Original Post August 3, 2021; Updated May 25, 2023
Our holiday in Sardinia, an Italian island off the coast of the Mediterranean, brought about the idea of visiting quaint, small villages. One location on our list was the sleepy village of Baunei, a town I randomly chose for its Blue Zone title (more on that in another blog post) and its proximity to one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia. Little did we know that discovering Baunei would lead us to find a hidden gem of Sardinia, a “shepherd’s village” that has much to offer as well as in its surrounding areas.
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Located on the central-eastern coast of Sardinia in the province of Ogliastra, Baunei (pronounced bao-ney) is a small village tucked among steep mountains. The mountain village is surrounded by vegetation limestone cliffs and is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia. It is easily an outdoor lover’s paradise, full of hiking and climbing opportunities. The first time Baunei was detected in writing was back in 1313, but clearly, it is rich in history dating back to the Neolithic ages and still holds archeological sites of caves, “tombs of the giants,” and much more, all worth visiting. It’s furthermore considered one of those places with a high number of centenarians, meaning a large number of people over 90 years old still reside in this village, making this a Blue Zone.
We spent two nights in Baunei, and it felt like we were staying far away from it all, in a good way. Driving up to the village, you can see Baunei hugging the cliffs from afar as you are zig-zagging your way through the mountainside. We checked into our Airbnb just right at the end of the village and picked up a few groceries from the nearby mini grocery store; I loved that it was within walking distance. We wanted to make sure we took advantage of all that Baunei had to offer for such a quaint village. With a few recommendations from our Airbnb host and my research alone, discovering Baunei made our Sardinia vacation so memorable. Read on for our discoveries and things to do.
With the blistering summer heat, we wanted the whole Sardinian beach experience wherever we were on the island. From the recommendation of our Airbnb host, the Santa Maria Navarrese beach, just a 10-minute drive from where we were staying in Baunei, was one of her top recommendations. As soon as we settled into our Airbnb, we headed to this beach.
One not to miss, the Spiaggia di Santa Maria Navarrese (aka Santa Maria Navarrese beach) is a rocky, pebble beach, a mixture of small and big stones. Though the water is clear, it was not as blue/green in color as I would have imagined; however, it still was a beautiful beach to dip into and enjoy the water. The pebbles made the beach perfect for snorkeling and fantastic to wade in. I recommend beach water shoes for the pebble beach; they’re not comfortable to walk on barefoot, in my opinion. The small beach is only 500 meters long, with a Spanish tower ( Torre di Santa Maria Navarrese) on-site and a pine tree forest that hugs the beach. It is not far from the town of Santa Maria Navarrese, and we found free parking on the side of the road within walking distance from the beach, with easy access.
Pedra Longa Restaurant
After a refreshing afternoon of swimming, we returned to Baunei, cleaned up, and headed to dinner at the highly-rated (both online and via our Airbnb host) Pedra Longa restaurant, only a five-minute drive from Baunei. Now, Pedra Longa (the cliff) is also famous on its own, a National Monument since 1993, and has been an aid for sailors as a prominent point. It’s even heralded for the hikes you can do around this area.
We did not get to hike around Pedra Longa, but we saw the famous cliff and ate at the restaurant that I highly recommend. The restaurant is renowned for its views. I suggest explicitly reserving, far in advance, the seaside vista by the ocean. Unfortunately, we did not get to eat by the water. However, we still ate inside the restaurant and had a wonderful time. The food was delicious, serving Italian seafood flares and offering typical Italian dishes (spaghetti)! The pizza is highly recommended, but unfortunately, they were not on the menu for the evening during our visit.
Make reservations to eat here, and if you can, get the seaside romantic view. It may cost a bit more (there is a service fee for the seaside view), but I am sure it will be worth it. The seaside view is an Instagram-worthy place to take lovely photos and a great excuse to get gussied up or go on a romantic dinner.
Hike to Cala Goloritzé
The following day was a full day of hiking to one of the most beautiful beaches of Baunei, and perhaps Sardinia, Cala Goloritzé beach. A 20-minute drive up into the mountains, this is a unique hiking experience where you get to explore the landscapes of this part of Sardinia (Ogliastra region). The hiking itself is a long one but worth it in the end when you find your way to the gorgeous beach.
Cala Goloritzé has been a UNESCO Natural Monument since 1993 due to its beauty, and the beach is a favorite for snorkeling. I won’t lie; the hike takes about an hour one way and an hour and a half uphill walk back to the car, overall a total of 6km. However, the trek to the beach is worth it, trust me. It’s a moderately easy hike, and kids can certainly do it, but I recommend good hiking or closed-toe shoes with grips (I wore my Keens sandals). The path follows an old donkey/goat trail and is a mixture of dirt and rocky pathways as well as rocky steps. I recommend being mindful where you walk during the hike for loose rocks; I almost slipped a few times.
Do we regret the hike to the beach? It was tough, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences we have ever done as a family! I don’t think my kids have hiked for this long, but I sure was proud of them for walking this route to a beautiful beach. Want to read more on this hike and tips for hiking Cala Goloritze? I’ll be writing a new blog post for tips for hiking Cala Goloritze and update this post once it’s complete.
Enjoy a Beach Day at Cala Goloritzé
As mentioned above, hiking to Cala Goloritzé is worth it. Here is why…check this beach out.
Cala Goloritzé’s beach is gorgeous in its own way. However, there are only two ways to the beach, hiking to the beach or take a boat. Both have their pros and cons, but in the long run, you end up on a beautiful beach. The downfall to taking the boat, the boat does not access the beach; you may have to swim to it. Additionally, there are no public restrooms, and it’s not a free beach; someone will be checking at the beach entrance for your receipt. We got there early and spent the whole day swimming and enjoying the beautiful water and warmth of the sun. The water was cold for a hot August day, but you get used to it.
Since it is also a tiny beach, get there early to get a good spot on the beach. For more information and tips for hiking to this gorgeous beach, here is my more detailed blog post for Cala Goloritze.
Have a Rooftop Dinner in the Center of Town
After a fun day at the beach and a long hike back to the car, we needed to wind down by having dinner in town. Baunei is located along a cliffside, giving the village an advantage of a fantastic view and one you can’t miss regardless of where you stay in Baunei. As another recommendation from our Airbnb, we had dinner at Cafe Baunei Centro, just for the view. But despite our reasoning for choosing this restaurant for its scenery, we were not disappointed to learn that the food was also pretty good.
If reservations are full or you need other recommendations for other places to eat in town that also offers impressive views, here’s a list of other restaurants in Baunei.
Explore the Village
You can’t leave Baunei without exploring the village. Besides exploring the village the evening before, the husband and I took advantage of the quiet morning on our last day in Baunei to stroll the sleepy town and enjoy the quaintness. It’s hard not to miss the locals shuffling through the village in the early morning, getting ready for work or daily living. It was pretty refreshing to see the locals’ people-watching or how I would find a few homes with their doors wide open to let the warmth of the sunshine through their homes. We saw people cleaning out their courtyard for the day or simply basking in the morning sun and enjoying the quietness of the morning before the rush of the day. I loved meandering through the cobblestone streets, discovering the village’s old history, and admiring the centuries-old buildings. It’s easy to fall in love with Baunei by exploring the town.
Other Things To Discover in Baunei
We didn’t have enough time to discover all Baunei had to offer, but here are some things I had on my list for discoveries.
- Visit the Natural Pools of Cascata di Bau Mela
We were fortunate enough to visit this natural pool. About an hour’s drive from Baunei is the natural pools of Bau Mela (aka Cascata di Bau Mela or Piscine Naturali di Bau Mela). Surrounded by vegetation and rocks, this natural pool is not to be missed. We found parking directly into the trail entrance to the pool on the side of the road inside Bau Mela park. Be sure to wear proper shoes; the small hike down to the natural pools includes a small hill and loose rocks. We also had to climb a few rocks to get to one side of the falls. I highly recommend going to this location and checking it out.
- Other Beaches Nearby
Spiaggia di Lido di Orrì is another beach recommendation from our Airbnb host. This beach is 20 minutes by car, and parking can be located behind the beach. Here is the Google coordinate.
- Cruise the Coast of Golfo di Orosei
Starting from the Port of Santa Maria Navarrese, you can rent a boat or boat tour to take you on a tour of the beautiful coast and beaches of Orosei. You can find some ideas here.
- Take the Trenino Supramonte in Baunei
This train tour takes you on a ride through Baunei and the highlands of Golgo. More information can be found here.
In the short time we visited, I don’t think we scratched the surface of genuinely finding all of Baunei, but we got the gist of what we needed to do when we were there. Baunei is worth discovering and exploring. There’s no shortage of beautiful beaches, unspoiled Mediterranean vegetation, and coastlines for hiking and climbing. It’s easily a perfect getaway from it all and an outdoor lover’s paradise. So, go, and discover this hidden gem in Sardinia. You won’t regret it. In the meantime, until our next adventure, fino alla prossima volta!