Cinque Terre - Boat

Getting around the Cinque Terre by boat

It is a wonderful experience to travel along the Cinque Terre by boat, as it is one of the most picturesque coastlines of Italy. The marine protected area also belongs to the Cinque Terre National Park. The five colourful fishing villages look quite different if you look at them from the sea, and who doesn't enjoy sitting on a boat on a hot summer day, enjoying the splendid view and a cold welcome drink? In my opinion, a boat trip is a compulsory program in the Cinque Terre, even if you are just staying a couple of days in the area.

There are many boat companies to choose from, so let me help you choose the best boat tour for you.

Public Cinque Terre ferry boat

There are public ferry boats running between the five villages. Boats usually run between April 1 and October 31 but it also depends on the weather and sea conditions. In case of bad weather, boat service may be suspended any time. Last year there were some ferries running also in November and December, due to the increased number of visitors during the more quiet low season, so although the 2024 timetable is not published yet, I suppose it will be the same during the first months of 2024.

The boats run between Monterosso and Portovenere (also La Spezia) both directions and stop in every village except Corniglia, as it does not have a harbour. You can also take a boat tour from Portovenere around the 3 islands or travel to Levanto or Lerici. It's a nice way to visit the villages if you only have one day, and you'd like to walk around Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso. (Of course to Corniglia you'll have to take the train.) Get a day pass for the ferry as it will allow you to get on and off the boat whenever you'd like. This way you can freely discover every village, but of course you have to keep an eye on the ferry timetable.

Getting there by boat

The first ferry starts around 9:00AM, the last one finishes around 6:00PM. During the long summer days 6:00PM feels quite early to leave the Cinque Terre, so you can also combine boats and trains. Just get a boat pass from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre, get off at some villages, and at the end of the day take the evening train from Monterosso back to La Spezia.

If you are spending more days in the Cinque Terre towns, but don't have the budget for a private boat tour, this is my recommendation: First, visit the five villages by train. Then, another day, just get a one way ticket from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, without the option to get off inbetween, this way you can see the entire coastline and every village from the sea, at a lower price.

Getting there by boat

Just to give you an idea, in 2024 a Portovenere and Cinque Terre roundtrip day pass costs 37 EUR/person for adults and 15 EUR for children aged 6-11 years. You can get an afternoon pass for 28 EUR. A day pass just for the five Cinque Terre villages costs 30 EUR, 23 EUR for the afternoon. A one way ticket from Riomaggiore to Monterosso costs 13 EUR, 5 EUR for the kids, so that's cheapest option.

For ferry timetables and 2024 prices, please visit the website of the ferry company.

The ferry is surely the most affordable option, but of course it is very crowded, and you will be standing in line with hundreds of other tourists. Take a look at the two short videos below and you will feel the difference. If you have the budget and would like to get away from mass tourism, check out the private boat tours and the shared small group tours below.

Small group guided Cinque Terre boat tours

Day tours

These guided Cinque Terre boat trips operate with maximum 10-12 people, so they have a very friendly atmosphere. A great way to get away from the crowds, but still meet other travellers. I highly recommend them to solo travellers, you might even make some new friends. A huge advantage of these tours is that you'll have an English speaking local skipper who knows everything about the Cinque Terre, local life, history and traditions. He can also make recommendations for bars and restaurants to try after your tour.

All the skippers I work with make sure you'll have fun during your boat tour, but you'll also learn important and valuable information about the Cinque Terre. You'll understand what makes these villages so special and why this area was nominated a UNESCO world heritage site. In case of nice weather and pleasant sea temperatures, you will stop for swimming and snorkeling in a hidden bay, grotto or beach, only reachable by boat. That's surely the best swimming experience you will have during your stay, in the magnificent, crystal clear waters of the Ligurian Sea, away from the lines of sun beds. If the water is too cold for swimming, like in April, you can just sit back, relax on board with a welcome drink in your hand, and marvel at the Cinque Terre coastline, which is undoubtedly one of the most stunning coastlines in Italy.

Best day tours in the Cinque Terre:

Boat tours

Sunset boat cruises in the Cinque Terre

A sunset cruise is your best choice if you would like to see the villages in the most beautiful late afternoon lights, and it's not so important for you to swim off the boat. While some companies do not make swim stops during the sunset cruise, others might stop in a cute hidden bay for some snorkeling on a warm summer evening. However, the sunset cruise is more about relaxing on the boat, watching the sky turning orange or pink, and enjoying some local wine or prosecco with small snacks. You can also have dinner on board, what could be a better place for tasting grilled fish or prawns?

Best Cinque Terre sunset boat cruises:

Private Cinque Terre boat rental

If the two of you would like to enjoy a romantic private tour on a small boat, or you are travelling with a bigger family or friends, a private boat rental could be your best bet. A great selection of different boats is available: traditional gozzo boats or fishing boats, motorboats, sailboats and yachts. The smallest boat is up to 5 people, the gozzo boats and fishing boats are usually up to 8-12 people, while the gulet sailboat can have up to 25 people on board. An excursion boat for up to 70 people is also available.

With the private boat rental you will have more flexibility, the itinerary will be created according to your wishes and you can also make more stops in hidden bays or grottos between the villages for swimming and snorkeling. I usually recommend to visit the Cinque Terre towns by train, then another day rent a boat for a half day or full day and enjoy your time out on the sea and in the bays, away from the crowds. This way you are not wasting expensive boat rental time to walk around the villages. Please note that boats have different permits and they can only stop in certain villages. Larger boats will have to use a tender boat to take you to the shore. You can choose between day boat tours with more swimming included and more elegant 3 hour sunset boat tours with aperitivo on board. Some companies can also serve you lunch on board.

To see the list of available boats in the Cinque Terre, please visit my boat rental page.

Boat tours

Public ferry boat around Portofino

You should also take the boat around the Portofino peninsula, another highlight of the Italian Riviera. There are two companies working in that area:

The eastern side of the peninsula is called the Golfo del Tigullio and boats are running between San Fruttuoso, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Chiavari, Lavagna and Sestri Levante. They also have boats that run all the way to the Cinque Terre and back. For details, routes, schedules and prices, please check their website.

Another company operates on the other side of the peninsula, in the Golfo Paradiso. You can take their boat from San Fruttuoso to Camogli but they have several different lines between Genova and Portofino, or even Genova and the Cinque Terre. For details click here.

A ticket from Portofino to San Fruttuoso or San Fruttuoso to Camogli costs around 10 EUR/person.

Private Portofino boat rental

Private boat rental is possible around the Portofino peninsula as well. You can rent motorboats, yachts or even a sailboat, it's an amazing way to get around the promontory, enjoy the stunning views and discover my favourite bays, San Fruttuoso and Paraggi.

With the stronger motorboats and yachts you can also do a day tour from Portofino to the Cinque Terre, or the other way around.

Boat tours