Is crystal blue water and plenty of sunshine enough to plan a beach holiday in Malta with small kids? I planned a short break to Malta quite soon after our last epic 2 weeks in Peru, to relax and recover our energy. We relaxed of course but I was expecting a bit more from this Malta family holiday
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I thought a lot before writing this post because sometimes travel becomes memorable after returning to daily routines.
So, why am I feeling a bit disillusioned with our Malta vacation?
Don’t get me wrong, Malta with Gozo and Comino are worth a visit. There are a lot of things to do in Malta with kids, and lots of places to visit in Malta, but I feel compelled to reduce the expectations of those who are evaluating a journey because looking online I think there are too many travel posts that only highlight the positive side of these islands.
What I didn’t expect was to find many areas with indiscriminate urbanization, with ugly structures probably developed in the 60s and 70s. Where this is not the case, the problem then becomes the buildings are unfinished or dilapidated.
Many villages presented countless buildings where only the first and second floors are finished and the rest is in a state of neglect.
The sea, as I said before is very beautiful, but the accesses to it are not the easiest with small kids (please consider that my experience is with 3 years old).
The coast has beautiful scenery with rocks and isolated coves, perfect if you rent a boat. There are not too many sandy beaches in Malta and Gozo, and unfortunately they were overcrowded by the end of June.
If you can ignore these aspects then only the positive remains
In this post there are, obviously, my personal opinions based on our 6 days in Malta with Liam and Santiago who are now 3 years old.
As usual I will describe our Malta itinerary so as to facilitate the organization in case you want to copy it.
Many people decide to stay in Malta and visit Gozo and Comino for a day trip. We have decided to share our time by spending 3 days in Gozo and 3 days in Malta.
I wanted to have the chance to savor the slow life that you live in Gozo that would not have been possible only with a day trip. In hindsight I would base myself in Malta and travel to Gozo for a day tour.
How to get around
Malta and Gozo are served by a public transport service and two routes of the hop on / off bus, but we wanted to be more independent. After driving in Peru we were certainly not scared of driving in Malta.
So we rented a car with our favorite, many times tested, online company (economy car rental) that also this time secured a really low price (just around €40 for 6 days!!!!) and we didn’t have to pay an extra fee for a really early drop off.
I had checked also other companies and all offered the possibility to ferry the car between Malta and Gozo without any additional insurance. Always check because sometimes there may be clauses that limit these things.
Driving in Malta turned out to be really smooth, parking was never an issue including near the beaches and drivers generally seemed as polite as in the UK. Road signs were not the best, but with your phone maps driving in Malta will not present any issue.
How to get to Gozo from Malta
How to get to Gozo is super easy: in Malta you need to arrive to Circkewwa (1 hour by bus from Valletta if you use public transport) and then take the Gozo ferry. If you arrive with a car the system in use is perfect, you are simply directed to a lane where you wait your turn to board the ferry.
When you go by car it is not necessary to buy the ticket on your way to Gozo, you will then pay on your return.
Ferries sail every 30 or 45 minutes (the crossing lasts for 30 minutes more or less), but at peak times you may not be able to get on the first one.
On your way back to Malta the indications were very clear and it is very easy to identify which direction to follow for the ferry. Once at the port you are automatically directed to the toll booths where you can pay the ticket directly from the car.
Something to consider: if you don’t have a car, going around in Gozo will not be so easy. There is public transport, but it doesn’t reach every corner. if you decide to do a Gozo day trip a recommendation is to have a look at an organised tour, this will maximise your time and you will manage to reach all the places to visit in Gozo.
6 Days Itinerary
What to do in Gozo in 3 days
Arrived in Malta around 2pm, collected the car and we immediately headed to Cirkewwa, the port where we boarded for Gozo.
Gozo is a very small island, so you are never too far from anything. Once we landed, it took us no more than 15 minutes to reach our Gozo farmhouse B&B in Xewkija.
I booked the Adhoc B&B through booking, and we spent €120 a night for a triple room where the owner really kindly added an extra bed. The place is nice, but I think the value for money in this case isn’t quite there. Compare with other option in Gozo I think is still really good, so if you decide to stay in Gozo it still worth to have a look.
At this point, arriving mid afternoon in the summer, you would have enough time to reach a beach for the first splash of the holiday. As you know, we move slowly so we decided instead to use the B&B pool for the last hours of the day.
The B&B is very close to the main square where you can immerse yourself in the slow rhythms of local life.
We had dinner at Giovanni’s, very good and very calm !!
You can dedicate the second day to explore some of Gozo beaches. Our goals were Ramla bay and Hondoq Bay.
Getting to Ramla is very simple and near the beach there is a paying car park where for € 1.50 you can leave the car all day.
Access to the beach is facilitated by wooden walkways, so if you have brought the stroller the first part is easily accessible.
When you arrive, on the left there are 3 or 4 refreshment points and the bathrooms. Here is also where you pay for umbrellas and sunbeds in case you want to use them, remember it or like me you’ll have to go back !!! (€ 15 for an umbrella and two beds that they will position where you want)
The beach is one of the largest in Gozo, but if you arrive too late you will still find it crowded!
Our idea was to visit Hondoq Bay after lunch. Given the crowd of people we feared that parking would be a problem and that we would not find a good place on the beach, so we changed our plan and stayed in Ramla Bay.
In the evening, after a brief stop in the capital Vittoria, which did not fascinate us enough to hold us back, we went on an exploration of Xlendi Bay, where we found a pleasant marina, with many (read too many) restaurants.
When you arrive on the right hand side there are 3 restaurants a bit more isolated than the others. We had a stroke of luck and we found a table at Ta Karolina, but I highly recommend that you book a table in advance so you can eat at one of the tables just below the rock wall almost flush with the water! Ta Karolina serves traditional Gozian food, in really big portions enough for 2!
Third day- morning exploring Gozo
On the third day we ventured to the beautiful San Blas Bay. Too bad the sea has completely eaten the beach.
After a picturesque but very steep descent, the only alternative is to walk on the rocks to reach a small patch of sand (I would not recommend this option with small children) or sit at the bar while sipping a coffee / beer / whatever you want, to recover your mental energy before starting to ascend.
As I said I found the place lovely, the bar restaurant is also open for dinner so you can consider returning for a barbecue by the sea!
You can avoid the ascent paying about € 10 (for 4) to the gentleman who drives a sort of open jeep. We considered it daylight robbery and so we stoically climbed back on foot.
HOT TIP: try to arrive early to park the car as low down as possible. the last spot where you can park has only space for 4 or 5 cars, otherwise you need to add few more meters to your ascent!!!
With the car at this point it is not difficult to visit other characteristic points of the island.
The salt pans near Marsalforn are very scenic and if you want you can go down with the car to the base.
From there you can continue north towards Dwejra where once there was the azure window, and then you can go down and swim or dive in the Gozo blue hole.
Third day- afternoon Comino Blue Lagoon
From Gozo to Comino it is a very fast boat ride (15 min) to dive into the famous blue lagoon.
Obviously nobody visiting Malta or Gozo wants to miss taking a swim in the blue lagoon … in fact don’t expect to be able to enjoy it in peace!
We decided to dedicate the afternoon to it, hoping that by arriving around 4pm we would have had more chances to avoid the crowd … no chance!
Having disembarked from our boat, we saw so many people in the 10sqm beach area that it was almost impossible to stand without stepping on someone.
For a moment we even thought of going back immediately … then we pulled out the bucket and spade and sat down on the shore to play with Liam and Santiago, who didn’t care for the people.
We had fun anyway and the water is really amazing, a lovely deep blue, but is it worth the trip? I really don’t know … obviously with older children you could venture a little bit further and reach the other bay in about ten minutes, but the place is very small so you don’t get out of the crowd.
The other option you have is to stay on the only hotel on the island, so you can enjoy Comino Blue Lagoon when everybody is gone!
How to get to Comino Blue Lagoon
Wherever you are in Malta or Gozo reaching Comino Blue Lagoon is really easy. Mgar in Gozo and Cirkewwa in Malta are the closest harbours where you can catch a Comino boat trip, usually from 8am till around 6pm. But there are also tour operators that will pick you up from Bugibba, San Paul Bay or Silema.
While we were there we have seen the boat from one of the tour I considered to take. If my boys were a bit older I would have definitely took it, they use a really fun boat with a big slide to dive down in the sea. They bring you to the blue lagoon but also around the island and to see the caves. Have a look because it could be worth it to avoid the crowd!
HOT TIP: if you are going to Comino from Gozo, it is better you don’t pre-book online your tickets. I know this is a strange advice coming from me that I like to have everything organised. When we arrived to the port we saw 3 different company organising Comino boat trips (just couple of people sitting under an umbrella), so you can check the one that is leaving first and buy the ticket directly from them.
To get back in theory the last boat is around 6pm. but the owner of our B&B told us that they go back untill there are people…but we haven’t risked it!
Best places to visit in Malta in 3 days
After a leisurely breakfast we headed to the port where the indications are very clear and it is very easy to identify which direction to follow for the ferry.
This time without waiting we entered the ferry directly to Malta in record time.
Hotel Radisson blue golden sand this was our next stop! After carefully analyzing the various options I chose this hotel even though I usually prefer smaller solutions even if with fewer services.
The room was not ready so we headed to the beach, where even though the private beach is not large we had no problem finding sunbeds available while waiting. After yesterday’s tour we took the opportunity to relax and after lunch on the beach, a nap, and some pool games we concluded the evening with dinner in the new Indian restaurant in the hotel.
Hotel Radisson blue golden sand Sand is one of the best family hotels in Malta, perfect even for out of season holidays and I will write a specific post about it.
In the morning I finally realized one of the desires I had for a long time of trying stand up paddle boarding. It was something I had planned even when a couple of months before we had been in the Sacred Valley in Peru, but I had to put it on a side and now I finally had the chance to try and discover that it is a sport that I really like.
But the best thing? We rented the boards from the center on the beach connected to the hotel (Euro 15 each for 1h. including life vest). One for me and one for Mark, and Liam and Santiago went with us too. Sitting in front they were great, holding on and enjoying the trip quietly ( I almost couldn’t believe it)!!! Now I just have to find out where I can practice in London !!!!
If you feel less adventurous, you can also rent a canoe or a pedalo! Or enjoy yourself with 12 minutes of paragliding !!! (Euro 60)
Happy with the adventure, we decide to dedicate the afternoon to the exploration of Valletta.
I discovered the parking rules online (there are white, blue and green stripes, but after 6pm you can only park on the white spaces) and after we found a place we wandered aimlessly.
The center is very beautiful and you can walk quietly for a couple of hours.
If the sun is not scorching and you manage to arrive in the early afternoon after exploring Valletta you can take the lift down from the upper Barrakka garden to the harbour and get on one of the small ferry or water taxi to reach the 3 cities.
You can get to Birgu and just get lost exploring a little. After you can move to Senglea and from there take the bus back to Valletta.
For dinner the options are not lacking. We have preferred to avoid the most touristic restaurants on the main street and we found a great restaurant (D’office bistro’) on a secondary petonal street (Archbishop street) where we ate very well.
Sixth and last day
On the sixth day you can divide again between beach / pool / gym / nap and a visit to Rabat and Mdina.
Mdina and Rabat are pretty towns that are very photogenic . They are far from my initial negative judgment on an unfinished architecture.
Surely they can meet your Instagram needs!
If your accommodation isn’t already by the sea, I would suggest starting your day visiting the Popeye village. The village built in the 80’s to shoot the film Popeye with Robin Williams. Subsequently the Maltese government decided to keep it and convert it into one of best Malta tourist attraction. It is located on the coast with access to the beach. In the water there are also slides and other inflatables that will surely amuse children.
For us this was our last day and as we had a really early flight we took advantage of the evening kids club and had a romantic dinner at the restaurant by the beach.
What to say….after these 6 days I came to the conclusion that it would be much better to go to Malta out of season.
The problem is that there are many places to visit in Malta, but in summer the scorching sun prevents you from touring around with pleasure during the day, especially if you have small children. Therefore unless you are passionate about resort life, the alternatives are reduced. In the summer Malta is a destination that lends itself perfectly to all-inclusive holidays.
Another thing I would do differently for sure, next time I would use Malta as a base and go to Gozo just as day trip. The sea is very beautiful but you would appreciate it much more by moving around with a boat.
I hope that my experience will help you organize your holiday in Malta to the fullest, let me know your comments in the comments!