It’s been only two months since summer left us, and we’re already planning our winter sailing holidays. We miss the warmth. And the sun. And beautiful beaches. And tropical cocktails.
What about you? Where are you dreaming of vacationing this chilly season? The BVIs? The Bahamas? Cuba?
Sailing the Caribbean is one of the best winter holiday destinations in the world. So, to help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a mini Caribbean travel guide comprising the top 10 things to do in the Caribbean this winter.
After spending days cruising the breathtaking waters of the Caribbean, a hike through the El Yunque National Forest is just what you’ll need. This tropical rainforest is only 29,000 acres, but is biologically diverse and houses hundreds of plant and animal species. While hiking the El Yunque National Forest, you’ll see incredible scenic views, cascading waterfalls and rivers. The Big Tree Trail and La Mina Falls are two of the most popular trecks. The El Yunque National Forest is about an hour drive from San Juan, but you can book a day tour or rent a car to get to the north entrance, which is our preferred spot.
The Caribbean may be known for its sea life, but the waters of the Bahamas are also the home of a creature you won’t normally find underwater. That’s right, we know you’ve seen them. Those smiling, hairy pigs that playfully swim through the crystal clear water of the Bahama’s beaches.
Dive off your yacht, swim and snorkel with the brown and white pigs. They live freely on an uninhabited island of Big Major’s Spot in the Exuma island chain. Pig Beach, as it’s appropriately called, will clearly be one the highlights of your yacht charter holiday in the Caribbean. Anchor nearby at the lovely Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
The famous Pitons of St Lucia are one of the most iconic Caribbean sites. To truly experience their beauty, however, you’re going to need to strap on those walking shoes and climb Gros Piton. The highest peak of these mountains is 786 metres, the second highest on the island after Mount Ginie. The treck will take about five hours, but once you arrive at the top you’ll discover incredible views gazing down onto St Lucia’s stunning landscape. This hike is definitely something that should be on everyone’s Caribbean bucket list. On a yacht charter holiday in St Lucia, you can anchor right below the Pitons and take your tender in to Soufriere to start the hike. While you’re here, check out St Lucia’s beautiful Botanical Gardens, too!
Jost Van Dyke, one of the British Virgin Islands, is one of the liveliest islands in the Caribbean. People come here to let loose after spending days or weeks sailing secluded, quiet islands. The options on Jost Van Dyke are endless, but here are a few of the most popular bars: Foxy’s, Sidney’s Peace and Love, Love in the Harbour, Gertrude’s, One Love Bar and Grill, and one of our favourites, Soggy Dollar Bar, where guests are encouraged to swim in — hence the name “Soggy Dollar”. Just make sure you don’t drink too many Painkillers (their signature drink) before swimming back to your boat. An afternoon of bar hopping on this beautiful island may not be the most adventurous or strenuous activity on your Caribbean bucket list, but it’s sure to be one of the most fun.
During mid-January to late-March every year, the spectacular arrival of thousands of Humpback whales is a sight not too miss. After nine months of living in the Atlantic, the whales return to the Dominican Republic’s Samana Bay, which has been a popular winter whale home for centuries. Spotting the whales is fairly easy – you might even hear the male humpback’s courting song. There are plenty of other things to do and see while sailing the Dominican Republic on a yacht charter holiday. Take a day to check out the Blue Mountains – the coffee they produce in the hills here is unreal – or cruise over to the Los Haitises National Park, which is predominantly only accessible by boat.
This will undoubtedly be a highlight of your sailing holiday in the Caribbean. The Baths sit on the southwest tip of Virgin Gorda Island, in the BVIs. You can walk and snorkel through these incredible geological formations, made up of a series of huge granite boulders that form sea pools, scenic grottos and caves. Explore these natural phenomena and see the magical reflections of light among the structures. One of the highlights here is Devil’s Bay, one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, which has beautiful clear water for swimming and snorkelling. End your day at the Yacht Club Costa Smerelda or the Bitter End Yacht Club.
In the North Sound of Grand Cayman Island lies Stingray City, a series of shallow sandbars that allow travellers the opportunity to swim with stingrays in beautiful clear water. The stingrays are regularly fed and are familiar with visitors, so prepare to get up close as you watch them swim around your feet. For those looking for an even more intimate experience, book a scuba dive and sink down to the floor of the ocean to sit with the stingrays on the sand. While you’re in the Caymans, one of our favourite spots on Grand Cayman Island is Seven Mile Beach, with its seemingly endless stretch of white sand and warm, light blue water.
Imagine soaring through the canopy of a dense, green jungle in the Caribbean, 200 metres in the air and safely fastened to a harness. Ziplining through the jungle will be a highlight of your yacht charter holiday in the Caribbean – you’ll experience a whole new Caribbean perspective. Get the adrenaline pumping at Punta Cana Zipline Canopy Adventure. Or, if you’re in St. Lucia, try the Aerial Tram and Zipline Canopy Tour. If you’re holidaying in Jamaica, head to the Jamaica Sky Explorer and Zipline Tour from Montego Bay.
After ziplining through the sky, we’re guessing you’ll probably be looking for something a little more calming. How about a romantic river cruise in the Jamaican jungle? Just you, your loved one, and your guide, gliding downriver on a bamboo raft. These tours include transfers to and from the jungle, a three-mile ride down the Martha Brae, a complimentary fruit drink and a visit to Miss Martha’s herb garden. Take the kids or go alone, and discover the legend of the Martha Brae.
Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands and, with its incredible beaches, Spanish colonial architecture and vibrant culture, it’s one of our favourites. Havana was established in 1519, and its colourful old town is a fantastic sight. Here you’ll find music, art and culture among cobblestone streets and Baroque and Neoclassical buildings. In the evening, stroll down the brightly lit Malecon, a broad esplanade and seawall that stretches along Havana’s coast. Start your Cuban sailing holiday in Cienfuegos, where you can charter a yacht at their world-class marina.
Feeling the Caribbean winter holiday vibes? Check out our latest offer and rent a yacht in the Caribbean for 10% off!
What do you think of our list? Are there any other items on your Caribbean bucket list? Let us know in the comments!
Thank you to Mark Smith, cdorobek, Mark Hodson, ornoth, John K, hcabral, Acquarius Sea Tours, Chris Short, Cesar, and lezumbalaberenjena for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note all were under Creative Commons Licences at the time of publishing.