Ischia and Capri are two islands quite close to the entrance to Naples harbor. The two, while geographically similar are culturally and physically somewhat different.
The island of Ischia is substantially larger in size and although a bit more "working class" it is a fantastic location to visit. It boasts numerous pleasant shops, and is large enough that it can take at least two or three days to investigate it all. Outside of scuba diving, there are some very interesting shops along the port of Ischia itself. Several pleasant shops are located between the landing and the first of the hotels.
Along the north edge of the Porto Turistico are numerous small restaurants and shops which offer fantastic local wines, olive oils, and other produce. Additionally, the islands of Capri and Ischia are quite famous for the quality of their hand carved sea shells. Large shells from not only the local area but from other parts of the world are sold here. Of course the world-famous cameos of the Napoli area are also to be found as well as coral jewelry.
Although Ischia and Capri are both very easy to get to from Naples or Sorrento, organization of your dive trips can be challenging. Because the diving is exceptional, there are several small dive shops from which to choose. However, reaching these shops by telephone is absolutely crucial prior to traveling. Although we have provided the available phone numbers for the local shops, usually the proven method of contact is to use the cellular number. And be prepared to be persistent if you are not successful the first time.
The dives here are similar to those in the Praiano, Positano, and Sorrento areas on the mainland. Again be certain to have a torch as caves and overhangs are very prevalent. Be prepared to enjoy an extremely relaxed after-dive atmosphere with fantastic local cuisine such as octopus, pasta with clam sauce, and wine being served.
The view from the south end of the island of Ischia across the small bay to the upper city is breathtaking, and especially peaceful during late afternoon as seen here. It is also gorgeous at night and provides a romantic backdrop to a delicious dinner or an evening stroll.
Of course, when my wife and I take our romantic strolls it has typically been to the tune of "Dad, when are we going back to the hotel" or "Mom, carry me, my feet are tired". Ah, well...Ischia can be a great place for kids as well...there are numerous rock jetty's and small parks to explore. The tiny beaches are gorgeous and fantastic for sharing a near-shore snorkeling experience with the little ones. It will be an unforgettable experience for them to be able to see the bottom as well as rock walls 10-20 meters deep. Just ensure they are careful of the sea urchins which are numerous in the area.
As most tourists who visit Ischia and Capri learn, Capri is the less casual and more upscale island. It is also much smaller and really only requires a day to see the sights. The island is visited for dive trips by several local dive shops based in Naples, Sorrento (Massa Lubrense), and Ischia. There are no dive shops permanently located on Capri which is not a great loss. Most divers find it more convenient to stay elsewhere and have the shop just organize to go to Capri for the day. These trips can be even more convenient for the diver because there are no travel arrangements required purely for the trip to the island.
As noted above, depending upon the time of year it can be hazardous to assume you can just show up on the island and be able to arrange a dive. On Ischia, always call ahead to organize your diving. There is so much diving done during the peak summer season that by September it can take persistence to arrange a dive.
Normally the Ischia shops will have a morning dive which leaves the dock between 0700 and 0900 and an afternoon dive which leaves the dock between 1400 and 1600. Departure times are dependent upon the dive location. Most shops will allow you to rinse off and leave your wet gear overnight if you plan to dive the next day. If you are departing the next day it is strongly recommended that you take your wet gear with you and hang it in the hotel room.
Most trips to Capri involve an early morning departure from the shop at 0700 to 0800, a morning dive and then lunch on the island at a restaurant. Then there will normally be an afternoon dive followed by a return to the shop at 1600-1800. Therefore it is wise to ask the shop specifically what the plan is for the day, and plan to bring some extra money and credit cards for shopping on Capri and for the restaurant. These trips are really a pleasant experience because the boat trip is normally only 30 to 60 minutes, and you are anchored within a few dozen meters of the shoreline while diving. The trip to town is only 15 minutes or less and their are some nice shops and restaurants to visit.
How to Get There
Ischia and Capri are both very easily reached from the mainland via ferry. Cars do not go to Capri, but it is possible to go with your car to Ischia depending upon where your accommodations are located. The vast majority of visitors find it much easier to use a taxi on Ischia if you have a distance to travel.
At the ports of Naples and Sorrento organize tickets on a ferry with Lauro or one of the other ferry lines. Hydrofoils obviously are the fastest means of travel and are very convenient with departures two to three times per day from Sorrento, and more frequently from Naples. Be aware that all baggage on hydrofoils is stowed on the open deck on the front of the craft...a dry place unless the weather is rainy. You can bring your camera bag or backpack with you but the suitcases and dive bags will be in the open. It is STRONGLY recommended that you lock any bags that are not going to be with you. At a minimum, ensure ALL valuables (wallets, keys, passports, cameras, CD players) are practically attached to your body. Although Naples is famous for petty theft you can quite easily protect yourself, so do so.