Best beaches in Madagascar

The expansive island nation of Madagascar off the coast of East Africa boasts some truly stunning beaches along its 5,000km (3,100 miles) of Indian Ocean coastline and on smaller islands surrounding it. Here is our guide to the best beaches in Madagascar.
Île aux Nattes, Madagascar. Photo: Scarlett Shi/Shutterstock
Île aux Nattes, Madagascar. Photo: Scarlett Shi/Shutterstock

Île aux Nattes, Île Sainte-Marie

Off the northeastern coast of Madagascar, Île Sainte-Marie comprises one sliver-like main island, stretching almost 60km (36 miles) from north to south, and a number of islets. This is beach heaven, with palm-fringed stretches of white sand, secluded coves and turquoise, clear waters that make perfect destinations for swimming, snorkelling and diving. In season, July and August, this is also the best place in Madagascar for whale-watching. Furthermore, Île Sainte-Marie is the land of pirate lore – in the bay surrounding Île Aux Forbans (Pirates' Island) you can visit the evocative Pirate Cemetery of Saint-Perre, where tombs are adorned with tell-tale skull and crossbones emblems.

The best beaches in Sainte-Marie are due south of the island, on an islet locally known as Nosy Nato, and by its French name Île aux Nattes. Car- and road-free, Île aux Nattes is more peaceful than its larger sister island and its pristine white sandy beaches fulfil every expectation of an Indian Ocean island idyl – the most beautiful beaches are in the north of the islet. There are charming restaurants where you can enjoy lunch, while a stroll inland to Agniribe offers an insight on the village life of the locals. It is possible to walk around the entire islet over two or three hours, stopping en route at the small lighthouse Phare Pointe Blévec, which stands at the island’s highest point and offers beautiful views in all directions. 

Île aux Nattes, Madagascar.Île aux Nattes, Madagascar. Photo: Scarlett Shi/Shutterstock, Madagascar. Photo: Giampaolo Cianella/Shutterstock

Baie de Sainte Luce

Northeast of Taolagnaro (formerly Fort-Dauphin) on the south coast of Madagascar, the Baie de Sainte Luce, known locally as Manafiafy, is one of the most beautiful and secluded stretches of coastline anywhere on the island. Despite this, the bay has a long history of European settlement and was the site of the island’s earliest French settlement when a short-lived trading post was established here in 1642.

This remote bay’s main terrestrial attraction is the Sainte Luce Reserve, a community-based project founded to conserve the region’s rare coastal forest habitat which supports endangered collared brown lemurs, numerous amphibians and reptiles, and abundant forest birdlife. Guided walks into forest reserve areas can be arranged out of the rustic Antanosy village of Manafiafy.

Sainte Luce is more-or-less synonymous with the Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge, an exclusive beach retreat set on an exquisite small sheltered bay with a steep-sloping, palm-fringed sandy beach. In addition to guided day and night hikes in the forest reserve, lodge packages include snorkelling excursions, kayaking between nearby rocky islands, and motorboat trips to the mangroves. Seasonal whale-watching, when migrant humpback and southern right whales join the resident dolphins, is possible from June to December. 

Ambondrona, Nosy Be

Off the northwestern tip of Madagascar, the lush tropical island of Nosy Be is known for its relaxed ambience, great year-round weather, superb diving and endearing black lemurs. With a backdrop of the volcanic cones of Mont Lokobe and Mont Passot, the western seaboard is home to the idyllic beaches of Ambatoloaka and Ambondrona. Lined with a mixture of smart resorts and more laid-back hotels, a tall craggy headland separates the two, which collectively stretch for around 4km (2.5 miles). Ambondrona is probably the island’s finest beach, with a very shallow incline and sheltered conditions that ensure calm waters and safe swimming all year round. Relaxed hotels such as the excellent Nosy Lodge stand on the beach, with their pools and restaurants literally steps away from the sand. 

Plage de Ramena, Madagascar.Plage de Ramena, Madagascar. Photo: Giampaolo Cianella/Shutterstock

Plage de Ramena

Rising from the second-largest natural bay in the world, the unspoilt beaches and montane forests of northern Madagascar can be explored from the relaxed port city of Diego Suarez. Plage de Ramena is a compact village on the inner shore of one of the peninsulas that separates the bay from the open sea. A 40-minute drive from the city centre, it has a fine swimming beach and a host of casual, welcoming seafood restaurants and bars set back from the sands either side of the central jetty. 

Ramena is also the springboard for day trips to the beautiful pale turquoise lagoon, northeast of the entrance to Diego Suarez Bay – La Mer d’Emeraude. Only 5km (3 miles) from Ramena by boat, the lagoon is separated from the open ocean by an 8km (5-mile) -long string of coral reefs and islets. In the calm weather that usually prevails from December to April, it offers superb swimming conditions and excellent snorkelling opportunities.

Ready to take a trip to Madagascar?

Insight Guides can organise fantastic trips for you in Madagascar. Simply get in touch with us to share your ideas for the trip and let us know when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then create a personalised itinerary especially, which you can amend until you're completely happy with every detail before booking. Browse our existing Madagascar itineraries for inspiration and bear in mind that all of our planned itineraries can be tailored to suit your specific requirements.

Updated 15 March, 2019