After a brief (and not so memorable) stint in Palermo, Sicily, we desperately wanted to trade its bustling, urban vibe for something more relaxing and secluded. A little beach trip is just what the doctor ordered.
Most people in Palermo who want beach time make the ~45 minute drive north to a town called Mondello. And while we’ve heard nice things about Mondello, it didn’t sound like the complete escape that we were seeking at the time.
Christina’s old friend, a Palermo local named Valerio who we met for dinner one night, knew just the spot: San Vito Lo Capo.
We had never heard of San Vito Lo Capo. It didn’t come up during any of our pre-trip research and certainly wasn’t on our itinerary for the trip. But Valerio was glowing as he described it to us, informing us that San Vito Lo Capo is the best beach town in Sicily. We asked if a 3-night stay would make sense and he told us that he would stay there forever instead, if that were an option.
Say no more, Valerio! We booked a 3-night stay at a small B&B near the beach, picked up a rental car from the Palermo airport, and began making our way.
The drive from the Palermo airport to San Vito Lo Capo is only a bit over an hour (closer to 1.5 hours from downtown Palermo). It’s a beautiful route through mountains, vineyards, and farmland. We enjoyed cruising with our windows down and taking in the fresh air as we weaved through the scenery.
We stayed at B&B Vivere San Vito Lo Capo after e-mailing with the owner, a friendly young guy named Daniele, to confirm that Riggins would be welcome. By e-mailing the property directly prior to booking, we stumbled across a fairly common cost-saving strategy throughout Italy where most B&B’s will offer you ~10% or more off of their marketed rate if you pay them directly in cash. In this case, we payed 70 euro/night instead of the cheapest TripAdvisor/Booking.com rate of 89 euro/night.
But enough about the accommodations. You don’t come to San Vito Lo Capo for the hotels. You come for the beaches! We arrived early afternoon and elected to spend the rest of the day exploring some of the hidden beaches of the area. On Daniele’s recommendation, we visited two of them: Bue Marino and Isolidda.
Bue Marino is a secluded beach about 7-10 minutes outside of downtown. There’s a cheap parking lot nearby and it’s about a 10 minute walk to the actual beach. The walk from the parking lot is just as beautiful as the beach itself, with several private rocky areas on the water where couples will occasionally camp out to enjoy their own little slice of the island. We did the same and enjoyed putting our feet in the water and looking out across the sea.
The actual beach at Bue Marino itself is a bit more popular (maybe 20-25 people on the beach in total). The entire beach is composed of smooth rocks with no sand in sight. The water was a bit cool when we went, but that didn’t stop people from going in for a refreshing break from the sun.
Isolidda was the other small beach that we visited on our first day and it definitely lived up to its name (if you just assume, like we did, that ‘isolidda’ has some relation to the word ‘isolation’…). When we arrived, there were a handful of younger couples scattered about, but we felt like we were all alone. Like Bue Marino, the beach was entirely composed of smooth rocks and there were several small coves to tuck into for some relaxing, isolidda time of your own.
The main beach of San Vito Lo Capo has everything that a beachgoer can ask for. The water is clear and warm. The sand is soft, white, and clean. The beach is tucked under Monte Monaco, a large mountain that makes for a nice 3-4 hour hike if you’re into that sort of thing. No problem if you aren’t, just hang out on the beach with a glass of wine and a plate of fried calamari. Do you.
The beach can get crowded at peak times, but it’s less of a touristy vibe and more Italian families enjoying their weekend. There are several umbrella/chair companies working the beach, a fact that we might normally find annoying. But each company seemed to maintain their own designated territory and it really helped sustain a more organized structure on the beach itself.
We arrived early to beat the crowd around 8:30am-9:00am and were able to snag a spot directly in front of the water. An umbrella and two chairs is ~12 euro (though you can negotiate them down to 10 if you want to flex).
You don’t come to San Vito Lo Capo for the food – let’s just get that out of the way. The main drag can feel a bit touristy so, as usual, pre-dinner research is highly recommended. But if you dig deep enough (or just follow our advice!) there are a few outstanding gems that are well worth visiting during your stay.
- Tasty is the go to lunch spot for many beachgoers along the main beach area. The place gets slammed at prime lunch hours (12:30-2:00), but its no more difficult to manage than a crowded restaurant in NYC. Grab a ticket, wait for your number to be called, and be ready to order when your number gets called. The housemade salads are definitely the highlights here. We enjoyed the octopus salad, the greek salad + chicken, and the caponata.
- Azzurra Makari is only accessible with a car, but if you have one you must go for dinner. We went twice during our 3-night stay in San Vito Lo Capo. Without question, the best sunset view in San Vito Lo Capo, and a clear Top 5 restaurant experience for us in terms of the ambiance and view. This place is stunning. Thankfully, the food is also delicious and is able to live up to the incredible view. Highlights were the mussels with black pepper/garlic (maybe the best mussels I’ve ever eaten), the roasted swordfish with tomatoes/capers, and the filetti di pesce azzurro (freshly caught lampuga with a scrumptious tomato-based sauce).
- Pasticceria Capriccio is a local shop that Christina read about prior to our trip. It’s a tiny space with a super friendly staff that is happy to guide you on your personal pastry journey. We initially asked for the small cannoli on the left, pointing at it inside the counter, before the staff gently informed us that it wasn’t actually a cannoli. They told us that they fill their actual cannoli’s “to order” in the back, so we asked for one and she returned 3-4 minutes later holding the mega cannoli pictured below. It was probably the best cannoli we’ve had on our trip (and we’ve had a lot of cannoli…). She threw in the fake mini-cannoli for free.
- Bianconiglio and Profumi Di Cous Cous are two places that we didn’t get to visit, but were squarely on our radar and we would visit if/when we come back. Bianconiglio is a laid back wine bar that we walked past one evening and agreed that it seemed like our kind of spot. There are several tartare’s on the menu that looked really good. Profumi Di Cous Cous is one of the more popular restaurants in town and required a rez 2-3 days in advance. We don’t do anything 2-3 days in advance, so weren’t able to go this time around.
In our efforts to escape the hustle and bustle of Palermo, we discovered the best beach town we had never heard of. San Vito Lo Capo is a must visit for world travelers and beach enthusiasts alike. We’ll definitely be back!