Last updated on 08 August 2017
For spring break, we went to Corsica, which was even better than I expected. The beaches were dreamy, the water clear, the tide pools lively, the cliffs steep, the trails well-marked, the rivers inviting, the roads narrow, the mountains spiky, the food yummy. It was a great vacation for our outdoorsy family.
I’m not an expert on Corsica. But I had a hard time finding good info in English while researching this trip. So I feel compelled to help you out a bit. So I’ll tell you what we liked and link you to a few resources as a starting point. I call this post “Corsica with Kids” because I include realistic activities that an average family can do with their kids, not extreme sports, super difficult technical hikes or fancy restaurants. Here’s a sneak peak at our favorite spots. Keep reading below to get all the details.
When & where we went
We went the end of April and first week of May, so not tourist season yet. It was quiet, but not empty. Most restaurants in the towns were open but the beach cafes and water equipment rentals, not so much. We had mostly sunny weather, about 20 to 24 C. But the water was still very cold, about 16 C, good for splashing around but too icy for swimming.
We flew into Ajaccio on the west coast, drove 2 hours north to Porto on the west coast, where we stayed for 4 days, exploring the cliffs by boat and rivers and mountains by foot. Then we drove over the mountains to Porto Vecchio on southeast side, spending most of our 5 days lazying around on various beaches. The map below shows roughly where we went.
So let’s take a look. Below is a teaser for each activity with a link for more details. Enjoy!
Our home base for the first half our trip was in Porto on the west coast of Corisca. Porto is a small harbor town, with lots of hotels, holiday homes, camping, restaurants, stores, groceries, boat tours, etc. After being there, I’m so glad we chose to stay in Porto and not one of the little towns nearby. The town was nice enough, nothing particularly special, but it was very convenient to all the activities we wanted to do. The roads are so narrow and curvy that we would have gone crazy driving back and forth from our activities every day. We stayed at Capu Seninu, a residence hotel in Porto, which was very clean, comfortable, convenient and included parking.
The food was pretty good, rustic French, with pretty salads, hearty stews, lots of fish, and pizza everywhere. Our favorite place was La Cigale, which had a simple menu but really tasty stuff grilled on their wood fire oven. There are two mid-sized groceries in town, with small selection of fresh produce. Spar had the best baguettes, while we like the pastries best from the bakery on the road to the waterfront (sorry, I forgot the name).
The map below shows Porto in the center and the activities we did in the area. Below is a summary of these activities with a link to a post with more information.
The main attraction of this area is the sea cliffs, which can be toured by boat. This is an expensive outing but well worth the money in my opinion. I recommend doing the grand tour, which visits both Calanche di Piana to the south and the Scandola Girolata to the north, lasting about 4 hrs. The boats weave in and out of the coves, even squeezing through narrow tunnels and into little caves. The cliff formations are spectacular and varied. Our kids loved when the boat sped super fast between locations, spraying us with water and bouncing on the waves.
>>> Read my post for more details…
Another popular activity in Corsica is swimming in the lovely rivers all over the island. The www.paradisu.de website has a fantastic map of 30+ swimming holes in Corsica, with detailed descriptions and pictures. It’s in German, but I think you can figure it out.
In late April, it wasn’t warm enough yet for river swimming, but we could still hike along these rivers and enjoy the beauty. The Spelunca Gorge, a short drive from Porto, has a nice hike along the river, which is filled with big rocks, forming lots of lovely pools. We hiked a couple km up the river and got some long views of the canyon. But if you don’t want to hike, there’s plenty to explore very close to the road. Our kids liked jumping from rock to rock, tempting fate.
>>> Read my Spelunca Gorge post for more details about how to access this area and where to hike.
Many hikes in this area are too long with too much elevation gain for our crew. But this hike to Capo Rosso was just the right length and difficulty for us, with spectacular views in every direction. It was about 6 km round trip, with a steep climb at the end. I was huffing and puffing but my kids scrambled up like mountain goats. We saw a couple other families with little kids too, so I feel confident in recommending it to you.
>>> Read my Capo Rosso post for a trail map and more pics of this hike.
Corsica: East Coast
After five days on the east coast, we drove over the central mountains to the east coast and settled in on the gorgeous beaches south of Porto Vecchio. Before the trip, I looked at pictures of every beach in this area and it was so hard to decide where to go. Of course, we couldn’t visit them all but I was completely satisfied with our choices. Here is a map showing all the places we visited on the east coast of Corsica and details for each below the map.
Our home base on the east coast was in a residence hotel within walking distance of Santa Giulia beach, a good thing because parking near the beach is scarce. I’ve never been to Tahiti, but this is exactly how I imagine the water would look, so clear and shallow and blue. The water is so shallow so far out that it seems that you can walk to the middle of the bay before you need to swim. The beach is 1.5 km long, so we took a few relaxing long strolls down that beach, a nice alternative to hiking. There are several cafes and umbrella and water sport rentals along this beach, plenty to keep everyone well fed and entertained. Our kids loved climbing around on the big boulders in the water, but make sure to avoid the sea anemones.
>>> Read my Santa Giulia post for more pics of this beach.
People rave about Palombaggia and rightly so. The crystal clear water is dreamy. The white sand beach is so long you can’t see the end of it. Red rocks line the edges of the beach, great for climbing and exploring tide pools. The beach is surrounded by forest instead of hotels, so it has a wild feeling even if it’s crowded. There’s even a big parking lot (for a fee during high season) so it’s not too difficult to access.
>>> Read my Palombaggia Beach post for more pics of this beach.
Lots of people stop on the road to look down on this picturesque beach, but it’s a little tricky to access. If you’re lucky to nab one of the few street parking spots, you can hike down through the forest. Otherwise, you can walk to the end of the main Palombaggia beach and cross over to the section, a smaller white sand beach with rocky forested peninsulas (like the one pictured above) for bookends. It has a couple cafes with lots of outdoor seating and umbrella chairs to rent.
>>> Read my Palombaggia Beach post for more pics of this beach.
Rondinara is a large circular cove, with sandy beaches wrapping all the way around. The water is very shallow and clear, with little waves on one side and a wind break on the other. It’s little harder to reach, as you must drive down a long winding narrow road to the big dirt parking lot (for a fee in season) set behind the beach. Then a short walk to the beach, then potentially a long walk along the beach to find your perfect spot. There is a restaurant and rentals near the beach entrance but the rest of the beach is pretty wild, surrounded by forest and not much else.
>>> Read my Rondinara Beach post for more pics of this beach.
Bonifacio is a port town at the southern most tip of Corsica, perched high up on the cliffs shown above. We only came for the evening, so we spent our time walking along the cliffs, enjoying the sun setting over the old town. There was also a sketchy walkway down to a rocky cove under the cliffs, an irresistable treasure trove of sea glass for my boys.
>>> Read my Bonifacio post for more pics and info.
If you follow the cliffs from Bonifacio all the way to the southern most point of Corsica, you’ll end up at Capo Pertusato. You drive out most of the way, then hike about 30 minutes down to this rock jutting out toward Sardinia. We all enjoyed climbing around on the rocks and peering over the cliffs – from a safe distance of course! There’s even a sandy beach down there if you fancy swimming.
>>> Read my Capo Pertusato post for more pics and info.
While on the east coast, we did a scenic drive through the interior to visit the famous Aiguilles de Bavella and see some of the popular river swimming spots. Unfortunately, clouds obscured the most famous peaks and the rain started before we could do any of the hikes we planned. But the drive was still beautiful and we liked it enough to come back if we visit Corsica again someday. The picture above is from the highest point of the drive where many of the hikes start.
Here are the hikes we were considering. The www.paradisu.de website was a great resource for finding hikes, even though it was only in German.
Here is the loop we drove (click for details), starting and ending in Porto Vecchio. In summer, you can stop along the river at the north part of the loop and there are lots of swimming holes in the Solenzarariver. The www.paradisu.de website has a detailed map with specific locations of each swimming area.
OK, that’s it. Are you ready to pack your bags???