About Isola Tavolara
Isola Tavolara (English: Tavolara Island) is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, located off the coast of Olbia in north-east Sardinia, Italy.
It’s a prominent landmark that’s clearly visible from surrounding seaside villages including Golfo Aranci, Porto Istana, San Teodoro, and the headlands of Capo Coda Cavallo. The island is approximately 5 kilometers (3 miles) long and 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) wide, with steep limestone and granite cliffs.
The iconic Punta Cannone, its highest point, is 564 metres (1,854 feet) above sea level. From the summit, you’ll admire panoramic vistas of the entire Gallura region, Monte Limbara, Monte Nieddu, Montalbo up to Caprera, the Strait of Bonifacio and Corsica. Little compares with the uniqueness of this spot.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million…
Use the map below to explore hotels on the mainland near Tavolara Island.
Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve
The island and its surrounding waters are part of the Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve (Italian: Area Marina Protetta di Tavolara Punta Coda Cavallo), considered to be among the most beautiful in Sardinia. The Marine Preserve protects 15000 hectares (37000 acres) of sea, and about 40 kilometers of coastal territory. It stretches out from the southern tip of Olbia to Punta Isoledda, south of San Teodoro.
To protect Tavolara Island’s biodiversity, protective measures were introduced in 1997 by the Italian Ministry of Environment. The area was divided into three zones. Zone A is not accessible by the public and has a NATO military base. Zone B is partially accessible, and Zone C is free to enter for sailing, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Things to do on Isola Tavolara
Boat Excursion from Golfo Aranci to Isola Tavolara and Molara
On this boat tour, you get to explore the island’s stunning coastline and snorkel in the pristine waters of Molara.
You will begin this boat excursion in Golfo Aranci and sail to Porto San Paulo, where you can swim through a mysterious ship ruin called Chrisso. PADI guides will accompany you in the water, and the clear waters and array of colorful fish are spell-binding. Afterward, the boat continues to Molara and the natural pools for which this island is known. Guests have time to relax in the pools and soak up the sun, and the island is a lovely addition to the trip.
It’s then time to discover Isola Tavolara itself and a short walk to Cala Tramontana, where you can visit the ancient grave of the King of Tavolara. This walking section of the tour highlights the stunning scenery on the island and the colorful flora and fauna you can see at every turn. On the way back from Isola Tavolara, you can round off this one-day excursion by enjoying a glass of iced tea as the boat passes the white sands of Punta Spalmatore.
Tavolara Boat Tour with Snorkeling
Starting from Olbia, this boat tour to Isola Tavolara is the perfect opportunity to experience the natural beauty of northeast Sardinia. You will have lots of time to swim and snorkel on this excursion while enjoying local aperitifs and admiring the stunning landscapes in this marine protected area.
Many people compare this marine protected area to the Caribbean, and it’s easy to see why with the turquoise waters and so many white sandy beaches. After drinking in this scenery along Capo Ceraso in the morning, the boat continues past a series of stunning beaches, cliffs, and rock formations. There are breaks during the day at four beaches to allow for snorkeling with the PADI guides on board.
The clear water and colorful fish never fail to disappoint, and snorkeling in the bay of Tavolara Island is arguably the highlight of this half-day tour. There is also an opportunity to explore Ulysses Ear Cave, a remarkable example of a natural limestone cave in Sardinia.
If you don’t want to snorkel, you can stay on the boat and sunbathe or relax beneath the awning parasol. Sardinian aperitifs and iced tea are also served onboard, and the scenery back to Olbia is truly breathtaking!
As the marine reserve contains multitudes of fascinating sea life, the waters surrounding the island are excellent for scuba diving. Especially the southern part, also known as Teddja Liscia, and the nearby islets of Molara and the tiny Molarotto, are an underwater paradise for scuba divers. The Marine Preserve is best explored with a guided dive. Highlights include sunken shipwrecks, the under water reefs of Tavolara, archaeological sites and the fascinating sea bottom of the “secca del Papa”, which is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful dives of the Mediterranean.
Hiking & Trekking
The main hike begins from the beach of Spalmatore di Terra and requires a guide and equipment. This 6-hour journey takes you to Pratone where you will enjoy incredible views of the Gulf of Olbia. If you have been looking out to this beautiful island lining the horizon each day from Porto Istana, you need to treat yourself and see the real thing up close! The best time to hike Tavolara, and Sardinia in general, is in the spring or fall.
Tavolara Film Festival
The Isola Tavolara film festival, also known as “Una Notte in Italia” (A night in Italy) is a popular open-air cinema event that takes place in the middle of July every year. It celebrates the best of Italian cinema in the Marine Protected Area of Tavolara. The festival lasts for about a week, and attracts thousands of visitors. The event is held on three different locations, in La Pischera in San Teodoro, La Piazza in Porto San Paolo and Tavolara Island. Nearing its 30th edition in 2020, the event has gradually become an important gathering of Italian cinema professionals with a focus on young and upcoming film directors, and a spotlight on the local Sardinian film scene.
Ristorante La Corona
Ristorante La Corona has recently been completely renovated and is managed by the Grillotti family, the owners of Hotel Ollastu in Costa Corallina. You can enjoy lunch by the sea, with your feet in the sand, and have a taste of the restaurant’s best traditional fish dishes and seasonal products. In the morning, the beach and lounge bar offers quick snacks and cool aperitifs. At Ristorante La Sera, you can arrange a candlelit dinner and enjoy the warm sunset.
Ristorante da Tonino
At the authentic Ristorante Da Tonino Re di Tavolara you’ll experience the flavors of typical Sardinian seafood cuisine and grilled seafood specialties. All dishes are made with fresh ingredients and produce that come from small farms and fisheries in the area. The wine list features an extensive selection of Sardinian and Italian wines. The restaurant is located just steps away from Spiaggia Cala Tramontana and offers sweeping views of the sea. It’s a nice place to spend the day relaxing with friends on Tavolara’s white sandy beaches and perfectly preserved natural landscape. There’s also a bar with sea views, where you can relax with an excellent Prosecco. The bar also offers a breakfast service, with freshly baked croissants and cappuccinos.
How to Get There
You can only get to Isola Tavolara by dinghies or boats. Boat trips to Isola Tavolara can be arranged in the following villages:
From Porto San Paolo
Between the months of July and September, boat trips to Isola Tavolara regularly leave from the pier at the Porto San Paolo Marina. The trip takes about twenty-five minutes and costs around 15 Euros for a return journey. Most boat trips also give you time to hike around the area. An absolutely unmissable stop on a Tavolara excursion are the Piscine di Molara, a true paradise on earth. You can swim in the midst of hundreds of fish, in waters of a thousand shades of blue. Not far from Molara, you’ll see the wreck of the Chrisso, a cargo ship that ran aground on the rocks in the 1970s. It still emerges from the sea.
Near Olbia, boat trips to Tavolara Island can be arranged at the Porto Turistico Marina di Olbia. Excursions are carried out with a comfortable and modern boat that is suitable to accommodate up to 12 guests. Half day, full day, and exclusive excursions are available. Highlights of the morning boat trips include Tavolara Island, Isola Molara and its natural pools, Spiaggia del Dottore (the Doctor’s Beach), and Cala Girgolu. Evening boat trips offer a chance to admire Capo Figari, Cala Moresca and Isola di Figarolo. On clear days and with little maritime traffic, you’ll likely spot a few bottlenose dolphins in a very short distance from the boat.
From Costa Corallina
Restaurant La Corona offers a convenient transfer service to Tavolara Island, both during the day and in the evening. This way, you can reach the restaurant with one of their private boats from the mainland, departing from Porto San Paolo and Costa Corallina. If you’re in one of the harbors with your own ship, La Corona offers the same service with a tender. Contact the restaurant for current timetables and rates.