Santa Margherita Ligure with kids: travel guide for families. Best things to do for kids, beaches, hotels and why we love Santa Margherita for a family vacation.
Santa Margherita Ligure is a beautiful and laid-back coastal town on Italy’s Rivera Ligure, the same stunning stretch of coast as the world-famous Portofino.
Like its famed neighbor, Santa Margherita Ligure has a sparkling blue sea, colorful houses and an upscale vocation.
Unlike Portofino, however Santa Margherita, or just ‘Santa’, as locals love to call it, has something that makes it perfect for families: beautiful beaches, kids-friendly areas and things to do for kids!
I adore Liguria and have a special place in my heart for this particular area.
As much as I adore Cinque Terre, I find Santa Margherita Ligure even better for a family vacation and never tire of coming here.
Every time we come to Santa Margherita with the kids, we fall in love with it all over again.
The mellow atmosphere, the upscale yet relaxed feel, the beautiful seas, the kids’ summer events and the ferries to explore are the perfect ingredients for for our favorite type of Italian beach vacation!
We love it so much, we now come every summer!
Italians know Santa Margherita well.
Overseas visitors often define it as a ‘hidden gem’, which always makes me smile as Santa Margherita is everything but hidden, it’s very popular and busy!
However, there is no doubt that it IS a gem and that it gets a different type of tourism than Cinque Terre or even Portofino Itself (more local and European, fewer overseas visitors).
If you are looking for a beautiful, easy, family-friendly, upscale local town in Italy for a beach vacation with the family, you’ll love Santa Margherita.
In this post, I share my best tips to plan a family vacation in Santa Margherita Ligure with kids, based on my experience of the city with my own children.
I hope it inspires you to go! It is one of the many reasons why I always go on about coming to Liguria with kids!
This post is written on the basis of my experience of Santa Margherita Ligure with my kids. All photos are my own.
Please note: this post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through them, I might make a small commission.
Why go to Santa Margherita Ligure with kids
I recommend Santa Margherita Ligure to families who are looking for:
- A toddler-friendly coastal town in the north of Italy
- A small coastal town with a laid-back yet upscale local feel
- A coastal town to use as a base for trips by ferry and train
- A summer resort town experience
- An easy destination to enjoy with small kids in summer
- A pretty town with a local beach you can reach on foot
Why not to go Santa Margherita with kids
There is no reason to skip Santa Margherita. However, a couple of considerations can be handy:
- Budget: while not as expensive as Portofino, Santa Margherita is a step up budget-wise from nearby Chaivari, Rapallo or Sestri Levante
- Santa Margherita is hard with a car, so it is not ideal if you are counting on taking several day trips by car from it
- Santa Margherita has small beaches and they are part pebbly. This is common in this part of Liguria and Santa Margherita is some of the best in the area. However, if you are looking for large expanses of soft sand, you may find other destinations more suitable
The best time to go to Santa Margherita with kids
Santa Margherita is a summer resort town so the best months for a family visit are the summer ones, June to September.
Early June and late September are the quietest of the summer months, while July and August are the busiest and, therefore also the best served in terms of events, ferry etc.
In winter, Santa Margherita is quiet and local, with services open for the local community and meeting all daily needs. Tourism services are, however, at a minimum and ferries may not run due to weather conditions.
How many days to spend in Santa Margherita
You can see Santa Margherita itself in a matter of hours, but you can also spend the whole summer here just lounging on the beach.
If you use Santa Margherita to explore the area, I recommend you stay at least three nights.
With three nights in Santa Margherita with kids you can:
- Enjoy the town
- Take the ferry to Portofino and San Fruttuoso
- Take the train to Cinque Terre
Where to stay in Santa Margherita Ligure with kids
Santa Margherita Ligure is well-equipped with family-friendly hotels.
Some you may enjoy are:
Best Western Hotel Regina Elena (4 star hotel)
This Best Western Hotel is a good, 4-star family-friendly hotel with special attention for kids, from babies to teens (which is so rare! I love it when hotels understand older kids need attention too!).
Located in a beautiful and scenic part of Sants Margherita, the hotel has nice family rooms with A/C and free wifi, a restaurant onsite (with gluten-free menu), a fitness room and can help with booking boat trips and bike excursions.
The hotel also has a seasonal outdoor pool and private beach area.
On request, they can offer:
- Baby bathtub
- Changing table
- Bottle heater
- High chair
- Teens bikes (extra charge)
- Babysitting service (extra charge)
Please note: agree all of the above with the hotel at the time of booking to ensure availability.
Hotel Villa Anita (boutique hotel, 3 star category)
Hotel Villa Anita is a lovely boutique family hotel in Santa Margherita with an intimate atmosphere, old-world charm and all the modern comfort you may ask for in a hotel of this category.
Located just beside the port, in a perfect position to catch ferries and even the train, the hotel has pretty family rooms, a seasonal outdoor pool, a great breakfast (savory and sweet options) and the option to rent bikes straight from the hotel.
For young kids, their garden has a play area with a swing, slide and table tennis.
Grand Hotel Miramare (luxury, 5 stars)
Grand Hotel Miramare in Santa Margherita is a beautiful hotel that embodies the effortless elegance that is typical of thei area: a real Italian Riviera Hotel experience!
Hosted in a grand, historical building, the hotel is in a scenic location and offers beautiful family rooms, onsite restaurants, seasonal outdoor pool, garden and beach access. Perfect for a super relaxing family stay!
The best things to do in Santa Margherita with kids
In summer, Santa Margherita Ligure has plenty to offer to children. The top kid-friendly things to do here are:
Go to the beach
Santa Margherita has lovely sea access and family-friendly beaches. The beach here is mostly sandy with some pebbles and rocky stretches, so we found that having good water shoes helped.
Easy beaches to enjoy with kids are:
- Spiaggia Libera, the free beach
- Spiaggia Minaglia https://www.instagram.com/minagliabeach/?hl=en
- Regina Elena Beach Club (day passes subject to availability)
- Bagni Miramare, by Miramare Hotel above https://www.facebook.com/miramaregrandhotel
- Bagni Margherita
Play at the town’s playgrounds
Santa Margherita has small yet nice children’s playgrounds with slides and swings.
Children’s playground, Via Giuncheto 25, Santa Margherita Ligure
Parco del Flauto Magico, Corso Elisa Rainusso 12, Santa Margherita Ligure
Participate in Children’s summer events
one of the things we love about Santa Margherita with kids in summer is that there are regular summer events taking place that are family-friendly or just for kids!
You see them advertised around town (posters are everywhere) and they include music, shows, circus and magic performances: you know those fun local events typical of summer nights in a holiday resort town? Santa Margherita has those and they are a great opportunity to meet local families.
The flat and car-free promenade of Santa is perfect for them!
Santa Margherita is in a great location for bike lovers as it is close to scenic and sometimes kid-friendly bike trails, such as the one from Santa Margherita to Portofino via Villa Durazzo.
The first part is easy and doable with kids but be careful if going all the way to Portofino on the panoramic road – ask the pickup point about the cycling conditions.
Take the boat to San Fruttuoso and Portofino (Older kids)
San Fruttuoso and Portofino are among the most scenic and beautiful spots in this area and while not for kids as such (no playground or children’s attractions) they are easy to enjoy with kids of primary school age and up.
San Fruttuoso is a stunning cove with crystal-clear waters perfect for snorkeling. Portofino is a beautiful and scenic town with a castle with fantastic views.
Both Portofino and San Fruttuoso are easy to reach by ferry: when we go, we prefer to stop in San Fruttuoso first, so we avoid crowds, we swim and get refreshed, then we go for Portofino for lunch and back to Santa Margherita for a kid-friendly afternoon!
To explore the area, we took the ferry >> https://traghettiportofino.it/territorio/golfo-del-tigullio/ and got tickets on the day at the kiosk.
Catch the train to Cinque Terre
Another fun excursion from Santa Margherita with kids is catching the train to Cinque Terre.
I love Cinque Terre and we always have fun hopping on and off the train. If you have little ones, a stop in Monterosso (flat, lovely playgrounds), Manarola (amazing playgrounds) and Vernazza is a must.
With older kids we also love Corniglia!
Find here >>> our favorite playgrounds in Cinque Terre.
Explore local towns by train
This area of Liguria is famous for Portofino and Cinque Terre but it has many more fantastic towns for families that are a real pleasure to explore.
Some we adore and highly recommend are Chiavari, Sestri Levante and, a little further towards cinque terre, Levanto
Enjoy the pretty, flat city center
Santa Margherita has a lovely flat and family-friendly city center that is adorable with kids.
Parts of it are car-free, most of it is flat and stroller-friendly and there are many shops and gelato places that make even a simple stroll a delight!
Passeggiata dei baci
A wonderful, easy, kids-friendly walk to get to Portofino from Santa Margherita and catch beautiful views on the way!
Where to eat in Santa Margherita with kids
Panetteria del Corso. Corso Matteotti, 4/6 specifically for cheese focaccia
PInamonti Focacceria, expensive yet delicious
Ristorante Levante – informal lovely restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere with nice seafood and simpler dishes for kids (even a simple tomato sauce pasta is nice here!)
Ristorante Oca Bianca – lovely, traditional restaurant with pasta, meat and fish. Some elaborate dishes and some simple ones also for kids’ palates.
Gelato – we found nice service and a good selection of flavors in Gelateria Centrale
How to get to Santa Margherita with children
The easiest way to get to Santa Margherita with kids is by train or ferry.
Santa Margherita train Station is called Samnta Margherita – Portofino and is just above the town, only a few minutes away from the center (unlike Portofino, which is quite a way from it!)
By ferry, you arrive in Santa Margherita center and you can reach on foot most of the town.