How To: A Three-Day Amalfi Coast Road Trip.
Driving the Amalfi Coast has been a dream of ours for a long time. To say we were excited is an understatement. The Amalfi Coast is very compact and you can drive the entire thing in one day, although I highly recommend spending three days so you can relax and fully enjoy it. Here’s our experience…
Jump on the ferry from Naples to Capri; 45 minutes, 20 EURO, and you’ll arrive in paradise.
Capri is an adorable island off the coast of Italy — Actually reminded me of Catalina Island in California. Tourists aren’t allowed to drive on the island during the summer months due to the tight, crowded roads – the driving is intense. We stayed in Anacapri, a small town over the hill on the other side of the island, but it was worth it. Most people stay in Capri, but I think it’s better to get out of the crowd and explore the rest of the island.
From Anacapri, catch the bus (runs every 15 minutes) to the Blue Grotto or Grotta Azzurra. Tip: You can take a boat from Capri to the grotto as well, but I think it’s easier to go from Anacapri.
I’m not sure what exactly I had in mind, but the grotto was not what I expected. There’s a long line of tourists waiting for their turn in the boat to experience the blue phenomenon. With dozens of small boats bouncing around the cove, they take turns grabbing 3-4 tourists and then disappearing into the hole in the rock. It took me a minute to realize the process: When the larger boats from Capri come into the cove, the smaller tour boats take the guests in four at a time. The whole experience only lasts about five minutes (if that), and costs 13 EURO per person. There’s no question that it’s expensive, but the experience was well worth it.
While you watch the others go before you, you see them all laying completely flat inside the small dingy. Complete strangers are now laying in each other’s laps. Some look terrified. To me, I felt like I was waiting for Splash Mountain at Disneyland!
After 30-45 minutes, it was finally our turn. Michael and I in the back, Nic in the front (Fun Fact: Nic is one of the guys we met while running with the bulls in Pomplona in July. We decided to go for one last hoorah together! — Best part of traveling is meeting awesome people.). The boat drivers time the swell and pull themselves into the grotto with a chain hanging from the rock. Similar to the tourists, the drivers lay completely flat as well. Makes for quite an exciting entrance, I’d say. But as soon as you’re in, the entire grotto is beaming blue. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Even though there are signs that say, “Swimming in the grotto is strictly prohibited”, if you pay your skipper a little extra, they’ll let you jump in. DO IT! The water is so warm and so clear. All of the boat drivers start singing like the gondolas in Venice. It’s magical — One of the highlights of our trip!
Sadly, it only lasts a few minutes, and then we’re back in the boat and shooting the gap to get out into the open water again. [Unfortunately, the grotto ate Nic’s phone, but lesson learned. Only take a GoPro inside and leave all other valuables in the boat, in a dry bag because everything can and will get wet].
After that excitement, keep the adrenaline pumping with a short walk along the path to Il Riccio Ristorante. There’s lounge chairs and cliffs that are perfect for jumping into the clear warm water.
Back in the main town of Anacapri, if you have time, take the chair lift up to the top of the island for stunning panoramic views of the entire island. The lift closes at 5pm so just be sure to go early. End the night with a beautiful sunset and a glass of wine and then walk into town for delicious seafood pasta.
- The driving in Capri is insane. Now I understand why tourists aren’t allowed to have cars here (at least not in the summer). The streets are so narrow and the buses leave literally one centimeter between each other as they pass. Our driver was in a minibus that drove down sidewalks, not roads.
- Dinner in the town center was great and very fun to walk around – Follow the lights to the center. Very local place – Saw our boat drivers eating dinner.
- The cabs are stretch convertibles and look awesome
Book accommodations early. They sell fast and the prices are high. No hostels on the island so just be prepared to splurge here.
Jump on the morning ferry from Capri to Sorrento (20 minutes). Once in Sorrento, rent a car from Hertz (or any rental company) to get you started on your road trip. P.S. Sorrento is another cute port town with great shops and cafes. Traffic is a little crazy though so just be prepared. We left immediately to avoid the frustration.
Continue on the tight two-lane road and enjoy the views of the forest and the coast.
Stop for lunch in Positano and soak in the good vibes of this classic Amalfi coast town on the cliffs above the water.
The drive is fairly short, only an hour or two, but full of excitement for both the driver and the passenger(s). Hairpin turns with massive tourist buses, scooters, etc. If you’re not a comfortable/confident driver, I would suggest taking public transpiration. We never had an issue, and personally I think it would have been much more terrifying in a large bus on these small streets due to the “lack of control”, but I trust Michael’s driving abilities and we had a great time. Definitely not the worst driving conditions we’ve experienced on this trip!
Upon arriving in Amalfi, take a stroll through the town center, Porta Della Marina, and go for a quick swim in the ocean. The beaches are crowded and full of rocks, no sand.
Another beautiful sunset to wrap up day two and get ready for an adventurous day three.
- Beautiful, iconic Amalfi Coast town
- Public parking is terrible – Get a small car or take the bus
- Rent a scooter
Considering our last minute booking, it was difficult finding a decently priced accommodation for two nights. Therefore, we had to switch hotels, literally a 50 meter drive, but that still gave us the entire day to enjoy the Amalfi, which I highly recommend.
If you do have a day to explore the coast, rent a boat! A boat rental is 150 EURO for the full day (9am-6pm) + 50 EURO for fuel (depending on how much you use/how far you go). Since we already saw the Amalfi from the road, we wanted to see the coast from the water too. And what a sight!
We drove down the coast, stopping in small coves to swim in the gorgeous water.
Our original thought was to pop into Positano for lunch, but the boat company recommended Nareno instead because it isn’t as touristy. We took their advice and I’m so glad we did! You moor your boat and a dingy comes over to pick you up and take you to the shore. We ate a delicious lunch in Nareno, complete with two bottles of Rose (Teaching Nic how to be 30-years-old and classy).
After lunch, we found the most amazing cove… Relaxed, swam, explored, and cliff jumped for two hours in the crystal blue, warm water.
It was getting late and sadly we had to return the boat by 6pm. On our way back to Amalfi, we cruised around Li Galli Island where they say you’re not allowed to moor, but everyone does. I suggest going there. Looked like a giant boat party.
We had quite the bumpy ride back to Amalfi, but it was all worth it!
Grab pizzas to-go from a local pizzeria, four bottles of wine, and soak in the final sunset. Top it off with great conversations on a balcony overlooking the ocean, and it will easily become one of the most incredible days of your entire trip, just like it did for us.
- Emerald Grotto
- Li Galli Island
- Drive the coast to figure out which cove you want to duck into. It’s usually not the first one you come across. So many amazing coves to drop anchor and swim. Pick one, relax, and enjoy the great water.
- Visit Amalfi Coast mid-week. The traffic on the weekends is horrible.
- There are a number of boat rental companies down by the water. If you want to rent, I suggest going down there as soon as you arrive and booking one for the next day. They will sell out if you try to wait until the morning of.
- I think it’d be more terrifying to be in a bus on this road. If you’re confident in your driving abilities, then rent a car and go at your pace. You can’t get lost.
We wrapped up our Amalfi Coast tour by heading to Pompeii then back to Naples. You can drive the entire coast in just a few hours, but I highly suggest staying two days so you can take your time and rent a boat. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to tour through Pompeii as we had to catch a train – recommended to spend at least three hours there – but it’ll have to wait till next time.
Amalfi, you were an absolute dream and exactly what we needed! Out of the cities, on the coast, and lots of adventure! I’ll be back!!
2015 Bucket List Complete:
- Drive the Amalfi Coast
- Rent a boat and swim in the beautiful water
- Tour Pompeii
- Hike Mount Vesuvius