The French Riviera is blessed with scenic coastal towns set under the warm Mediterranean sun and overlooking gorgeous beaches and azure waters. Also known as the Cote d’Azur, the alluring coastline is popular with celebrities, jet setters and royals who come to lounge on the white sand, party at glamorous beach clubs and sip on French wine at chic restaurants.

    There are countless beaches along the shores of the French Riviera, each one offering a unique vibe and seaside experience. From quiet, secluded spots perfect for swimming and suntanning to see-and-be-seen destinations where A-listers rub shoulders, beachgoers will undoubtedly find a stretch of sand that suits their likes. Here are the best beaches to discover in the French Riviera.


    Petite Afrique Beach

    A great family beach with plenty of facilities

    Plage Petite Afrique (Little Africa Beach) lies at the eastern end of the small seaside resort of Beaulieu-sur-Mer. It’s ideal for a family outing with its soft sand, shady areas to relax and children’s play area. There are also toilets, showers and a lifeguard service.

    Protected by stunning limestone cliffs, Petite Afrique is one of the warmest beaches in France. The rocky outcrop is a fantastic rock pool to explore with children. Bring your mask and snorkel as the clear water is excellent for snorkelling. To get here, it’s a short walk from both the train and bus stops. There's a car park, but take note that in summer it can be challenging to find a parking space.

    Location: Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France


    photo by Tim Gage (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Marinieres Beach

    Perfect for a beach picnic

    Plage des Marinieres (Marinieres Beach) is a large sandy beach in the old town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. It’s easily accessible by car, bus (lines 15 and 84) and train. The beach is approximately a kilometre long and popular with families and picnickers seeking a traditional beach experience. The gradual drop-off is ideal for young children.

    The backdrop of cliffs and low, wooded hills, plus a view of the town’s bay, complete the beautiful setting. While the beach doesn’t offer any high-end restaurants, the casual snack bars nearby will keep your hunger and thirst at bay.

    Location: Villefranche-sur-Mer, France


    Paloma Beach

    Sunbathe in style

    Paloma Plage (Paloma Beach) is an iconic stretch of pebbly sand in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat that was once frequented by the Picasso family. Today you’ll find a glamorous jet-set crowd who flock to this scenic, mostly private beach to relax on teak-style sunbeds and sip on wine or enjoy different watersports, including jet-skiing, water-skiing and tubing. You can also bring a picnic and find your own space among the rocks.

    Although the beach isn’t a secret, it does offer a more discreet and quiet vibe compared to other beaches along the French Riviera. Take the time to admire the spectacular views from the beach across to the bay of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the Eze cliffs and Cap d’Ail. You can reach Paloma Beach via bus, car or foot from the nearby town.

    Location: St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France


    Garoupe Beach

    A charming little beach and snorkeler’s heaven

    Plage de la Garoupe (Garoupe Beach) is nestled in a small cove just a few kilometres south of Antibes city centre on the Antibes Peninsula. The beach boasts gloriously soft white sand and calm, turquoise waters and is considered one of the loveliest beaches on this stretch of coastline. A nearby rocky headland is a fantastic place for snorkelers to explore.

    There are several restaurants close-by, and you can rent a sunlounger or parasol for a small fee. To reach the beach, you can enjoy a beautiful 40-minute walk from Antibes Old Town or take the bus (line 2) from the Gare Routière to the Garoupe stop. There's also free parking in the streets around the beach. Most of Garoupe Beach is private during the summer. From mid-October to April, the sand becomes public again.

    Location: Cap d’Antibes, France


    photo by Freebird (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Mala Beach

    A secluded haven with safe swimming

    Plage Mala (Mala Beach) is a small pebbly beach famous for its calm, crystal-clear waters and scenic surroundings. Tucked beneath the cliffs of Cap d’Ail, the beach is rarely crowded and allows you to unwind, swim or enjoy watersports without jet skis whizzing past. Pedalos (with a slide) and paddleboards are available for hire.

    Along the shore, 2 beach restaurants offer excellent seafood dishes, as well as sunlounger rentals and massages. From the train and bus station, a 15-minute walk along a winding footpath takes you down to the beach. Prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs, plus heavy cooler boxes are not recommended due to the number of steps to access the sand.

    Location: Cap d’Ail, France


    Bocca Beach

    Calm Cannes beach ideal for swimming

    Plage de la Bocca (Bocca Beach) is a beautiful sandy beach located about 5 km outside of Cannes' city centre. Although it's Cannes' westernmost beach, it's easily accessible by bus. There's also free parking on the road.

    Like the surrounding neighbourhood, Bocca Beach is much quieter and more laidback than other beaches in the area, even during the summer months. Young children and swimming enthusiasts will find the calm, shallow waters ideal for splashing about or for practising their favourite swimming stroke in. The beach comes with a lifeguard, free shower facilities and nearby eateries.

    Location: Cannes, France


    Pampelonne Beach

    A beach to see and be seen

    Plage de Pampelonne (Pampelonne Beach) is a legendary beach where celebrities, A-listers and royalty come to relax on the gorgeous white-sand beach, swim or enjoy watersports in the sparkling turquoise seas and party at swanky beach clubs. It’s busy during the summer months, so book your sun lounger in advance during July and August. If you prefer a more serene beach experience, consider visiting in low season, towards the end of September.

    The beach is located some 5 km from the centre of St. Tropez in a commune called Ramatuelle. To get here, you can drive or take a taxi. Alternatively, hop on the free shuttle bus that runs (infrequently) from St.Tropez.

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    Location: Ramatuelle, France


    Almanarre Beach

    Brilliant Blue Flag beach popular with wind and kitesurfers

    Plage de l'Almanarre (Almanarre Beach) is a 4 km stretch of sand and small pebbles that runs parallel to the route du sel (Salt Road) from the Hyères seaside resort out to the quaint town of Giens. It's the largest beach in the area and much wilder than other beaches on the French Riviera. In winter, it's a beautiful spot for a walk or bike excursion.

    The beach is popular with wind and kite surfers when the western winds blow. When the east wind blows, the beach is protected by the Giens peninsula, and the waters are calm – perfect for swimmers and standup paddlers. Behind the beach is a former salt marsh, now a bird reserve, where you can observe flamingos and other bird species.

    Location: Hyères, France


    photo by Thomas Bresson (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Notre-Dame Beach

    An idyllic island beach

    Located on the little Porquerolles Island, just south of Hyères, Plage de Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame Beach) offers an idyllic French Riviera scene. The beach sits against a backdrop of lush vegetation and is ideal for swimming, snorkelling or a quiet siesta. There are no restaurants nearby, so pack a picnic or head back to the village for a bite to eat at one of the little cafés.

    To reach the beach, hop on a ferry that leaves from La Tour Fondue on the Giens peninsula to Porquerolles village harbour. In high season, you can catch a ferry from Toulon and St. Tropez. From the port to the beach, it’s a leisurely 3.5-km stroll or cycle. There are plenty of bike rental shops in the little harbour.

    Location: Porquerolles Island, France


    Esclamandes Beach

    Top spot for kitesurfing

    More than 1 km long, Esclamandes Beach is one of the longest sandy beaches on the French Riviera. It's easily divided into different sections: family, kitesurfers and naturists. The family area is on the St. Aygulf end and offers manmade breakwaters, making it safe for children to swim. There's free parking available, but it can fill up quickly on busy days. So, if you'd rather not drive, the beach is an easy walk from the town of St. Aygulf.

    Esclamandes Beach is exposed and often windy and is an excellent beach for kitesurfers, windsurfers and even body surfers. The most popular kitesurfing spot is situated near to where the Argens River flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The naturist beach is at the Fréjus end and is quieter than other sections.

    Location: Fréjus, France


    photo by Stefi123 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer

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