No summer holiday in Malta is complete without visiting at least one of its amazing beaches. Although Malta is rich in history and culture, it owes part of its popularity to being a great location to travel to enjoy some serious relaxation time at the beach.
Most beaches around the Maltese islands are recognised as having some of the cleanest bathing waters around the EU, with a 100% evaluation of excellent quality, placing Malta shared first among EU states (Check out the 2014 EEA Report on European bathing water quality here – PDF download). A few beaches are also Blue Flag certified, which means such beaches adhere to standards for sustainable development, environmental management, safety and other services.
Although what makes a great beach varies from person to person, I’ve compiled a top 10 of the best beaches around Malta and Gozo. Fear not, I’ve done my best to outline the pros and cons with each beach, to help you pick your sunbathing and swimming spots on your next holiday to Malta.
10. Ta’ Fra Ben (Qawra Point)
Ta` Fra Ben Bay is named after its watch tower that overlooks the area. Although mostly rocky, the water is clean, the view is great and it doesn’t tend to get very busy here. The bay is a little sheltered which means it’s rarely affected by the swell of the open sea, in summer at least. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with some interesting underwater life.
If you’re staying in the Bugibba/Qawra/St Paul’s Bay area this is an obvious first bathing location to check out. Much more so than the perched artificial sandy beach that’s located along the coastline at Bugibba. Having said that, if you prefer sandy beaches look elsewhere!
9. Dwejra (Inland Sea), Gozo
Dwejra Bay is located near the little village of San Lawrenz on the island of Gozo and is one of Malta’s most spectacular natural landmarks. Here, on the rocky coastline, you can find the breathtaking Azure Window, a table-like rock sitting high above the sea, one of Gozo’s most popular tourist attractions.
The “Inland Sea” is a shallow inland lagoon with a small pebbled beach and is a peaceful little oasis visited by swimmers and snorkelers alike. The bay is directly linked to the sea via a 60-metre long cave. It’s a good spot for snorkeling and there are excellent diving sites among the underwater caves and around the Azure Window.
8. Armier Bay and Little Armier
Armier Bay is located in the far North of Malta, close to the tip of the tail (if you creatively picture the island as having the shape of a fish). The bay has two beaches, one known as Armier for short, the other as Little Armier. (You guessed it, it’s the smaller of the two!) Neither of these beaches get crazy busy in summer, although they’re quite popular among the Maltese some of whom set up camp (tent and all) for the day with the family.
Both beaches are considered to be rather remote and unless you’re hiring a car you can expect a bit of a walk to get there from the nearest bus stop. Although several bus routes pass in the area on their way to Cirkewwa (the place where the Gozo ferry operates from), you need to be pretty fanatical to take the challenge to walk to Armier in the scorching hot summer sun. A refreshing swim will be a great reward, nevertheless. As far as the beaches themselves go, they’re family-friendly, relatively clean and safe, and amenities are available at both Armier and Little Armier. The shoreline is also pretty shallow so a good location to swim with kids.
7. Gnejna Bay
Gnejna is a rare little gem of a beach on the West coast of Malta, which is sandy and fairly secluded and not very popular among tourists as a result. It’s good proof that being a little more adventurous and exploring your holiday location can pay off.
Being the “go to” beach for the Maltese living in the nearby village of Mgarr, it’s a nice alternative to some of the other, busier beaches. A few kiosks and public convenience sit on the edge of the beach and it’s considered to be a family-friendly beach, easy to reach and with a fairly shallow shoreline.Pros
- Family-friendly, mostly sandy and easy to access
- Largely undisturbed by man-made structures
- Mostly visited by locals, not very touristy
- Parking spaces are limited and parking attendant is usually present
- Public transport won’t take you down to the beach. A steep road leads down to the beach, which is fine going downhill but your trip back upihll to Mgarr will be much more challenging.
6. Hondoq ir-Rummien (Gozo)
Hondoq ir-Rummien (Maltese for Pomegranate Moat) is located on the Southern coast of Gozo, nearby the village of Qala and is a popular choice among the local population. For good reason – it’s a beautiful little bay. Quiet, secluded and surrounded by nature, as with most beaches in Gozo. The bright azure coloured water is super inviting to dive into. There’s a small sandy beach, although not much space for sunbathing. You can also enter the water via ladder on the rocky part of the bay, which is nevertheless great for swimming and also snorkeling and beginner level divers, with several small caves to explore at water level.
The bay has a great view of Comino and a local kiosk offers the convenience of getting refreshments. During summer nights, this is a popular location among Gozitans to fire up a barbecue and enjoy the fresh sea breeze after a hot summer’s dady. Public transport won’t get you down to this beach so unless you’re hiring a car it might not be the easiest location to reach.Pros
- Gorgeous bay, quiet and secluded
- Brilliantly clean water
- Small sandy beach
- Not an awful lot of space
- Not the most family-friendly – gets deep quickly
5. Ramla l-Hamra (Gozo)
Ramla l-Hamra is the largest and most popular (sandy) beach in Gozo, and for good reason. With an almost red-coloured sand, and surrounded by mostly undeveloped countryside it’s an obvious favourite for both locals and tourists alike. It’s clean, there’s plenty of space for sunbathers and its shallow waters and easy access make for a very family-friendly beach.
If you plan to visit Gozo, this beach should be at the top of your list.Pros:
- Family-friendly, easy to reach
- Blue Flag certified beach, with life guards and several facilities available
- Gozo’s largest bay, largely untouched by man
- Suitable mostly to those who are spending their holidays in Gozo rather than Malta
- Some parts of the shoreline are littered with pebbles, which can make entry to the water a little tricky. It’s a minor inconvenience, however.
4. Paradise Bay
Paradise Bay is located near Cirkewwa in the Northern most part of Malta, where the ferry to neighbouring island of Gozo departs. The beach is set in a natural cove and is quite secluded and peaceful, surrounded by high cliffs, with great views of its rugged landscape and of the nearby islands of Gozo and of Comino.
It’s a small sandy beach with crystal clear water that is considered to be family-friendly with easy entry to shallow water that gradually becomes deeper. Paradise Bay generally attracts a younger crowd among locals and sometimes parties are organised here on weekends. Part of the bay is very much suited to snorkelers, with some nice underwater features and several species of fish and other sea life around.Pros
- Beautiful location, a little sheltered from the open sea
- Great for snorkeling
- Kiosk with facilities
- Rental of sunbeds and umbrellas
- Limited space on the beach, gets crowded quickly
3. Mellieha Bay / Ghadira
Mellieha Bay (also referred to locally as Ghadira Bay) is the largest sandy beach on Malta and one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. It is by far one of the most popular of Malta’s beaches and with seas that remain shallow for a good distance out and easy access, this spot is a firm favourite for families with children, who tend to set up camp for the day, mostly on weekends.
Mellieha Bay is located in the North of Malta (near the village of Mellieha, seen below up on the hilltop) and is very easy to get to, with a number of bus routes stopping at the bay on their way to Cirkewwa (where the ferries to Gozo berth.
2. Golden Bay
Golden Bay is located on the Northwest coast of Malta, right next to Ghajn Tuffieha and is a popularly visited beach which was one of the first to earn Blue Flag status. Easily accessible and reachable with public transport, this beach offers plenty of amenities and is the perfect location for families to enjoy some sunbathing. Although the North cliff is taken up by a large hotel, the rest of the beaches surroundings are largely unspoiled and make for a great view. Golden Bay is also a popular location for barbecues, mostly on Friday and Saturday evening.
1. Ghajn Tuffieha
Ghajn Tuffieha is my favourite beach in Malta, with some of the best scenery and sea you’ll encounter around the Maltese islands. This beach is a perfect balance between being in raw nature and yet having facilities to be comfortable at the beach. Yes, it’s a popular beach, yes, it’s a favourite among tourists as well and can get busy, but the stunning beauty, its panaromic views and clean water are just amazing. This is a must visit and well worth a bus ride from wherever it is you’re staying in Malta.
Bonus 1: The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a stunningly beautiful inlet on the small island of Comino. It is sheltered and has dazzlingly azure waters. Access to this fascinating inlet is by boat trip from Gozo or Malta. There are two white sand beaches, one on either side of the crystal clear water: the bottom of the inlet also consists of white sand. The rest of the bay is rocky: here visitors can sunbathe or jump into the refreshing water. Snorkeling is popular due to the clarity of the water as well as the presence of several caves. No boats are allowed, so it is an especially peaceful setting.
Getting to the Blue Lagoon
Several operators provide ferry services to/from Comino and some berth at the Blue Lagoon for the day. They usually leave from the more popular tourist locations like Sliema and St. Paul’s Bay, but also from places like Cirkewwa (Northern-most tip of Malta, where the large ferries to Gozo depart from).
Bonus 2: Off the beaten path beaches
St. Peter’s Pool
St. Peter’s Pool is a pool-shaped bay on the East coast of Malta, nearby the fisherman’s village of Marsaxlokk. There’s no beach as such, although there’s enough room to spread out your beach towel on the flat rocky surface around the bay. It’s not a very popular beach, mostly frequented by the locals, and it’s a beautiful alternative to some of the more touristy beaches around. Getting there can be a bit of a challenge in terms of navigation, but if you’re the type who likes to get out of their comfort zone this is a hot tip.
- Gorgeous (rocky) bay, crystal clear, azure waters.
- Rarely gets busy
- Space for sunbathing, despite being sandy
- Great for snorkeling
- Not very easy to reach
- Not considered to be family-friendly
- No amenities
Not very easy to reach but well worth the trouble getting there, Mgiebah Bay is a little gem that’s undisturbed by man. A small sandy beach is surrounded by the rocky shore and although small in size, it rarely gets busy here. It’s located in the North of Malta, beyond Selmun Palace (nearby the village of Mellieha and clearly designated from main roads). The minute you see Selmun Palace there’s a left turn that takes you down a long winding road. Unless you’re a highly skilled and confident driver (especially in reverse) it’s highly recommended to park in the vicinity of Selmun Palace and make your way down to the beach on foot (15 min walk), since the road was never intended to be used by cars coming from opposite directions.
San Blas Bay, Gozo
San Blas Bay is a beautiful little beach on the North coast of Gozo, which isn’t particularly difficult to reach but which discourages people who aren’t in very good shape to head down there. It’s not necessarily getting there that requires a good condition, it’s the steep hill climb that forms the biggest challenge. Pluck up some courage and make your way down, it’s well worth it. Clean, clear waters, secluded and only blemished by the small structure of a kiosk selling some drinks and snacks. Public transport (buses 304 – quickest – or 302) will take you to the top of the hill at San Blas, at the limits of the nearby village of Nadur. You’ll need a 15 min walk down to the beach.
Bonus 3 – Beaches often talked about but which aren’t great
There’s no doubt that Pretty Bay, near the Southern most village of Birzebbuga, was once a great location for swimming, but the construction of Malta’s Freeport kind of spoiled the location a little. The locals do swim there still but as a beach it’s not very well maintained unfortunately either.
Bugibba Perched Beach
This is a man made beach to serve a popular tourist area of which the coast is mostly rocky by nature. Although convenient as a location perhaps, entry to the water isn’t particularly easy and the real thing (natural sandy beaches) are worth taking a bus trip for. If you’ve already booked your accommodation, Bugibba is alright as a location, but there are better places to stay in Malta.
Finally – Handy beach tips to keep in mind
- Most bays have a clearly marked swimmers’ zone, outlined by buoys. Keep inside of this zone to stay safe.
- A bit of an obvious one: Use sunblock with a high protection factor whenever you go sunbathing. The Maltese authorities usually recommend avoiding the sun in summer between the hours of 11am and 4pm because of the high levels of UV radiation.
- For your own safety, never swim alone.
- Sea water temperatures (as well as daytime temperatures above water) remain relatively high until well into October usually.
- Always keep an eye on the flag system at popular beaches (see further down below) that indicate what the current conditions are like. If you see a single or double red flags, stay out of the water no matter how inviting the sea looks. It’s not the first time people get caught out by undercurrents, usually off season.
- Some parking areas in Malta, some of which near beaches, are overseen by a parking attendant, who is licensed by the local authorities to help manage the parking area and ask for gratuities. Be aware that you are not obliged to pay the parking attendant, although if they were of help to you it’s kind of accepted to tip 1 Euro or so. Some of these guys can be rather pushy, however, helpful parking attendants aren’t unheard of and are helpful.
- Petty crimes are relatively rare in Malta, though think twice before leaving valuables on the beach while you go for a swim. Thefts do happen from time to time unfortunately.
- Although sunbed and umbrella hire is common in the more popular bays, keep in mind you always have the option to find a spot outside of the zones that are dedicated to these guys.
- Nudity is frowned upon by the Maltese and is actually illegal. Although there’s a small nudist beach which is sort of ignored by the local authorities, it’s best to keep your swimming outfit on.
- Men, if you’re not on the beach, please wear a shirt. Bare chested visits to nearby restaurants or shops isn’t accepted in Malta either, despite the warm weather.
What do the flags mean at beaches in Malta?Most of the popular beaches listed above apply a flag system to indicate the sea conditions to bathers. It’s vital to keep an eye on these flags because conditions like dangerous undercurrents may not be visible from above the water surface. These are the flags flown and their meaning:
- Green flag: It’s safe to bathe here
- Yellow flag: Low danger, but proceed with caution
- Red flag: Bathing can be dangerous
- Double red flag: Extreme danger, do not enter the water