Europe's best secret beaches revealed

Clandestine coves

<p>Stephen Rees/Shutterstock</p>

Stephen Rees/Shutterstock

By scraping Tripadvisor for ratings, text reviews and beaches specifically classified as 'hidden gems', BonusFinder has drawn up an expansive ranking of the best secret seaside sites in Europe – from Spain and Scandinavia to Ireland and Italy. Here is a short selection of some of our favourite beaches from the list – and why they're so underrated.

Note that many have limited facilities (no sunbeds, parasols, loos, water fountains and so on), so you may need to be prepared when visiting.

Nuns Beach, Ireland



The shape of this rugged crescent cove far predates the holy sisters that once used it for private bathing. Located in Ballybunion, in the north of County Kerry, Nuns Beach lies beneath an old convent and is sheltered by high cliffs, which were gradually moulded by the ageless Atlantic thrashing away at the coastline.

It’s been called a hidden gem for its natural seclusion, but also because it’s not the easiest to reach: access is only by boat or via a steep descent down the cliffside.

Mannin Bay Blueway, Ireland

<p>D. Ribeiro/Shutterstock</p>

D. Ribeiro/Shutterstock

Sticking with underrated Irish beaches, Mannin Bay Blueway is in County Galway’s picturesque Connemara region – though you could easily mistake it for a slice of the Caribbean. With brown-sugar sands strewn with rust-coloured seaweed, the beach at Mannin Bay is one part of a system of water trails, great for kayaking and snorkelling, that make up the Blueway.

The region is renowned for its stunning scenery but also for its culture – Connemara contains Ireland’s second largest Gaeltacht area, where the Irish language is spoken freely and treasured by the local people.

Saye Beach, Alderney, Channel Islands



The most northern of the inhabited Channel Islands and the closest part of the archipelago to France, Alderney is considered something of a best-kept secret in itself. This small rocky outcrop is abundant with wildlife and uncrowded open spaces – Saye Beach being one of its finest.

Dusted with white sand washed by clear blue sea, it’s perfect for swimming and is right next to a campsite for easy access. You’ll often find you have this beach all to yourself (save for the odd seal or oystercatcher), even in peak season.

Bosta Beach, Scotland, UK



In Scotland’s remote Outer Hebrides, a bridge connects the Isle of Lewis to the islet of Great Bernera. It’s here you’ll find Bosta Beach, or Traigh Bhostadh, which veers off a slim, single-track road and offers sweeping views of the wild coast.

Surrounded by flower-rich meadows in the summer and boasting water as sparkling as any in the Mediterranean, even the grazing Highland cows nearby love to take a wander on Bosta Beach.

Glyka Nera Beach, Greece

<p>Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock</p>

Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock

Literally translated as ‘sweet water beach’, Glyka Nera Beach is nestled between tall, malty cliffs on Crete’s southern shore. Local whispers say that the water here has a slightly sweet taste due to it being fed by natural springs in the area – not that we'd recommend drinking it to find out.

It’s a bit of an expedition to reach this hidden sanctuary, whether you hike 20 minutes from the nearest car park or arrive by personal boat. But those that make the journey are suitably rewarded. Note that the eastern edge of the beach is reserved for nudists.

Sound of Sleat Beach, Scotland, UK



The pristine waters and untouched shores of the Sound of Sleat Beach earned it the UK’s top spot in BonusFinder’s ranking of the continent’s best hidden beaches. Teetering on the southernmost point of the Isle of Skye, this sequestered site – better known as Camas Daraich – requires a 45-minute walk from the village of Aird, which could account for its limited footfall.

But if you can visit, you'll be wowed by azure-blue waters that resemble beaches far, far further south.

Joao de Arens Beach, Portugal



Part of a larger clutch of beaches that form Portugal’s storied Algarve region, Joao de Arens is a tiny smudge of golden sand huddled among honeycomb-like cliffs. While it’s no stranger to lists of travellers’ favourite European beaches, Joao de Arens remains the perfect unspoilt spot for sunbathers and bookworms to unwind, away from the crowded resorts found elsewhere on Portugal’s south coast.

It’s also a designated nudist beach where naturism is to be respected.

Rushy Bay Beach, England, UK

<p>Stephen Rees/Shutterstock</p>

Stephen Rees/Shutterstock

The Isles of Scilly are southwest England's best-kept secret, lying a little way off the tip of Cornwall. Only five of these islands are inhabited by humans – one of them being Bryher, the home of Rushy Bay Beach.

Though Bryher isn’t short of seaside spots, Rushy Bay particularly stands out for its unblemished tranquillity and south-facing splendour. There are intriguing sights too, like the uninhabited isle of Samson visible in the distance, and the ruins of an English Civil War-era gun battery scattered at the beach's eastern end.

Gerontas Beach, Greece



One of the most gorgeous islands in the ever-popular Greek Cyclades, Milos has its fair share of stunning beaches. While the lunar landscapes of Sarakiniko and Alogomandra are staples of many itineraries, Gerontas Beach is a hushed-away wonder the island keeps up its sleeve.

Set within a mostly uninhabited corner of northwestern Milos, the beach is accessible either by boat or via a lengthy footpath from the nearest road. When you arrive, you’ll discover a quiet cove of silvery rocks sculpted by salty jade waves.

Karras Beach, Greece

<p>Andronos Haris/Shutterstock</p>

Andronos Haris/Shutterstock

Situated just north of Milos, the island of Kimolos receives far fewer visitors than its bigger sister. Also known as 'the chalk island', it has no shortage of idyllic beaches that stay delightfully sleepy year-round.

One of the finest is Karras Beach, though you won’t find soft sands and beach clubs here. Karras is a sweep of rocky coastline where people lay their towels on the smoothest boulders they can find. But its real draw is the kaleidoscopic colours of the Aegean Sea that beckon swimmers and divers.

Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen, as there’s no shade.

Mazida Ammos Beach, Greece

<p>Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock</p>

Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock

Mazida Ammos Beach occupies a long sandy strip of the southeast coast of Crete, with nothing but uninterrupted Mediterranean sea separating it from Cyprus. Just 1,600 feet (500m) from the nearby village of Xerokambos, this beach has slightly more robust tourism infrastructure than others on this list – without compromising on tranquillity.

Reached by a scenic drive through honey-hued mountains, Mazida Ammos is sheltered by a protective cape and lapped by turquoise waters.

Alimia Beach, Greece

<p>Christos Chatzigiannis/Alamy</p>

Christos Chatzigiannis/Alamy

You get two beaches for the price of one with Alimia Beach. Found on the small Cycladic island of Iraklia, south of Naxos, this secret bay conceals two powder-soft coves tailor-made for paddling in the shallows.

The smaller beach is also perfect for shade-seekers and families, as a lip of rock extends over the sand, resembling a cave. Best accessed by boat (due to the strenuous hike required to reach it by land), Alimia is also famed for the wreck of a German seaplane which sank here during the Second World War.

Its skeleton is visible from the surface.

Bleikstranda, Norway

<p>Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock</p>

Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock

Norway might be better known for its dramatic fjords and sprinkling of Arctic islands, but did you know it also boasts some pretty spectacular beaches? Bleikstranda is one of its most beautiful, tucked in the very north of the country on the island of Andoya.

Named for the fishing village of Bleik that falls at one end of the beach, Bleikstranda offers almost two miles (3km) of ivory sand kissed by frigid sea. It’s especially striking under the midnight sun and you can drive right up to it in a taxi or car.

Tjurpannans Naturreservat, Sweden

<p>Berndt-Joel Gunnarsson/Alamy</p>

Berndt-Joel Gunnarsson/Alamy

Staying in Scandinavia, Tjurpannans Naturreservat is a nature reserve on Sweden’s ancient Bohuslan coast. The area has a long history of shipwrecks and stormy seas, with even the most experienced seafarers said to be fearful of its might.

This power is reflected in the landscapes of the reserve, where you can explore barren beaches ranging from jagged and boulder-strewn to shingle-covered and sandy. On days when the weather is calm and warm, it is possible to bathe here, with several serene spots to choose from.

Agia Eleni Beach, Greece

<p>Igor Tichonow/Shutterstock</p>

Igor Tichonow/Shutterstock

The last Greek beach in our selection is located on the western shores of devilishly handsome Kefalonia, the largest island in the Ionian archipelago. Agia Eleni Beach is compact and uncluttered, save for the band of smoke-coloured cliffs and crags that cascade down into the bay.

As the terrain is pebbly both above and below the waves, be sure to bring some water shoes with you if you’re keen to spend long stretches swimming. The dazzling clarity of the water makes it an ideal destination for snorkelling.

Es Calo Blanc, Spain

<p>Dino Geromella/Alamy</p>

Dino Geromella/Alamy

Thought to be the smallest beach on Menorca, Es Calo Blanc occupies just 32 square feet (3sqm) of space, but makes a big impression. The beach is particularly notable for the transparency of its waters – looking into them is like peering through a polished window.

This is apparently thanks to the presence of posidonia in nearby underwater meadows – a form of seagrass that helps oxygenate the water, lending it the nickname 'the lungs of the Mediterranean'. Es Calo Blanc just scraped the top 10 in BonusFinder’s ranking of Europe’s best secret beaches.

Baie d’Ecalgrain, France

<p>Stefan Rotter/Alamy</p>

Stefan Rotter/Alamy

Baie d’Ecalgrain is one of France’s last frontiers before reaching England – a paradisiacal bay perched at the farthest extension of the Normandy coast. While some visitors come to take a leisurely stroll along the cookie-crumb sand, there are more adventurous possibilities waiting offshore.

Not only is Baie d’Ecalgrain a popular take-off point for paragliders, it’s also a great spot to experience coasteering. Combining rock-hopping, climbing, cliff-jumping and swimming, it’s a sport definitely not for the faint of heart.

Spiaggia di Talmone, Italy

<p>IHS Channel/Shutterstock</p>

IHS Channel/Shutterstock

Italian beaches dominated BonusFinder's top 10, and we’re including five of the best here. Spiaggia di Talmone came in eighth position overall and is Tripadvisor users' favourite thing to see in Palau, Sardinia’s much-loved summer resort.

Fringed with rocks and weather-worn boulders speckled with wildflowers and other greenery, this beach feels wild and tame at the same time, stroked by gentle, shallow waves that welcome all the family. There are good amenities here too, with restaurants, cafes and even a playground all close by.

Praia di Fuoco, Italy

<p>Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock</p>

Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock

There’s a reason this part of the Italian coast is called the Costa degli Dei – 'the coast of the gods'. Praia di Fuoco, one of its most captivating beaches, is so divine that it could have been sculpted by the hands of Neptune himself. One of several small beaches that make up Capo Vaticano, Praia di Fuoco in Italy's Calabria region is swaddled by a lofty granite promontory and bordered by the flawless Tyrrhenian Sea.

Accessible only by kayak, boat or via an unkempt trail down the treacherous cliffside, it certainly puts the 'hidden' in hidden gem.

Spiaggia di Scivu, Italy

<p>CA Irene Lorenz/Shutterstock</p>

CA Irene Lorenz/Shutterstock

Sardinia’s Spiaggia di Scivu is the most southern beach along the Costa Verde, a stretch of cappuccino-tinged shoreline where all inland sound is muted by large dunes and towering ochre cliffs. Even in August, there could be just a handful of people on Scivu, making the most of its unspoilt nature and plush sands.

While a kiosk and freshwater shower facilities are set up here in the summer months, the beach is otherwise left to its own devices, so remember to bring your own parasols and refreshments.

Plage du Grand Sperone, France

<p>Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock</p>

Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

A lick of buttermilk sand at the southernmost tip of Corsica, just on the outskirts of vibrant Bonifacio, Plage du Grand Sperone is the larger of the two beaches of Sperone (the other, unsurprisingly, is Plage du Petit Sperone). To reach Grand Sperone, you’ll have to cross Piantarella Beach and walk for 20 or so minutes, passing through Petit Sperone – which gets slightly more tourists – on your way.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by crystal-clear waters and a wonderfully chill vibe.

Kerfissien Beach, France

<p>Image Professionals GmbH/Alamy</p>

Image Professionals GmbH/Alamy

Arriving at BonusFinder’s top three secret European beaches, we have Kerfissien Beach claiming bronze. Tucked in a smiling cove along the coast of Brittany, Kerfissien is a blend of amber sands, unique rock formations and Caribbean-blue waters.

Inviting relaxation and exploration, there are ample opportunities here for sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, rockpooling and rambling. Around the corner, at the port of Kerfissien, there is a Sunday morning market in the months of July and August, where fresh local produce is sold.

Capo Cozzo, Italy

<p>mauritius images GmbH/Alamy</p>

mauritius images GmbH/Alamy

Capo Cozzo is a concealed cove in Zambrone, an area in the Calabria region of southern Italy. A haven for nature and adventure enthusiasts, its clear waters and shrouded sands are your prize for making the expeditionary journey.

To get to Capo Cozzo’s larger beach, you have a choice to make: either scramble over a wall of rocks or swim around it. Whichever path you choose, the exertion will be worth it, as the velvety shores and imposing seaside bluffs waiting on the other side can attest.

The beach finished second in BonusFinder's ranking.

Cala di Rovaglioso, Italy

<p>Antonio Arico/Shutterstock</p>

Antonio Arico/Shutterstock

Claiming BonusFinder's top spot, Cala di Rovaglioso (or Caletta Rovaglioso) is another Calabrian beach that leaves discerning travellers spellbound. Located in the municipality of Palmi, known for its superlative coastal attractions, Cala di Rovaglioso forms part of the Costa Viola – meaning ‘purple coast’.

It’s thought that the area inherited this moniker during ancient times and that it relates to the explosion of colour that occurs at sunset, when the sea takes on a gorgeous hue. View the full data set that inspired this round-up here.

Now explore America's best secret beaches