When the Aga Khan established the Costa Smeralda in the 1960s, Sardinia soon became known as a playground for the rich, with luxury hotels, golf courses, and gated communities catering to a crowd whose summer season seems to revolve around yachts. Beyond the six-mile stretch of the Costa Smeralda, however, you can find affordable rooms and restaurants, and the beaches are free for all to enjoy.
In the north, Hotel Borgo Antic in San Pantaleo, otherwise known as Borgo San Pantaleo feels like a boutique hotel but costs a whole lot less. The nearby Hotel del Porto has wonderful views across Cannigione marina. In Alghero, Hotel Angedras has chic modern rooms in a quiet residential street close to the old town. In Pula, the hotel Sant 'Efis opens on to the beach, and has a lovely pool. The best value accommodation option is usually agriturismo
(working farm houses that provide rooms for guests). Naturally, most of these are inland, so for seaside value try a campsite. The Isuledda campsite, near Cannigione, is just 10km from the glamorous Costa Smeralda.
In Alghero, the welcoming Trattoria Maristella at Via Kennedy Fratelli has great-value fish dishes for next to nothing. For a cheap lunch in Cannigione, feast on sandwiches from Mama Latina in Piazzetta del Cervo, or sit down to a two-course fish meal with wine at Hotel del Porto. If you’re in Alghero, you can get great value salads, antipasti, pizza, and panini in the food hall at Il Ghiotto.
See the Sights for Less
The prehistoric sites around Arzachena in the north of Sardinia are well worth a look. Visit the : the fort at Nuraghe Albucciu, the burial chamber at Coddu Vecchiu, and the stone circles at Li Muri, which are more than 6,000 years old. Sardinia has some of the Mediterranean's best beaches
seemingly untouched stretches of white sand framed by azure waters. In the west of the island, the best beaches are north-west of Alghero. Bombarde is in a large bay set against a background of pines. Adjacent Lazzaretto is framed by wild flowers, but it has fewer amenities and is more secluded.
Head to the western edge of the bay to see the stalactites and stalagmites of the Neptune Caves. The Punic and Roman ruins at Nora, a 40-minute drive south of Cagliari, lie on a peninsula framed by endless, golden beaches.
g the temples, mosaics, and thermal baths at Nora, and then go to see the ceramics and glassware at Museo Patroni
Dine on the Cheap
In Olbia, try the charming Antica Trattoria, where reasonable set-price menus feature buffets of antipasti and excellent fresh pastas. In Cagliari, a fine low-cost option is Su Cumbidu, a rustic cellar-like venue that is ideal for an authentic dinner. Set-price menus emphasise local meat dishes, with the clientele being primarily young and Italian.