The area surrounding Monaco is known to have some of the most beautiful walking trails, whether they are in the hills directly above the Principality or on the seafront. This series will explore the wondrous walks of the Riviera, delving into their particularities, giving tips on how to get there and what to see!
One of the prettiest and most popular walks is on the coastal pathway that envelops Cap d’Ail, starting from Plage Marquet at the border of Monaco all the way to Plage de La Mala, a popular summertime destination.
The walk is officially known as Le Sentier du Litoral and takes about 45 minutes to walk one way so an hour and a half in total. Thanks to its relatively easy terrain it is perfectly suited to even the youngest of hikers! Although you might be asked for a piggyback ride up the few stairs that lead to the beach, it is the ideal way to get some fresh air and use up some of that surplus energy.
The trail starts at the Plage Marquet parking, where two hours will cost you around three euros, and the well paved entrance that marks the beginning of the coastal walk is impossible to miss. As soon as you turn the corner you see the splendid pathway stretched out in front of you, moving sinuously and harmoniously with the shape of the coastline. It is such a beautiful walk that you would like to visit again and again and always be taken aback by the splendour of your surroundings.
Even in the winter month of February the trail is full of life, attracting locals looking for a quiet place to sit in the sun while they enjoy their book, or fishing perched on the coastal rocks. The trail is also the perfect place to head for a picnic by the seaside. There are designated picnic areas with well-kept tables all year round, or for those wanting to make the most of the location, lay a blanket on the slanted rocks by the seashore for a more rustic experience. Just be ready for the occasional salty spray from the crashing waves!
As you make your way around the coast, there are informational plaques about the diverse flora and fauna that surrounds the colourful trail, describing the formation and use of the various Mediterranean plants that protect the coastline against wind and water erosion including tamarix shrubs and cannes de Provence. You also learn about coastline creatures such as European conger, a species of eel that lives deep in the rock formations, and lobsters that are hunted by these eels. The area is actually composed of volcanic clusters of rocks that existed in the Jurassic period! The coastline is also dotted with dreamy 20th century villas such as Villa The Rock, a majestic building surrounded by towering cypress trees and exotic plants that previously belonged to Mr. Shlee and where the famous Swedish actress Greta Garbo often stayed. Villa Les Funambules is also found on this prime location, with two large balconies that look out to Cap Ferrat, it belonged to the writer and actor Sacha Guitry, who wrote new theatre pieces as she was inspired by the stunning location. Winston Churchill is also rumoured to have stayed at Lord Beaverbrook’s Cap d’Ail villa, Villa Capponcina, on numerous occasions.
On particularly windy days, barricades block off the more risky area at the tip of the coastline towards the end of the walk. This is just a precaution as the waves can reach great heights and speed – their power is not to be underestimated! However, thanks to the security measures put in place, the La Mala walk is as safe as can be. To reach the final destination of La Plage de La Mala, you simply take a short detour through the windy villa filled street just above the trail before reaching l’Escalier de la Solitude that leads directly to the beach below.
La Mala beach is one of the most popular and beautiful summertime beaches on the Riviera. Many locals and tourists make their way to the beach by foot or by boat, laying their anchor in the tranquil cove of La Mala. It is said that the beach was named after Mala Kschessinskaya, a legendary Russian Prima ballerina who lived in the area and who frequently visited the beach with her various lovers that supposedly included Nicholas II, Russia’s last Tsar. The beach is no stranger to celebrity sightings – a few of the former James Bonds have been spotted here relaxing and enjoying a beer.
For a quick shortcut to the beach, simply park your car at La Pinède Restaurant and walk the ten minutes to your destination. The beach caters to your every need, whether you fancy getting a bite to eat at the chic seafront restaurants, enjoying a refreshing drink as you listen to the music, or simply laying a towel down and catching some sun, everyone is welcome. The two private beach-restaurants, open from late April to late September, La Réserve de La Mala and Eden Plage, are super packed during the summer months so we definitely recommend reserving your sun loungers or table beforehand!
The La Mala coastal walk is an all year round prime location for residents of the Riviera, and whether you’ve never been or walked it a thousand times before, this beautiful and peaceful sunny walk is always a good idea.