If you’re going to live on your boat in the Caribbean, or even sail around the region during your time off, it’s worth planning a route that allows you to make the most of some of the best islands available!
So, as the old sailing joke goes: will you turn left, or will you turn right? If you’re heading out from Florida, good luck to you! Only kidding. If you’re heading out from Florida, you could hit the Bahamas first, or choose to go southeastwards and circle back towards the states, dipping in and out as you cruise.
Don’t have a sailboat of your own right now? Not to worry – you can easily fly to Aruba, The Bahama, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, the US Virgin Islands from the US and Canada. And if you don’t mind taking a transfer, you could get to Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, and many more.
So what are these islands really like? Let’s take a look at a few in more detail.
Aruba is pretty arid, but it’s great for folks who don’t want a complicated holiday.
If you’re looking for some beautiful, award-winning beaches and world-class resorts, Aruba could be a great destination for you. Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are the most popular, so you may either want to experience them or head the East of the island where there are less people.
The restaurants and bars are also nice. Some are rated extremely highly, like “2 Fools and a Bull”, in Noord, which serves French and international cuisine. It’s quite pricey, so expect to spend between $200 and $450 for two people, and reserve well in advance, because this place is cosy and very popular.
For something a little more day to day, but superb, you could try Yemanja Woodfired Grill in Oranjestad. It serves seafood, vegetarian, Mediterranean, BBQ and vegan food. The restaurant space doesn’t have great views, but the service and food won’t disappoint. Expect to pay around $50 per person, depending on how much of a sailor’s hunger you’ve built up.
If you’re the adventure sports type or you have teens to entertain, you could make for Malmok beach and do some kite surfing.
Renaissance Marina is located inside Oranjestad harbor next to the oranges (just kidding). According to Aruba Cruising Guide (http://www.aruba-cruisingguide.com/marinas-yards-yacht-clubs/), the harbor entry bouy is at 12° 30.317′ N 70° 02.153′ W, and you’ll need to get hold of Aruba Port Control on channel 16 to get permission and enter the harbor area. They charge $1 per foot per day and there’s 24 hour security and full privileges at the two Renaissance Resorts right next to the marina, but the fees don’t include water, electricity, wifi or cable TV! For more details, here’s the harbors website.
.com . VaraderoCariba also accepts visitors, and there’s a restaurant on their premises. They also offer dry storage, and have a hydraulic boat life trailer for 80 ft by 40 ft vessels weighing up to 60 tons. Get hold of them on +297-588-3840.
The Bahamas are made up of 700 islands and there’s something there for everyone. They’re great if you want to island hop, dive, party or you just need to escape from the US for a while (we didn’t say that).
The Abacos has long stretches of sandy beaches, including Treasure Cay Beach, which has very high reviews. Ocean Beach has pretty, sugar-like sand and Tahiti Beach’s sand is soft and white.
The Exumas have shallow, crystal-clear water that are great for snorkeling and soft, white sand that extends out for miles. Explore on foot or by boat.
If you really must experience a pink beach, Harbour Island might be right up your street, with its famous Pink Sands Beach. Eleuthera Island also features beautiful pink beaches.
The Bahamas is actually a very large area, with some amazing restaurants. If you’re on Nassau, check out Café Matisse, an Italian restaurant with delicious delicacies from between $30 and $100.
If you’re on Great Abaco Island, you mustn’t miss Curly Tails in Marsh Harbour, with its affordable fusion and Bahamian, Caribbean and Mediterranean dishes and beautiful location.
With a million Bays, Cays and Bights to visit, you won’t get bored. Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina could be an excellent place to start your seafaring journey.
Resorts World Bimini has a casino and it’s the largest marina complex in the Bahamas, so bare that in mind.
If you are seeking a quieter spot, get your feet wet at Great Harbour Cay Yacht Club & Marina.
At the West End of Grand Bahama, you‘ll find Old Bahama Resort & Yacht Harbour.
THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
Grand Cayman is a lot like the South Florida area, but with less traffic and resorts of all types. For a slice of American life on an island, great watersports (except surfing!) and, er, a turtle farm, the Cayman Islands make a great sailing destination.
Rum point is a Sunday night sailor’s paradise, and we’re sure to feel right at home. On other days, at around 10 miles from George Town, this area make a wonderful spot to enjoy a Mudslide cocktail and hang out at the Wreck Bar.
Kaibo Beach is shady and a perfect beach for hot days, with its casual atmosphere and excellent local food and music. Don’t miss out on the Kaibo Beach Bar and Grill. Head upstairs for fine dining, or pass by on a Tuesday night for the rum and BBQ parties with local music. To get there, why not take a water taxi from Camana Bay?
If you’re in the mood for a little Asian cuisine, Bombay Chopsticks has fusion, Asian, Indian and Chinese food with amazing reviews. It’s over at East End, and has delicious, spicy food. Mm, seafood curry.
If you’re hanging out visiting George Town, why not spoil yourself with some American, Caribbean and fusion plates at The Brasserie. For around $30, you can enjoy fresh veggies from their garden at the spot off the beaten track.
The Cayman Islands have premiere service marinas, but since they are British Territory, they are also highly regulated. Entry to the islands is controlled by C.I. Immigration and H.M. Customs, and the official port of entry for Grand Cayman is at the main port on the West coast of George Town. Port security are always standing by on VHF channel 16, so be sure to make contact as soon as you’re within 12 miles of the islands for instruction. You’ll need to go through Customs and Immigration, but if you’ve got all your documentation ready, you’ll be fine.
There are a number of marinas to choose from once you’re clear, including The Barcadere Marina (barcadere.com), a world-class, award-winning marina in George Town next to Owen Roberts International Airport. If you moor there, you’ll have access to many local attractions, including Stingray City, the Sandbar, Rum Point, etc. The fees are CI$1.50 (1.83 USD) per foot per day, and they have concrete and hardwood dock with berthing for vessels up to 150 ft in length, luxury washrooms, free wifi and individually metered water and power. They also have a waterfront bar and restaurant with great reviews.
The Cayman Islands Yacht Club and Marina (Tel: (345) 747 2492) is in Governor’s Creek on the west side of Grand Cayman and welcomes privately-owned boats as well as commercial boats.
Harbour House Marina (harbourhousemarina.com) is located at the end of Marina Drive in Prospect, and has canal dockage for visiting sailboats with direct access to the sea. They also have free showers, wifi, laundry, electricity and water, and have a fuel dock that carries 93 octane gasoline and low sulfur diesel.
More Coming Soon
The Caribbean has so much to offer sailors, and we want to cover it all! For more of Captain Gino’s recommended spots, check out The Caribbean, Part 3, coming very soon!