Best Excursions from Sorrento: Pompeii, Capri, Positano

The town of Sorrento is on most Mediterranean itineraries for a reason. No other place offers so much beauty, history, and recreation as this Italian port. For cruisers, there’s a happy dilemma – what is the best thing to do in Sorrento? Your cruise ship will offer many options for your day – but what to choose? We’ve been fortunate to visit Sorrento several times and recommend these excursions from Sorrento as possible day tours for you.

Pompeii with Vesuvius in background
Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Pompeii (and/or Herculaneum)

For first time visitors a tour of Pompeii is a no-brainer. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D buried the town in 13 – 20 feet of ash and pumice. There were occasional ‘discoveries’ of the ruins but it wasn’t until 1748 that the significance of the find was understood and excavations began. The site is a marvel in archaeology and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A small group tour of Pompeii gives you an insight into daily life in Roman times, and seeing Vesusius looming behind the ruins is a reminder of the power of nature.

Herculaneum was buried in the same eruption. It was a wealthier town and the ruins reflect it. Bigger homes, more elaborate ceramics. The ruins at this archaeological site are in better condition as the type of ash that fell on this city fell ‘softer’, burying the city but not collapsing structures as had happened in Pompeii.

I visited the ruins of Pompeii as a child, and brought my children thirty years later. The extent of excavation and restoration done between these visits was impressive.

Most of the excursions to Pompeii or Herculaneum get you back to Sorrento with a bit of free time for a glass of wine or a quick shop. Take advantage of this!

If you travel to Pompeii, make sure to bring a hat, water, sunscreen, and walking shoes. There is little shade and the sun is intense. Be prepared for 2-3 hours of walking on uneven surfaces.

For more information about the site of Pompeii read National Geographic’s 3 Minute Read – Pompeii

  • High season in Southern Italy is from May to October. During this time you can expect long lines and crowds at many destinations.
  • In the peak season summer months be prepared for temperatures around 85°F or 30°C

The Isle of Capri

First view of Capri on an excursion from Sorrento

The isle of Capri is a gem in the Tyrrhenian sea. It is arguably one of the prettiest islands in the Mediterranean, with its storied coastline, charming main towns, and historic homes to explore (like the Villa San Michele). It is accessible by a high speed ferry that leaves Sorrento every half hour. The boat trip takes 25 minutes to reach Capri. Taking a Capri day trip organized by your cruise ship makes the logistics easy and may be the best way for you to get to the island.

On our Recent Windstar cruise, the ship did not offer an excursion, but, as this was a special day (Mr. Traveling Tull’s birthday), we decided to take the chance and book a private Capri boat tour. Taking a private tour can be risky, since the ship has no obligation to wait for you before casting off for the next port of call. Fortunately, our Windstar tour manager got us on the first tender off our ship so we’d have plenty of time to get to the ferry ticket office, purchase ferry tickets, and make the early boat.

Our experience visiting Capri on our own – time on the water

Once in Marina Grande, the port town of Capri, we met our contact from Gianni’s Boats and shown to a small “gozzo” boat with a wide cushioned deck. We took off our shoes, sat back and enjoyed three perfect hours on the water. There is no better way to see the island than by boat. Our charming captain, Vittorio, took us into one gorgeous grotto after another. The sun was brilliant, the water astounding shades of blues and greens, and the white cliffs dramatic as they rose above us from the sea.

Vittorio gave us the option to visit the famous blue grotto, but the line outside the grotto was long and he assured us we’d have just as lovely (and less touristic) experience visiting the other grottos along the coast. Having the advice of a local guide is so important! (Note that there are many Capri blue grotto boat tour options available if that’s what you’d like to do!)

Private boat tour in Capri from port of Sorrento

Vittorio stopped in a quiet cove to give us the opportunity to swim. The water was brisk but we weren’t going to miss a chance to swim in the clear blue water. Back on board, the captain surprised Dave with a homemade cake and a bottle of prosecco. Couldn’t have been a more perfect celebration!

On our own – Capri town

We returned to the dock in Capri, had lunch, and still had time to take the funicular up to town. The village of Capri is stunning, with high-end shops and boutiques. We browsed but didn’t buy, instead choosing to walk through the narrow lanes to the other side of the island. Here we visited the Gardens of Augustus, a delightful spot with lush greenery and the best view on the island. This was definitely one of best day trips we’ve had on a cruise.

The best part of our day was getting back to the ship in time!! If you decide to go to Capri on your own, check the ferry schedule carefully, remembering to allow for time to tender back to your ship.

If you’d like to have a similar – on your own – day in Capri, consider booking a Sorrento to Capri shore excursion.

Amalfi Coast Drive to Positano

Positano excursion from Sorrento
Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

A stunning drive along the Amalfi Coast (a UNESCO site) takes you to Positano, a picture-postcard town. The town rises from the pebbly beach to the cliffside with steep narrow streets. A fabulous spot for shopping, people watching, or a great seafood meal.

This is a very popular spot for tourists and can get crowded. The drive along the coast can be a bit scary for those with a fear of heights. But it’s still one of the most popular excursions from Sorrento.

Sometimes Staying in Port in the BEST Excursion from Sorrento

What to do in the port of Sorrento

Last, but certainly not least, the town of Sorrento is a destination in itself! The town is lively with lots of great restaurants and shops.  If you’re tired from a port intensive cruise, staying in town may be your best option. You can tour a cameo factory (exiting through the gift shop, obviously) or just find a shady spot for some truly authentic pizza. Consider taking a walking tour of the town. Even better if it’s a walking FOOD tour!

An afternoon spent in Sorrento gazing out at the Bay of Naples is one of our favorite memories from our trip with extended family in 1994.

Dave and I overlooking the sea in Capri

NOTE: Sorrento is one of the end points for the Circumvesuviana train railway which connects all the destinations around Vesuvius. If you’re feeling adventurous and have time, you can take the train to Naples, and explore that city. The train station is located in the center of town opposite Piazza Angelina Lauro.

Whatever you choose, you will have a fabulous time in this incredible port. With luck, you’ll return again to the Sorrento Coast, perhaps staying on shore in one of these picturesque spots to fully enjoy the area.

Are you longing to visit the Amalfi Coast? It’s time to plan your trip. Read Trips of a Lifetime: inspiration to book your dream destination.

Have you cruised the Amalfi Coast? What excursions from Sorrento would you recommend?

Planning a visit soon? Packing List for a Mediterranean Cruise

Books We Recommend Before Traveling to Sorrento

The first thing we do anytime we plan a trip is make a book list. Reading about your destination not only prepares you for the trip but also is a fun way to heighten your anticipation!

GUIDEBOOKNaples and the Amalfi Coast
Your in-depth guide to the very best of Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Make the most of your trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast with our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide.
GUIDEBOOKTop Ten Naples and the Amalfi Coast
We love the Top 10 version of the above book. Travel-friendly sized, with easy-to-use “top 10” lists that help you plan the vacation that’s right for you.
SHORT STORIESDay of Fire by E. Knight, Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, et. al.
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?
FICTIONPompeii by Robert Harris
All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii…
With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.

What to do in the port of Sorrento-Pompeii
Best Excursions from Sorrento - Capri

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