San Giovanni Beach in Southwestern Corsica


Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean Sea.  It is just north of the island of Sardinia. Corsica is a wonderful destination because there are many things to do and see.  There are numerous beaches, old towns and mountain ranges.  The infamous GR20 hiking trail runs almost the length of the island on its mountain spine.

Here we describe what we did in the island, what the weather was like, and the places we visited.

Time of Visit: October 2023

Duration of Visit: 11 nights

Getting to Corsica

There are two ways to get to Corsica, either by commercial ferry boat or airplane.  The shortest ferry boat ride is from Piombino, Italy to Bastia, Corsica at approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Ferry rides from mainland France can take north of 5 hours depending on where it leaves from and where it arrives.

Air Corsica has regular flights to the island.  We did the airplane route as we did not want to endure the long ferry boat ride from Nice, France.  We paid somewhere around $225 round trip from Nice for the less than one hour ride.  The plane was a twin turbo prop that had 2×2 seating per row (2 seats on either side of the aisle).

The Weather

The days were warm and the nights were cool in mid-October.  It was not scorching hot under the sun.  Fortunately, at that time of the year, the humidity was down because we did not feel miserable walking around even though we were sweating, unlike when we were in Cinque Terre, Italy a week prior.

Hardy people can get by with one layer of clothing in the evening but two layers would be comfortable for most.  It actually felt nice to sit outdoors as the mosquitos and other bugs were pretty much absent once darkness came.

The water (beach) was cool but not cold.  The water felt more like southern California where it only felt chilly during the initial plunge.

It did not rain on us during the 11 days we were in Corsica.


Where we stayed depended on the places we wanted to visit.  We selected to stay somewhere near Bonifacio, Calvi and Corte based on the places we marked on the map.

We were able to score reasonable accommodations (around $100 per night) in Calvi and Corte but none in Bonifacio.  There were accommodations that were in our price range but were not desirable according to the reviews.  Since we rented a car (it’s needed here), we found a nice apartment accommodation in Pinarello which is about 20 minutes from Porto Vecchio and an hour from Bonifacio.



Plage de Rondinara

There are a ton of beaches around Corsica.  Some are easy to get to while some will either involve a long walk or local knowledge.  We just opted for those beaches that were easily accessible as we did not want to lug our beach stuff for quite a distance to a place we were not sure we were going to like or not.  

All the beaches we visited had clear water.  Except for Plage Lozari on the north coast, there were no waves to speak of on a calm (no wind) day.  The water does get a little choppy with less than foot high waves when the wind picks up. 

Below is a summary of the beaches we visited.  All have free parking at the time of our visit.

BeachApproximate Location as the crow fliesComment
Plage de San Giovanni20 kms NW of BonifacioDid not reach the beach because the last kilometer was deeply rutted for our rental car.  Instead we went to an adjacent beach on the side of the road.  Very few people.  There are no commercial establishments by the beach.
Plage de la Tonnara10 kms NW of BonifacioParking area is near the beach and accessible by paved road.  There is a restaurant.  More people here.  There are people that do water sports activities such as windsurfing and kite surfing. 
Plage de Saint Antoine5 kms SE of BonifacioUnable to get to due to the last 3 kms of road was closed to vehicular traffic
Plage de Rondinara10 kms S of Porto VecchioAbout a 3 minute walk from the parking area.  Nice crescent shaped beach with white sandy bottom and calm water.  A swimming beach that remains shallow about 50 feet from shore.  Can get busy as it has a large parking area but the beach is long so you can find less crowded spots if you walk further away from the beach entrance.  No commercial establishments by the beach.
Plage de Santa Giulia5 kms S of Porto VecchioAbout a 2 minute walk from the parking area.  Has white sandy bottom.  A swimming beach that remains shallow and calm.  Can get crowded as it has a large parking area.  There are also a couple of restaurants.
Plage de Palumbaggia7 kms SE of Porto VecchioAbout a 5 minute walk from the parking area.  The large parking area has pine trees that provide shade.  Beach is over a kilometer long and partitioned by natural rocks in three sections.  Water is chest deep approximately 20 feet from shore in most places.
Plage de Favona – Arinella di Favona20 kms N of Porto VecchioParking is right on the beach.  There are no shade trees.  Crescent shaped beach about 800 meters long.  Very few people on a Sunday afternoon.  Calm water with white sandy bottom. 
Plage de Pinarello10 kms NE of Porto VecchioVery long beach with calm water.  Water remains shallow, up to thigh high at 50 feet from shore in most places.  Some parking areas have pine trees for shade.  There is a nearby estuary to walk around.
Plage Lozari10 kms E of CorbaraVery long beach with turquoise water.  Waves were a couple of feet high during our visit.  Water is chest deep about 20 feet from shore during low tide.  Large dirt parking area.  About a 5 minute walk to the beach.`


The City of Bonifacio on top of the hill
The white cliffs near Bonifacio

There is a good chance that Bonifacio will be on the list of places to see in Corsica if you search YouTube and the rest of the Internet.  That is true for good reasons as the old town of Bonifacio is unique as it sits on top of a sandstone hill right to the edge of the cliff.  The narrow alleyways are pedestrian only and cobbled streets take you back in time.  There are plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you entertained and the town itself is very walkable.  You can walk the entire length in less than 30 minutes.  Napoleon Bonapart also had a house here and is marked on the tourist walking tour map.

Enjoying ice cream while walking Bonifacio
One of the many pedestrian only streets in Bonifacio

What we liked the most about Bonifacio are the white sandstone cliffs that face the sea and its emerald and turquoise water.  It just provides a nice contrast of colors especially on a sunny day.  Just take the trail to the left that leads to the hill away from the old town.  There are many constructed viewpoints.  You can also drive on D360 to get those same views if you are not inclined to do some hiking.


Old town Calvi situated on top of a hill
Highway D81B

Calvi’s old town is perched on top of a hill.  The walk up to the old town involves less than 100 steps.  There are shops and restaurants in the old part of town.  Most of the streets and alleyways are still cobblestones. There is not much to see and do in the old part of town except admiring the old buildings while walking the quiet streets and alleyways.  The old town’s claim to fame is that Christopher Columbus was born there.  There is a marker on one of the buildings stating that it is the house of the famous explorer.

Below the old town is the marina and the newer part of town.  The marina also has a lot of restaurants that seems the perfect place for sipping, snacking or eating.  Adjacent to the marina are more alleyways that are lined with shops that are good for window shopping and a few more restaurants.  

Beyond Calvi is highway D81B that takes motorists south to the town of Porto.  We partly drove D81B a few kilometers past the Belvedere.  It is a narrow and winding road that has some wonderful views of the coastline and the sea below.

Col de Bavella

The granite mountains at Col de Bavela
The road leading to Col de Bavela

As the crow flies, Col de Bavella is about 20 kilometers north northwest of Porto Vecchio but takes over an hour to drive.  The road going to Col de Bavella which is D268 is slow going because of its winding nature and being carved out of the side of the mountain.  However, it is well worth the drive as it gets you up high in elevation such that you will need a jacket especially when the wind is blowing hard.

There are several granite mountain peaks along the drive.  Unfortunately, pine trees are abundant so there is not much clearing along the road to be able to take photos of the peaks.  You can either park at Parking Bocca di Larone (shown on Google Maps) and hike for about 20 minutes or park at the col (there are both paid and free parking) to take photos of the mountains.

There are streams and rivers along the drive as well.  Some have swimming holes that are very inviting on a hot summer day.  And the water is crystal clear and refreshingly cool.


Corte’s main street is lined with shops and restaurants

Corte is an interior town just north of the island’s geographical center.  It has mountains on its backdrop and sits at a higher elevation.  So the temperature in Corte is a little cooler.  Its main street is lined with some shops and a lot of restaurants.  We were pleasantly surprised that the main street was just alive with people when we took a walk to eat an early dinner.  There were people just sitting in the outdoor restaurants having conversations over drinks.  Noticeably absent were the tourists.

Beyond the main street are cobblestone alleyways that climb up on the side of the hill.  There are also some restaurants tucked here where some locals hang around.  It is a much quieter area than main street.

Corte is bigger than Bonifacio and probably about the same size as Porto Vecchio. Its old town is  walkable although it may involve some stair climbing.  The stone and masonry structures are old with a couple of plazas with statues that commemorates its past.  

Lac de Melu

There were several waterfalls along the trail to Lac de Melu
Lac de Melu

Lac de Melu is a mountain lake to the south of Corte.  It involves a 16 kilometer drive through a narrow road with a cliff dropoff on one side. The road ends at a small restaurant named Bergeries de Grotelle.  In front of the restaurant is a small parking area that can hold approximately a dozen cars and a larger parking area designated for motorcycles.

To the right of the restaurant is the trailhead and trail signs.  According to the signs, it is an hour hike to Lac de Melu and 1 hour and 45 minutes to another mountain lake named Lac de Capitellu. According to AllTrails, the distance to Lac de Melu from the trailhead is just over 2 kilometers (1.3 miles).  

The trail constantly ascends from the trailhead to the lake. The trail is predominantly rocky, some securely anchored to the ground and some loose.  For sure, you will be stepping over and on top of them.  There is a short section more than halfway on the trail where we had to pull ourselves up with chains so we could get on top of a tall rock face.  There are also metal ladders that need to be climbed before making the final ascent to the lake.

Lac de Melu does not have that turquoise color water common in glacial lakes.  But the scenery is beautiful nonetheless as it sits in an amphitheater surrounded by mountain peaks.  And on the hike back, the view of the canyon carved by the river that comes out of the lake is just breathtaking.  Just be extra careful though on the way down as it can be slippery on the steep descent.

We did the hike after a heavy rain the day before.  We were treated to about five waterfalls cascading down the mountain sides as we hiked to the lake.

Porto Vecchio

Porto Vecchio Marina
Restaurants line up across the marina

There are many nice beaches a few minutes drive from Porto Vecchio.  The town itself has a nice marina on one side of the street and restaurants on the other side.  It makes a nice place to sit and enjoy a meal or a drink while watching the boats, cars and sea. 

The old part of town sits on top of a hill and has a lot of alleyways lined with old buildings.  Another place to stroll and explore, similar to the alleyways in old town Bonifacio.


Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean Sea.  It lies just a few kilometers north of Sardinia and about a 40 minute plane ride from Nice, France. The island is blessed with several beaches, varying shades of blue water, several old towns and a mountain range that almost span the island’s entire length.

We visited Corsica in mid October and the temperature was just right.  It did not feel muggy during the day and even cooled off in the evening such that air conditioning was not needed.  The water (beach) was cool but still swimmable.  Best of all, the waters were mainly calm especially if the beach was in a cove.  It is a different story on the north side of the island where there were meter plus high waves present.

The towns of Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio, Calvi and Corte were the towns we were able to visit.  All have nicely preserved their old part of town while integrating more modern marinas (except Corte).  There are no shortages of shops and restaurants in these towns.  

If you are tired of the beaches and strolling through old towns, you can have a change of scenery by venturing into the middle of the island.  Just be ready to drive some winding roads.  Here, you can find crystal clear streams with natural pools perfect to cool off on a warm day.  The mountains on the drive to Col de Bavella reminded us of some of the mountain peaks in the Dolomites.  Or you can hike to a mountain lake like Lac de Melu and be rewarded with some spectacular scenery.

Whatever you seek and enjoy, we are almost certain that you can find it in Corsica.  You may even find yourself saying “I’ll be back!”