Heading to a Greek isle means gorgeous beaches and coastline, so make sure to go on a Zakynthos day trip or three!
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The best part of visiting Zakynthos is exploring the island! Here’s what you need to know for the best weekend in Zakynthos
How to Get Around Zakynthos
I’ve already shared a guide to Zakynthos restaurants and hotels! It’s a good place to start when deciding where to base your trip! I also give an overview of how to get around, but here’s the short version.
Zakynthos is spread out enough that you need a plan. Renting a car is an option, and hotels tend to have parking available. A fun alternative way to get around is renting four-wheelers! It’s less fast, but a fun experience.
You can also skip driving entirely by joining an organized Zakynthos day trip. These were a great way to see several spots in one day without having to be in charge or make the plans yourself! Additionally, many of the companies will pick you up straight from your hotel if you’re staying near (not necessarily in) one of the major towns. Everything I share here I experienced through a group trip. But I’ll include the tips I learned if you do have your own car.
Price Points for a Zakynthos Day Trip
There are essentially two price points for a Zakynthos day trip, budget and luxury.
The budget trips will get you a medium group on a bus (less than 20 people), and water activities on boats holding 30-60 people. Time on the boat is largely for seeing the epic coastline. It works great, even if it’s not private. It’s not luxury if you get my drift. But it was still really fun, and an easy and affordable way to see the major parts of the island. I did two-day trips covering most of the island over two days, and paid 30-50€ per person per day, pretty reasonable for this type of activity.
The second option is to arrange private excursions. These run around 800€ per day, so a bit out of my budget.
I include this to set expectations: doing a private tour sounds amazing! If you don’t have the budget for that (I certainly don’t), the group tours are the best option!
Explore Shipwreck Beach and the Western Coast
*Please note: in 2023, Shipwreck Beach was closed to beach visitors for fear of landslides. There hasn’t been an announcement of plans for 2024.
If you’ve heard of Zakynthos for anything, it’s probably the famous Shipwreck Beach, Navagio. It’s an iconic sight: a rusted-out ship sitting in an isolated cove of pristine sand at the base of a white cliff.
Navagio is only accessible by boat, and you can find a TON of 2-hour boat trips that take you here. However, you’d need to arrange your own transportation to get to the dock (across the island from much of the major areas to stay), so if you don’t have a car, I recommend a full-day trip to explore the western half of the island.
I really enjoyed this full-day tour of the northwestern part of Zakynthos which included a boat trip to Navagio beach and swimming in the stunning Blue Caves.
It’s worth noting that I first visited in 2022, and the stop on Navagio Beach itself was a little… overrated. It’s packed with people taking photos. It’s a small enough beach that boats drop off their passengers and come back for them, so you’ll spend a little time waiting. Spread out your towel and enjoy soaking up the sunshine, but make sure to bring a towel and hat off the boat with you!
Another must-do is to see Shipwreck Beach from above. The tour stops at a great viewpoint that overlooks the shipwreck, giving a sense of the scope of the beach. The colors are incredible – truly, it looks like a movie set.
If you have time, walk a bit to the right of the “official” viewpoint to get other, better views of the beach without others vying for the perfect angle!
Another favorite stop on this tour was the Xigia Sulfur Beach. Don’t be put off by the name – the smell isn’t strong. It comes from underwater, so it disperses in the sea in this area. There’s a perk: the natural minerals create collagen in the water, so swimming here is great for your skin!
If you’re exploring this part of the island on your own, here are a few tips to make it the best time possible:
If you do have a car, plan to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to minimize crowds! It gets nuts here. Same for the overlook point.
Other spots that the day trip doesn’t include that you may want to see are the old olive tree – 2000+ years old! – or to stop at a winery on your way. I’d recommend trying Callinico Winery!
Explore the South: Zakynthos’ Best Beaches & Coastline
While Shipwreck Beach is the most iconic beach on Zakynthos, it’s not the best one on island! The southeastern part of the island has the Marine Park and several other great beaches, as well as the most beautiful water and coastline I’ve seen in my life!
The big draw here is the marine park: it’s more rugged beauty and slightly less crowded than the other side.
Once again, to experience it best you need to get out on the water.
One big warning here: you’ll see a LOT of turtle tours. Don’t do them! They circle the small islands of Cameo or Marathonisi to follow around what’s usually just one turtle near the harbor area. Every other turtle tour boat is doing the same. It’s both really disappointing and feels like very unethical tourism.
I recommend this half-day tour that covers a popular beach, a stop at Cameo Island, and a boat trip. The boat trip does include a turtle portion near Cameo Island, but it’s quick – maybe 10 minutes and then we’re onto the Keri Caves!
Cameo Island is this tiny island connected to Zakynthos by bridge! It’s picturesque and if you’re in the area, go check it out. To enter the main part of the island, there’s an entry fee – this includes access to a private beach club just out of sight. If you’re here on a tour, don’t bother with the paid section.
The Keri Caves are my favorite part! They (and the surrounding shoreline) are stunning. Truly, it’s some of the most beautiful water and rocky coast I’ve ever seen, and I live in Italy. To me, this area is the whole point of doing a boat activity over here, so if you don’t use this one, make sure the one you choose mentions Keri Caves.
If you rented a car yourself and want to explore at your own pace, try this one for the water tour! Very similar to what I described for the Keri Caves and the surrounding area.
With a car, you can also check out two cool sites with historic ruins. Bochali Castle is the ruins of an ancient Venetian fortress that somehow survived the 1950’s earthquakes (the ruins, not the castle). Note that it’s closed on Sundays. Or head to the Monastery Panagia Skopiotissa, which has an amazing hiking trail that leads here and great views from the monastery itself!
Want more time on Zakynthos Beaches?
Less of a pre-organized thing, but going to the beach is practically an essential Zakynthos day trip! There are a few great beaches on the eastern coast. Some are reachable by buses or shuttles, or just arrange a taxi.
Banana Beach is one that gets talked about a lot, mostly because it has a free shuttle that connects it to Zakynthos town and a few other spots. If you to do water sports, there are plenty of options here!
St. Nicholas Beach also has a free shuttle and tons of space. Both of these two are especially popular because of the easy transportation options
Gerakas Beach is cool because it’s part of the Marine Park, meaning it’s beautiful and slightly less packed with weekenders. The sun beds here are typically 10 euros for the day, and depending on the time of year you’ll see turtle nests marked out and protected!
Kalamaki is a truly stunning beach area. It’s even more popular for turtle nesting – look for the small wooden structures marking the buried nests.
Want an easier, mobile-friendly way to take all this info on the go with you? Grab my full Zakynthos master list!