no alt text

Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 27 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

The Cote d’Azur is famous for its rugged Mediterranean beauty, though beaches are pebblier and more shingly than pristine sand. There are some exceptions, though (see Pampelonne and Juan Les Pins) and even the craggiest bays have sparkling shallows in that turquoise Mediterranean hue.

The most scenic stretches are dominated by lavish, luxury beach clubs, charging visitors anywhere from £15 and £40 to rent a sun lounger, towel and parasol – but the people-watching and sense of glamour are priceless.

The best beach clubs, around Saint-Tropez, Antibes, Cannes and Cap Ferrat, offer slick food and drink service, brought directly to your lounger – and often turn into late-night party venues. Hedonistic Saint-Tropez, with its golden beaches, is the most famous place to soak up this scene.

Recommendations

5

Garoupe Beach, Cap d’Antibes

Cap d'Antibes, Cote d'Azur, France

Red parasols at a beach club with blue waters and white sand beach beyond

Sheltered from the wind, child-friendly Garoupe is a good choice for beach lounging. There’s a free, public section (plage municipale) with sunbeds and parasols, as well as multiple private beach clubs. Plage Keller is the trendiest. Petit Plage and Plage Joseph are also good, and family-friendly.

Website >
More details >

Mala Beach, Monaco

Monaco, Cote d'Azur, France

Gorgeous and secluded white-sand beach nestled in between jagged cliffs

A stunning white sand and pebble beach under pale golden cliffs just west of Monaco. Accessed by steep steps, this shallow cove is both glamorous and exclusive. Mala has two public areas and two chic beach clubs: Eden Plage and the Reserve de Mala – both romantic at sunset, serving cocktails by candlelight and playing music after dark.

Website >
More details >

Marinieres Beach, Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cote d'Azur, France

White sand beach with blue waters at Villefranche-sur-Mer

Tucked between chi-chi St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Nice, the charming Medieval village of Villefranche-sur-Mer is the relaxed, boho antidote to the moneybags Riviera. A kilometre of coarse, gently shelving golden sand and crystalline waters, it’s all free and open to the public.

Website >
More details >

Paloma Beach, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cote d'Azur, France

View of a pretty curve of beach with a beach club, surrounded by cliffs with trees and villas

Sheltered from the wind, this shingle beach in a beautiful, wooded cove is a laid-back favourite of both locals and celebrities. Views across to the Alps are sublime. It’s part public, but best to splurge on a lounger at the delightful Paloma Beach Club – a local institution with an excellent restaurant.

Website >
More details >

Pampelonne Beach, Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez, Cote d'Azur, France

View of red beach parasols to the sea

The Cote d’Azur’s most famous and atmospheric beach, with public sands and private clubs for every taste. The sea here is a lovely turquoise. Among the beach clubs, 55 is for serious star-spotting, Les Jumeaux is for families, Moorea and Aqua Club are laid-back, and Nikki Beach is for blingy party types.

Website >
More details >

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: +
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Public beaches are always open. The private beach clubs generally close off their areas from Easter to September, daily from 8am until dusk, staying open later from May through August. Many hotels have their own clubs with five-star comfort and service, reserved for guests.

When to do it

The warm months outside of hot, jam-packed August are best for beach lazing: May to July and September in particular. It may also be warm enough to swim from March to April, right through to October and November.

August is crowded and crazy: you’ll need to arrive first thing to stake out a place on the public beach or book a private beach sunbed well in advance. Most beach clubs in the area allow you to book a spot on their website.

Destination guides

3

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

French Riviera

Cote d'Azur, France

View of boating marina and the town on hills behind

Money, glamour and bombshell looks: this beach-trimmed stretch of French coast offers decadent hotels, lounging in beach clubs, fine restaurants and world-class art.

Saint-Tropez

Cote d'Azur, France

View of Saint-Tropez's small marina with restaurants and shops

Chic yacht-filled resort, where the jet set parade the beach and party till dawn. Glitz, glamour and superb people-watching.

Cannes

Cote d'Azur, France

View of the beach and seafront in Cannes

Sister city of Hollywood and host of the famous film festival, Cannes, with its palm-lined La Croisette, golden beach and five star hotels oozes cinematic and pure Riviera glamour.