Comprehensive Guide to Boat Rentals in Naples and Marco Island
Boat rentals and Naples go together like bread and butter. No visit to Naples or Marco Island is complete without at least one trip out to the beautiful waters of the Gulf to see dolphins (obviously!) not to mention sea turtles and the white sandy beaches of Keewaydin Island. But before you venture out, read this essential guide so that you will be prepared, knowledgeable and make the right rental boat choice for you and your guests.
Plan Your Itinerary
The first step in renting a boat for a day is the itinerary. Knowing this first will make it easier for you to choose the right boat from the right location. If your goal is to go to Keewaydin Island, which is one of the most popular destinations, make sure the rental company allows you to go there. Also, not all rental companies allow their boats out into the Gulf, so if that is your goal be sure to ask if this is allowed.
Pro Tip: If your itinerary involves a Dock & Dine excursion, meaning you tie the boat up at a waterfront restaurant, you may want to reconsider that idea in the height of the busy season. Generally these waterfront restaurants do not accept dock space reservations. It is first docked, first served. A boat full of hungry people with nowhere to tie up for food is not fun for anyone. Sometimes the best idea is to bring food and beverage with you.
Finding a Boat Rental Company
We recommend using Google Maps to locate your preferred rental boat company. This will allow you to see where the business is located relative to your destination. It wouldn’t make sense to rent a boat from a location that requires a long trip to your end destination. The other benefit of using Google Maps is the ability to see customer reviews and easily see contact information for the rental company. Here is a quick link to the Google Maps Search.
Pro Tip: If you are new to boating and you feel uncomfortable with the busy waterways around Naples Bay, you may want to consider renting a boat away from the center of the action, but close enough to the sights and attractions. For this we recommend Park Shore Marina which is located 5 miles north of downtown Naples on the beautiful (and relatively quiet) Venetian Bay. This will provide you with a less stressful environment if you are a beginner boater while still enjoying the beautiful waters of the Gulf. They have a well maintained fleet of pontoon boats, dual console boats and one center console boat. In addition to a nice fleet, they have a very friendly and helpful staff to help make your outing enjoyable.
Boat Rentals: Book Your Reservation Early
It is especially important during the busy season to book your reservation well in advance. Generally you will need to leave a deposit to hold your reservation and pay the remaining balance on the day of the rental reservation. Prices range from $400 to $600 for half-day and full-day reservations. Taxes and fuel charges may be extra, or included in the price.
Training Requirements for Boat Rentals
Some rental companies will require that you provide proof of competency before allowing you to rent one of their boats. At minimum, this requirement will be a certificate stating that you have completed the basic 101 level boating course, either in Florida or your home state. It is important that you ask about this requirement when scheduling your boat rental. That way you are not caught off guard by the requirement when you arrive on the day of your scheduled rental.
Pro Tip: If you do not have the knowledge, confidence or skill necessary to safely operate the rental boat, please ask the rental agency if they know of someone who can provide you with the necessary training. Remember, if you are the operator of the boat, you are legally responsible for everyone aboard that boat. That responsibility should not be taken lightly. The Naples School of Boating offers a Rental Boat Training Program that provides exactly the training that you need to be confident aboard your rental boat. This course begins by completing the Florida Safe Boating Course online, and is followed by a 4-hour on-the-water training session aboard a rental boat. Please visit our Course Description Page for more information. If you are interested in completing the Florida Safe Boating Course online, you can find it here.
Check the Weather
A few days before your scheduled boat rental, you should begin looking at the weather forecasts. Not just the landlubbers forecast (is it going to be sunny, rainy, hot or cold) but the marine weather forecast, which will help you understand the weather conditions on the Gulf such as wind speed and direction, wave heights, and the time of high and low tides. There are many smartphone apps that can do this for you, but we have found PredictWind to be the best. Finding and understanding the marine weather forecast is one of the learning objectives of our on-the-water-rental boat training course.
Know Where You Are and Where You Are Going
Most rental boats are NOT equipped with mapping GPS units. Going somewhere we have never been before in our car is easy, thanks to Google and Apple Maps, or the built-in navigation system in the vehicle. Not so easy on a rental boat if you are unfamiliar with the waters, sandbars, no wake zones or the zig zag routes in the backwaters. We recommend Navionics Boating which in simple terms is the equivalent of Google Maps for boats. The cost is minimal at just under $25 per year, but the benefits are excellent. A full tutorial on using Navionics is included in our training program, but you can also find answers to many of your questions about the program right in the app under the help section. Spend some time learning the program before you venture out.
Keep a Sharp Lookout
According to the Coast Guard, the number one reason for boating accidents is quite simply, a lack of paying attention. We live in a distracted world and boating is no different. When operating the vessel you should pay close attention to your location, speed and wake, and the channel markers. Designate another person on the boat to be a second set of eyes and ears, a co-navigator.
Pro Tip: Never trust the operator of the other boat. Don’t assume that they know or will abide by the navigation rules.
Be the Early Bird
The busiest times on the water in Naples seem to be 11am when all the boats are heading to their destinations for the day, and 4pm when they’re all headed back to get ready for dinner or return their rental boat on time. Like driving in rush hour traffic, sometimes if you adjust your time a bit you will have an easier commute. The same applies on the waterways, especially on weekends or holidays during peak season.
To Pontoon or not to Pontoon
A common question that rental boaters always ask is if pontoon boats are safe especially on the Gulf. The answer is yes, and here is why. First, if the weather conditions are unsafe for a pontoon boat to venture out in the Gulf, a respectable rental agency will inform you of the conditions and advise you not to go, or simply forbid it. On a calm day with waves of less than one foot in light winds, there is no reason why a pontoon cannot go out into the Gulf. If you check the marine weather forecast, you will also know ahead of your reservation day and time if the conditions are likely to cooperate.
Boating Under the Influence
Boating and drinking are a deadly cocktail, but it still happens every day. Remember, as the operator of the boat, you are responsible for every soul aboard that boat, in addition to the harm you may cause to other vessels and their passengers.
Final Thoughts on Boat Rentals
Naples is one of the best places to enjoy a rental boat for a day, and there is no shortage of options when it comes to choosing one. We hope that you found this guide helpful and informative. Be safe out there!