Getting to know Capraia means intimate encounters with nature, both on turf and in the surf. For land exploration, there are dozens of hiking paths that zigzag over the hilly interior, but don't offer access to much of the wild coastline, which is why boats are the best means for appreciating Capraia. The one "must" attraction on Capraia is the 2-hour island circumnavigation tour that takes in all the best coves along the island's 30km (19-mile) perimeter, and, in warm weather, there's a stop for swimming at Cala Rossa. Tip: Even if you are planning to rent your own boat to putter around Capraia, I recommend doing the tour first, as the guides will be able to point out a ton of fascinating details (in Italian and broken English, but you'll get the idea) that you would otherwise miss, from hidden grottoes to magnificently colored sea-bottoms in certain parts of the island.
Small motorboats are a breeze to rent at the port; as long as you hug the coast, it's a perfectly safe and fun way for even novice navigators to discover the island's countless coves and grottoes. For the more energetic explorer, those boat rental agencies also have a number of sea kayaks available. Motorless and maneuverable, kayaks allow you to get to know Capraia's perimeter in silence, and to get even closer to the jagged shore than motorboats can go. Rentals are offered for a half-day (9am-1pm or 1-6pm) or a full day (9am-6pm), with motorboats from 50€ and kayaks from 20€ per half-day.
For boat rentals and other activities on Capraia, contact Agenzia Viaggi e Turismo Parco, Via Assunzione 42 (tel. 0586/905071; www.isoladicapraia.it), which runs the Rais Dragut catamaran tours around the island, or Agenzia della Rosa, Via Assunzione (tel. 0586/905266).With your own boat, allow a good half-day to explore the coast, eat a picnic (you can pick up simple sandwiches, fruit, and beverages at groceries or snack bars in Capraia Isola town or down at the port), and swim in a cove or three. The following are some highlights of a do-it-yourself boat tour around Capraia:
Setting out from the port, head north; the second bay you'll reach, just before the northern tip of Capraia, is Cala della Mortola, which has the distinction of being the island's only beach. But even then, Spiaggia della Mortola is small and subject to tidal and wind conditions that can sweep it away at any time. The sand-and-pebble shore is created every summer when the southwesterly libeccio wind blows in from Corsica; but if the contrasting grecale wind, from the northeast, picks up, it can swallow up the beach at La Mortola at a moment's notice! Even if the beach has disappeared, the waters in this cove are still crystal clear and excellent for a swim. Rounding the northern tip of Capraia at Punta della Teglia (with its watchtower), and heading back south along the western coast, you'll quickly notice that this side of the island (called the ponente, or setting side, because it faces the sunset) is much more rugged and inhospitable. For 10km (6 miles), it's a visual treat of steep and jagged rocks, though the inlets here don't offer much protection from the wind and surf; the best swimming spots are back over on the eastern coast. Rounding the southern tip of Capraia, at Punta Zenobito, you immediately confront the most celebrated natural feature and swimming cove on the island, Cala Rossa. "Red Cove" takes its name from the fiery color of volcanic stone in the cliff that plunges to the sea here. Cala Rossa is part of an extinct, sunken crater, and a swim in the deep blue waters here, below that vermilion rock wall, is the highlight of most people's visits to Capraia. About 5km (3 miles) north from here is another popular cove, Cala del Ceppo, where the multihued seagrass growing on the sandy seafloor imparts a wonderful range of colors to the limpid water. A bit farther north, just before returning to town and the port, stop at Cala dello Zurletto. In this protected cove, gorgeous grey-brown rocks have been sculpted by the wind and waves, making a dramatic backdrop for a swim.
As for exploring Capraia by land, the island offers dozens of different hikes that can take 30 minutes or 7 hours, depending on what you have the time or energy for. A natural place to start is in the immediate environs of Capraia Isola (aka paese or borgo; this is a confusing term, since it has the world "island" in it, but it refers to the old town of narrow streets on the hill just east of the port). There are a few more services here than down at the port, but it's still a fairly sleepy locale. The main sight in town is the Forte San Giorgio, an imposing castle built by the Genoese in the 15th century over an earlier Pisan citadel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.