerto Viejo.
To reach Panama get a direct bus to Sixaola (they leave several times a day) and then cross the border in Guabito.
For more things to do in Costa Rica click here.