sunset on the sea with a hydrofoil boat in the distance

How Not to Get to Capri from Naples: Hydrofoil Hell vs. Ferry Bliss

The funniest thing about my disastrous trip from Naples to Capri by fast boat is how easily it could be avoided. 

My friend Megan had specifically warned me about the rough boat journey between Naples and Capri, especially in the winter months when I visited Capri (specifically, early March). 

She’s emetophobic and, miraculously, still one of my closest friends even after I’ve puked or nearly puked in her presence… multiple times. Why she continues to travel with me is anyone’s guess, but I’m grateful anyway.

She had taken the hydrofoil between Naples and Capri the previous winter and was traumatized by how many people were throwing up on the boat ride over, which was only about an hour.

She warned me explicitly about the hydrofoil… and I nodded along, texting back, “Sweet, I will avoid hydrofoils!”

Allison holding a ticket to the 9:30 ferry to Capri
Me, innocently: What could go wrong? Narrator: A lot. A lot could go wrong.
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… and then a few days later, unbeknownst to me, I had boarded a hydrofoil and had motion sickness so bad that it was like having an out-of-body experience, a fever, and food poisoning simultaneously. 

Let’s backtrack so I can try to explain precisely how I got here.

In a hurry? Here’s the need-to-know.

The best way to get to Capri from Naples is via the Caremar slow ferry, for about €14 each way, taking 1 hour to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Depart from Calata di Massa.

The fastest way to get to Capri from Naples is via the SNAV or NGL hydrofoils for about €24 each way, taking about 50 minutes, but putting you at high risk of seasickness. Depart from Molo Beverello.

How Not to Get to Capri from Naples (What I Did)

The lines and ticket booths in Molo Beverello
The ticket booths at Molo Beverello — aka, where you don’t want to be.

I often joke that travel bloggers aren’t experts at traveling; we get things wrong so that others can learn from us.

Because honestly, can an AI ever board the wrong boat, have motion sickness so bad they’re practically on the astral plane, and then live to tell you about it? I think not — that’s why I’m here.

So, let me try to redeem myself and explain how I got into this predicament. I looked up the boats on Ferryhopper, which I usually use for booking ferries, and saw that two companies were going to Capri, each taking 50 minutes and costing about the same. Rome2Rio also confirmed the same two companies, so I assumed that was all there was and made my plans accordingly.

A list of SNAV and NLG ferries with their timetable
Prices on Ferryhopper, screenshot taken April 26, 2024. Note the additional €3.50 fee compared to what I paid in person. Looking back, “JET” should have been a red flag, but we have already established that I am a moron.

Thinking that there were only two ferry companies, SNAV and NLG, I looked up the location for the SNAV ticket office, which had the time slot I wanted. I saw it listed as “ferry services” on Google Maps and thought I had it all figured out.

For some reason, I thought that the ferry took about an hour to get to Capri and that the fast boats (jetfoils or hydrofoils) would take about half that time. So when I saw 50 minutes, I thought it was the right boat.

Where did I get these numbers? The voices in my head. I genuinely have no other explanation.

The sign at Molo Beverello
The ports in Naples are extremely confusing to find: click the links below for the exact coordinates of each port

What I didn’t know at the time, nor could I find explained anywhere online, was that there are two ferry terminals in Naples… that are basically right next to each other but are poorly differentiated. One port only serves hydrofoils and fast boats, and the other serves larger car ferries.

Adding insult to injury, I walked right past the ferry terminal I actually wanted (Calata Porta di Massa, where the large ferries depart from) on the way to the ferry terminal that would make me see God (Molo Beverello, where the demon boats… I mean hydrofoils… leave from).

So, cluelessly, I walked all the way to Molo Beverello, where I bought my ticket at the SNAV ticket booth.

I grabbed a quick breakfast bite at the port café (ah, sweet summer child), and then boarded my death trap, I mean boat, on time.

Two small street food style pastries and a boat ticket
Of many bad choices, this was among the most foolish.

I did see the dreaded passing out of sick bags early in the journey, but I tried to push it out of my head. After all, I had taken a Dramamine and wasn’t on the dreaded hydrofoil (or so I thought). I’d be just fine!

The first 10 minutes were fine; the rest got progressively worse in the way that only people who get seasickness can relate to: that hot, sweaty, feverish feeling only relieved by going full Exorcist mode on a barf bag.

After emptying myself of the breakfast I optimistically purchased, the rest of the boat ride was a little less painful.

The enclosed hydrofoil boat
If this is your view, it’s already too late. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

I had to go into full tunnel vision mode so that I wouldn’t be triggered by the other passengers barfing around me, a true symphony of sickness.

After 50 minutes, we mercifully arrived in Capri.

Jelly-legged, I wobbled off the boat at Capri Harbor, feeling like a shell of a human and wondering what exactly had gone wrong. I had taken the ferry, hadn’t I?

The Caremar ferry in the harbor
The ferry that I should have taken instead

… and then I looked over to an enormous boat in the harbor.

It looked like the size of the Titanic compared to the dinghy I had just disembarked from, and I quickly realized just how wrong I had been.

What Exactly Is a Hydrofoil?

the snav hydrofoil in naples waiting to board
The SNAV ferry where I would, briefly, meet my maker. If you see this and you get motion sickness… run like hell, you’re in the wrong spot.

For some reason (again, the voices in my head, because apparently, I’m allergic to doing the research before a trip instead of after it), I thought a hydrofoil was a speedboat. 

And so when I saw what seemed like a large boat, I just presumed I was taking the ferry. Ridiculous? Maybe, but at least you can learn from my mistakes.

A hydrofoil (sometimes called jetfoil, a type of hydrofoil with jet engines) is basically a catamaran on steroids. The ‘foil’ part comes from its wing-like structure similar to what they use on planes, but it’s actually built underneath the hull. 

Think of it like a kitesurfing board, but on a boat. Powered by a jet engine. Yes, now that I know the science of it, I realize how terrifying it is.

sunset on the sea with a hydrofoil boat in the distance
View from the ferry, watching the hydrofoil pass by, thanking my lucky stars I’m not on it.

This foil lifts the hull above the water, reducing the drag of the water and thus increasing speed and efficiency— but also making it more prone to making people nauseous at the slightest hint of choppy seas.

I had been warned about hydrofoils when traveling around the Cycladic islands in Greece, notorious for their windy conditions and rough seas. Yet somehow, I boarded ferries just fine during that trip, not confusing them for hydrofoils.

In Greece, most islands generally only have one ferry port, so it’s easy to ensure you take the right boat… but with Naples’ confusing infrastructure (a gripe of many visitors to the city), this was more complicated. At least, that’s what I’m blaming it on here.

How to Get from Naples to Capri (The Right Way)

Boarding the car ferry Caremar in Naples
This should be your view when boarding the ferry!

Luckily, I didn’t book a return ticket through SNAV because I needed to figure out when I wanted to head back to Naples after my day trip to Capri. It’s maybe the one thing I got right about this whole debacle!

I was able to fix my mistake for the return journey and experience what a ferry ride from Capri back to Naples was like, since I instead chose to book my return ticket with Caremar, the large ferry that I had seen in the harbor.

In a word, it was amazing. I have no complaints. The sea wasn’t rough at all, I didn’t experience any motion sickness.

The harbor of Capri with beautiful sunset colors
At least you can always be outside on the ferry — you’re stuck inside the boat on the hydrofoil if the sea is rough, and it usually is.

Plus, we got to sit outside and take in one of the most gorgeous sunsets in recent memory (versus the hydrofoil, where we were shut inside). 

The standard ferry is also about €10 cheaper, but I’d have paid €10 more than I paid for the fast ferry to avoid how awfully sick I felt. It took about 20 more minutes, but I enjoyed every one of them!

Hydrofoil vs. Ferry: What’s Right for You?

The ticket booth for the Caremar ferry
The interior of the port in Naples, where you can buy Caremar ferry tickets

OK, look. If every minute counts on your fast-paced Naples and Amalfi itinerary and you’ve never gotten motion sickness before in your life, I can see a case for taking the hydrofoil.

It is slightly faster, getting you to Capri about 20 minutes quicker, for about €10 more.

But I can’t justify the €10 additional cost on top of how sick I felt… just to save some minutes on what is, otherwise, a very pleasant ferry ride. 

I know that I sound like a giant baby in a lot of this post, but I actually take a lot of boats. I travel most of the year (actually, full-time at this point), and about two-thirds of my travels are to islands.

I also dive constantly: I logged over a hundred dives in 2023, spending over four cumulative days underwater. Of those 100+ dives, I got seasick once but never to the point where I needed to throw up.

This aside isn’t to brag but to emphasize how intense the hydrofoil experience can be, even for someone like me, who has become much more accustomed to boats! 

Don’t underestimate it. Save the extra €20 roundtrip — spend it on a few spritzes or some fresh OJ– and enjoy the scenic route!

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