If you’re a sailor or yachtsman, chances are you already know that it’s not in the cards to “play it safe” and confine yourself to one destination alone. You wouldn’t want to miss out, especially if you found yourself sailing across the Caribbean Islands. In fact, even if you’re just the kind of person who simply enjoys the random tag-along oceanic voyage, there’s no better region than the Caribbean. The Caribbean is arguably the best destination for vacation sailing and well-known for its gorgeous tropical landscape, tranquil atmosphere, beautiful weather, astonishing beaches, and vibrant, diverse cultures.
This is even more exciting upon the realization that neither owning a boat or having vast experience in sailing is required to charter a vessel for island hopping. There are plenty of islands in the Caribbean that are quite accommodating to boats and yachts, providing the proper infrastructure, fuel, and other necessary provisions to make your sailing vacation as breezy, easy, and magical as possible. Although the entire Caribbean is a wondrous sight to behold and your itinerary may vary, here are 6 of the most ideal islands in the Caribbean for sailing a boat or yacht.
1. The British Virgin Islands
With 25 islands cozily located within the waters of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, the British Virgin Islands are considered by some to be the world’s best sailing location and it is the sailing capital of the Caribbean. What makes the BVI such a prime location for sailing are the mild winds and short distances between islands. Whether you’re bareboat charting or cabin charting, the BVI make it easy and fun to island-hop or sail to your preferred island of relaxation.
Famously known for its Caribbean hospitality, the BVI offer some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll lay eyes on. This is ever so clearly seen through its “baths” at the world-renowned Virgin Gorda Baths, where warm bathing pools are created from rock formations. A few other must-see destinations include the most popular Norman Island Indians and the palm trees and clear blue waters of Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay. With over 100 bars to visit, the British Virgin Islands are frankly a place where you could end up having too much fun.
Activities In the British Virgin Islands:
– Go snorkeling and windsurfing
– Grab a drink at the Soggy Dollar Bar (be sure to grab famous “Painkiller”)
– Take a trip to the Rhone National Marine Park in Road Town
– Visit Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay
– Visit Deadman’s Bay at Peter Island
– Visit the ‘Baths’ at Virgin Gorda Baths
2. The Spanish Virgin Islands
Well-known for their mellow environment and laid-back demeanor, the Spanish Virgin Islands are located about ten miles off Puerto Rico. The SVI consist of the alluring Vieques and Culebra islands, along with much smaller islands (islets) and cays such as the Isla Culebrita, Isla Palominos, and Cayo Luis Peña. For a long time, they were off-limits to casual vacationers as they were used by the US Navy for military training exercises.
The SVI were essentially made for sailing. Cruise their beautiful, tranquil waters and explore their islets. The surrounding waters are perfect for diving as they have been untouched for so long and lobster season is year-round. What more should be said? They are the perfect option for the vacation filled with thorough time for rest and relaxation. The SVI are a quieter getaway than the BVI. You’ll gain a better feel for quiet sailing and island life and truly take in all the beauty and mesmerizing scenery that the Spanish Virgin Islands possess.
Activities in the Spanish Virgin Islands:
– Lounge on Culebra’s sequestered Bahia Tortuga
– Take a trip to the Malecon waterfront on Vieques Island
– Kayak through the effervescent waters of Puerto Mosquito
– Take full advantage of nature here; you won’t find famous fine dining or wild nightlife
One of the best (and most unique) countries for sailing, due to its perfect landscape and under-utilized sailing routes, is Cuba. Located just south of the Florida (Miami) coastal lines, Cuba is a very intriguing place for anyone who visits, full of a rich history and culture with stunning architecture to match. Its most popular cities include Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Havana, and Trinidad; each city houses similar culture, yet they are unique in their ability to tell their own tailor-fitted stories of mishap and adventure.
Sailing around Cuba can be easily navigated, whether by cabin charter or bareboat. In fact, the city of Cienfuegos provides both cabin and bareboat charters for anyone looking to get a more magnificent view of the entire country. The sparsely visited Jardines de Reina, María la Gorda, and the Isla de la Juventud are the best areas for sailing around Cuba. Sailing to Cuba is like hopping on a time-traveling vessel to a land of old charm and classic American cars dominating the streets.
Activities in Cuba:
– Visit the Playa Paraiso at the Cayo Largo
– Visit the Dolphinarium at Cayo Naranjo
– Swim in the stalagmite-filled Saturno Cave in Varadero
– Dine on traditional fare at the Finca Argroecologica El Paraiso in Vinales
– See the El Nicho Waterfalls in Cienfuegos
– Visit the Old Havana
– Diving and snorkeling
4. St. Vincent and The Grenadines
If you enjoy yachting yet are still in search for that warm ambiance and aesthetic feeling that embodies the entire Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the place to be. With only 9 of the 32 islands hosting inhabitants, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are full of adventure and explorable spots only reachable by boat. The St. Vincent island holds the most surreal beaches, coral reefs, and a tropical rainforest, while The Grenadines boasts its turquoise lagoons and mountain side location, full of plant life, wildlife and most importantly, sea life.
Although the waters are warm and gentle with mild winds, navigating the islands of St.Vincent isn’t for the novice sailor. Experienced sailors should start their sail in the Windward Islands from the northern side of Bequia then voyage down to the southern region of Carriacou.
Activities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines:
– Go scuba diving
– Snorkeling and diving
– Enjoy the natural scenery (including volcanoes)
– Take a trip to Montreal Gardens, Vermont Nature Trail and the Bat Cave in St. Vincent
– Take a trip to the Lagoon Beach in Mustique
– Dine at the Sugar Reef Cafe in Bequia
– Sight-see Fort Charlotte in Kingstown
5. Antigua and Barbuda
Of all the Caribbean Islands, Antigua and Barbuda are the best charter destinations for sailing. Located in the eastern region of the Caribbean (part of the Leeward islands), Antigua and Barbuda (Antigua’s sister island) have 365 pristine beaches with more than enough anchorages and harbors to entice sailors to extend their vacation in hopes of visiting each individual island.
Antigua has a history of being one of the best sailing locations, as it features one of the top yacht havens in the world, the Falmouth Harbour. Aside from having the best harbors, there are plenty of sailing and yacht activities, as Antigua hosts “Sailing Week” each year in April and the Classic Yacht Regatta. Races are incredibly popular here. Sailors with boats of all sizes such as bareboats, crewed yachts, catamarans, sailboats and luxury yachts are all welcomed, as Antigua and Barbuda accommodate the casual sailor to the most avid yacht voyager.
With the exception of late August-September, Antigua and Barbuda have the best warm weather for sailing. Due to its colonial history, infused with local native culture and an opulent, yet naturally beautiful landscape, Antigua and Barbuda have an “old combined with the new” feeling, that offers several options for sailing, shopping, dining, entertainment, history, and sightseeing.
Activities in Antigua and Barbuda:
– Scuba diving and snorkeling
– Visit on Antigua Race Week/Sailing Week/Yacht Regatta
– Explore the local culture in the business district of St. John
– Visit one of their 365 beaches and coral reefs
– Dine on local cultural dishes such as their pot stew known as “fungi”
In close proximity to St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, and located just south of the Grenadines, Grenada is made up of 3 magnificent islands. Known for its crystal-clear waters, elegant beaches and coral reefs, Grenada is a great place for anyone looking for pure relaxation and/or water-related activities. Its early cultural and architectural influences by European and South American settlers can still be seen today within Grenada’s local language and cuisine.
Unlike many of the aforementioned destinations, the weather in Grenada is consistently warm, even through the tropical storm months of August and September. This allows for year-round sailing. Not to mention, Grenada beckons to sailors as its islands are readily equipped with protected harbors and anchorages for yachts. In addition to Grenada’s sailing accommodations, the sailing infrastructure itself is highly developed for sailors and yachtsmen to safely and securely navigate throughout the islands.
Activities in Grenada:
– Scuba diving and snorkeling
– Surfing or riding a water scooter
– Visit their amazing museums
– Unwind/relax at one of 7 beaches
– Visit St. George (Grenada’s capital)
– Navigate through Grenada’s boat and yacht-friendly accommodating infrastructures
– Enjoy the local culture and cuisine
It’s been said that one gains a greater understanding of an island from a boat. Being able to assess an island from a boat, then explore what made you stop there to begin with, is a special moment only sailors and yachtsmen can truly understand. There are countless secret hideaways and hidden beaches scattered throughout the Caribbean only accessible by boat. Set sail across the Caribbean and explore the dazzling potential!
Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Privilege Club. Her personal favorite Caribbean destination is Grenada.