Five fishing villages, nestled along the coastline of the Italian Riviera, is the offering from the Cinque Terre. This UNESCO-listed site is made up of Monterroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore: all wonderful destinations and all worth visiting in their own right. When traveling through the area, be sure to book one of the best Cinque Terre boat tours to take your experience to the next level – as seeing these coastal gems from a boat adds a new dimension to your journey.
Each village in the Cinque Terre boasts its own unique charm – with colorful houses perched on cliff faces, picturesque harbors teeming with fishing boats and vineyard-dotted hillsides stretching towards the horizon. Being in the Cinque Terre is like stepping into a postcard, where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with modern life. As you head across Italy’s western coast, from north to south or vice versa, the village’s can easily be visited in sequence – making it the perfect place to spend a week or two.
The Five Different Cinque Terre Villages
Cinque Terre translates to “five lands” or “five hamlets”. This region of Italy is characterized by coastal and hilly landscapes where a diverse range of environments coexist. Depending on where you are (altitude and distance from the sea), different plant species can be found – such as Mediterranean scrub and chestnut trees. Since the villages are located right on the water’s edge, fishing has traditionally been the main industry – in addition to wine, olive oil and fruit production cultivated on the steep terrazas.
This has led the Cinque Terre to produce world-class products including extra virgin olive oil, wine, honey and limoncino (a liquor made with fresh local lemons). As well as boat tours in the Cinque Terre, visitors can head to the vineyards to taste wines and see the cultivation process. The villages all specialize in their own products and have a distinct atmosphere that will appeal to different types of travelers. Below we provide an overview of each of the five Cinque Terre villages and what makes them so special.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the five villages. The town is famous for its beaches, which are ideal for sunbathing and taking dips in the Ligurian Sea. You can also stroll through the historical center, marvel at the colorful architecture and savor a gelato. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Monastery of San Francesco and the adjoining Convent of the Capuchin Friars – housing priceless works of art – in addition to the towers perched on cliffs and the impressive Church of San Giovanni Battista.
The next village down, as you go from north to south, is Vernazza – the most photogenic spot in the Cinque Terre. With its attractive harbor and ancient castle ruins perched atop a cliff, Vernazza is straight out of a fairytale. Make sure you climb the stairs inside the Doria Tower and emerge at the top with 360 degree views. After that you could treat yourself to a seafood dinner at one of the charming trattorias, and then walk the path that connects to Corniglia and take photos of Vernazza at sunset.
Nestled on a high promontory, Corniglia is the only village without direct access to the sea – making it unique among the Cinque Terre gems. For this reason, Corniglia relies more on agriculture as opposed to fishing. You can reach the village by climbing the “Lardarina”, a series of brick steps. The effort will be worth it once you take in views of terraced vineyards, olive groves and the sea. Walking around the historical center, with its alleys leading to stone houses and pastel-colored buildings, is another highlight.
Featuring a series of colorful buildings seemingly cascading down the cliffs like a waterfall, Manarola is nothing short of a photographer’s dream. Here you can meander along the Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane) with your partner – a coastal pathway linking the village with Riomaggiore – and take in the seductive ambiance and gorgeous sunsets that have earned Manarola a reputation for being the most romantic of the Cinque Terre villages. The village is also home to some fantastic locally produced olive oil and wine.
The fifth and final destination concluding your village-hopping adventure is Riomaggiore, which like Manarola boasts brightly colored houses. Wander through its charming alleys bursting with bougainvillea and visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista. As the sun sets, find a space by the marina to witness the village’s warm lights reflecting on the water. For something truly special, book one of the Cinque Terre boat tours with Hyena 5 Terre Boat Tour – run by friendly local guide Jennifer who lives in Riomaggiore.
Why Book Boat Tours in the Cinque Terre
A boat tour enables you to soak up the Cinque Terre from a unique perspective, showcasing the colorful facades and medieval architecture in all their glory. The rugged cliffs, vineyard-laden hills and hidden coves become accessible as you glide along the crystal-clear waters. Imagine cruising along the shoreline, feeling the breeze on your face and taking in the views from the comfort of a boat. Seeing the villages hug the coastline, seemingly defying gravity, makes you appreciate the wonder of this place.
Taking a boat tour also provides an opportunity to discover hidden gems that can only be accessed from the water. Booking with an expert captain allows you to navigate to secluded coves, revealing the region’s best-kept secrets and giving you a chance to dive into the inviting waters. Among the plethora of boat tour operators in the Cinque Terre, Hyena 5 Terre Boat Tour stands out as an exceptional choice. Led by a knowledgeable local, Jennifer is dedicated to providing guests with an unforgettable experience.
Aboard her traditional boat called a Ligurian Gozzo, Jennifer acts as both your skipper and guide – sharing the places and stories that showcase the authentic side of the Cinque Terre. With a maximum capacity of five guests, the private tours are perfect for couples, families and friends who want to travel off-the-beaten-path in an intimate setting. With a variety of tours departing from Riomaggiore – from short two hour excursions to action-packed 12 hour adventures – there is something for everyone.
Best Cinque Terre Boat Tours
The Cinque Terre Classic Tour (3 Hours)
Beginning and ending in Riomaggiore, the Cinque Terre Classic Tour with Jennifer sees you sail along the coastline to see all five villages from the water: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Jennifer shares spellbinding tales about each village and the territory as a whole – giving you a deeper understanding of the Cinque Terre’s rich history. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to go swimming at spots that have to be seen to be believed – one of which is a waterfall.
Cinque Terre Swimming Tour (3 Hours)
As the name suggests, this tour is all about swimming and diving in azure waters. Jump on Jennifer’s cozy Ligurian Gozzo boat from Riomaggiore and be led to hidden coves, interesting cave formations, natural pools and tiny waterfalls. With snorkeling gear available to use, there is no better way to discover the underwater world surrounding the Cinque Terre. Moreover, Jennifer can provide you with some quality local wine and great music to enjoy on the way back to the marina – lulling you into a dream state.
Cinque Terre Sunset Tour (3 Hours)
The sunset tour is the ultimate experience for couples looking to incorporate a little romance into their getaway. Apart from admiring the sunset – where the glow of the sun reflects on the water and the villages are draped in dramatic colors – guests will also hear fascinating stories about the area and take a dip at a waterfall, along with other swimming spots like natural pools. With wine flowing and romance in the air, you and your partner will leave with indelible memories and stunning photos.
Cinque Terre Half Day Tour (6 Hours)
For six hours, you will be sailing along the Cinque Terre coast and seeing all five villages from the sea. Even better, there is the chance to hop off the boat and spend 30 minutes at three of the villages: Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. All the aforementioned swimming spots and secret coves are included on the itinerary – making for a special day. The tour can also be tailored to suit your specific needs and desires, so get in touch with Jennifer to create your dream boating excursion in the Cinque Terre.
Final Thoughts on Cinque Terre Boat Tours
By no means are the above tours all the experiences to choose from with Jennifer. You could also book a Full Day Tour (12 hours), a Night Tour (2 hours), or a Portovenere and Island tour (4 hours). The options are endless. So, whatever tour floats your boat, be sure to embrace the allure of this spectacular coastal region and embark on a journey of a lifetime through the quaint villages of the Cinque Terre. Let the vibrant colors, intriguing history and warm hospitality of the locals captivate your heart.