The perfect Cannes vacation is so very much more than drinking cocktails in a beach club and strolling along the palm-lined Croisette—as pleasant as that may be. With the sparkling Mediterranean stretching out before you, the red rock-Esterels rising up across the bay, and the gorges and craggy peaks of the Provence backcountry all within a short drive of Cannes, there’s an abundance of adventure sports activities on offer to get the fresh air into your lungs and your heart racing.
A note of encouragement to the more cautious: we’ve included easy options for those of you who just want to explore the natural side of the Riviera and perhaps try a new activity. It’s not all white-knuckle stuff, we promise!
This adventure sports guide concentrates on the western stretch of the Riviera between Cannes and Saint Tropez, as well as the backcountry region that can be reached easily from Cannes.
Kiteboarding/kitesurfing near Cannes
Those who love streaking across the water and launching into the sky are in luck in Cannes, because Plage Palm Beach near the casino is actually the only place on this stretch of coastline that you’re allowed to kiteboard year-round. If conditions aren’t quite right or you’d prefer to explore the glorious Mediterranean coastline, we suggest you head westwards, where you can enjoy some world-class kitesurfing at Mandelieu la Napoule, Saint Aygulf near Saint Raphael, Pampelonne near Saint Tropez and further west round to Hyeres.
Mountain biking in the Esterels
There are few sights as lovely as the vista from the low Esterel mountain range back down across the Mediterranean- and it’s even better when you get to the top under your own steam. There are hundreds of mountain biking trails of varying difficulty through the Esterels, winding through forest and along rivers, past villages and vineyards, and up the red ochre hills to gaze back over the deep blue sea, heart pumping from the climb. One pleasant and fairly untaxing ride through the stunning landscape is the Circuit des Monges, which leaves from Theoule-sur-Mer, while those wanting a higher level of difficulty should try the Raider Cap Esterel track or Les Balcons d’Azur trail from Saint Raphael.
Rock-climbing at Buoux in the Luberon
This suggestion takes us about a two-hour drive from Cannes into the Luberon in Provence, but we know that keen climbers will be champing at the bit to experience the world-class climbing here. The tiny village of Buoux is surrounded by tremendous walls and the winding course of the Aigue-Brun River has created many caves and crags to explore. There are some very challenging and technical routes in this area, including the Rose de Sable (7a), No Man’s Land (7a) and Reve du Papillion (8a).
Adventure-sport paradise at the Gorge du Verdon
The mighty Gorges du Verdon is also a couple of hours’ drive from Cannes, but it is so very well worth the effort. As you bungee jump off one of Europe’s highest bridges, white water-raft down a towering gorge, go spelunking in dark places or climb the canyon’s sheer limestone walls, you’ll be constantly shocked by the beauty of this gorge deep in the Provencal backcountry. There are plenty of adventure sports operators who’ll help you do something amazing and memorable at the Gorge du Verdon. The Gorge du Verdon National Park is also riddled with over 460kms of mountain biking trails, which start from Gréoux-les-Bains or Esparron-de-Verdon.
While driving to the Verdon is an achievable day-trip from Cannes, we recommend that you spend the night in a nearby village to really savour the experience.
Cannes is the gateway for some seriously exhilarating fun, and getting involved in these outdoor activities is also a great way to explore the natural beauty of the French Riviera. So get stuck in! If you want a few more activities to choose from, don’t forget to check out our activities listings or our guide for neighbouring Antibes and the eastern end of the Riviera.