The Definitive Off-the-Beaten Path Guide to the Amalfi Coast
Forget what you've seen on social media
For those of us whose coming of age was timed with the arrival of social media platforms, particularly Instagram, a visit to the Amalfi Coast has likely been at the top of our travel lists. Aldo Sersale, food and beverage director at the legendary Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano says that the explosion of the Amalfi Coast as a top tourist destination for Americans is heavily in part due to the rise of the Instagram influencer and the hotel has seen the area continuously increase in popularity over the last 10 years.
However, as most of us know, a true and fulfilling vacation is a whole lot different from a trip centered around “content creation.” There are ways to do the Amalfi Coast right and there are definitely opportunities for missteps if you’re too focused on following in the footsteps of your favorite travel influencers. This guide will help you shape up an unforgettable, luxurious getaway whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, a wellness-centered vacation or simply a break from the 8-5 grind that will have you returning home enlightened and refreshed. And yes, you’re still guaranteed to have plenty of Insta-worthy photo ops along the way.
When to Go
While I’m typically all for off-season travel to make the most of my travel budget and to navigate a city with greater ease, the Amalfi Coast is simply not the place to do this. The good news is, the season is pretty long here: it starts the first week of April and runs through mid-to-late October. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to stay at the area’s top hotels, and that’s half the fun. Plus, most of the locals who work in tourism here work every day throughout the entire seven month season and then take a much-needed five months off, so it will be more difficult to find private transfers and tour guides outside of these months. Go spend Christmas in the Caribbean if you’re looking for a beachy winter getaway and try to catch the beginning or tail end of the Amalfi Coast season to best enjoy the area.
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to the Amalfi Coast depending on where you’re coming from. If you simply want to fly from your hometown, book a flight to Naples and schedule a roundtrip private transfer from the airport to your hotel(s). If you’re coming from somewhere else in Italy, you can take a train from just about anywhere to Napoli Centrale, the city’s train station, and have a private car pick you up from there. While there are buses that can get you closer to your desired destination from Naples, it’s worth setting up private transfers to your hotels from the city because taxis are unreliable and hard to come by in the first place on the coast, which may leave you stranded with your luggage several miles from your final destination.
What to Do
The best part about visiting the Amalfi Coast is that it leaves room to create a choose-your-own-adventure type trip. You can spend your days lounging by the pools at some of the best hotels in the world or you can get active with breathtaking hikes, scuba diving lessons and boat excursions to nearby islands. While many of these suggestions could leave you with an entire two weeks on the coast, prioritizing based on the type of experience you’re seeking will help you scheme up your personal dream itinerary for a week at this famed destination.
Establish a home base away from Positano
While Positano is often the first place Americans think of when picturing a trip to the Amalfi Coast, there are several reasons to consider making your home base for the week in another town. First of all, Positano is the first town you’ll hit when making your way down the coast, and if you’re looking to make a few day trips to other destinations without having to pack up and move to a new hotel each night (highly recommended), then you may want to consider somewhere like Praiano or Conca dei Marini, both of which are home to some incredible luxury hotels and are close to several major attractions.
Positano is also the most bustling town on the Amalfi Coast, and it’s certainly going to make for a less relaxing stay than if you stayed just a town or two over. The streets are packed and you’ll be hard-pressed to dine at one of the town’s top spots without a reservation — or a two-hour wait. I had excellent luck starting my journey at Casa Angelina, a chic, art-centric hotel in nearby Praiano, which still holds onto its former fishing village charm. It got me a bit closer to other towns and the hotel offers shuttles to Positano for when you want to engage in the hustle and bustle while having this intimate yet youthful hotel as a home base. Plus, it’s a great place to beat jet lag as there is so much to do on-site, the rooms are super comfortable and the culinary programming is excellent. You’ll be feeling better than ever in no time.
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Hit the (beach) club
If you aren’t already aware, it’s important to know that beaches are hard to come by on the Amalfi Coast and thus, most have become prime real estate for building beach clubs. While it may be annoying to have to pay to visit a beach, the beach clubs have a fun, lively atmosphere with music, comfortable lounge chairs, and food and beverage service. Plus, they will each have their own cafes to dine at for lunch.
A top pick among the 20s and 30s crowd seeking a luxurious yet lively experience is Arienzo Beach Club, which is just a quick boat ride from the main boat dock in Positano. There are several tiers of experiences you can book at different price points and the higher you go, the better your seating (and bubbly) will be. You’ll set an arrival time that will impact your lunch reservation with a menu that features coastal Italian and comfort food favorites, and depending on how long you want to stay, the last boat heads to Positano around 6 p.m., so you can make an entire day of it or just an afternoon.
Alternatively, Casa Angelina has a partnership with a popular local beach club, One Fire Beach, that’s situated just a hundred or so steps down from the property. The hotel can set you up with daily guest passes, making Casa Angelina a must-visit hotel if you’re looking to enjoy as much time on the beach as possible. However, their lemon tree-laced pool deck is so inviting that you may end up spending more time away from the sea than expected.
Book a stay at the iconic Le Sirenuse Hotel
As previously mentioned, staying at the Amalfi Coast’s top luxury hotels, some of which also happen to be among the best in the world, is half the fun of visiting this magical destination. While over-crowded Positano isn’t my preferred choice for spending an entire week on the coast, my one exception is if you can book a night (or three) at Le Sirenuse.
This iconic, family-owned-and-operated hotel has been around since Aldo Sersale opened the doors of his home in 1951, two years before Steinbeck wrote the immortalized “Positano” essay in “Harper’s Bazaar” and nearly a decade before Jackie O. and the jetset made the coast their playground. The hotel has since been transformed into the Amalfi Coast’s chicest accommodations, that boasts picturesque views at every turn, one of the world’s most beautiful restaurants and exceptional amenities — and it’s still run by the charming and brilliant Sersale family to this day.
Wine lovers should not miss out on workshops and excursions centered around the Amalfi Coast’s incredible viticulture, while health junkies won’t want to miss out on the hotel’s new (and goop-approved) wellness retreats that bookend the beginning and end of the season. But if you’re just there to relax, Le Sirenuse will help you master the art of living, lounging and dining well within minutes of your arrival.
Hike the Path of the Gods
Il Sentiero degli Dei, or Path of the Gods, is the ultimate way to enjoy the Amalfi Coast’s breathtaking views and is one of those few tourist attractions you’d actually look forward to doing again on your next visit. It’s considered one of the most picturesque hikes in the world and ends in a charming hamlet called Nocelle, where you can celebrate all those steps with fresh limoncello shots or lemon granitas.
There are two ways to get to the path, one being in the hillside town of Bomerano and the other being up approximately 1,200 steps from Praiano. Depending on your location, it’s best to chat with your hotel’s concierge to see how difficult it will be to catch a bus to Bomerano to avoid the extra stairs. However, the stairs from Praiano are so close to Casa Angelina that I braved the steep beginnings and was thankful in the long run to have been able to hit the trail straight from my hotel.
The trail is five miles, plus a few miles more if you want to finish the hike in Positano for a much-deserved boozy brunch, as well as to make it easier to have a private transfer home, so you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of water and a snack or two. The hike offers a wealth of scenery from ancient mule trails, historic churches, hillside vineyards, and of course, sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Praiano and Positano.
Find some peace — and killer views — in Conca dei Marini
Conca dei Marini is an up-and-coming destination for discerning travelers, known for its handful of impeccable luxury hotels and because it feels a bit off the beaten path from the crowds. Those seeking a romantic getaway to the Amalfi Coast should look no further than the stunning Monastero Santa Rosa hotel. Yep, that’s right: it’s a former monastery that has been carefully preserved and transformed into a five-star boutique hotel.
Monastero Santa Rosa is ideal for a couple’s trip as it only houses 20 accommodations for an intimate feel, features an unbeatable pool setup, has a truly fantastic culinary program and is home to a unique spa that’s inspired by the monastery’s former apothecary and local ingredients. Plus, the hotel offers complimentary shuttle services to nearby Amalfi if you’re looking to explore further down the coast.
Venture out for the day or overnight
Speaking of exploring, one of the perks of having a whole week on the Amalfi Coast is that you’ll actually have some time to experience other towns and islands. Of course, figuring out how to squeeze a day or two on Capri may be top of mind, and you can take a ferry from Positano, book a private trip in an antique boat, or sign up for a day tour that will allow you to experience this glamorous island without taking too much time away from your trip or allowing you to make it a generous portion of it.
If you’re looking to stay on the mainland, there are plenty of charming towns still left to visit. Ravello is a top destination for aesthetes, thanks to its incredible architecture and Instagram-ready scenes at every turn, while Minori is an ideal pick for collectors looking to stock up on some famed Amalfi Coast ceramics. However, the locals will tell you to save room for a few hours in Vietri sul Mare, the farthest town down the coast before hitting Salerno. It’s a hidden gem for travelers looking to get a more authentic taste of coastal life and culture in the area, boasting colorful architecture, quiet beaches and charming workshops filled with souvenirs you’ll actually be excited about when you get home.
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