Monopoli is a small city in the beautiful Puglia region of southern Italy, located a short distance along the coast from the regional capital of Bari.
Known as Puglia’s ‘seaside city‘, Monopoli has a long coastline filled with sandy beaches and hidden coves and is a popular spot amongst locals looking for a summer getaway or day out by the beach.
But with so many different beaches and lidos in Monopoli, it can be difficult to decide which to pick.
Fortunately, I tried my fair share of beaches over the two amazing months I was lucky enough to call this beautiful city home, so here’s where I’d recommend…
Also check out my complete guide to the best things to do in Monopoli.
First things first, the difference between a spiaggia libera and lido:
Something important to know when heading for a beach day in Puglia is that you’ll find two different types of beach; the spiaggia libera and the lido.
A spiaggia libera (free beach) is a public beach that is free for anyone to use. Just bring your own beach towel and set up wherever you want for the day.
A lido is a beach which is either mostly or entirely privately run so you’ll need to pay to use it. This usually comes in the form of an entrance fee or paying for sunbed and umbrella use.
The upside of lido’s are that they almost always have their own restaurant or bar so you can enjoy lunch overlooking the water and a cocktail in the sun, as well as private toilets, changing rooms and showers, making them slightly more convenient to spend a whole day out.
Some also host regular evening events with bars that stay open late and live music and DJs.
Lido’s are usually only open during the summer months (May to September). Outside of this period, they’re either closed off or the sunbeds are removed and they become free public beaches.
Where to find Monopoli’s beaches:
The majority of Monopoli’s best beaches are located south of the historic center.
Rather than one long stretch of beach, Monopoli is known for its many coves and bays which stretch along the entire coastline. These range from the larger and busier lidos to tiny hidden inlets that fit no more than a handful of sunbathers at a time.
The best beaches in Monopoli:
Cala Porta Vecchia
The most central beach in Monopoli, right on the edge of the historic center.
Located within a large cove on the edge of the historic center, Cala Porta Vecchia is a narrow stretch of sandy beach along with a long rocky outcrop that lines the city’s 16th-century fortified walls.
No matter what day of the week you go, you’ll find the Porta Vecchia area bustling with groups of locals enjoying a beer in the sun, tourists stopping for gelato, fishermen enjoying a day by the water and swimmers making the most of the cove’s shallow sandy bottom and clear turquoise waters.
You’ll also notice that the rocky promenade of Porta Vecchi is a favourite spot of many of Monopoli’s friendly elderly residents who come daily to top up their tans and go for a swim while enjoying each other’s company and listening to an eclectic mix of music from a small stereo. Sit too close and you’re almost guaranteed to be invited for a chat and a beer – one of the highlights of my time in Monopoli!
Although probably not the most relaxing spot to spend a whole day sunbathing in the peak summer months due to the constant flow of people coming past (you still can if you like), if you haven’t got long in the city, Porta Vecchia is the most convenient beach in Monopoli to sit and relax in the sun for a couple of hours with a gelato or drink thanks to its extremely central location.
Cala Porto Bianco & Cala Porto Rosso
10 minute walk or 3 minute drive from the historic center.
Porto Bianco and Porto Rosso are two different beaches that sit just a 2 minute walk away from each other, separated only by Ristorante Pizzeria Porto Rosso – one of my absolute favourite places to eat in Monopoli. The two beaches are connected by a coastal bike path.
While neither beach is huge, the pleasantly inviting sandy coves are free to use and offer a little more privacy than Porta Vecchia while being just a short walk from the city center and a number of nearby restaurants, bars and shops.
Don’t miss grabbing an Aperol spritz to go from Caffè del Mare and enjoying it on the promonade overlooking Cala Porto Bianco of an early evening. Alternatively, the cliffs beside Cala Porto Rosso are a popular spot for sunset picnics (BYOB style) overlooking the calm turquoise water below.
15 minute walk or 5 minute drive (plus a short walk) from the historic center.
Porto Verde is one of the smaller and more hidden sandy bays along the Monopoli coastline, but if you can find it, it’s also one of the best spots to catch some sun or go for a dip in complete peace.
On weekends or during the peak summer months it’s likely that you’ll find a few locals sunbathing in the small sheltered cove, but if you’re lucky, you might just catch it on a quiet day when you’ll get the entire beach all to yourselves.
If you’re driving, you’re going to need to park in the public parking around Porto Rosso or in the Cala Paradiso car park then walk a short distance along the coast (there’s no signed footpath) to find this charming hidden bay.
Lido Cala Paradiso
20 minute walk or 5 minute drive from the historic center.
Getting further out from the city center and along the coastline now, Cala Paradiso is a large, beautiful sandy bay surrounded by exotic cacti and one of the first beaches I ever visited in Monopoli – and one of my absolute favorites.
The well-equipt lido offers sunbeds, parasols, beach volleyball courts, a football pitch, changing rooms and a casual restaurant and bar overlooking the sea.
While the majority of the beach is taken up by the private lido, there is also a small free section, however, you’ll want to arrive early to grab a space during busier periods. Even if you’re on the public part of the beach, you’ll still be able to use the lido’s great restaurant and bar facilities.
Food is served until 3:30pm, although the bar remains open into the evening for music and cocktails.
Parking is available for €5, while 2 deckchairs and umbrella hire for the day is €30.
25 minute walk or 5 minute drive from the historic center.
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Similar to Cala Paradiso, Lido Colonia is predominantly a private lido with sunbeds and parasols for hire, with a small area of public beach too.
The stretch of sand leading into the water at Lido Colonia is only small, however, there are a number of sunbeds placed on the raised sandy area above or on the surrounding cliffs, making it a great spot for those who prefer to keep to themselves or sit and read in the sun in peace.
As well as an on-site restaurant and bar, Colonia also has campervan parking, plus a set back area in the surrounding pine forest which can be booked for picnics, barbecues and private events.
Parking is available for €5, while 2 deckchairs and umbrella hire for the day is €20.
Purple Beach (Lido)
35 minute walk or 8 minute drive from the historic center.
Purple Beach is not only one of the most luxurious lidos in Monopoli, with private gazebos and bespoke table service, but it also hosts some of the best beach parties in the city.
During the day, the bright purple sunbeds which line the sandy beach and surrounding lawn can be hired for a family-friendly day out at the beach. While by night, the modern water-side venue turns into one of the most exciting spots in Monopoli, with live DJs, fruity cocktails, colourful lights, plenty of dancing and special themed events throughout the summer season.
Entrance and sunbed hire can range between €20-50 depending on the day and event.
45 minute walk or 10 minute drive from the historic center.
Porto Ghiacciolo is a lovely little beach that sits at the foot of medieval Castello di Santo Stefano (St Stephen’s Castle).
The small beach is partially a lido, with sunbeds and parasols available to rent, and part public beach with plenty of room for sunbathing on the sand.
The water surrounding Castello di Santo Stefano is crystal clear due to the springs that flow from the ground, adding to the unbeatable natural beauty of Porto Ghiacciolo. However, this can also mean that the water in this area is particularly cold – hence the name Ghiacciolo which means ‘icicle’.
Porto Ghiacciolo’s modern restaurant is known for it’s delicious and creative seafood dishes. While by night, the whole place gets lit up with twinkling fairy lights and is a popular spot each weekend with locals enjoying a sunset aperitif with plenty of summery cocktails and chilled music.
Lido Santo Stefano
50 minute walk or 10 minute drive from the historic center.
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On the other side of Castello di Santo Stefano to Porto Ghiacciolo is another larger beach called Lido Santo Stefano, known to be one of the most luxurious and exclusive beaches in the Puglia region.
Certainly not the cheapest beach in Monopoli, Santo Stefano has a €10 entrance fee as well as additional charges for amenities such as sunbed use and parking, however, it is rumored to be a popular summer jaunt of the region’s famous and wealthy residents. If you know many Puglian celebs (no me neither), then this is where to catch them.
Other than its VIP clientele, the large beach is also known for its pristine white sand, gorgeous crystal clear waters and great facilities including a newly renovated restaurant and bar. All contributing to its status as one of the best beaches in Monopoli – for those happy to splash out a little.
Other Puglia posts you might enjoy:
- The best restaurants in Monopoli
- The best places to visit in Puglia
- The ultimate guide to Alberobello – Puglia’s trulli town
- A complete guide to Polignano a Mare
- A complete guide to Ostuni
- Puglia food guide – what to eat in Puglia
- How to travel in Puglia without a car
- Why you should visit Puglia in winter
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