Unless your heart's set on sailing the Greek Islands, beaches might not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a Mediterranean cruise. The region lures visitors with its culturally rich cities, food and wine, and historic landmarks. But behind all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and alfresco cafes are picture-perfect beaches -- where lolling around before your next tour of ancient ruins is totally warranted. Add some sun beds and sand to your itinerary at one of our five favorite best beaches in the Mediterranean.
Lia Beach, Mykonos
More than 6,000 islands sprinkled with pristine beaches and sheltered coves give Greece the upper hand, when it comes to Mediterranean beaches. One of these beaches can be found in the popular cruise destination of Mykonos. Less than 30 minutes from the port, Lia Beach provides a peaceful respite from the island's usual party scene. Beachgoers here can enjoy the sound of the waves, excellent snorkeling and an intimate beach club/restaurant with padded loungers that are totally worth the splurge.
Learn more about Mykonos cruise port.
Photo: Sogno Lucido/Shutterstock.com
Su Giudeu Beach, Sardinia
Take one look at Su Giudeu beach, and you'll see why Sardinia is nicknamed "the island of a thousand beautiful beaches." In fact, some might argue it's one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. Despite its alluring emerald-green waters, pink sand and rocky islets that are great for snorkeling, Su Giudeu remains fairly secluded compared to its neighboring beaches. Soak up some sun at the local beach club, take in the views from its "nature path" or sample local delicacies at one of the nearby local restaurants.
Learn more about Sardinia cruise port.
Photo: Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock.com
Ksamil Beach, from Sarande, Albania
A stone's throw from Corfu, 25 minutes south of Sarande cruise port, Ksamil beach is a hidden gem with the best of both worlds: rugged beauty reminiscent of Greece and the Albanian Riviera's unspoiled charm. Few tourists visit the beach, but those who do get to enjoy its Caribbean-blue water, delicious seafood (the mussels are a must) and tiny islands that are only a quick swim or paddleboard ride away. A bonus for history buffs: Ksamil is within close proximity to the ancient ruins of Butrint.
Learn more about the Eastern Mediterranean.
Bolonia Beach, from Gibraltar or Seville (Cadiz), Spain
Cruisers willing to make the nearly one-and-a-half-hour trek to Bolonia will be rewarded with one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. The untarnished stretch of golden sand is home to rolling hills, Roman ruins and only a few small bars, restaurants and hotels -- making it ideal for beachgoers who want a dose of nature, history and local charm. Got more time in port? Consider tacking on a visit to one of Bolonia's surrounding Andalusian villages, where whitewashed buildings and Moorish culture abound.
Learn more about Seville (Cadiz).
Photo: Lukasz Janyst/Shutterstock.com
Paloma Beach, from Nice or Monaco (Monte Carlo)
Named after renowned designer Paloma Picasso, who once frequented the area with her father Pablo Picasso, Paloma Beach is a perfect hideaway for those who want a taste of the high life. The beach welcomes visitors with a chic yet timeless atmosphere, crystal-clear water dotted with yachts and a restaurant serving up fresh fish and a wine list heavy on Cote de Provence Rose. Even better: It's only a 30-minute car ride from Nice and Monaco, and roughly an hour and a half via public transportation.
Planning your first cruise can feel like an overwhelming undertaking. There are indeed so many choices, from "party boats" in the Caribbean and luxury yachts in the Mediterranean to river cruises in Asia and expedition ships in Antarctica. You need to put some careful thought into