Surprisingly, there is only one main beach in Monaco and it is manmade. Larvotto Beach is a combination of public and private beaches situated in a picturesque part of the famous principality. There are four private beaches on Larvotto, a rather large volleyball court & children’s playground which sadly leaves little space for those who want to enjoy a low key approach to sun bathing. The other undiscovered gem is The Plage des Pêcheurs or for those of you who are brave enough, The Solarium on the New Sea Wall.
I have always been led to believe that it was Princess Grace with her love of swimming that inspired Prince Rainer to develop what was once a railway line into this world famous beach.
This small stretch of beach has seen some changes over the years. If you can believe it, there was for a long period of time, only two private/beach restaurants, a small playground while the rest of the beach was for the public! There was a lovely egalitarian atmosphere with Monegasques and residents stretched out on the sand alongside visitors and residents from along the coast. Times have changed & the public area is sadly becoming smaller and smaller. Nevertheless, we still love this beach and it is well worth a visit.
The beach itself is composed of tiny pebbles. You can walk on them in bare feet and they do not overheat in the midday sun. The reason why is that they retain moisture. This is good & bad, good because they are deeply relaxing to sunbath on & bad because if you have a towel, it will never dry out!
To sort out this conundrum, when you finish your swim, dry off at the water's edge before heading back to your towel or invest in an inexpensive Matela or sun mattress. These matelas are widely available at beach supply stores and homeware stores. You can even find them in supermarkets. They are inexpensive and very useful if you plan to spend extended time at the beach during your vacation.
The water is calm and safe for children to enjoy. Unlike the beach in Nice there is no big drop off when you enter the water. The only issue you may find is the water surface can be a little greasy at times due to motor boat and tidal issues but it is not a major problem. Lifeguards trained in American life saving are in place at the centre of the beach on the middle jetty.
You will find the public area at either end of this beach. At the eastern end, towards the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, the public area stretches roughly from the volleyball court across to the Meridian Hotel. At the southern end, the public area is from the centre jetty towards skivol watersports, this public stretch also has two private beach/restaurants in between.
There are only two things you will need to worry about at Larvotto
1) Swimming with the fishes, no not in The Godfather way! The beach is occasionally populated by alarmingly large fish which are easily seen in the clear water. It is slightly unnerving to feel them swimming around you but they are harmless. I am old enough to remember the first time these large fish came to visit. As an Australian, I naturally pay attention to any unusual sea life and I freaked out when they started to gently bump against my skin. It felt very strange indeed but now I think of them as friends.
2) The dreaded Medusa Jelly fish . Yes, they sting & yes it hurts. Happily, most of the beach is netted off, but there are areas near the water sports hire that don’t have any nets .
The Plage des Pêcheurs
The Plage des Pêcheurs ("Fishermen's' Beach") is a natural beach,situated at the foot of The Rock and is accessible by steps from the Chemin des Pêcheurs. It is practically at the base of the Musée océanographique de Monaco
This is a very small beach, it is completely unsupervised no showers, no toilets, no food & it’s not child friendly, but it is wonderful! The beach is accessible via a pathway & stairs & if the tide is high or the sea is rough you won’t see it at all.
This stretch of water faces directly onto the Med and therefore the open water. It does have a large drop in the water when you enter but this doesn’t stop anyone going to this quiet little retreat. The beach itself is rocky & stony but for those who truly wish for a quiet day in the sun blissfully unaware of the world around them, then this is for you.
The Solarium on the New Sea Wall
This is not a beach but a seawall facing the open sea and it is for strong swimmers only. They have netted around the area, but once you are in, you are in. the only way out is climbing up the ladder. The Solarium is unsupervised so no lifeguards will be found on duty. There are outdoor showers but no toilet on the seawall. However, a toilet is available near the Bateau Boats in the port just behind this area.
Cap D’Ail is not part of Monaco but it is so close to Fontveille, I thought to include it for sun lovers seeking a less crowded atmosphere. There are 3 fairly large public beaches wedged in between a volleyball court & 2 private beaches/restaurants. The beach is a mixture of sand & gravel, the water is normally flat & there usually isn’t a steep drop off when you enter the water. There are bathrooms, outdoor showers and a snack bar as well. All the bases are covered for a fun day out in the sun.
As with Monaco there is a jellyfish net in place during the season. The net is normally in place in the centre of the beach where the lifeguard is located.
Naturally, it does get busy during August, but it doesn’t have the same frantic energy that you can experience in Monaco.
There are four private beach / restaurants on Larvotto, which are pretty much the same. Food and service is no better or worse than any other establishment on the beach. The only real differences are the décor and the menu. The exception to the rule is the Monte Carlo Beach Club which is superb in every way
As with all private beaches along the Riviera, prices vary and can fluctuate daily according to the owner's whim. Expect to pay around 28 Euro for a sunbed and umbrella for all day use. Sunbeds in the first row are more expensive along with visiting in the high season. Residents and regulars often receive large discounts and simpering treatment. This unfair situation is totally normal when it comes to private beach clubs. Complaining about service, food or the location of your sunbed etc, is pointless unless you are a VIP.
Sometimes your experience will be great while other days are unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. Service blows hot & cold with little consistency. The staff move at a snail’s pace at the best of times so it is better to go with the flow rather than lose your temper. Complaining will make little difference.
Over in Cap d’Ail, they also have two private beach/restaurants & I have recommended “Cap Marquet”. The service is consistently good, the food is fine and the atmosphere, relaxed and friendly.
The Handiplage beach enables people with reduced mobility along with blind or partially sighted people to enjoy a day at the beach .You will find one on Larvotto Beach in Monaco & the other one in Cap d’Ail.
In Monaco, the service is available all thru summer Mon-Sun 9.00-17.00 Call 06 78 63 09 41 to make a reservation.
In Cap d’Ail the service is available between 29th June - 28th Aug. Hours are between 10.40-18.00 (please contact to confirm days) Call 04 93 78 96 40 to make a reservation or email: email@example.com
The following is a handy guide to beach flags.
Blue Flag- Eco water. This flag is given to beaches with good water quality http://www.blueflag.org/
Green Flag- Life Guard is on duty
Yellow/Orange Flag-Swimming is not recommended due to Jellyfish,undercurrents etc. Always pay attention to this flag.
Red Flag-Swimming is forbidden. This can be for any reason and can include water pollution. Do not enter the water when a red flag is flying.
Medusa Jellyfish Swimming Nets-June-September. Use the nets to avoid being stung by these pesky visitors.
How do I get there?
You can easily walk to Larvotto from the train station. Depending on your fitness, it will take about fifteen to twenty minutes and the bonus is that the walk will take you downhill all the way through some lovely neighbourhoods.
The bus is another option. Take the No4 on the Yellow line from the station. The bus will be marked “St Romain”. Disembark at the third stop and change to Bus No 6 on the Green line direct to Larvotto. You can purchase your tickets onboard and they are valid for up to 30 minutes so you can transfer buses with ease.
Be sure to check with your driver that Bus No 4 is not a direct bus to St Charles. If by some cruel twist of fate you find yourself on this bus, do not despair, just take the conveniently located elevator down to Ave Princesse Grace and cross the road to the beach.
The following site is intuitive, interactive and mostly in English. The timetables are in French but are very easy to follow.
Click on your departure point, then click on the clock symbol.
The powers that be in Monaco have thoughtfully provided a series of street elevators to allow their residents and visitors to cut travel time and save their legs from any arduous uphill climbs.
Click “La télécharger ici Monaco Malin” for a PDF file.
Toilets in Cap Marquet Cap d'Ail
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