The beaches of Malta tend to be dramatic, rocky and sea-sculpted, with fewer soft and sandy curves of Mediterranean coastline than you might expect.
Despite this, the Maltese make the most of every swimming spot. On these compact islands, water sports abound, and you're never far from the sea. With crystalline waters, historic wrecks and interesting underwater formations, Malta is also Europe’s best diving destination, but even snorkeling from the island nation's coastline offers a remarkable insight into an underwater world.
Whether you're keen on splashing around in the waves, spending an afternoon relaxing on the sand or enjoying a leisurely lunch of local seafood, here are the beaches to head to on Malta and its smaller sister islands of Gozo and Comino.
1. Golden Bay, Malta
Best beach for soft sand
Malta and Gozo don’t offer many big sandy beaches, but there are a few gems. Golden Bay, on Malta’s northwestern coast, arguably the most beautiful, is a wide curve of orange-gold sand that shelves gently into the dark-blue Mediterranean. This is a place to lie down on the island's softest sand, mull over the watersports and boat trips on offer, or peruse the menus of nearby restaurants overlooking the bay.
2. Mellieħa Bay
Best beach for water sports
You’re never far from a watersports provider in Malta. For variety, Mellieħa Bay is one of the best beaches for messing about on the water, with windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing, canoeing, banana boating and parasailing all on offer. This is Malta’s largest sandy beach and has a reliable northeasterly breeze that makes it ideal for wind-based water sports. Other top choices for water sports include Xlendi, Marsalforn and Golden Bay.
3. Blue Lagoon, Comino
Best beach for swimming
Beating many strong contenders, Comino’s Blue Lagoon snags the title of Malta's top swimming spot. Ringed by rocks and framed by gleaming white sand, Comino's limpid and sheltered inland sea glows periwinkle bright, and it's a heavenly place to swim.
Planning tip: The Blue Lagoon is definitely not a secret, so in high season, you’ll be sharing the pool with a few hundred others. A better option is to skip the hordes by taking a boat trip here in the afternoon after many people have left for the day.
4. Fomm ir-Riħ
Best beach for peace and quiet
Fomm ir-Riħ – meaning ‘mouth of the wind’ – is Malta’s most remote beach. A steep and sometimes tricky path leads down to the beach from the small town of Baħrija on the northwestern Maltese coast. Such difficulty brings rewards, however, and if you’re looking for peace and quiet, gin-clear water, and magnificent coastal views, this is the beach for you.
Planning tip: The walk down takes around 20 minutes, but if the scramble doesn’t appeal, you can always approach by boat.
5. Wied il-Għasri
Best place for snorkeling
Snorkelers note: Malta is underwater heaven. On the Gozo coast, Wied il-Għasri is a coastal chasm that creates a narrow river of seawater, finishing in a tiny sand and shingle beach. You access the beach via a staircase hacked into the rock. Some of Malta’s finest snorkeling can be had by launching off into the channel, although it’s best avoided in rough weather.
Planning tip: Other prime snorkeling spots include the rocky inlet of Mgarr ix-Xini and the natural sea pool of Għar Lapsi. If scuba is more your thing, there are plenty of diving centers; a popular spot for diving is the Blue Hole near Gozo's Dwejra Bay.
6. Għajn Tuffieħa
Best beach for sunbathing
Neighbor to popular Golden Bay, and sharing the same lovely outlook and soft, silky, butterscotch-colored sand, Għajn Tuffieħa is a quieter choice for sun-worshipping. Unlike Golden Bay, it's not backed by hotels, and the slightly longer walk to get there also helps to thin out the crowds. When all you want to do is lie in the sun and occasionally cool off in the sea, this is an ideal choice.
7. Ramla Bay
Best beach for families
Easily accessible by bus and car, the terracotta-colored sands of Gozo's Ramla Bay are backed by a restaurant that hires out umbrellas and sunbeds. The beach slopes gently into the water, the views up across the hills are delightful, and there’s a scramble up to Calypso’s Cave to consider if anyone’s getting bored. Ramla Bay is one of Malta’s best family beaches, although Golden Bay, Mellieħa Bay and Paradise Bay are also worthy contenders for the title.
8. Mġarr ix-Xini
Best beach for lunch
Reached via a narrow, winding road, Gozo's Mġarr ix-Xini (Port of the Galleys) was once the island's main harbor for the Knights of St John, and the rocky bay's pebbled beach is now the location of quite possibly Malta's most laid-back beachside restaurant. Service at the 10-table Rew Rew can sometimes be a little too relaxed, but lunch plates overflowing with seafood – including excellent calamari – and salad and homemade potato chips make the experience all worthwhile.
Planning tip: Try to visit on a weekday for a shot at securing a spot in the adjacent car park, or charter a boat around the coast from Xlendi or Mġarr harbor.
9. St Peter’s Pool and Il-Kalanka Bay
Best natural swimming pools
Natural swimming pools, sea-sculpted from the coastal rock, are a scenic summer highlight in Malta. Located on the southeastern coast, St Peter’s Pool is one of the loveliest – a ladle-shaped scoop out of the rock that forms a sheltered lagoon for a swim, after which you can bask seal-like on the surrounding rocks.
Planning tip: Nearby, and usually much quieter, is the swimming hole at Il-Kalanka Bay. Note the platform for jumping into the water at Il-Kalanka is higher than at St Peter's, so extra care should be taken.
10. Għar Lapsi
Best place to leap into the sea
Worthy of special mention is Għar Lapsi, a rocky inlet that lies at the base of Malta's Dingli Cliffs. It's popular with snorkelers, divers, and especially children who like leaping into the sea from the rocks. Offering brilliant views of Għar Lapsi's rocky cove, Carmen's Bar & Restaurant is another top spot for a relaxed meal.