The Caribbean Sea is one of the largest seas in the world. The possibilities to explore all the diverse and interesting islands are vast. You can dive in the most amazing waters or play plenty of other water sports. Go shopping, play golf, admire beautiful colonial architecture and sample the varied cuisine prepared by friendly locals. Enjoy the typical relaxed Caribbean lifestyle, sipping on rum cocktails listening to steel drums while you watch the sunset. We tell you what else you can expect from this paradise for sailing holidays.
What makes a Caribbean yacht charter vacation so attractive?
The Caribbean Sea is huge - it spans over an area of 2,754,000 km² in the North Atlantic Ocean. There are over 7000 islands to choose from and they all have their individual character. So you are spoilt for choice here!
This big body of water is bordered in the South by Colombia and Venezuela and in the North by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba. To its West lie the Central American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. In the East you find the Lesser Antilles, which are divided in the Leeward Islands in the North and the Windward Islands in the South.
A myriad of gulfs and many reefs are contained in the Caribbean Sea. There is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef which stretches over 1,000 km along the Central American coast and is the 2nd largest barrier reef in the whole world. This is why this sea boasts such fantastic underwater fauna and flora for you to admire and explore. Diving and snorkeling here is absolutely paradisiac. In general, there is a high diversity of geography - there are coral based islands and others of volcanic origin. Depending on the altitude, the landscape can change from jungle to forest and woodland to savannah, mangrove and lagoon vegetation.
In the Caribbean you encounter tropical temperatures moderated by the trade winds. This area is spoilt by year-round sunshine and steady temperatures. The tidal range doesn't exceed half a metre. This makes sailing and mooring as well as swimming very safe. There are plenty of bays and coves where you can moor your boat, the huge number of islands and islets offers an endless possibility for sailing trips and the prevailing trade winds are predictable in force and timing, almost like clockwork.
In addition, there are many colourful festivals, different cultures and lovely towns with colonial style architecture to explore. You can sample the rich cuisine which consists of a fusion of African, Amerindian, European, East Indian, Arab and Chinese Cuisine.
What cruising grounds are there in the Caribbean?
Head to the Windward Islands like Martinique, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. Saint Lucia offers wonderful long beaches to cruise along and the infrastructure for sailing is superb. Rodney Bay on the north side is a very large bay with only a small opening to the sea, due to which it is completely protected and the waters are calm. Here you can moor up in the prestigious Rodney Bay Marina that offers 253 berths for sailboats and superyachts up to 85 m along with many services. The exclusive marina at Marigot Bay on the west side is equally beautiful and protected. It can host 40 yachts up to 75 m. If you moor up there you get treated as a guest of the 5-star resort adjacent to the marina and can use all of its facilities.
Cruise the Leeward Islands including Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe, Saint Barths and Saint Martin. Enjoy some easy island hopping mixed with open-water passages there. Take advantage of the good duty-free shopping and the many resorts. Especially Antigua has a very indented coastline and therefore many protected marinas. Sail the idyllic British Virgin Islands located about 100 km east of Puerto Rico. They include Tortola, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda. This popular charter destination is boasting stunning shorelines with many coral reefs in different colours. For instance, pass by the coral atoll of Anegada, which is the resting point for a lot of sunken ships and perfect for wreck diving. The British Virgin Islands stretch along either side of the approximately 90 km long Sir Francis Drake Channel and are perfectly suited for line-of-sight sailing.
Lap up the old charm of Cuba and sail around the stunning Canarreos Archipelago with the famous Cayo Largo island south of Cuba. It has about 350 islets and is almost as long as the Florida Keys. There you encounter miles and miles of pristine white sandy beaches and bright turquoise coral reefs. This is yacht charter in a paradise-like environment.
Which weather systems are important for your bareboat yacht charter in the Caribbean?
The climate here has often been described as "perpetual spring" thanks to the cooling easterly trade winds which create lovely temperatures throughout the year. They are always in the 20s° and 30s° and vary from summer to winter by 2° - 5° in the southern islands and by 10° - 20° in the northern islands.
Rainfall is heavily dependent on altitude and topography and generally the eastern shores, especially Dominica, Martinique and Saint Lucia, receive more rain. The precipitation is very different from island to island and within every island itself. In any case it rains most in the mountains and Mount Pelee in Martinique receives a whopping 6 m per year. The nearby Presqu'ile de la Caravelle on the east coast gets six times less. The driest islands are the Netherland Antilles consisting of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. The winter months have the least rainfall in the Caribbean. This is also the main charter season, when holidaymakers from northern countries try to escape the cold weather.
June to November is hurricane season and September and October run the highest risk for tropical storms. April, June, and July have the best combination of warm temperatures and low rainfall. May brings a small rainy season in many places. From December to February it´s best to stick to southern destinations, like Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbados.
Some figures regarding the sailing weather in the Caribbean:
- Hurricane season: June – November
- Prevailing winds: North-easterly trade winds, 3 - 5 Bft.
- Warmest destinations: Cayman Islands, St. Lucia
- Coolest destinations: Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos
- Highest annual average daily temperature: 29° - 32°
- Lowest annual average daily temperature: 20° – 26°
- Annual average water temperature: 27°
- Highest total annual rainfall: 2,575 mm, Dominican Republic
- Lowest total annual rainfall: 409 mm, Aruba
Which possibilities for yacht charter are there in the Caribbean Islands and what does it cost?
Generally, you can book a 12 m sailing yacht from 2,500 € a week. Depending on the type of yacht, the equipment and the size prizes go up accordingly. You can do charter on sailboats, motor yachts and catamarans with or without captain up to 20 m length. If you prefer something more exclusive, you can opt for luxury yacht charter on boats bigger than 20 m with crew. Private boat hire is available in weekly terms or in form of day charter or two to three day packages as well as sunset trips. Day yacht charters for deep sea or sport fishing with power boats are very popular in the Caribbean.
What else is there to do apart from cruising on your Caribbean boat charter vacation?
There is a huge number of islands worth exploring, here we suggest only a few of them:
Cuba is calling with salsa dancing, impressive colonial buildings, friendly locals, vintage cars, rum, cigars and a generally vibrant atmosphere. For sightseeing here visit the Cristobal Colon cemetery with its many beautifully sculpted memorials for example.
The Bahamas with their capital Nassau offer lush wildlife, long beaches, coral reefs and very good shopping. On Paradise Island there are some stunning luxury resorts like the Ocean Club that featured in the James Bond film Casino Royal or the Atlantis that has a 141-acre waterpark. There you can also swim with dolphins, gamble in the casino or play a round of golf. In many towns across the Bahamas the popular Junkanoo festival takes place on Boxing day and New Year´s day. It´s a traditional and colourful street parade with music, dance and costumes. Similarly, lively parades with dance and music take place all throughout the year.
Head to Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic and UNESCO world heritage site. It is the oldest permanently inhabited European settlement in the Americas and one of the largest cities in the Caribbean.
Check out Saint Martin with its Caribbean, Dutch and French influences, rainforest-like landscape, amazing wildlife, white beaches and lovely towns.
Go see Antigua and its 365 beaches. Attractions there are the main town St. John´s, St. Nelson´s Dockyard, built in the 18th century by the Royal British Navy or the sugar cane plantations and rum distilleries that used to be the foundation of the island´s prosperity.
Visit Fort Christian on Saint Thomas - the oldest standing structure in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It used to be a Dutch stronghold and was much fought over. There is also some great duty free shopping to be done here.
For a good sailing regatta make your way to St. Barths` popular Bucket Race, the Heineken Regatta in Saint Martin, both held in March, or the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in April. Those events are a great opportunity for yachties from all over the world to get together and party after the races.
Apart from parties like that the nightlife in the Caribbean is characterized by a relaxed atmosphere, good wining and dining, the obligatory rum cocktails and steel drum as well as reggae music. It doesn´t get better than that!
You can also go turtle watching (nesting peaks from April to June and hatchlings emerge a few months later), go deep sea fishing, diving, snorkeling or play any other of the many available water sports.
How to charter a boat in the Caribbean?
For bareboat charter you need a skipper´s licence or provide proof of sufficient sailing experience. Alternatively, you can hire a yacht including a captain. There are hundreds of boats available locally in the range from 6 - 20 m. A lot of bigger luxury yachts are on offer for chartering, too. The main bases for boat hire are the British Virgin Islands, Saint Martin and Martinique as they have the best infrastructure and the most charter companies. Also Cuba is more on the rise now and there are more bareboat charter yachts for rent. You can compare daily updated charter offers in YachtFinder directly online.