Everything you need to know to plan a day trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast – a guide to the pros and cons of the different options by land and by sea to help you plan your perfect Amalfi Coast trip.
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The coastal town of Sorrento makes a great base for exploring the historic sights, towns, beaches and islands of Southern Italy, with easy access to places like Pompeii, Vesuvius and Capri. But one of the most popular day trips from Sorrento is the Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast is a stunning stretch of coastline famed for its colourful cliff-hugging villages and clear blue waters. So it’s no surprise it’s one of the top places to visit in Italy. The Amalfi Coast is only 20km from Sorrento so it makes an easy day trip. But there are lots of different options to choose from to get there, so which is the best?
From boat tours to local buses, each has their advantages and disadvantages. Our guide to planing a day trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast takes you through the pros and cons of each of the options to help you choose the best one for you.
Tips for planning your Amalfi Coast day trip
The options for visiting the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento can be broadly broken down into two categories – by land or by sea. The 13 towns and villages along the Amalfi Coast are linked by a winding coast road, and many of them are also accessible by boat.
Within each category there are several different options, which vary in flexibility and price from public buses and ferries at one end of the spectrum to private tours at the other.
When you’re planning your trip, our advice would be don’t try and see too much. Although it’s not a huge distance from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast, travel can be slow whichever way you choose to get around, and you don’t want to spend the whole day on the move.
Most day trips include visits to the two most famous towns of Positano and Amalfi, sometimes with the addition of Ravello (which is up in the hills so you can’t get there by boat). Or if you’ve already visited the big-hitters you could explore some of the smaller villages like Praiano and Minori instead or hike the Sentiero degli Dei.
A day trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast by boat
Both ferries and private boat trips run from Sorrento harbour to the Amalfi Coast. Most boats pass around the Sorrentine Peninsula with views of the Punta Campanella nature reserve, Capri and other small islands before sailing along the Amalfi Coast.
Advantages of travelling by boat
- Fantastic views of the coast along the way (bag a seat on the left-hand side for the journey from Sorrento and the right on the way back for the best views).
- Frequent services in peak season.
- Avoids the winding clifftop roads which aren’t good if you’re scared of heights or suffer from travel sickness (though boats come with their own risks in bad weather).
- Most boats have open decks so the breeze helps keep you cool on hot days.
Disadvantages of travelling by boat
- Most boat services only run between April and October.
- Only connects coastal towns and villages, missing out others like Ravello.
- Services are liable to be cancelled if the weather is rough.
- Risk of seasickness, especially on smaller boats.
- Popular routes can be full in peak season if you don’t book in advance.
The different options by sea
Public ferries shuttle passengers from Sorrento to Positano and Amalfi, where you can connect to other Amalfi Coast destinations. These are the cheapest and most flexible boat option, with multiple departures a day in high season. Most people do a Sorrento > Positano > Amalfi > Sorrento day trip but you can also do it in reverse.
But most ferries only run from April to October, with limited services in winter and cancellations in rough weather. So if you’re visiting off-season you’ll need to choose a different option. It’s also a good idea to book in advance in summer as they can get booked up, especially at weekends. You can buy tickets online* or from port ticket booths.
Several different companies run ferries from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast, using different sizes and types of boats, so the length of the journey varies. Sorrento to Positano or vice versa takes 25 minutes to an hour and costs around €15. And the trip from Sorrento to Amalfi takes 1 hour to 1 hour 50 minutes and costs around €20.
There are also ferries between Positano and Amalfi (20 minutes, €9 one way) and connections from Amalfi to destinations further along the Amalfi Coast (though you’re unlikely to have time to go much further than Amalfi on a day trip).
Best if: you want to be flexible (especially if you avoid the July/August peak season) and don’t want to spend too much money.
Ferry day trips
Some of the ferry companies – like Navigazione Libera del Golfo (NLG) and Alilauro – also offer packaged excursions from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast. These include ferry travel from Sorrento > Positano > Amalfi > Sorrento (or vice versa) on a set itinerary.
You leave Sorrento in the morning and have around three hours to explore in both Positano and Amalfi before heading back to Sorrento. The downside of these tickets is that you’re tied to a specific ferry company and departure times so can’t be so flexible.
But they do save a bit of money versus booking individual tickets, costing €35 in high season. You can buy these tickets from ferry company offices in Sorrento port.
Best if: you’re happy to be tied to a specific schedule to save money,
Group boat trips
Another option is to take an organised day trip by boat. Multiple companies offer boat trips from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast, with a range of itineraries and boat sizes. The larger boats can be very busy and you might not get a seat on deck for the best views. But smaller boats can be more unstable in rough seas if you’re prone to seasickness.
They’re an easy option as everything is organised for you, but the itineraries are usually pretty packed so you don’t get much time to explore each place. Most trips visit Positano and Amalfi and others add on a trip to Ravello by bus or a stop for swimming.
Some trips sail directly from Sorrento or neighbouring Marina Grande, and others include a minibus transfer to Nerano or Massa Lubrense around the other side of the peninsula where you pick up the boat, so they have less time on the water.
Trips vary in price depending on the size of boat and itinerary, but are normally around €50–70. Here are a few of the options available from Sorrento:
- Amalfi and Positano Boat Tour*: Includes hotel pickup and minibus transfer to Nerano, then travel by boat to Amalfi (3-hour stop) and Positano (1.5 hours).
- Amalfi Coast Full-Day Trip by Boat*: Sails from Marina Grande in Sorrento, visiting Amalfi (1.5 hours) and Positano (1.5 hours), with a stop for swimming/snorkelling.
- Full-Day Boat Tour to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello*: Includes hotel pickup and minibus transfer to Piano di Sorrento, then travel by boat to Amalfi (3 hours, with optional visit to Ravello by minibus) and Positano (1 hour).
Best if: you want someone else to organise everything for you.
Private boat hire
Or for ultimate flexibility you can hire a boat for the day and explore the Amalfi Coast independently. Some boat hire packages cover a set route which you decide in advance. And on others you can go wherever you like and stay as long as you want, stopping off for a swim and visiting smaller villages and coves so you can avoid the crowds.
There are a choice of different boat types and sizes, from simple fishing boats to luxurious yachts. Private hire does come at a premium though so is better value for small groups – full-day hire of a boat and skipper costs €790 for up to 6 people in low season.
Best if: you’re travelling in a group and don’t mind splashing out.
A day trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast by road
The other option is to visit the Amalfi Coast by land in a car, bus or taxi. The road runs inland from Sorrento across the peninsula where it joins onto the SS163 highway, the famously scenic cliff-hugging coast road which zig-zags along the Amalfi Coast.
Advantages of travelling by road
- Panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast from above on the coast road.
- You can visit places like Ravello which are inaccessible by sea.
- Trips can run year-round and in all weathers.
Disadvantages of travelling by road
- Narrow, winding roads aren’t good if you suffer from travel sickness or a fear of heights.
- Roads get very busy in high season and are subject to long traffic delays.
- Buses can be hot in summer and you might not get a seat.
- The first half of the journey runs inland and isn’t so scenic.
The different options by road
The most flexible way to explore the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento is by car. With your own vehicle you can visit multiple places in one day at your own pace, get off the beaten track and explore some of the smaller villages. The drive from Sorrento to Positano is around 19km/12 miles and it’s 32km/20 miles from Sorrento to Amalfi.
But although the distances don’t sound that far, the coast road can be slow going – and nerve-wracking. It’s narrow, winding and can be packed solid with traffic in peak season. So driving can take a lot longer than you’d think. And parking is limited and expensive, especially in summer when many of the town centres are closed to traffic.
Best if: you’re a confident driver and want to get off the beaten track.
SITA local buses connect the Amalfi Coast towns and villages. There’s a direct bus from Sorrento to Positano, Praiano, Conca dei Marini and Amalfi. And from Amalfi you can connect onto bus routes to Ravello or to Minori, Maiori and Vietri sul Mare.
It takes around 50 minutes by bus from Sorrento to Positano and 1 hour 40 minutes from Sorrento to Amalfi. Bus services run fairly frequently from 6am until 9.30pm seven days a week. But don’t pay too much attention to the bus timetables – the traffic means they often run late so it’s more a case of waiting until the next one turns up.
In summer, journeys can take a lot longer than expected as the roads are so busy. And morning and late afternoon buses tend to be very full so you might have to stand.
Tickets can’t be bought on the bus but are available from bars and tobacconists. Ticket prices depend on how far you’re travelling – it’s €2 for journeys under 45 minutes and €2.90 for journeys under 90 minutes. Or you can get a one-day pass for €8.
Best if: you’re looking for a bargain and aren’t in too much of a hurry.
Group minibus trips
Another convenient option for a day trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast is an organised minibus trip. These often include hotel pick ups and stops at panoramic viewpoints along the coast road as well as visits to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. You can also add on an optional boat trip from Amalfi to Positano on some trips.
Like the organised boat trips, these tours have a packed itinerary so you don’t get very long in each place. Prices vary depending on what is included, with some trips adding in lunch or a boat trip from Amalfi to Positano, but they generally cost around €75–90 per person.
Here are a few of the options available from Sorrento:
- Amalfi Coast Full-Day Trip*: Hotel pickup and minibus tour to Positano (1 hour), Amalfi (2 hours) and Ravello (1 hour), with guide and an optional boat trip in Amalfi.
- Amalfi Coast Small Group Tour by Minivan*: Hotel pickup and minibus tour to Positano (1 hour), Amalfi (1 hour plus pizza and wine at a local restaurant) and Ravello (1 hour).
- Amalfi Coast: Full-Day Tour*: Departure from Sorrento train station for minibus trip to Positano (2 hours) and Amalfi (2 hours).
Best if: you want someone else to organise everything for you.
You can also hire a private car and driver to explore the Amalfi Coast independently. This gives you the flexibility of having your own car without needing to do the driving – local drivers know the roads and the traffic and you don’t need to worry about parking. They can also give recommendations on places to visit, eat and shop along the way.
As with private boat hire, there’s a mix of packages which cover a set route and bespoke tours where you can choose your own route and could visit some of the more remote and less-well-known villages, beaches and viewpoints.
Again the price is a lot higher than the other options (though not as pricey as renting a private boat) so it’s a good option for small groups. A full-day private tour* on a set route visiting Positano, Amalfi and Ravello costs around €350 for three people.
Best if: you don’t mind paying a premium to be able to tailor your own trip.
What is the best option?
So which is the best option for taking a day trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast? The answer will depend on how much money you want to spend, how much organisation you’re happy doing, and how flexible you’d like to be with your itinerary.
Most trips visit the two big-hitters of Positano and Amalfi, but you have the choice of spending more time there, or having a more rushed trip but seeing more of the area by adding on a visit to Ravello or to one of the other towns or villages.
Although the main choice is between travelling by road or by sea, we’d actually recommend mixing the two so you see the coast from two different angles. Like catching the bus from Sorrento to Positano then taking the ferry from Positano to Amalfi before the bus back to Sorrento. Or travelling by ferry but taking the bus from Amalfi to Ravello and back.