The east coast of Sardinia is a true hidden gem of Europe. Here you’ll find the Baunei Coast and the Gulf of Orosei, a stunning paradise of untouched forest, wild nature, pristine beaches, and charming fishing villages.
Although it’s no longer a “secret”, Sardinia isn’t usually the top choice destination compared to other Italian destinations or Mediterranean coastal getaways. This is great news for you if you’re planning a trip!
Sardinia’s natural beauty has been untouched by tourists for generations, largely due to the difficulty in accessing many of the mountains, hillsides, hiking trails, and beaches here.
I was honestly blown away by the spectacular views, the turquoise waters, and the hiking trails. We actually canceled our trip to Portugal so that we could stay longer on this picturesque Italian island- Sardinia surprised us in the best way possible!
A trip to Sardinia will guarantee you an immersive experience in nature and the chance to discover the hidden gems of Sardinia’s Baunei Coast and Gulf of Orosei.
An Introduction to the Baunei Coast
If you’re searching for a stunning destination that combines breathtaking nature and a truly unique and memorable experience, then Sardinia’s Baunei Coast and the Gulf of Orosei are the places for you.
Located on Sardinia’s east coast, Baunei is a small town located in the steep mountain Province of Ogliastra and was once one of the most remote towns in Sardinia.
Even now, the natural landscape gives it natural protection, making many of the famous beaches in the area only reachable by boat or long hikes.
The area of Baunei has been inhabited since prehistoric times and has such a long history thanks in part to the natural defenses on this coast of Sardinia.
You will also see numerous stone towers in this area and across Sardinia. These are Nuraghe, and they are unique to the history and culture of Sardinia. Some are dated as far back as 730 BC, and there are over 7,000 of them on the island of Sardinia.
Where is the Coast of Baunei in Sardinia?
Sardinia, also spelled Sardegna, is an island region of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea and the second biggest Italian island after Sicily. The Coast of Baunei or Costa di Baunei describes the coastal area in the island’s central eastern coast, where the land meets the Gulf of Orosei, also known as Golfo Di Orosei.
The coastal area here is also a protected area as part of the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu.
Which Coast of Sardinia is the Best?
Having only experienced the east coast of Sardinia on this trip, I obviously think it’s the best area! But I would suggest that the east coast is best for people who want to be outdoors in nature, on hiking trails, exploring the coast by boat and who are prepared to hike to reach the beaches.
Because of how inaccessible some areas of this region are, you’ll see stunning places but it will take longer to get there.
If you want to see more in a short space of time, the west and north of Sardinia are well-connected and there’s a chance to see a lot of cultural and heritage attractions in those areas.
But for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and nature lovers, don’t miss the Coast of Baunei and the Gulf of Orosei!
How to Get to Sardinia and the Coast of Baunei?
Word is spreading about this spectacular island, and there are now a number of international flights available from major international airports such as Rome, Milan, London, and Madrid.
There are two main airports on the island. The airport you fly into will depend on your departure airport and also where you choose to base yourself for your trip.
- Cagliari Airport is in the south of Sardinia
- Olbia Airport is in the north of Sardinia
Both airports have car rentals available. The scenic drive to the east coast of Sardinia, along the Coast of Baunei with views of the Gulf of Orosei, makes the 1.5-2.5 hour drive totally worth it!
Do You Need to Rent a Car in Sardinia?
Public transport in Sardinia is unreliable and time-consuming, plus it doesn’t cover large parts of the island, particularly away from the main towns and cities. Renting a car is definitely the best way to go to give you maximum freedom and flexibility.
We rented a car from the airport, and there are plenty of car rental companies to choose from, making it super convenient. They have competitive rates, especially if you’re sharing the cost between two or more people!
I was told that it’s not uncommon for them to run out of cars during the high season though. So make sure to book in advance!
If you are coming from the US like we were, you will need an International Driving Permit to rent a vehicle in Italy. I’ve never had anyone check on the mainland, but they definitely required it on Sardinia.
Luckily, we were able to apply for an International Driving Permit online, get approved, and print it out, all at the airport car rental company. But I wouldn’t risk it again. I would highly recommend obtaining an International Driving Permit before leaving the U.S.
Where Is the Best Place to Base Yourself on the Baunei Coast?
There’s a pretty incredible range of accommodations on the Baunei Coast, from luxury villas and hotels tucked away in the countryside or with coastal views, to a charming family home in a mountain village, or apartments in some of the larger towns.
The type of accommodation you choose depends on the type of trip you want to plan. If you want to experience relaxation and luxury in Sardinia, the boutique hotels and villas dotted around the Baunei Coast are perfect. Whereas if you’re there to hike and explore, you might want to pick a base that’s more convenient for your itinerary.
We stayed in two different locations. One on each end of The Gulf of Orosei. First we stayed in the town of Cala Gonone. This was a small town on the water with lots of restaurants and boat rental companies.
In fact, the first day we got there we had zero plans, so we just wandered down to the port and talked to a few different boat rental companies. For a small zodiac, they were all offering pretty much the same things, so we went with the one that would let us pick up the boat the earliest!
Then we stayed in Baunei. Although this was a very cute town, parking was difficult, and there weren’t many places to eat.
If I stayed at this end of the gulf again, I’d probably look into staying at Santa Maria Navarrese. That’s where the port is (and where we rented our second zodiac), and it seemed like a more touristy town with more resources. Baunei was closer to the National Park hikes that we wanted to do though, so that’s why we chose it.
If you’re traveling on a budget and it’s not the hot summer months, there are also plenty of campsite options available.
The Best Things to Do on the Coast of Baunei and the Gulf of Orosei
1. Rent a boat and explore the coastline
Many of the best beaches on the Gulf of Orosei are only reachable by boat. We had such an incredible time exploring this coastline from the water that we ended up renting a boat twice.
Renting a boat or at least doing a guided boat tour is absolutely the best thing to do on the Gulf of Orosei. And you don’t need any experience! We had rented small boats before in Greece, but that was our only previous experience. The boat companies will give you a quick tutorial, go over some of the National Park rules, and set you on your way!
There are plenty of guided boat tours if you’re not comfortable driving a boat yourself. I’d probably recommend hiring a guide for a private tour though, as it gives you so much more freedom and means you can get an early start before the beaches and waters around them get too crowded – because they do get crowded, even in the shoulder season!
Renting your own boat gives you the chance to reach beaches on the Gulf of Orosei which you can’t reach on foot, or would take a multi-hour hike to reach. Plus you get to explore the Coast of Baunei from the most stunning perspective – the clear, turquoise water.
We rented boats in Cala Gonone and Santa Maria Navarrese. We visited in early June and there was no need to make advance reservations for boat rental. However the official tourist season begins in July, so I would suggest inquiring about rentals in advance with your accommodation.
When we went in June 2022 you could rent a small zodiac all day for up to 6 people for around 150 Euro.
2. Take a hike in the national park
The Coast of Baunei is home to the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu. This is one of three national parks in Sardinia.
Sardinia is a popular hotspot for hikers, mostly due to the famous Selvaggio Blu – one of the most challenging hiking trails in Europe. There are multiple routes and the whole trail takes around 7 days to complete, although you can choose to just do smaller sections of it.
The National Park is full of epic panoramic views, sparkling blue water, and white sand beaches, all flanked by dramatic cliffs and mountains. It’s some of the most dramatic but also breathtaking hiking I’ve ever seen – literally, the steep cliffs and trails are not for those with a fear of heights!
3. Visit the ancient villages of Cala Gonone and Osala
The Baunei Coast is packed with history and exploring the ancient villages and historic seaside towns is part of the experience.
Cala Gonone is probably the most convenient place to explore the Gulf of Orosei, being located on the Bay of Orosei, there are hop-on hop-off boat trips that take you to beaches in the area. The town is focused on tourism, so you’ll easily find boat rentals, restaurants, and hiking guides.
This is the area we stayed in first, and I loved it here. You could easily walk to the waterfront in 10 minutes and the small town is perfect to explore on foot.
The town itself was a fishing village for centuries before tourism, but you can also see the remains of a prehistoric Nuragic settlement just outside the town.
Osala di Dorgali is one of the best beaches in Sardinia, with a huge sandy beach and turquoise water stretching along the coast close to the town of Orosei. Osala itself is tiny and most people go there to enjoy a day on the beach in the Gulf of Orosei as it’s one of the easiest to reach without a boat.
4. Sample the local cuisine
Sardinia has the BEST combination of Italian food and seafood cuisine! the seafood, pasta dishes, and desserts here are some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had and are super fresh too!
Sardinia is one of the world’s few “Blue Zones” meaning people live longer on average here than in most other parts of the world. A huge part of this is the fresh, seasonal diet and balanced lifestyle.
Some Sardinian staples to try include Pecorino cheese, Malloreddus pasta, Culurgiones pasta (a bit like ravioli) as well as lamb and fish dishes that are sourced from the island.
Don’t miss the cultural experience of Sardinian aperitivo – it usually consists of cold cuts of meat, cheese, bread, and Sardinian wine. It’s a must-do experience in the late afternoon while you’re in Sardinia.
5. Go swimming or snorkeling in the crystal-clear water
The Coast of Baunei and the Gulf of Orosei are famous for their crystal clear water which is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Whether you hire a boat or go out on a snorkeling day trip, this is a must-do while you’re on Sardinia’s east coast. You can easily book a boat trip or hire a zodiac as we did from any of the towns along the coast, such as Cala Gonone or Santa Maria Navarrese.
We didn’t bring snorkeling masks or underwater gear for our phones/cameras and I regretted it the entire time. At the very least I’d suggest bringing along a GoPro!
6. Go rock climbing
This is the one activity that I wish we’d had time to do!
Sardinia is a popular destination for rock climbing and nowhere more so than the dramatic, rocky mountainous region of the Baunei Coast.
The area between Cala Gonone and Baunei has plenty of rock climbing spots, including the famous Cala Goloritzé’s Pinnacle and the daring Punta Plumare – if you’re a well-seasoned climber! I can’t imagine a clime with better views!
Further inland, the Supramonte mountain range of Baunei (Supramonte di Baunei) features the Pedra Longa. It is a popular spot for rock climbers as well as hikers and mountain bikers.
Local companies such as Climbing Sardinia can help you with climbing courses for beginners or guides for seasoned climbers who are looking for a challenge among the vertical rock faces in Sardinia.
7. Watch the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea
I saw some of the most incredible sunsets during our trip to Sardinia. The sunset over the turquoise blue Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Gulf of Orosei is one of the simplest but most magical parts of a trip to the Mediterranean.
The Best Beaches on the Gulf of Orosei
Home to some of the best beaches I’ve experienced in my life, the Gulf of Orosei has crystal-clear blue waters and gorgeous sandy beaches dotted along the coast in every direction.
Whether you’re looking for an action-packed outdoor vacation or a relaxing beach getaway, the Gulf of Orosei beaches are going to blow you away with their beauty!
The beaches are lovely, but for the most part you won’t find soft, cushy sand. Instead, you will encounter small white pebbles. Beautiful, but not the most comfortable for walking barefoot on. I’d definitely recommend bringing a pair of flip-flops or water shoes for wading in the water or taking long strolls on the beach.
We tried to hit up as many beaches in Sardinia as possible, and these are my top picks for the best beaches on the Gulf of Orosei.
This is a beautiful beach that’s easily reached by boat from Cala Gonone or via the Lune walking trail. However, because of its proximity to Cala Gonone this famous beach is also one of the busiest beaches on the Gulf of Orosei.
If you want to visit, I suggest renting a boat to arrive early, before 10 am, to avoid the crowds! This is the perfect time for diving, jumping, and swimming around the rocks before it gets busy. If you’ve hired your own boat, it’s easy to travel just a bit further along the coast from the popular beaches and find your own corner of paradise among the secret bays to enjoy without anyone else around.
The beach is more pebbly than some of the others we visited but there are caves to explore and stunning views.
This area close to Cala Gonone is also popular for stand-up paddleboarding and sea kayaking if you fancy exploring the coast a bit differently.
Another popular beach on the Gulf of Orosei is Cala Sisine which is further south along the coast from Cala Luna but also a popular spot that’s most easily reached by boat.
The beach is also a pebble beach but the pristine blue water is absolutely stunning to swim in. Arrive earlier or after 5 pm to avoid most of the crowds.
If you did want to hike here, it’s a 5-mile hike from the Nature Reserve parking lot (Parcheggio Planu ‘ e Murta on Google Maps).
We found this beach to be much quieter as it’s further south from Cala Sisine and Cala Luna. However, I’d imagine it still does get busy in the peak summer season.
The water here was so turquoise it almost looked neon blue and so stunning for swimming and snorkeling.
Another beach that is best reached by boat, although boats need to be anchored away from the beach, so you’ll have to swim to the beach if you want to walk along the sand.
Piscine di Venere
Piscine di Venere means “Pools of Venus” and when you see the color of the water here, you’ll understand why! The shades of blue are like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
This is the next bay further south of Cala Biriola and although you can’t dock here, you can swim up to the beach as well as snorkel and dive here to see incredible wildlife.
One of the most beautiful and also dramatic beaches in Sardinia with clear azure water tucked under a soaring limestone cliff – the scale here really is insane. Climbing the rocks and exploring the caves here is just as much fun as swimming among the fish.
Although this is a really popular spot that gets crowded in July and August, traveling in the shoulder season, renting a boat, and arriving early is the best way to avoid the crowds and have the beach (almost) to yourself.
Most famous for the natural stone bridge and dramatic pinnacle rock, this beach is a showstopper and one that you will need to hike to. The route is around 3 miles and can be done in about 1 hour on the way down, although uphill on the way back will take longer!
Cala Goloritze and the wild, untamed cliffs and nature around it, are all in a protected area, so the number of visitors is regulated. The beach is limited to just 250 people per day and if you’re visiting during the busy season, you’ll want to book in advance using the Heart of Sardinia app.
There is a €6 fee and it includes parking at the top of the trail. If you’re visiting outside of the peak summer season you’ll be able to pay on the day at the trailhead.
Alternatively you can take a boat, and swim to Cala Goloritze. Because it is a protected area, boats must anchor at least 200 metres from the shore. You will need to swim from there. The area is roped off with buoys, so the line is clear. We swam from our boat a couple of times without too much difficulty. However, you’ll want to either be a confident swimmer, or take a life vest.
Technically I think that the park rangers can still charge you €6 even if you swim in. But we didn’t see any rangers or experience this when we were there. Maybe during the high season, when crowds are a bigger issue, they patrol more frequently.
Cala Goloritze’s stunning clear blue water, dramatic cliffs rising 500m above sea level and the lack of boats make it well worth the effort to get there. We spent a lot of time relaxing and swiming in the cool clue water. But there’s lots more to Cala Goloritze than meats the eye! We also spent some time exploring the caves here above the beach which had incredible views of the bay below.
Make sure to take plenty of water and food with you, as there are no facilities at the beach and the walk back up is intense in the heat!
Spiaggia Delle Vacche
This beach is not actually located on the Gulf of Orosei; however, it’s a spectacular beach in a secluded cove and absolutely worth a day trip from the Baunei Coast area.
Located on the north coast of Sardinia, about 1 hour from Orosei, this is a small beach with a relatively short hike to reach it – about 45 minutes.
The crystal clear sea and the unique rocks mean there are lots of areas for exploring, sunbathing, and diving off.
It’s a small beach and can get busy around midday, so I suggest arriving earlier or later in the day. Don’t forget to take plenty of water with you! We went in the late afternoon and there were only two other groups of people there.
Most boat tours seem to travel north to south along the Gulf of Orosei, ending at the famous Cala Goloritze before turning around and heading back to Cala Gonone. You can avoid a lot of the crowds by heading south first, without stopping at any beaches along the way. Of course, by the afternoon everyone will have caught up, and it wont matter anymore. But if you’re looking for some solitude it’s worth a try.
I hope this Sardinia travel guide has given you the inspiration and ideas you need to plan a trip to the Baunei Coast and the Gulf of Orosei to enjoy some of the best scenery that Europe has to offer.
The Baunei Coast and Gulf of Orosei are real hidden gems in Europe for hikers, nature lovers, climbers, and divers. But you don’t have to be an adventure seeker to fall in love with Sardinia. It’s also great for those looking for a relaxing vacation with unreal beaches and breathtaking scenery.
Whatever draws you to the east coast of Sardinia, the wild, untouched and natural beauty will blow you away!
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