The owners of motor yachts nod to each other at the harbor at Porto Cervo, and the white sands along the "Emerald Coast" in northeast Sardinia attract some of the richest and best-looking bodies in Europe in July and August.

The beaches along this coast are a luxurious vacation haven launched in 1961 by the late Aga Khan, the spiritual leader at the time of 15 million Ismaili Muslims. Khan spearheaded the development that today is filled with luxury villas, deluxe hotels, and marinas. Prices are the highest of any other beach resorts in Europe, so be duly warned. You have a choice of destinations, all previewed below.

The coast stretches for some 55km (35 miles), featuring 80 bays with pinkish white swimming beaches. Some of the most idyllic bays are remote and reached only by boat. Most hotels can arrange day trips to the alluring archipelago of La Maddalena, with its 27 islands, including 7 large ones. The government has turned this island cluster into a national park because of its unique wildlife and vegetation.

You can also visit the islands independently from the port of Palau, which lies directly north of Arzachena . For ferry tickets head out the main road of Palau, Via Nazionale, where you'll find the ticket office of Saremar Ferries (tel. 0789-709270). During the busy summer season, three ferries per hour depart for the 15-minute trip to La Maddalena. The cost is 5.80€ ($8.40) round-trip with daily departures from 7:15am to 2am.