The sophisticated beach towns spoil visitors with endless days of sunshine, welcoming stretches of beach dotted with shady cabanas and stunning women in teeny bikinis reminiscent of the beach bombshell Brigitte Bardot.
St. Tropez was always on the radar of France's creative class, but it was Brigitte Bardot who put it on the map as the sexiest spot on the French Riviera. Wearing little more than bikinis -- and sometimes even less -- the rich, famous and exceptionally good-looking come to St. Trop to flaunt their stuff. The jet-set crowd often includes some of the world's most recognizable faces, from Oprah Winfrey to Leo DiCaprio and party-scene staple Paris Hilton. The harbor is filled with mega-yachts, and the clubs and restaurants are filled with A-listers enjoying the carefree atmosphere. The beach at Pampelonne is one of the most popular and home to the Nikki Beach Club, a titan on the VIP scene with champagne-fueled parties. Exhibitionists head to the Plage de Tahiti where nudity is the norm
The luxurious Côte D'Azur continues at Cannes, the site of the annual film festival that beckons the Hollywood crowd. During the summer months, the same beautiful crowd comes to enjoy the town's picture-perfect beaches and chic resorts. The beaches at Cannes are divided into 32 sections with a mixture of private and public access. The Promenade La Croisette is the fashionable strip that runs alongside the sea filled with expensive boutiques and restaurants. The town's swankiest hotels can be found on this strip including the Hotel Majestic Barriere and the towering white Hotel Martinez with an extensive private beach and water-sports center.
Nice helps make the Cote d'Azur accessible to the rest of the travelers who aren't carrying an AMEX black card or traveling with an entourage. There are no sandy shores in Nice, but a lovely stretch of beach covered with smooth pebbles and stones. The beach is roughly 4 miles from the Old Town to the airport and offers a combination of free and paid beaches. Even some of the public beaches offer amenities including chaise lounges and umbrellas for a reasonable fee. The Hotel Beau Rivage, built in 1860, has a nice beach view and long history as one of the first hotels on the promenade and former home away from home to guests including Henri Matisse, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Monte Carlo Beach
The Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel, located in a sheltered bay at the far end of the Principality of Monaco, was the epitome of sophistication when it opened in 1929. The hotel had a style overhaul to inject some new life into the old-school resort with Matisse-inspired frescoes and high-tech amenities. The stellar beach area is timeless with an enviable spot on the Mediterranean Sea. While the rows of striped cabanas beckon sunbathers, there's plenty of activity on the beach, too, with water sports, an Olympic-sized heated sea-water pool and even entertainment for the kids.
Provence's Iles d'Hyeres, or golden isles, are made up of 3 islands. This natural escape is a far cry from the busy beach scene of the nearby French Riviera. There are no cars permitted and visitors traverse the island on bikes. Porquerolles is petite, stretching just 5 miles long and less than 2 miles wide. Le Mas Du Langoustier is the choice hotel on the island with 50 comfy rooms, great food and classic Provencal charm. The best beaches can be found at the eastern end of the island at the Plage de Notre Dame and Plage de la Galere. Thanks to national-park status, the beaches safely maintain their fine white sands and natural splendor. But the real entity to thank is Mother Nature for the lovely climate as the islands are widely recognized for enjoying sunny skies 275 days each year.