Well, with 300 days of sunshine per year, there is simply no best time to visit the Riviera, because
each season has its advantages and its drawbacks and it all depends on your motivations and priorities.
If you can stand the heat and you intend to swim, July and August are great because that's the time of the year where the sea is the warmest, between 21°C (70°F) and 28°C (82°F). Some people, mostly people from Normandy and Brittany, say that it’s too warm, but I don’t! I believe they say that because they have accustomed their body (from a very young age) to stand cold water temperatures, like some "crazy" people bathe in icy cold waters at New Year’s…
Mind you, there are exceptional times where, because of the local strong wind (which, in that region, is called "Mistral"), the temperature of the sea drops overnight down to 18°C (64°F) and stays that way for a few days. But, again, this is exceptional. And it’s then the perfect opportunity/excuse to go do some sightseeing in the hinterland to visit incredible places...
Now, it's no big secret that the Riviera is overcrowded (with people and cars) in July and August because, on top of foreigners, it's one of the three favorite destinations for the French to spend their summer vacation at, but there are
a few tricks to avoid the big crowds:
- same as when/if we drive from Paris to the South, there are roads to take or not to take depending on the day we travel (for example never travel towards the inland on a Saturday morning because it's the day people leave their rentals to drive back home).
- never drive to Saint-Tropez along the coast in the summer because of the traffic jams (but, guess what, there's a direct boat from Saint-Raphael to bring us there in less than one hour) (check-out one of the boats here below, the blue and white one at the front):
But the best method to avoid the crowds is to avoid the crowded places (mostly the big seaside resorts)
and it can (almost) be done because, chances are, if you travel with me,
it means that you'll want me to take you off the beaten path...
Another very good reason to go in July is the Saint-Raphael Jazz Festival. It's not as famous (and glamourous) as the Jazz Festival of Antibes (which takes place just afterwards and which we could also go to), but
I love its intimacy and its free concerts everywhere in town like just around the corner of my building!
Otherwise we can still swim in the sea in June or September and it's a lot less crowded.
In fact, if we don't swim, the Riviera and Provence are very beautiful all year long,
and it is indeed so enjoyable to discover them without the big crowds!
Another very interesting time to go to the Riviera is in February because of the Nice Carnival and Lemon Festival in Menton, and because that's the time of the year where the Mimosas are all in bloom!
And you'd be surprised to see the festivities around Christmas like the festival of lights in Saint-Raphael.