The Gulf of Orosei

Cala della Luna and other beaches along the Golfo di Orosei in Sardinia

Mention the Golfo di Orosei to any of the Italian mainlanders who flock to Sardegna's beaches each August, and chances are they’ll light up and say something like: "Ah! Cala della Luna!"

Press them further, and they'll likely tell you two things about this famous beach on the island's eastern coast.

First, it is purportedly quite beautiful—a sweet arc of pale sand backed by a reedy freshwater lagoon.

Second, they’ve never been.

Partly this is due to the siren song pull of the resorts along the over-crowded Costa Smeralda just a few hours to the north, but partly it is due to the fact that you can’t drive to Cala della Luna.

the only access to Cala della Luna is a four-mile hike through the scented macchia (Mediterranean scrubland), or a 30-minute boat ride from Cala Gonone, a former fishing village has grown into a low-key resort town and base for exploring the Gulf of Orosei. (Cala Gonone also has its own pleasant yellow sand beach for days when the sea is too rough for sailing down the coast.)

The boat ride to the beaches

You can rent a motorized rubber boat, board a sailboat, or take a mini-cruise with a freshly-fished seafood lunch thrown in, but by far the most popular (and cheapest) way to hit the gulf's beaches is on the coastal ferry.

Since this is a cooperative of nine boats, it provides multiple departure and return times from various beaches throughout the day. My boat left Cala Gonone at 10am for an eight-hour, best-of-the-coast minicrociera (minicruise).

As it sped south along the coast, the ship cut through low waves that threatened to exhaust my color vocabulary: rich cobalt and bright lapis, limpid turquoise and velvety indigo, shining aquamarine and a translucent seafoam green. We scared up up flocks of flying fish and sometimes sending a refreshing salty spray of water over the open prow as we cruised through the Gulf of Orosei.

The undulating limestone cliffs to the west, at times plunging 2,000 feet into the sea, were topped by scented macchia (Mediterranean scrubland). The cliffs were interrupted only occasionally by a small inlet or bay with a scrap of idyllic beach.

After a 30-minute ride, we stopped at the fabled Cala della Luna, which lived up to its reputation: a sweet arc of pale sand backed by a reedy freshwater lagoon and hemmed in by cave-pocked cliffs providing some shade from the implacable Sardegnan sun.

Many of the 80-odd Italian and German sun-worshippers on my coastal ferry decamped here with umbrellas, beach chairs, and picnic supplies to spend the day swimming and tanning.

I spent only 30 minutes—wandering along the sand and grabbing a gelato at the airy bar/restaurant hidden down a path behind the lagoon (the only facility aside from a kayak/umbrella rental stand on the beach)—before hopping aboard the next boat to continue my minicruise down the gulf coast.

When I booked my ticket, I had paid the extra fee to take an hour-long amble along a catwalk snaking through the Grotta del Bue Marino, a tunnel-like sea cavern, but the modest stalactites didn't really seem worth it—especially after the guide explained that we wouldn't see any of the severely endangered Mediterranean monk seals after which the cave is named; they no longer lived there.

The best part of the day was after the boat zipped down to the southern end of the gulf for a picture-taking pass by Cala Goloritzè, flanked by weird rock pinnacles and a sea arch. En route back north, we paused for 90 minutes to swim and picnic at Cala Marilou, a beach formed by two crescents of smooth white pebbles curving past tumbledown limestone boulders to meet at a breakwater by a small snack bar.

I'd started the day early enough so that, on the return trip, I could hop off at Cala della Luna again to grab another hour of rays before the last boat back to Cala Gonone left at 6:30pm.

Beyond the beaches

Ancient ruins

  • Nuraghe Mannu (Tel. +39-349-442-5552;; €3) is the remains of a 3,500-year-old settlement, including a prehistoric tower, set in a grove of wild olives overlooking the coast above town... » more


The Cala Gonone tourist office, in a little pine-shaded park at the entrance to town, is a great resource for maps and information for hikes in the surrounding Gennargentu Mountains. Here are two of the best:

  • Tiscali is a kind of Bronze Age Sardegnan Mesa Verde at the end of a stiff two-hour uphill thigh-burner of a hike in the Gennargentu Mountains (but with a glorious gourmet restaurant back near the trailhead)... » more
  • Gola di Gorroppu, at the end of a five-mile stroll through a wooded vale, is one of southern Europe's deepest gorges, with walls more than 660 feet high but at times only a few yards apart... » more

Gulf of Orosei FAQ

  • Cala Gonone tourist office, Viale Bue Marino (in the pine woods just above town). tel. +39-0784-93-696,

Boat charters in Cala Gonone

  • Ferry: Nuovo Consorzio Trasporti Marittimi Calagonone. tel. +39-0784-93-305, Rates vary with season, but are around €30–€40 for the coastal minicrociera (mini-cruise) (add €8 for the cave visit), or €15–€23 roundtrip just to Cala Luna.
  • Lunch cruise: Nonno Pio, tel. +39-338-800-5925, €65–€70.
  • Sailboat: Veliero Dovesesto. tel. +39-335-743-8185 or 0784-93-737. €70–€90.
  • Rubber boat rentals: Cielomar, tel. +39-0784-920-014 or +39-348-224-3436,; or Graziano Mereu, tel. +39-0784-93-048. €100–€160 per day, plus €25–€30 for gas.

Where to stay in Cala Gonone

Where to eat in and near Cala Gonone

Tips & links

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