One thing to know about the beaches on the French Riviera is that there are several types of beaches on the south coast.
There are hundreds of public beaches all along the coast. Some of them, such as the beach at Antibes, are tiny. Five hundred people on a hot August day and you are hard pushed to find somewhere to sit. One of the good things about this beach is that it is sheltered by artificial breakwaters which make it a very safe place for children to swim. But it is VERY busy in the summer.
Cannes has a large stretch of public beach at La Croisette with a huge selection of cafés, restaurants and people watching opportunities just a short walk over the road. The Cannes public beach is very popular in the summer partly because of these bars. A great place for young people looking for a little night life after a hard day at the beach.
Menton has a strange artificial beach that is also VERY crowded in the summer. It is also pebbles rather than sand which some people find uncomfortable.
Nice also has a pebble beach that is crowded, crowded crowded in the summer. Large pebbles that are extremely uncomfortable. If you plan on going to one of the Nice beaches, take a blow up mattress to lie on or deck chairs to sit in.
- Juan les Pins.
A very nice sandy beach that is not too crowded in the summer. One appealing feature of this beach is a large parking lot just beside the beach and harbor. Relatively inexpensive restaurants just a short walk away help also.
- Villeneuve Loubet.
A quiet, uncrowded beach even in the summer with a mixture of pebbles and sand. The reason it’s so quiet is the fact that it’s on the edge of a very busy main road. Traffic whizzing past at ninety kilometers and hour does not lead to a relaxing rest on the beach especially if you have children to watch. This one is probably best avoided if you have young children.
- Cap d’Antibes.
The cap is one of the most exclusive parts of the Riviera and the beach is very pleasant although much of the beach is private there are still plenty of spots to find space, even in the season. Which leads me to the next type of beach.
When you see a photo of Pamela Anderson playing in the sand at Cannes, she is not on the same beach you or I would be on – these are not affordable summer vacations. She is on a very expensive private beach and the photo was taken by a journalist bobbing on a boat moored in the bay. There are private beaches and there are private beaches. This is worth bearing in mind when doing your planning. There are dozens of private beaches all along the coast that charge about ten dollars a day for a spot with a lounger, parasol and insanely expensive drinks service. Having said that, they are absolutely worth the money in the summer and it’s even worth phoning ahead to book a spot. This is not the same as a vacation to Portugal and is far far busier.
The best of the private beaches is the Nikki beach. It fills up fast and needs to be booked, sometimes weeks in advance unless you happen to be one of the Hilton sisters. If you are hoping for a chance to bump into Beyonce Knowles or Pamela Anderson or one of the many celebrities that go to the south of France this is your best bet.
So for my money the best choice is one of the many small inexpensive private beaches between Cannes and Antibes.