In northeastern Sardinia, standing proudly over the Tyrrhenian Sea, you’ll find one of the most luxurious coastal resorts in the world – Costa Smeralda. Starting at Porto Rotondo on the Golfo di Cugnana and stretching for 55km northwards up to the Golfo di Arzachena, the Costa has become a year-round haven for the rich and famous, boasting luxurious 5-star hotels, glistening waters and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We look at what makes this coastal paradise so special and how it became the preferred holiday destination of some of the world’s most famous faces.
Costa Smeralda wasn’t always a playground for the rich and famous. Before the 1960s the land here was owned by Sardinian farmers, and the area was largely unspoiled and wild, with little development aside from farms and small fishing villages. Then, in 1962, the flamboyant millionaire Karim Aga Khan and a consortium of businessmen bought this strip of the coastline, with the intention of turning it into one of the most extravagant and beautiful luxury resorts in the world.
The coast was christened Costa Smeralda – the emerald coast – after the shimmering greens and blues of its waters, and over the following years it became and remained one of the most desirable resort areas in the Mediterranean.
A Life of Luxury
As a luxury resort playing host to some of the most rich, famous and powerful people in the world, Costa Smeralda naturally boasts a wide variety of outstanding and elegant 5-star hotels offering everything a visitor could ask for.
One of the most sought-after hotels on the coast is Hotel Cala di Volpe, which was expertly designed by French architect Jacques Couelle. Set in a deep bay surrounded by islands, the hotel was designed to resemble a luxury version of a fishing village with its playful pastel-coloured arches and turrets. The hotel even has a private beach located off the coast, as well a giant seawater pool. Another hotel highlight is Hotel Pitrizza, which uses grass-roofed rooms to blend into the landscape and features one of the oldest and most impressive infinity pools in the world.
The Mega-Yachts of Porto Cervo
When you think of billionaires relaxing by the sea you also think of incredible and extravagant yachts, and the bay of Porto Cervo, set along Costa Smeralda, often plays host to some of the most impressive. Visitors are guaranteed to see some of the biggest, most expensive and luxurious mega-yachts moored and being welcomed in to the bay, with previous visitors including the 133 metre al-Mirqab, thought to be the 15th largest yacht in the world, and Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko's 'Sailing Yacht A’, which boasts eight floors and an underwater observation room.
Costa Smeralda isn’t all luxury hotels and expensive yachts though – Karim Aga Khan chose this area for a reason, and that reason has to be the coast’s stunning natural landscape. The area is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, romantic hidden coves and crystal clear waters, and you can even take a trip from Cala Gonone to the Grotta del Bue Marinom, where you’ll discover vast caves boasting stalagmites and lakes.
In addition to beaches the coast is dominated by dramatic granite peaks, and it’s the highest peak, Monte Mora, which offers some of the area’s most breathtaking views. You’ll enjoy panoramic views over the surrounding area and out to the sea, including the beautiful islands of Tavolara and Caprera, which was the occasional home of Che Guevara and Giuseppe Garibaldi.