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San Vito lo Capo or Cefalù? Which is best

San Vito Lo Capo beach in Sicily

We absolutely love visiting Sicily in Italy and have been many times. We’ve been to Cefalù and San Vito lo Capo twice and I’m often asked which is best. The answer is – visit both! But of course if you can only visit one, then hopefully this post with help you decide – San Vito lo Capo or Cefalù? Which is best?

Getting to San Vito lo Capo or Cefalù

It’s relatively easy to get to either town from Palermo, although Cefalù is probably slightly easier as you can get the train direct from the airport, which takes around 2 hours, or from the train station in central Palermo, which takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes.

There are no trains from Palermo to San Vito lo Capo so your options are to get a taxi, hire a car or get the bus. We took the bus from the train station in Palermo and it took just over 2 hours. If you get the bus from the airport, it’s about an hour and 20 minutes. Top tip, if you get a taxi, book it in advance on Booking.com as it’s much cheaper than getting a taxi outside the airport and the driver will even meet you in the arrivals hall if you ask them to by leaving a note when you book.

Which has the best beaches?

Both San Vito lo Capo and Cefalù have a long beach right by the centre, which are great for families with children. Personally I prefer the beaches near San Vito lo Capo to the ones in Cefalù.

Beaches in Cefalù

Lido di Cefalù is a crescent, which starts by the marina and curves around to form a long stretch of beach. It has a mix of free spots as well as many lidos where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas. There are lots of bars and restaurants right on the beach too where you can buy drinks or have lunch.

Lido di Cefalù beach

How gorgeous is this ancient gate to the part of the beach that is right by the marina? Perfect for taking photos – especially during ‘golden hour’.

Old entrance to Lido di Cefalù

There are also lovely beaches just outside of the town but you need transport to reach them. When we visit Cefalù we actually spend most of our time at a beach which is just a five minute drive from the town (or a 30 minute walk), called Caldura Beach. It’s a pebble beach and is fairly small but it’s gorgeous. There are quite a few stairs to access it, so might not be the best beach for small children or those with limited mobility.

Caldura beach in Cefalu

Beaches in San Vito lo Capo

The main beach in San Vito lo Capo is much bigger than the one in Cefalù and has tons of sand so it’ll rarely be crowded. Plus you can play football or beach tennis without fear of bothering anyone! Most of it is free with some areas reserved for sunbeds and umbrellas that you pay for. There are also bars and restaurants right by the beach.

The beach at San Vito lo Capo

The main beach is nice enough – especially if you have small children – but the best beaches are to be found in the nearby nature reserve, called Riserva lo Zingaro. It’s about an hour away so you can either drive, take the shuttle bus or visit the beaches by boat.

The nature reserve stretches for 7 km and there are 7 beaches to visit. If you visit by foot there is a €5 entrance fee. There’s also nowhere inside the reserve to buy drinks or food so make sure you come prepared! There are some taps within the reserve to fill up water bottles but when we did this, the water was so hot from the sun and we couldn’t actually drink it….

One of the beaches at Riserva lo Zingaro

The beaches are quite small though so can get very crowded. If you can, it’s better to hire a boat and visit the beaches that way.

Riserva dello Zingaro beach

Which has the most history and culture?

Of course they both have history and culture! However, I found there was more to see and do (that didn’t involve a beach) in Cefalù than there was in San Vito lo Capo.

San Vito lo Capo has an annual film festival in July called the SiciliAmbiente Film Festival, which has been taking place for many years. It was on when we visited the first time and there were lots of outdoor events and Q&As taking place around the town.

In a piazza in the centre you’ll find San Vito Sanctuary, which was a fortress dedicated to San Vito after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It’s now a church with a small museum inside. Funny enough the only photo I seem to have of it is one where I’m holding up a local snack called panelle, which is deep fried chickpea flour. If you visit, you must try some – absolutely delicious!

Panelle from San Vito

Near San Vito lo Capo is the Tonnara del Secco, which is a very important part of the town’s history. A ‘tonnara’ is where they would fish for tuna, using ancient methods. The tonnara has been closed since 1969.

Another tonnara worth visiting is the Tonnara di Scopello, which is also an amazing swimming spot. It’s around 45km from San Vito but definitely worth a day trip. You do need to pay to enter, which gets you a deck chair and you can then also go on a guided tour of the tonnara.

Tonnara di Scopello

For me, there is more to do in Cefalù when it comes to history and culture. For one, there is the absolutely stunning Duomo, which is an Arab-Norman cathedral dating back to 1131. It has been added to over the years, for example the Norman towers were added in the 15th century, and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It is a must-see and is free to enter, however if you want to access certain areas, such as the bell towers, then you need to buy a ticket.

Inside Cefalu cathedral

The ticket cost us €8 each and it was well worth it to get fabulous views over the city from the bell tower.

Cefalu view from the duomo

In the centre of the town, down an impressive flight of stairs, you’ll find the Lavatoio Medievale. It was a wash house where women used to go to wash clothes and bedding in medieval times. It’s built on the river and legend has it that the river was formed from the tears of a nymph who had accidentally caused the death of her lover. It’s really unique to see!

A medieval washhouse in Cefalu

Which has the best sunset?

Absolutely hands down the best sunset is in Cefalù! Many people grab a take-out drink, such as a beer or an Aperol Spritz and sit on the rocks near the marina to watch the sun go down. It’s honestly incredible – some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Another great spot to watch the sun go down is just a bit further up at the fisherman’s bastion or bastione di capo marchiafava.

Fisherman's bastion in Cefalu

Which has the best restaurants?

Both have a big restaurant scene and you’ll be spoilt for choice as to where to eat but for me Cefalù has the edge when it comes to eating out. Our favourite restaurant in Cefalù is Cortile Pepe, which is recommended in the Michelin Guide. It’s quite modern inside, plus it has a lovely outdoor garden. The food is delicious and beautifully presented.

The kitchen at Cortile Pepe in Cefalu

For fabulous aperitivo head to Rossorubino, which is run by two brothers – the bruschetta is divine! You may have to wait 5 to 10 minutes to get a table but it’s worth it.

Wine and bruschetta at Rossorubino in Cefalu

In San Vito lo Capo our favorite restaurant was Ristorante Profumi di Cous Cous, which is also recommended by the Michelin Guide. We actually ate here twice when we were on holiday. It has both indoor and outdoor seating and specialises in couscous, which is very Sicilian.

Ristorante Profumi di Cous Cous in San Vito lo Capo

Both Cortile Pepe and Ristorante Profumi di Cous Cous are very popular so definitely book a table in advance, as it’s unlikely you’d just get a table on the day.

Which has the best nearby attractions?

Again, you’re spoilt for choice whether you’re in San Vito lo Capo or in Cefalù. Also, it depends how far you’re willing to travel. Less than 40km from San Vito lo Capo is the medieval town of Erice, which is absolutely incredible and well worth a day trip. It’s got not one but two castles!

View of Venus Castle in Erice

Slightly further at around 60km is the amazing Doric temple of Segesta, which is believed to have been constructed between 420 and 430 BC. Note that it’s ticketed and not free to visit.

Doric Temple of Segesta from a distance

Not only does Segesta have this ancient temple, it also has an ancient amphitheater. You can hike up or take the shuttle bus. It’s only a 1.5k walk but it’s all uphill…

The amphitheater at Segesta in Sicily

The best nearby attractions in Cefalù are the small towns in the Madonie Park, which is a nature reserve consisting of 15 towns up in the hills. I’d recommend visiting Castelbuono, which is a very pretty little medieval town, which has a castle (that looks more like a fortress).

The castle in Castlebuono

If you’re in Cefalù for a while then I’d definitely recommend a day trip to Palermo. You’d be amazed at what you can see in a day! The train is just over an hour and is fairly inexpensive.

One of the places we loved, and was free to visit, was the archives (Archivio Storico Comunale). Explore Palermo’s history through the ages. It is an absolutely stunning building too!

Archivio Storico Comunale in Palermo

Where should you visit if you’re very active?

If you like to run, cycle or hike then San Vito lo Capo probably has the advantage over Cefalù. The nearby nature reserve, Riserva lo Zingaro, is a 7km hike if you walk from one end to the other, or 14km if you do a round trip. It’s fairly challenging, especially in the heat.

Hiking in Riserva Lo Zingaro

In Cefalù you can climb La Rocca di Cefalù to get amazing views over the city. Depending on your fitness levels it should take about an hour to get up.

Note that both Riserva lo Zingaro and La Rocca di Cefalù are not free to visit. They are inexpensive though at €5 for the nature reserve and €4 for La Rocca, and it’s best to pay in cash. They also have specific opening times so be sure to check these before you visit. Also, you must bring water with you!

So if you were trying to decide between San Vito lo Capo or Cefalù, I hope this post has helped!

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San Vito lo Capo or Cefalu

Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.

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