Treasures of the Caribbean: Island Travel Suggestions from Elite Yachtsmen
As appearing in February 2018 edition of Nautique, a Netherlands publication. For full article PDF, contact the magazine or me. Photos are from stock.
Antigua: Rom Loopik, captain, J Class Yacht
The best time to visit Antigua is mid-December through May. Highpoints include the Christmas and New Year’s parties, plus Antigua Race Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in April. Flying in from Europe or the USA is easy; VC Bird International Airport is a hub for southern Caribbean travel.
There are two natural harbors for larger yachts--Falmouth Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard. Falmouth has three main marinas: Catamaran Marina, the Antigua Yacht Club and Falmouth Harbour, the latter being convenient for yachts traveling with workshop/storage containers. Historic Nelson’s Dockyard is located around the corner. A world heritage site named for Admiral Horatio Nelson who lived in the Royal Navy Dockyard from 1784 through 1787, beautiful historic buildings may be explored in this sheltered setting. The region boasts a North Sails loft for repairs and maintenance. Seagull Services can take care of outboards, inflatables and safety equipment. Chippy does all range of high-end carpentry and decking, and Antigua Sails is the best awning maker one can find. Have metal manufacturing needs? Steve Miller is the man to talk to here.
Grenada: Mathew Barker, owner, The Blue Peter, 1930 Alfred Milne
Arrive at Port Louis, a swanky destination on the outskirts of St. George’s. Also try Le Phare Bleu, Prickly Bay or a very safe natural harbor, Secret Harbour Marina. Grenada offers ample diving, rainforest hiking and waterfall views. Good hotels may be found on Grande Anse Beach, located aside many bars and restaurants. Two island dining favorites are the Beach House, somewhat more formal, and the Aquarium overlooking Magazine Beach. Rental cars are available and prices are reasonable.
Temps in Grenada are hot, but the welcome breeze and afternoon rain shower will refresh. As with many Caribbean venues, costs range from cheap to pricey—depending on where you stay and how you travel. And yes, mosquitoes are as plentiful here as on other islands.
Sint Maarten: Jan Verkerk, owner, M/Y Sherakhan and M/Y Legend
Sint Maarten is a great place for all—families, couples, solo travelers. The island has a diverse population and tends to attract a varied mix of tourists. That diversity is celebrated through the island’s wide range of cuisine options. Sint Maarten is a popular hub for inbound and outbound flights. Yacht and charter-lovers will be able to find almost any supply and supplier needed, plus services for onboard guests and visitors.
To best experience the island, rent a car. Select the smallest auto to fit your needs; apart from narrow roads, parking is a nightmare. If you prefer to not rent, taxis and local €1 busses are available. There is one main road around the island. Be advised that traffic becomes insane between 4 and 7PM. Visit Anse Marcel to the north, Marigot and Grand Case to the west, Phillipsburg to the south and Oyster Pond and Orient Bay on the east. Beautiful beaches can be found all around the island, and weather is pleasant year round with temperatures hovering 28-degrees Celsius and higher. There are rainy months and sunny months, so consult a guide for advice.
Sint Maarten caters well to the tourist trade so many venues are within walking distance of the marina. Visit Front Street and Wathey Square for shopping and dining. Little Bay Beach is the place to go if you seek relaxation on the sand. Try Treasure Seekers to discover your inner pirate, and be sure to drive a water-UFO (possible only in Sint Maarten). For lovers of the cinema, we recommend the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit.
Saint Barthélemy: Mark Saurens, CEO, Dutch Sailing Events
Saint Barthélemy (St. Barth) is widely regarded as being an expensive luxury destination, but after a few years visiting the island it has become one of my favorites. If you search, fairly affordable drinks and dining can be found, for example a €6 rum and Coke or a gin and tonic. For cocktails with sunset view, try Shellona at Shell Beach. Down by the marina, Bagatelle offers an excellent meal; price for a dinner is about €150 per person (depending on choice of wine). For more economical fare, find a Vietnamese restaurant in Gustavia or have a burger at Le Select. Either location can provide a meal and drink for less than €20.
Before sailing or motoring into the harbor at Gustavia, check the maps for rock hazards. The channel entrance is wide, but ocean swells can also be a concern. Once anchored or tied securely, it is a short walk to town. St. Barth is host to a superyacht bucket regatta in March and Les Voiles de Saint Barth in April—both events attract numerous sophisticated international guests, and this is when accommodations can get scarce. Find a way to get out on the water—watching the megayachts can be spectacular. For land travel, I suggest booking an electric car rental for about €32. There is a ferry service between St. Barth and Sint Maarten.
Bimini: Reed Nicol, Director of Operations, VanDutch Luxury Yachts
Bimini offers a wealth of luxury amenities, and is a popular destination for Caribbean-bound travelers as well as South Florida residents. Located 80km from Miami, it is an easy cross by powerboat, ferry or yacht. The closest Bahamian island to the U.S., Bimini has miles of white sand beaches, turquoise waters and some of the most diverse marine life in the ocean. Banks, grocers and other necessities are plentiful. Sport fishing is popular in the region, as are scuba diving, snorkeling and treasure hunting; there are many shipwrecks in the area.
Bimini consists of three islands, North Bimini, South Bimini and East Bimini, plus numerous cays. Rumrunners to the United States used to store their stash on these shores, and author Ernest Hemingway dwelt here during summertime. The island is a popular cruise ship and charter location, so ocean travelers will find services required.
We hear from VanDutch owners and others that the personalized service at Resorts World Bimini is excellent. Stay in an elegant suite and enjoy dining each evening at one of 10 on-premises restaurants. There is a casino with baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, more than 160 slot machines, a high-limit gaming salon and sports book. MY and SY guests may sail right up to the casino doors, and once inside, can keep an eye of their vessels courtesy floor-to-ceiling windows that provide an expansive view of the marina.