Some people need a beach on vacation.
Being a coastal native, I understand needing a beach; sometimes I also need a beach.
In the travel industry, sometimes the job is making different people with different priorities all happy on the same trip. Europe, for Americans at least, is mostly about culture; that usually translates to food, museums, history, and the like. Americans don’t tend to think of Europe as a beach destination, but it has many beautiful beaches. So, if you have always wanted to stay at the George V and eat at Le Cinq, but your main travelling companion won’t be motivated by anything but sand and waves, well... That can be done, and it can be done well with the right location..
Recently vaccinated, I’m contemplating my next trip and I find myself divided as my clients often are. My heart yearns for Europe; I have family and friends there, but also, I’m on a mission to get a soon-to-be seven-year old scuba certified not long after her 10th birthday. Which means my next trip with the family needs to have some snorkeling. So allow me to introduce…
Five places in Europe to snorkel you may not be aware of:.
We start with Sardinia, and in particular, Olbia on the northern coast as that’s where you’ll find an airport to get us to the Costa Smeraldas—or the “Emerald Coast” of Sardinia.
This Italian treasure is off of most Americans’ radar, but for Europeans, it is legendary. I can’t tell you how many times I try to wedge a beach into your typical Italian vacation. Usually I end up putting somebody in Forte Dei Marmi, or perhaps in Monterosso. The west coast of Italy is beautiful for its rocky glory, not beaches. If you want beaches, other places in Italy have your name on them.
Because we want snorkeling, much like Sardinia, we want the north coast close to La Maddalena Archipelago. A book could be written about this virtually unblemished, natural wonderland of Italy. The islands are beautiful and the water on their coasts is spectacular.
The property I would choose for me and my family is the Capo D’Orso. The location is married here with a five-star boutique, sitting on 25 acres of olive and juniper trees. Golf–check, horseback riding–check, thalasso spa–check. It’s such a perfect place for a beach break that it’s worth a flight from Brussels, Rome, Milan, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, the UK (multiple airports), Paris (Orly), Venice, and Barcelona. There may be more–those options are just off the top of my head. With those airports, there are so many possible ways to put Sardinia in quite a few European itineraries.
Next, we have Malta—or rather for our snorkeling purposes, Gozo.
First, we must understand that there is the archipelago nation of Malta, the largest island with the same name. Malta is fairly built up, being the fifth most densely populated location in the world. Since we are focused on the water and not the (amazing) history of Malta, we’ll go to the quieter and less populated Gozo, the second largest island in the nation.
It should be pointed out that great snorkeling and scuba is available on Malta as well as Gozo, as well as many of the other smaller islands. Hondoq ir-Rummien, San Blas Bay, and Wied il-Għasri all stand out as a little more exceptional in a destination full of exceptional snorkeling.
The hotel I would recommend in Gozo is the Kempinski San Lawrenz. In a line of wonderful hotels, the Gozo property stands out. While the resort is not coastal, it does have an excellent location with excellent amenities. For those families that wish to fly there, have a look at their residences.
Malta is easily accessible from many places in Europe, particularly Italy, the UK, and Germany. Getting to Gozo is just a short ferry ride from Malta’s main island.
My next stop for snorkeling in Europe is in Greece, and more specifically Adriatic Greece, as opposed to Aegean Greece. The Ionian Islands get less attention from Americans as opposed to say, the Cyclades and others, but they are amazingly beautiful, particularly under the water.
The National Marine Park of Zakynthos is a national treasure of Greece. It also is a protective nesting place for loggerhead turtles. Zakynthos has flights arriving from all over Europe, mostly in the north—Zurich and London are popular gateways for Americans.
My accomodations pick for my family here would be the Lesente Classic, not only for its location, but for the way it captures the heart of this special island. Zakynthos has been a coveted vacation destination since the days of the Venetian empire. It has always been a place of relaxed luxury. Lesente, with it’s clean lines and remarkable service, captures this perfectly.
A very special spot for snorkeling, also on the Adriatic, is Montenegro. South of Croatia, lies one of the most beautiful bays in all of Europe, Budva Bay. Something that goes for all of the Adriatic is that while the water is often very clear, it’s often colder; we recommend 7mm wetsuits to withstand the chilly waters. The experience will be worth it.
The hotel of choice here is the new One&Only Portonovi. One&Only always makes its properties singular, each one a work of art; and this new one captures the essence of Budva Bay perfectly.
See? You can snorkel in Europe!
Despite not being the first place you think of for underwater adventures, Europe has some excellent breaches for you and your family to snorkel at.
Frequently, European vacations for Americans tend to be jam packed, nearly hectic with each of us trying to work as much into our two-week vacation as possible. Wherever possible, a little beach break—complete with a pair of goggles and a breathing tube to snorkel with—can be just the thing to relax and come down from the travel whirlwind that often typifies American travel.
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