For many, the French Riviera conjures up images of mega yachts and celeb-studded film festivals. But locals don’t go to hot spots like St. Tropez or Cannes for vacation. So, just where exactly do they go? Keep reading to check out four hidden gems of the French Riviera that let you experience le joie de vivre like a local.
1. Anse des Fosses – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a small town thirty minutes southeast of Nice boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Tour the extravagant Villa Ephrussi Rothschild or seek out villas belonging to Paul Allen of Microsoft and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The beaches on this tiny peninsula are quiet and you have several to choose from: Paloma, Passable, Anse des Fosses, Anse des Fossettes and Cro de Peï Pin. Protected by land on either side, these small bays allow swimmers to enjoy calm waters and the closest thing you’ll get to sand beaches.
- Get there: For €4.40 roundtrip take the train from Nice towards Monaco/Menton and get off at Gare de Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Board the 81 bus that will drop you at the port.
Pro-Tip: Parking is limited on the small peninsula and parking fines are plentiful – public transit is your friend!
2. Le Clue de la Cerise – Gilette
In the south of France, proximity of the alps to the sea makes you feel like you’ve won the geographical lottery. In just under an hour from the city center of Nice you can enjoy a hike through pristine mountain air. Le Clue de la Cerise is one enchanting valley with an inviting seafoam green river flowing through it. In the summertime when beaches are brimming with tourists it’s a worthwhile escape. Bonus: The quaint town you pass to get to the Clue – Gilette – is straight out of beauty and the beast. Grab a bite with incredible views of lush green forest. Check out the full post on Le Clue here.
- Get there: No public transport. Rent an Autobleue – France’s electric carshare – by the hour or for the day (be sure to create your account well in advance as you’ll receive your card in the mail!).
- Pro tip: Pack a lunch for a picnic on the rocks and enjoy the river well into the afternoon. Wear tennis shoes that can get wet, and keep them on for traversing slippery rocks.
“Jewel-toned waves crashing against jagged cliffs make for a truly one-of-a-kind backdrop.”
3. Plage de la Mala – Cap d’Ail
This beach oasis boasts a view unlike any other you’ll find on the French Riviera. Jewel-toned waves crashing against jagged cliffs make for a truly one-of-a-kind backdrop. Located in Cap d’Ail, the hidden Plage de la Mala is a small beach that’s only accessible by pedestrian traffic. Enjoy a glass of rosé and seaspray from emerald green waves under a cabana at Eden Plage Mala. Because of its remote location, this exclusive spot isn’t your typical tourist stop, but one that’s well-loved by locals. Bonus: this is one of the few beaches along the Côte d’Azur with actual sand.
- Get there: €2.80 train ride from Nice Riquier to Cap d’Ail in 15 minutes. 10 minute walk from the train station to the beach. Book your ticket online or purchase at an automated machine at the station.
- Pro tip: Reserve a table or lounge chair and umbrella at the private beach club Eden Plage Mala several weeks in advance if you’re visiting during peak season.
4.) La Réserve – Nice
Ask any Niçois where to find the best local beach and they’ll guide you towards the small beaches scattered along the coastline. In the summer when tourists compete for the best spot along the Promenade, locals head towards quiet and solitude. From Nice’s Port Lympia, stroll along Boulevard Franck Pilatte and look down over the railing. You’ll find unabashed locals sunning themselves on the rocks of tiny secluded beaches. Enjoy the privacy or take a plunge from one of the diving areas carved out from the rocks. Bonus: Grab a cocktail or meal at a super unique spot – the former diving board turned trendy restaurant and bar – Le Plongeoir.
- Get there: Map your walk to the restaurant named La Réserve located on Boulevard Franck Pilatte in Nice. Be careful, if you map to Plage de la Réserve you’ll be taken to another town!
- Pro tip: Buy an inexpensive beach mattress to save your spine from the rocks. The locals can make the jagged rocks look almost comfortable, but don’t be fooled!
These majestic places are sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone traveling the Côte d’Azur. And, while you may or may not find them in any guidebooks, you’ll definitely be glad you went. May all of your future travel adventures include hidden gems that let you travel like a local. Until next time, santé!