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In terms of the best day trips for your Santorini holiday / vacation, taking a boat tour is a unique experience up there with the Fira to Oia caldera hike and a wine tour of some of Santorini’s best wineries. Private tours are available as well as small and larger group tours.
Whether you want to venture out to the volcano and hot springs and watch the famous Santorini island sunset from the sea, or you’re keen to tour the Red and White Beaches there’s a Santorini boat tour for your trip to the island.
A sunset cruise around the caldera is a really special way to spend an evening, but it’s not your only option. There are various boat tour options below to choose from. I’ll also share my own experience of one of the Santorini boat trips that was a highlight of my stay.
Use the information below to book the best Santorini boat trip for you.
First, A Little Bit of History
Before the last major volcanic eruption in the area nearly 4000 years ago, the island we now know as Thira/Santorini was a part of a round landmass.
After that eruption, all that was left was Thira/Santorini, Thirassia island (an inhabited island of under 200 people) and the uninhabited island of Aspronisi.
Over time, magma slowly but regularly flowed out. The many layers created Palea island and Nea Kameni which are the peaks of a large underwater volcano.
Since that last massive eruption, the Santorini volcano has stayed dormant and is not considered an active volcano.
Having said that, it could erupt again in the future. Luckily scientists, including NASA, are keeping an eye on so we’ll get a bit of warning if it does! (There’s another volcano a bit further out in the sea that is set to erupt in the medium term.)
In the meantime, the only way you’d know there is magma several kilometers below this area is the hot spring water at Palea. Plus the hot gases that you can see coming out of the fumaroles in the craters at Nea Kameni.
If you book a Santorini boat tour you’ll likely get to spend time on or around these areas.
Where Do the Boat Trips Go?
In Santorini, the boat tours are available as different combinations. So you can find something that fits your schedule and your budget.
Options are usually:
- Boat trip to the volcanic islands of the caldera only
- Boat tour with stops at the Nea Kameni volcano and Palea Kameni hot springs
- Sunset tour that has a volcano tour and hot springs stop and then takes you out in the water to see the sunset
- Romantic sunset cruise that includes the above but also offers dinner and drinks onboard
- Full-day cruise that includes the above plus visits to the Red and White Beaches on Santorini’s south coast
What to Know About the Santorini Hot Springs
When you visit Santorini and hear about the hot springs it’s important to understand what they’re like. Some people have been disappointed because they were expecting something a little bit different.
The hot springs here mix with the seawater so the water’s about 32° not the 40°+ (Celsius) you might have been expecting. Also, there’s no beach on the volcanic islands so it’s only a short stop for swimming.
Because of the rocky coastline, the boats have to stop at least about 50 meters back. That means you have to swim at least the distance from the boat to the hot springs, stay in the water, and then swim back to the boat.
The water is very deep and getting back to the boat can be against the waves. In April/May the seawater before the hot springs will be cold (about 18°).
All in all, be confident in your swimming ability to get off the boat at this stop.
Wear a Dark Coloured Swimsuit
The hot springs are made up of sulphur which makes the water look red. The colour will stain a white swimsuit/bikini so ideally wear something dark.
Santorini Boat Trip Options
How Long Does the Boat Tour Last?
Your Santorini boat tour will usually last between three and six hours depending on the option you choose. I have seen two-hour trips advertised that go solely to the volcano and back. But normally the shorter trips are three hours and include a stop at the hot springs stop too.
For a sunset cruise with dinner expect to leave in the early afternoon and be out for about six hours.
How Much Do Santorini Boat Tours Cost?
Again, the boat tour prices vary based on the option you go for. Prices change based on:
- the length of the trip
- whether the boat tour includes sunset and/or dinner
- the type of boat you choose
- whether it’s a large group trip, small group tour or a completely private boat tour
- whether volcano tours are included
The shorter group trip boat tours start at around 25 euro per person. Sunset cruises with dinner can be more like 80 – 90 euro.
Private Boat Tour
If you can stump up the cash then choose a private boat tour. You’ll be able to influence the itinerary better and you can create the vibe you want onboard.
I was a bit worried with the group tour it would be very loud with lots of drunken youngsters. Luckily my experience wasn’t like that in May, but in the peak season people do get packed onto the boats for the group tours.
Where Do the Boat Tours Start?
The Santorini boat trips set sail from various points on the island. Check where they start and finish and whether they include hotel pick up to find the best option for you.
Boat tours start and finish from:
- Athinios Port
- Old Port of Fira (where the cable car is)
- Ammoudi Bay
- Vlychada Port
Some of the group boat tours have two pick up points, so will start at Vlychada Port and then head to Ammoudi Bay for a second set of guests.
Where Do the Boat Tours Stop for Sunset?
Obviously, in the height of summer, there are a lot of boats out for the sunset tour. So they stop at various points and spread out along Santorini’s caldera.
Some of the boat tours will have their boats stop below Oia village. Others stop near Akrotiri. Some of the private and small group cruises stop on land at Thirasia. Either way, you’ll get a magnificent sunset view.
How to Choose the Best Boat Tours for You
There are loads of boat tours in Santorini so picking one can feel a bit overwhelming. In the peak season just choose one that fits your schedule and isn’t booked up yet. They’re a popular activity so don’t leave it too close to arriving.
Day or Sunset Trip?
The biggest thing to decide is probably whether to do a day or sunset cruise.
The day cruises have more emphasis on swimming and snorkelling. (Check whether snorkeling equipment is included or if you need to bring your own.) If you choose one that starts at Ammoudi Bay you can go there first for a fresh fish lunch.
For the evening cruises, there’s a bit less swimming time since a portion of time is allocated to watching the sunset.
Most tours -if not all of the Santorini boat tour options that include lunch or dinner – will have vegetarian options. With these, wine, beer and sometimes ouzo are included, but other spirits are not.
On the boat tour I was on, the bar opened with the meal and you could buy a bigger variety of alcohol than what was included in the open bar.
The Best Santorini Boat Tours
Although you will see many places advertising boat tours in Santorini it can be good to look online for reviews before booking.
Some of the best boat tours are on Get Your Guide so have a look there for your sailing cruise. I’ve included some of their listings below. I’ve also added some other companies who offer Santorini boat tours including the one I’ve done.
1. Private Romantic Catamaran Cruise with BBQ Meal
For a friendly and professional crew who’ll listen to your desires for your private tour, you can’t do much better than this private catamaran cruise.
Day cruise and sunset tour options are available and of course, hotel pick up is included. As a guide you’ll set off from Ammoudi Bay, take in the sights around the caldera, bathe in the hot springs, stop at Mesa Pigadia and swim in front of the Red Beach.
Lunch or dinner is a beautiful Greek meal with local wine, beer and soft drinks. If you want to post to the ‘Gram while the catamaran sails then you can use the onboard wifi to do so!
2. Private Day Cruise with Barbeque and Drinks
This is another private cruise that might be nice to celebrate a special occasion with.
For this boat ride, you get a speed boat. And this trip includes a stop at the volcanic island if you want to walk up and see the craters that are still smoking with hot gases.
3. Small Group Romantic Catamaran Cruise
A small group option for your Santorini boat tour is this romantic cruise. Again, numbers are limited and two cruises, day and sunset options, are available.
In the morning you leave from Ammoudi Bay and head straight for the hot springs. After that, you’ll head around the small island of Aspronisi and onto Mesa Pigadia Beach (one of the island’s hidden gems) for your barbequed Greek meal.
You’ll end up at Vlychada marina but not before you’ve had a swim in the waters off the Red Beach.
The evening option basically reverses this, missing out Mesa Pigadia Beach (Black Beach) and includes watching the sunset.
4. All-Inclusive Luxury Catamaran Small Group Cruise
This is another small group option that can be booked as a morning or afternoon/sunset small group cruise.
Your first stop is at the Red Beach for a swim and snorkel and the second is at the beautiful white beach for more of the same. You also get 30 minutes to swim at the hot springs.
Pick-ups, food, drinks and towels are included. All you need to bring is snorkeling equipment if you want to use it. This catamaran tour doesn’t include a stop at the volcano.
5. Catamaran Cruise with Lunch & Open Bar
This is a popular and highly-rated sailing cruise that runs morning and evening. You start at Vlychada Port and sail past the Red Beach and White Beach plus Akrotiri Lighthouse before stopping for a swim at the hot springs.
After that, you get another chance to swim in the Aegean sea at Mesa Pigadia.
The evening cruise includes the sunset view and both options include a delicious meal.
6. Santorini Volcano Sunset Tour
Another of the best boat tours is this one, and it’s the particular Santorini boat tour that I did.
I’d seen the traditional wooden fishing boat with its big sails a number of times when I was staying on Thirassia island. It was often mid-cruise when I was getting the boat back from Ammoudi Bay in the evenings and I wanted to go on it!
I really enjoyed this sailing cruise. Obviously, all the fishing equipment has been removed and a bar has been installed on the deck. There was plenty of open-air seating on the top deck as well as covered tables and chairs inside.
We stopped at the hot springs and volcano (and had a guided volcano tour from the local guide who accompanied our trip). We had another swimming stop just before Thirassia island at Korfi Bay (I was the only person who took advantage of that swim, the Aegean Sea is a bit chilly in May!).
After that, we had our meal which was great. We had a big fresh Greek salad, and then loads of vegetables, rice and two different types of meat with a vegetarian option available.
After dinner, we cruised along the Santorini caldera below the picturesque villages that were starting to twinkle with lights. We stopped below Oia and watched the beautiful sunset from there.
7. Kayak Tour
If you’re feeling adventurous you can do a different type of boat tour, a kayak tour of the island’s south coast. Like other Santorini boat tours, there’s a morning and sunset option. I did the morning version of this and it was one of the best tours I did in Santorini. I had an unforgettable day.
On either, you’ll visit Red beach and White beach. Your stop at Mesa Pigadia includes some swimming and snorkelling and a gorgeous picnic on the rocks.
What’s exciting about this experience is that you get to explore sea caves and secluded bays that you wouldn’t on a sailing trip.
Oh, and by the way, no experience needed for this one. The kayaks are for two people if that makes you feel more confident, too.
Inside the boat
I know you’re wondering if the tourist boats have toilets and the answer is yes. The catamarans and boats for longer tours have decent toilet and shower facilities.
These ones were down some rather steep stairs.
I sat at the back of the boat on these cushions that ran round in a horse shoe shape. I liked being outside and able to see all around.
For more Santorini adventures, see: