If you’re looking for the most scenic French Riviera beaches, then this guide is for you. The Côte d’Azur is dotted with beaches, one more beautiful than the other.
From Cassis to Nice and beyond, we’ve selected the crème de la crème of beaches on the French Riviera so that you can enjoy your seaside getaway to the fullest.
We’d certainly recommend alternating your South of France beach time with a tour of the iconic French Riviera cities and romantic perched villages. Whether you plan on visiting some of France’s landmarks and art museums, indulging in the most delectable seafood or simply soaking up the glamorous atmosphere, this fabulous stretch of coastline never disappoints.
Rent a car and embark on a road trip in the South of France: our signature 10-day French Riviera itinerary will help you get started. We’ve also got you covered when it comes to accommodation thanks to our hand-picked selection of exclusive French Riviera resorts and hotels, many of which we’ve experienced ourselves throughout the years.
So, let’s dive in and discover the most beautiful French Riviera beaches.
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Are the beaches on the French Riviera sandy?
Well, we hate to break it to you, but most French Riviera beaches aren’t sandy. And that’s a bit of a surprise for many sun-seekers that travel to France for the first time who often expect to find the most gorgeous sandy beaches. In reality, most beaches in the South of France are pebbly rather than sandy.
The size of the pebbles varies. The beaches in Nice, for example, have large pebbles while other renowned beaches, such as Paloma beach, have more gravel-sized pebbles. We prefer these small pebbles over sand because nothing bothers us more than fine sand sticking to our sunscreen.
If you’re not a fan of pebbles, then you’ll be pleased to learn that some French Riviera beaches are soft and sandy. Phew! Some of the best beaches in Cannes, for example, have the most gorgeous golden sand.
Now let’s discover the most scenic of them all.
List of show-stopping French Riviera beaches
Beach lovers, rejoice! Here’s our selection of the most beautiful beaches on the French riviera listed in order of personal preference. Find out if your favorite beach is sandy or pebbly and if it’s a public or private beach. Plus, discover how to get to every beach and where to stay.
Paloma beach in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Paloma beach – Plage de la Paloma in French – is the best beach on the French Riviera. It’s located in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a chic peninsula located between Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
It’s a semi-public beach, which means that part of it is public and part of it private. The Beach by Paloma Beach is the name of the beach club that partly occupies this gorgeous beach. Water sports, such as jet skiing, parasailing, paddle boarding and electric surfoil, are available.
This is not a sandy beach but it has small pebbles. The water at this lifeguarded beach is crystal clear.
Paloma beach is so scenic because of its sheltered location. It’s tucked away in a secluded bay, fringed by vegetation and overlooking the bay of Beaulieu-sur-Mer and hilltop Èze. You might spot several exclusive yachts on anchor the bay as well and there’s a motor boat shuttling between those yachts and the Paloma Beach club.
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is one of the most idyllic – and chic – places on the French Riviera. It’s home to the super-exclusive Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, an ultra-luxurious pied-à-terre popular with the rich and famous. Another fabulous option is La Réserve de Beaulieu. Saint-Jean is not your average beach town and therefore more reasonably priced accommodation is hard to come by. Then again, it makes for a wonderful day trip from Nice.
Marinières beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Next up is one of the best beaches in France for families. Marinières beach – Plage des Marinières in French – is located in the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer and just opposite the town center.
This narrow but long stretch of beach is public. The most tranquil parts are located eastward, towards the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula. The other side, closer to town, is home to a collection of snack bars.
Yes, it’s a pebbly beach but the pebbles end at the waterline. From there, you can enjoy a soft and sandy bottom. The slope is very gentle and the turquoise waters are beautifully clear. That’s why this is one of the best French Riviera beaches for families with young kids.
Marinières beach is also very accessible thanks to its proximity to the train station. The railway that connects Nice to Monaco circles around the bay and you can often see the train pass by higher up.
Villefranche-sur-Mer isn’t home to many hotels but there are some amazing apartments to be found. This one would be our top pick with Escape to the French Riviera coming in second. Alternatively, you could stay in Nice and hop on the train to visit this stunning beach.
Mala beach in Cap d’Ail
Mala beach – Plage de la Mala in French – is one of the more secluded beaches of the French Riviera. It’s best accessible on foot either from nearby Cap d’Ail or from Monaco. Descending one of the staircases leading to the beach takes some effort but once you arrive at the beach, you’ll feel instantly relaxed.
The cliff-towered and pine-lined Saint-Laurent Bay cove creates the most striking decor while the crystal-clear turquoise waters complete the picture. Do note that Mala beach is rather small and it can get crowded in summer.
This is a semi-private beach with two private and one rather small public section.
It’s a sandy beach…. but only at the private stretch of beach. The public section has pebbles.
Because it’s not as accessible, only a handful of accommodation options can be found nearby. This beautiful apartment and this elegant mansion stand out. Then on the opposite side of Saint-Laurent Bay, you’ll find the luxurious Hôtel Cap Estel.
Pampelonne beach in Saint-Tropez
Next on our list of best beaches on the French Riviera is Pampelonne beach – Plage de Pampelonne in French. It gained worldwide fame after appearing in the And God Created Woman movie featuring Brigitte Bardot. To this day, it’s one of the most iconic of all best beaches on the French Riviera.
Most of this beach – about three-quarters – is public. The other part is home to numerous exclusive beach clubs – Nikki Beach and Byblos Beach to name a few – where you can party all day long.
The best part is that Pampelonne beach is one of the longest sandy beaches on the French Riviera. The fine white sand contrasts beautifully with the azure waters.
Did you know that this iconic seaside town has a tranquil side as well? If Plage Pampelonne is a bit too showy for your taste, then you appreciate Plage des Canoubiers or Plage des Salins.
Saint-Tropez is home to some of the most glamorous places to stay. Spend the night in one of the hip and happening luxury hotels to see and be seen or opt for a more understated but equally luxurious home away from home. Hôtel La Garbine, Le Pré de la Mer and La Bastide des Salins are our top picks.
Billionaires’ Bay beach in Antibes
The next South France beach on our list couldn’t be more different than the previous one. Billionaires’ Bay beach – Plage de la Baie des Milliardaires in French – is wild and natural. It’s located on Cap d’Antibes.
You can access it as you hike the Sentier du Littoral or coastal trail that wraps around the cape. It’s one of the most beautiful hikes in the South of France. Alternatively, you could drive towards the iconic Villa Eilen Roc and try to find roadside parking in the vicinity. If you get lucky and find a spot – which you most likely won’t during summer – then you can reach Billionaires’ Bay on foot via a small path that lines the Eilen Rock estate.
This gorgeous bay, named after the happy few who own luxury property on this exclusive cape – is home to a stunning public beach.
Writing that this beach is pebbly would be an understatement. The pebbles here are big and super annoying. But the water is so tempting… especially if you hiked your way to the bay as we did.
We couldn’t resist taking a dip in this beautiful natural scenery and we’re pretty sure you won’t either. You’ll look clumsy for sure. Then again, so does every other bather at this beach. Even water shoes are no match for these pebbles.
This is not the kind of beach where you’ll want to spend the entire afternoon but it’s certainly worth experiencing for an hour or two.
Coco beach in Nice
The majority of public beaches in Nice aren’t that special compared to some of the other French Riviera beaches on this list. The pebbles make it difficult to enjoy them for more than an hour or so and the slope at the waterline is rather steep.
That being noted, the private beaches that fringe the Promenade des Anglais in Nice are rather – well – nice. Narrowing it down to one private beach isn’t an option because all of them offer a pretty similar experience.
But there’s one public beach that’s very different from all other beaches in Nice. Coco beach is a tiny public beach located on the easternmost tip of the Baie des Anges. It consists of flat rocks perfect for sunbathing. Some ladders make it easier to take a dip in the Mediterranean sea. Showers are available as well.
Be advised that this is not a family-friendly beach due to its rocky character.
Coco beach is where locals like to go for a swim. You really won’t see many tourists here apart from in-the-know visitors. Hey, that’s you now!
So, if your idea of the best beach in Nice is an intimate little quiet cove without the crowds, then Coco beach is for you.
When it comes to places to stay in Nice, our personal favorites are the Anantara Plaza Nice and the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée. For a more intimate experience, you can’t go wrong with Palais Saleya Boutique hôtel and Le Dortoir Boutique Suites.
Calanque d’en Vau beach in Cassis
Next on our list of beautiful beaches of the French Riviera is a remote cove located in Calanques National Park. The word calanque refers to the rocky inlets that can be found in between the cliffs. Nine such calanques can be found between Cassis and Marseille.
Calanque d’en Vau is a small pebble beach in the most beautiful natural setting. The limestone cliffs of this inlet contrast beautifully with the aquamarine waters and the green pine trees that top them. The beach is public. Despite its rather remote location, this Southern France beach gets pretty crowded in summer.
We hiked to this stunning beach but it’s quite an intensive experience, especially in the summer heat. A better option might be to visit this small beach by kayak. You could of course opt for a boat trip as well but then you’re only allowed to admire Calanque d’en Vau from a distance.
Other noteworthy beaches on the French Riviera
Of course there are many more beautiful beaches to visit along this fabulous coastline. Pramousquier beach in Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer, Pointe de l’Aiguille beach in Théoule-sur-Mer and Plage Notre Dame on Porquerolles island have all caught our eye.
We’re yet to visit these beaches ourselves but they’re definitely on our radar. So, it’s just a matter of time before we can comment on those as well.
French Riviera beach map
For your convenience, we’ve created a map that includes all French Riviera beaches that are mentioned in this travel guide.
South of France Beaches beyond the French Riviera
The French Riviera stretches over just about a third of the French Mediterranean coast. So, the beaches in this article are specific to that one glamorous region. There are many other amazing beaches in the South of France to be found beyond the French Riviera.
Plage de l’Espiguette in Camargue, Plage des Pins in Argelès-sur-Mer and the Grande Plage in Biarritz (on the Atlantic Coast) are examples of South France beaches that are checking out.
French Riviera beach safety
Lifeguards can be found daily from 9 am to 6:30 pm daily at most public beaches along the French Riviera from mid-June through mid-September. Some may have lifeguards from mid-May onwards.
All private beaches on the French Riviera tend to be lifeguarded daily from mid-May to mid-September.
If you’re in doubt, just check if there’s a flag indicating the swimming conditions. We created the following visual to help you make sense of the beach warning flags on all beaches in the South of France.
You can find more information on the water quality of the beach of your choice on this website. And since many private beaches have nets to block jellyfish but most public beaches don’t, this jellyfish radar might be worth checking as well.
Which of these French Riviera beaches is your favorite?
That’s it for this list of the most beautiful beaches in the South of France. What’s your favorite? Is it Paloma beach? Or Pampelonne beach? Or maybe you’ve discovered another gorgeous beach that didn’t make the list (yet)? Let us know in the comments.