Malta’s rich history, beautiful architecture, and prehistoric sites entice visitors, but after hours of touring, there’s nothing more relaxing than a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. While many popular beaches sit among a throng of 5-star hotels, we prefer the less crowded, locally recommended “secret” beaches and bays for snorkeling and sunbathing. In fact, you might find yourself alone at some of our favorite Malta beaches!
7 Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: Privacy While You Unwind
One of the best things about being married to my husband—besides that he’s kind, brilliant, a great father, and puts up with all of my crazy garden projects—is that he’s part of an extended European family. He’s Swiss, his father is German, his mom is Dutch, his sister and her family live in Malta, and various uncles, aunts, and cousins reside throughout the world. When we travel in Europe, we like to find insider destinations. So naturally, when we planned to visit Malta, we took the advice of our family and enjoyed the most fabulous, secluded, beautiful Malta beaches…mostly tourist-free!
Things to Do in Malta on the Beach
While the Maltese islands offer many beautiful beaches, resorts and hotels take advantage of prime locations, which means crowded beaches filled with tourists. When we travel, our family prefers secluded beaches ideal for snorkeling and relaxing, and we always search for out-of-the-way, less busy beaches. With our sister-in-law as our personal tour guide, we discovered the inside scoop about where the locals like to play in Malta.
1. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: Ghar Lapsi
For a charming cove that’s popular with local Maltese, Ghar Lapsi provides a perfect destination. Located near a fishing village, the natural cove features a small cave, where snorkelers and divers can explore.
Ghar Lapsi means “Cave of the Ascension,” and a fishermen’s shrine once resided here. So, not only did we swim and snorkel, we also got a history lesson at the same time!
To reach Ghar Lapsi, the access road winds steeply along the coast, ending in a small parking lot. Below, a few benches and an area to spread beach towels and blankets await the less adventurous, while the swimmers and snorkelers access the cove by climbing down limestone steps to iron ladders.
Our kids, of course, took off immediately to see what sea creatures they could spot. (I swear, I think they’re part mountain goat, the way they easily climb over rocks.) Plus, being our kids, they naturally chose to snorkel along the less populated rocks and outcrops after they’d checked out the cave.
After working up an appetite swimming and snorkeling, check out one of the restaurants that overlook the cove. While the popular Blue Creek restaurant was closed when we visited (hours are a bit irregular), we found snacks among the fishing boats at Carmen’s Bar and Restaurant.
2. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: Delimara Coves
Probably my favorite beach in Malta involved the rocky cliffs of Delimara Coves, located in the southeast of Malta. From a purely photographic standpoint, I loved the amazing views of the weathered cliffs against the stunning aquamarine sea. The kids loved snorkeling here, finding an octopus—which was a first for them!
Again, this isn’t your typical sandy beach—it’s rocky, but it’s also nearly deserted. When we visited, only two other people occupied the sunbathing area. It really is the place to get away from crowds.
The rock formations also add to the pleasure of the cove. But be careful—in some places, the limestone cliffs felt like they might crumble beneath our feet. We warned our son to stay away from the edges of the cliffs and instead walk on the thicker limestone, which seemed less likely to break.
(Nervous moms, beware.)
3. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: St. Peter’s Pool
Be brave when driving to St. Peter’s Pool: like much of Malta, you may find yourself playing chicken if a car approaches, as the narrow roads require creative passing when two cars meet. However, once you arrive, you’ll agree that St. Peter’s Pool is worth risky road conditions.
The natural lido in the rocks provides an idyllic swimming place, one that can get a bit crowded with locals. With large, flat slabs offering perfect sunbathing spaces for those less adventurous visitors, the real attraction lies below—the stunning blue-green waters of St. Peter’s Pool.
For timid visitors, ladders offer access to the gorgeous water to swim or snorkel. For the brave, cliff diving provides quicker access to cool off.
Look for the Delimara Lighthouse near Marsaxlokk and continue just past the power station chimney, where you’ll see find signs for St. Peter’s Pool. (Creative parking is also required.)
4. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: St. Paul’s Bay
One of my favorite things about visiting Malta’s beaches with our Maltese family involves the stories. For instance, my sister-in-law mentioned that her boys always ate doughnuts sold at St. Paul’s Bay as their treat after swimming. Sure enough, the doughnut vendor still offers the scrumptious, sugary confections, allowing our kids to join in the Bartolo family doughnut tradition of St. Paul’s Bay.
St. Paul’s Bay offers the traditional, sandy beach, perfect for younger kids to play and swim—but not as ideal for snorkeling, due to the decreased visibility from churning sand. However, determined snorkelers can swim a bit farther out from the crowd toward the rockier portion of the beach, where the visibility improves.
Located in the northern region of the island, St. Paul’s Bay offers rich history, as well as beautiful beaches. Here, according to legend, St. Paul shipwrecked in AD 60. During his stay, many miracles reportedly occurred, and as he preached to the local people, the islanders began converting to Christianity.
The towns of San Pawl il-Bahar and Bugibba offer resorts and watersports, and you’ll find several diving companies in the area. We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of St. Paul’s Bay, and while it’s more crowded than most of the beaches we visited, it’s still relatively spacious. (Families with younger children will appreciate the easy beach access and sand to play in too.)
5. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: Inland Sea, Gozo
Comprised of three islands–Malta, Gozo, and Comino—it seems all islands fall under the overall heading of “Maltese”, because access to each island is only a short ferry trip. We hopped on the ferry for a day of sightseeing and beach playing in Gozo, which is absolutely a must when visiting Malta.
The Inland Sea and the Azure Window are top tourist destinations in Gozo—or at least, they were. Sadly, the huge, natural limestone arch of the famous Azure Window collapsed in March during a storm. (For Game of Thrones fans, the Azure Window played backdrop to the Dothraki wedding scene is season one.) The Inland Sea, though, continues to attract tourists. The cliff-bound lagoon with its crystal clear waters provides a perfect place to cool off.
However, the main attraction of the Inland Sea is the tunnel that runs for 100 meters through Dwejra Point, connecting the lagoon to the open sea. Small boats can sail through the opening in calm water, and fishermen supplement their income by taking tourists on boat trips through the passage. (Apparently, people also swim through the passage, but I didn’t try it!)
Because of its popularity, amenities like changing rooms and snack bars are available here. It’s a little more crowded than some of the beaches we visited, but it’s definitely worth the experience.
6. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: Mgarr ix-Xini Bay, Gozo
Famous for the infamously bad film, By The Sea, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Mgarr ix-Xini’s beautiful, secluded location may be reason enough to rent the movie, just so you can experience the cove. The narrow, cliff-bound inlet once was the main harbor for the Knights of St. John. In fact, one of their watchtowers built in 1661 continues to guard the entrance.
A tourist might miss the beautiful little cove, but we traveled with locals—my husband’s sister and her family, who often visit for a weekend outing. It’s a small, pebble-strewn beach, with swimmers claiming space along the walkways and walls. In fact, the favorite activity here combines a bit of rock climbing to reach the perfect spot to dive/jump/flip into the sea. Our teen nephew executed some fabulous, daredevil dives, while I threatened our kids not to crack their heads open.
The main attraction for my family involved, as always, snorkeling. Pristine water, nooks and crannies along the cliffs, and calm sea provided ideal ocean life viewing. I especially appreciated the easy access to snorkeling, with the gently sloping entry into the water. (Although the rocks are a little slippery, I’d rather take my chances on them. I prefer not diving off cliffs, thank you very much!)
How did I end up with my thrill seeking, cliff jumping children? (I blame my husband.)
Mgarr ix-Xini: A Local Favorite, Plus Amenities.
Mgarr ix-Xini provides a few amenities, unlike many of the secluded beaches. A well-known restaurant is popular with locals. My sister-in-law packed a picnic for us, though we did indulge in ice cream from the restaurant afterwards.
Snorkeling makes tourists hungry!
Mgarr ix-Xini is located near Ghajnsielem (southwest) and Sannat (southeast) on the Maltese Island of Gozo. While it’s not a popular tourist destination, the bay is a favorite for locals, so go early to secure your spot on the beach. And, if you rent a boat, it’s a lovely place to drop anchor and swim at the mouth of the cove. (My sailor husband experienced a bit of boat-envy here.)
7. Fabulous Must-See Malta Beaches: Ramla Bay, Gozo
A more traditional, more occupied beach, Ramla Bay in Gozo boasts red-gold sand along with spectacular views. Where can you sunbathe with ruins of a Roman villa beneath the sand and with Calypso’s Cave in the distance to the west?
The walk through the valley to the beach is half the pleasure. The fertile land shows off wildflowers, and fields of sunflowers add to the picturesque view.
While the beach is popular for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, it also provides plenty of room to spread out. We didn’t have this beach to ourselves, but it wasn’t terribly overcrowded. Ramla Bay offers easy water access for families with young children. Because of its popularity, amenities like a café and umbrella rentals are available.
No matter your beach needs—whether it’s seeking an octopus in an underwater crevice or trying to breathe while your children terrorize you by jumping off cliffs–Malta offers gorgeous beaches to make everyone happy.