Portofino is one of the most famous seaside villages in Italy. It is located along the Italian Riviera in Liguria, not far from France. If you love Italian focaccia, you must come! Portofino is a superb destination to visit with kids.
Not to be confused with Positano, which has a similar name but is on the Amalfi Coast, near Naples (in Southern Italy). Both places are stunning and worthwhile a visit, though!
Portofino is very glamorous: if you stroll around its cafes along the harbour, you could easily meet the international jet-set and many famous people.
However, beyond the elegant villas and the big yachts in the harbour, Portofino remains a tiny fishing village, extremely picturesque and colourful and with lots of hidden treasures that are just waiting to be found out. It is still one of Italy’s most expensive and exclusive places, but there are many ways to visit it on a budget and with a kid-friendly approach.
What to do in Portofino with kids
Once you have chosen your base, organise one-day trips to the beautiful villages along the Riviera. Portofino, Camogli, the Cinque Terre – to name a few. If you are coming in July, do not miss the Andersen Festival, a great event for families which takes place in Sestri Levante.
Our tip: whenever you can, use public transport instead of your car (buses, trains or ferries), as parking can be complicated and expensive, not to mention the traffic during high season.
Seaside and beaches are a must, of course. Please be aware that they can be very crowded from June to September. Besides, most of the beaches along the Riviera are narrow and rocky. So do not expect long and sandy spaces for your kids to run and enjoy. On the other hand, rocks make these beaches so breathtaking and dramatic! The sea is absolutely amazing though, making swimming extremely enjoyable. Moreover, the coast is ideal for snorkelling activities.
A good and uncommon way to have a sea feel is to explore the bay by kayak. The kids will go mad for the adventure! And there is no need to be expert or particularly fit. We had a great time with Outdoor Portofino, a sports club that promotes water sports and various educational activities related to the Protected Marine Area of Portofino. They are based at Niasca, a narrow beach between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.
If you would like to book in advance, your easy Kayak Tour in Portofino with optional snorkelling, you’ll get the best of this tiny village. The view from the sea perspective is absolutely stunning!
If you are not brave enough to go kayaking or experience the stand-up Paddleboard, you can take a day trip boat tour that reaches the amazing villages of Camogli, Portofino and San Fruttuoso. To die for! These three seaside villages are known worldwide. The seawater is crystalline, the coastal view is superb, and you will collect memories forever!
Another trip not to be missed is a visit to the stunning San Fruttuso Abbey. This unique place can only be reached on foot, through a couple of trekking paths, or by boat. There is a regular boat service departing from Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli, Rapallo, Sestri Levante, Chiavari and Genova.
The monastic complex overlooks the bay, dates back to the 10th century and has a magical atmosphere. Take your time to visit every single room and to enjoy the breathtaking view from the terrace. You can have lunch at the characteristic restaurant on the beach or take your own food and have a picnic on the shore.
Finally, for those who love nature and trekking, Portofino offers beautiful paths into the wildness of its National Park, also known as Monte Portofino.
This is a protected area since 1935 and offers several paths through woods, rural settlements and fishing villages, rich in art and history. The kids will love exploring the park; this is, for example, one path that can be walked by families with children as well:
Duration: about 45 minutes
The difference in altitude: 300m
The starting point is the square of San Rocco di Camogli Church. To get there, you will have to reach Ruta di Camogli and, from here, follow San Rocco directions. Be aware that only residents cars are allowed to access the village. Therefore you will have to park in the big square located in front of the horizontal bar that blocks access to anyone who is not equipped to pass. You will reach the church in about 15 minutes on foot from here. Look for the narrow paved road and follow direction “Batterie”. The trail reaches an altitude of about 300 meters, but it is an easy walk, accessible to children. Switches in the woods among oaks, olive and pine trees and allow you to admire enchanting views of the sea.
The trail will end at the “batterie”, which are bunkers built by the Germans during the Second World War. These are very well preserved fortifications, worth a visit.
Where to sleep
If you want to explore the Riviera, I would recommend not to stay in Portofino. As I said, it is one of the most expensive locations in Italy; furthermore, there is little space for kids to move around and no real beach to have fun or sunbathe. Santa Margherita Ligure, which is only 10 km away, is a good choice and a fantastic base to explore the Riviera.
As lively as Portofino, with nice beaches and a beautiful harbour, it is less expensive and is comfortably connected to Portofino by an efficient bus service (although, in high season, buses can be quite crowded). A low-cost accommodation option is Istituto San Colombo, a spotless hostel with simple but spacious family rooms, all en-suite. Rooms can accommodate 4,6 and even 8 people. No breakfast or other food is served inside, but the hostel has a kitchen and large dining room that families can use to cook their own food. Besides, due to its central location, there are many nice cafes, bars and restaurants in the area, and the seaside is within walking distance.
Another option is the wonderful B&B Il Tulipano: here our review.