Our best day by far while exploring Zakynthos was renting our own private speedboat and sailing around the island. We hugged the coast and discovered secret coves and little bays away from the crowds. We stopped where we wanted and swam when we wanted to.
There are so many things to do around the island including visiting the famed Shipwreck Beach as well as swimming with the famous resident turtles. Unfortunately, with big attractions comes big crowds and often the tour boats that sail to these hot spots can be overcrowded and leave tourists feeling a little ripped off.
Getting away from the crowds is number one for me while travelling and I make it a priority to find the best ways to do so, while still considering value for money! The private boat, though expensive, was well worth the cash, so much so, we ended up doing it twice!
License and Insurance
There is no special sailing licence required, though boat experience is a plus. In order to rent, one must leave photo ID with the renter. NEVER leave your passport anywhere. I gave my driving license and this was sufficient.
If you have no sailing experience (like me) don’t worry, you will be briefed fully and the whole process explained to you.
Always check first if your travel insurance covers boat rental. If not, it is not a big deal to upgrade your insurance. However, all boats come with their own insurance.
Who To Rent From And Where
There are boat rentals from pretty much every beach. We rented ours from a company called Valais Watersports in Alikanas. This was the perfect place in my opinion to rent from as it is possible to reach Shipwreck Beach from here. The are is also a lot larger here meaning less boats and more room to explore the nooks and crannies of the coastline.
It is also possible to rent boats on the beaches in the south of the island. Here you can sail through the parts where turtles are found. However this area is a lot smaller and more crowded with boats. There is also a coastguard station in the south preventing you from sailing past into the more open waters of the west coast.
We rented a boat from Keri Beach in anticipation of visiting the Keri Lighthouse and beyond and were devastated to find out tourists boats are stopped at the Keri Caves and allowed to travel no further.
What Boat To Rent
There are a few different options when it comes to boat rental, all depending on size, engine power and how many people are renting the boat. The smaller boats are cheaper but bare in mind, they have smaller engines and so can only sail around the bay. They are not powerful enough to reach the more open waters of Shipwreck Beach and beyond.
We saw boats advertised for €10 an hour in Laganas, but when we enquired, we soon realised these boats were only for cruising around the bays and not much else.
It is worth investing in a decent boat for comfort. Our boat could fit 5-6 people but the two of us loved having the space to spread out our belongings and enjoy the day.
Price of Renting a Boat
As I said, boats can be rented for as little as €10 an hour, but to rent a good-sized boat with a decent engine, prices range from €110-160. Some boats cost €80 for the day but are smaller, and as mentioned, do not reach the best destinations.
Our boat cost €135 (we received at a discounted price, thank you Valais Watersport). Fuel usage is calculated when you get back to shore. Ours cost €60 which took us from Alikanas to Shipwreck Beach and back, with a few pit-stops along the way.
I have read reviews where people rented boats from upwards of €150 PER hour!! This is daylight robbery, do not fall for these prices!!
What To Bring
You can stop for food etc along one of the many beaches, but we decided to make the most of our time on the boat and bring our own snacks for the day. Coolers are provided but you must bring your own ice. We brought a few beers to enjoy also!
Sunscreen, a hat and WATER are an absolute must. You will be out in open waters in the midday sun where dehydration can hit quickly. Staying sun-safe can make or break your boat trip. The boats thankfully do have a roof that can be removed or pulled over depending on your preference.
Extra fuel is stored on the boat so no need to worry about being stranded. A working phone is also a must, so make sure your phone can make and receive calls. Our boat rental company kept in close contact with us at all times. We rang them three times to confirm our location.
As budget travellers and keen backpackers, chartering our own private boat seemed a little extravagant on our part. We were not used to such luxury and felt a little guilty, but those feelings soon melted away as we set sail through the turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea!
Renting our own boat for the day was definitely bucket list material and something to remember for years to come!