It is a wonderful experience to travel along the Cinque Terre by boat, as it is one of the most stunning coastlines of Italy. The marine protected area also belongs to the Cinque Terre National Park. The 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? So in my opinion, a boat trip is a compulsory program in the Cinque Terre.
There are public ferry boats running between the villages, but they are very crowded. So if you don't like the idea of taking the boat with hundreds of other tourists and are looking for a more relaxed experience, check out our sailing trip and these Cinque Terre boat tours, or rent a private boat.
I recommend the shared, small group boat tours if you'd like to learn about the Cinque Terre from your skipper and meet other travellers. With the private boat rental you will have more flexibility, the itinerary will be created according to your wishes and you can also stop in hidden bays between the villages for swimming and snorkeling. You can also choose between day boat tours with more swimming included and sunset boat tours with some drinks like prosecco or local wine. Some companies will also serve you local food on board. The tours usually run in English, other languages are on request.
If you decide to take the public ferry, here is some information for you. 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, Lerici and Portofino.
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.
For timetables and prices, please visit the website of the boat company.
You should also take the boat around the Portofino peninsula, another highlight of the Italian riviera. Private boat rental is possible from Portofino as well!
Otherwise, there are 2 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.