Cruising into the Sunset on a Cinque Terre Boat Tour

 
What to expect on a sunset boat tour in Cinque Terre. I share tips and my honest thoughts. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 
 

I went to Cinque Terre, Italy, 10 years ago as a student. This came with certain budget restrictions forcing me to appreciate cheap table wine. While I had a great time back then, a Cinque Terre boat tour was simply out of the question.

This visit, I had a vision: I was sailing on a boat, snacking on an Italian aperitivo and watching the sunset over the water. So I reached out to Sea Breeze Boat Tours to see if they could help make my dream a reality. I traded in the table wine for Prosecco and hopped on their boat for a sunset cruise that would give me a different perspective of Cinque Terre.

In this article I’ll cover my experience on the boat tour and give you my honest review. I’ll also give you tips for the tour, let you know how to get there and give you accommodation options in Monterosso al Mare.

 
 

GO IF YOU LIKE:

BRIGHT COLOURS | EPIC SUNSETS | WATER ACTIVITIES | PROSECCO | DOLPHINS

 
 
 

What to expect on the sunset boat tour

 
 

Is A Cinque Terre Boat Tour worth it?

Let me start by telling you why a boat tour is worthy of your time and money.

Most people visit Cinque Terre by:

  • Hiking the trails between the five villages

  • Strolling through the villages to enjoy their charming restaurants and shops

And while I believe these are all worthy activities on a visit to Cinque Terre, a boat tour gives a whole new perspective. I got a better understanding of:

  • The village layouts and their steep inclines

  • How precariously some houses balance on the cliffs

  • The rock formations that hold the villages together

  • The folds of the coastline that create the inlets

 
 
 

Meeting our captains

At 6pm we met our captains at the Monterosso al Mare port. Local couple, Frederica and Matteo greeted us aboard their boat. While we got ready to leave, Matteo explained his previous experience working with other tour operators and how he wanted to start his own business. It was obvious they were both seasoned sailors; they had a great understanding of service and safety. 

 
 
 

Once everyone was on board, we left the harbor and headed South towards Riomaggiore. Because we were boating in May it was still a bit chilly. I was happy to have my light down jacket to protect me from the sea breeze. As Monterosso al Mare got smaller in the distance we started to get an up-close view of the interesting rock formations on the cliffs.

 
View of Manarola from a boat tour, Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 
 
 
 

The aperitivo

Halfway through the ride Matteo brought out our aperitivo and poured us all a glass of Prosecco. We enjoyed parmesan, salami, sun-dried tomatoes, beans, and focaccia as we sailed by each village. He even got some music playing - my dream was coming alive…

 
The aperitivo on Sea Breeze, Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 

The Sampling of Local Italian Food

After being out on the water for over and hour we headed for food sampling in Venazza. Our captains docked the boat and Frederica escorted us to her favorite, family-run restaurant, Ristorante Vulnetia.

I wasn’t expecting to eat a full meal because “sampling” infers a few bites, but we enjoyed bruschetta, risotto and delicious fresh mussels. I have to say they rivaled some of favorite mussels from the South of France. They were really flavorful and not overcooked and chewy. After dinner we hopped back on the boat and went off to catch the sunset.

 
 

But First, Dolphins!

On our way to watch the sunset we had the most amazing surprise.

“Look over there!!!!”, Frederica was yelling from the wheel and pointing out to the left of the boat.

Then we saw it, a pod of dolphins. We quietly approached them to get a bit closer without scaring them off. It was unreal, watching them swim together. They were with us for about 5 minutes before disappearing further into the sea.

 
Two dolphins swimming, Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 

Sunset Time!

When we had started the boat tour the skies were gray and overcast and I was worried that we wouldn’t see a sunset but then we noticed a break in the clouds off to the west. 

We were now almost back at Monterosso al Mare, but the fold of land was blocking the sun. Federica steered us further into the sea and as soon as we cleared it, BAM, we saw the sun.

We watched as it hovered over the horizon, creating the most beautiful pink sky then disappeared. We all gave a round of applause and headed back to the port.

 
 
 

My review of the sunset boat tour by Sea Breeze

A break in the cloudy sky, just before sunset, Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 
 

I really have nothing but positive things to say about this tour and I highly recommend it.

I was initially drawn to Sea Breeze Boat Tours because they were a new company with good ratings and I love to support this type of growing business.

Here is what I loved about them:

They are still small and humble

The reason I love newer companies is that they often work harder for your business and positive reviews. It will only be a matter of time before Sea Breeze jumps to the top spots in Trip Advisor.

The have great value for Money

Sea Breeze Boat Tours gives great bang for your buck. The price of the tour included an amazing aperitivo and sampling of local food. Plus in the summer months they lend you equipment for snorkeling and swimming.

The local touch

Matteo and Frederica were very friendly and if I’m going to be stuck on a boat with people for several hours I want to feel welcomed and safe. These two certainly made me feel that way. Plus, I felt like we made local connections, as opposed to a transactional one.

The booking process

They had a quick response time and offered me options for availability. They also made sure to check in the day before the boat tour to confirm; they had overall great organization.

The boat

I’m in no way a boat expert, but I had two conditions. I needed something big enough so that I didn’t feel the rocky water and I wanted something that felt somewhat luxurious. Their boat, Quick Silver, checked those two boxes. I loved the comfy white cushions where I was able to sprawl out with no problems.


Book the boat tour

The link below is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.

 
 

 
 
 

Where to Stay in Monterosso Al Mare

Budget

Monterosso al Mare is not a budget-friendly town. If budget is a true concern, consider staying in La Spezia or Levanto - within 20 minutes by train you'll arrive in Monterosso al Mare.


Da Vice Rooms - Monterosso al Mare


Atmosfere Guest House - LA Spezia


Le Onde - Levanto


Albergo delle Spezie - La Spezia


CAROLINA23 - Levanto

Affordable Comfort

You can find comfortable and clean accoodation for a mid-range budget in Monterosso al Mare.

Here are a few that are highly ranked and in good locations; near the train station and beach.


Eremo della Maddalena


Albergo Degli Amici


La Serra Sul Mare


La Casa Del Doganiere


A cà da Alba Rooms

Luxury


Hotel Porto Roca


Grand Hotel Portovenere

Though not in Monterosso and frankly, quite unacessible to the other 5 towns, this luxury hotel is a good option if you plan on relaxing and not doing a lot of commuting around the vullages.

 
 

Getting to Monterosso Al Mare

Boarding with Sea Breeze Tours in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 
 
 

Taking the Train to Monerosso al Mare

Taking the train to Monterosso al Mare is the easiest and fastest way to get there. The trains run frequently, connecting the Italian Riviera destinations of: La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso and Levanto.

Check out the train schedule here.


Pro Tip: The Cinque Terre Day Pass

If you’re going to be using the train frequently you may want to invest in the Cinque Terre train day pass.

In 2019 the cost of the pass was € 16 (€ 13 low season) per day and the price per journey was € 4.


Sunset in Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography

Hiking to Monterosso al Mare

The benefit about doing a sunset boat tour is that it gives you the day to do some hiking. I planned my day so that I could hike between the villages and end at Monterosso Al Mare.

I knew from the online parks schedule (see below) that the trails from Riomaggiorre were closed, so I took the train to Corgnilia to start my day hike. To my surprise that trail was also closed; so after exploring the town, I hopped back on the train and headed to Vernazza where I finally started the trail.

The hike itself was incredibly picturesque and on well established trails. We went up into garden and wine terraces and along the coast. The paths were already filled with visitors even though it was only May. There was also a lot of climbing involved. In fact, according to Fitbit, it was a total of 157 floors (10 more than the CN Tower) and 26,062 steps. 

In between the climbing we had leisurely stops in each village for snacks and lunch. I'm glad we did the hike because arriving in Monterosso felt like a huge accomplishment and the sunset boat tour was the reward.


Pro Tip: Updated Trail Closures

Check the most recent list of trail closures before heading out for your hike.

When you enter the trail you will be required to pay for the trail use. In 2019, a one-day Cinque Terre Trekking Card cost € 7,50


Sea Breeze Boat Tours, Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography

Consider the Cinque Terre Ferry

While the boat tour is a reasonable price, I understand it might be out of budget for some people - like 21 year old backpacker me. If that’s the case then consider taking the Cinque Terre ferry.

This ferry runs between La Spezia and Levanto with stops in all the villages except Corniglia. You can also take it directly to your meetup for the boat tour.

And if you’re thinking that the boat tour isn’t worth it now. Just know that though the views may be similar, the ferry won’t be stopping for sunset, dolphins and swimming. It’s also too large to get as close to land as the tour boats.


Cinque Terre Ferry Information

The ferry runs roughly between 8.30am - 7pm but depends on the season. A day pass for the ferry costs roughly € 35

Here's a schedule of the ferry with the most recent prices for you to plan accordingly.


 
 
Vernazza from the water in Cinque Terre. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
 
 

Sunset or day Trip Boat tour?

There are boat tours for all types of travelers but depending on what experience you’re looking for you may get more out of a day trip vs. the sunset boat tour. Here’s a good comparison of the Sea Breeze Tour differences.

 
 

SUNSET BOAT TOUR DETAILS

For travellers who want

  • to enjoy a fun and relaxing evening with friends

  • a memorable family excursion, fun for all ages

  • a romantic evening with their partner

  • A solo experience where you’re looking to connect with groups or locals

Cost (July 2019)

  • € 85/ person - maximum of 12 people on the boat

  • Private tour costs provided upon request

Starting Point & Stops

  • Starting at Monterosso pier

  • Stop at Vernazza for food sampling

Duration

  • Three hours (from 6-9pm)

Included in Tour

  • Boating experience with guided commentary

  • Italian aperitivo with drinks

  • Sampling of local foods

  • Options to swim and snorkel (summer months)

Photography

  • Golden Hour lighting hitting the coast = perfection!

FULL DAY BOAT TOUR DETAILS

For travellers who want

  • fun in the sun, relaxing, swimming and water sports

  • a great excursion for Bachelorette parties

  • to snorkel and see fish

  • to get a deeper education on the history and culture of the region

Cost (July 2019)

  • € 135/ person - maximum of 12 people on the boat

  • Private tour costs provided upon request

Starting Point & Stops

  • Starting at Monterosso pier

  • Stop at Portovenere for tour and history lesson

  • Stop at Vernazza for lunch

Duration

  • Six hours (from 10am-4pm)

Included in Tour

  • Boating experience with guided commentary

  • Italian aperitivo with drinks

  • Longer options to swim and snorkel (summer months)

  • Tour of Portovenere

  • Lunch at Vernazza

Photography

  • Mid-day means harsh light and shooting the coast line is into the sun

  • If you’re into underwater photography this is a better time

 

What to bring on the tour

  • warm clothing or wind breaker for sunset tour on cooler evenings (I went late-May and wore a light down jacket)

  • reef-safe sunscreen, especially for the day tour and summer months

  • nausea medication if you tend to get seasick (I was fine and I’m normally prone to bad headaches)

  • bathing suit - if it's hot you can go for a swim

  • camera - duh…


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Tips for the Boat Tour

  • Don't eat a huge meal - The aperitivo and food sampling filled me right up!

  • Come with questions - It’s not every day you’ll get to learn from a local guide. Ask them all your burning questions about Cinque Terre.

  • Arrive 10 mins early - Plan you day so you arrive early. You don’t want to be the person that holds up the boat.

  • Book earlier in your stay - In case the tour gets cancelled because of weather, you may be able to rebook while you’re still in Cinque Terre.

  • Check for Confirmation the day before the tour - Because the tour can be cancelled due to poor weather, all tour operators confirm or cancel the day before scheduled departure. Know that even if the skies are blue and the sun is out that doesn't mean that the conditions are good. Every tour operator works at their own discretion so if you see other boats on the water it doesn't mean your tour is happening. Set you expectations so you avoid disappointment if the conditions are bad.

Sea Breeze Tour Meeting Point

 

Photography TIPS

  • Screw on a lens hoods for protection against the sea spray

  • Bring cloths to wipe away water droplets on your lens

  • Avoid changing lenses whilst on the boat, you’re more likely to get droplets on your sensor this way.

  • Be ready to move to continuous settings for the fast motion of dolphins

  • Being on a boat means lots of movement. I kept my shutter speed at a minimum of 1000 and changed my iso and aperture. I probably could have gone a bit slower but I didn’t want to risk motion blur and there was a good amount of natural light.

  • Consider using a polarizer filter during the day which will be helpful for the glare of the water

  • I’m not skilled at underwater photography, but if you enjoy it then the day trip boat tour would be a great option for you.

cinque-terre-boat-tour-37.jpg

I would like to thank Frederica and Matteo of Sea Breeze Boat Tours for the complimentary tour. As usual, all thoughts and opinions are my own and I only recommend products and services I either use or trust.

 
 

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What to expect on a sunset boat tour in Cinque Terre. I share tips and my honest thoughts. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography
What to expect on a sunset boat tour in Cinque Terre. I share tips and my honest thoughts. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #cinqueterre #italy #travelphotography