The Best Caribbean Bareboat Charter Destinations

Best Caribbean Bareboat Charter Destinations

While far-off, exotic yacht charters might be intriguing, nothing beats a Caribbean bareboat charter destination right in our own backyard.

Tropical sandy beaches, steady trade winds, lazy beach bars, and convenient travel options characterize a visit to these many islands.

And if you’re limited to a week or 10 days, you’ll get to spend more time on your catamaran with a tropical beverage, and less stuffed into a crowded flight.

From Grenada to Puerto Rico, nearly every country in the leeward and windward islands has a Caribbean sailing vacation option for you.

So let’s dive in. If you are still early in your chartering journey, these are the top Caribbean bareboat charter destinations you need to explore. You can visit each many times, and still find new fresh adventure on a return trip.

I’m on my 11th yacht charter (still in my 30s), and I’ve only visited one destination outside of these six (Key West and the Dry Tortugas).

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter
Sunset at North Sound, Virgin Gorda in the BVIs

British Virgin Islands

Yes, the British Virgin Islands is the obvious choice, but you have to put it first on the list. It’s the global yacht charter capital.

Not only is the BVIs the best place for first-timers, but you’ll find yourself returning year after year. There’s something about it that keeps drawing you back.

I’ve spoken with some old salts that have made over 30 trips!

It’s popularity owes itself to the unique geography, with many islands and bays to explore, sheltered from the trade wind driven swells.

The sailing is predictable and navigation is easy with short, line of sight passages.

Beach bars, restaurants, and amenities galore, the majority of BVI’s economy caters to charterers.

My BVI destination page is a good place to start to learn more about the BVIs.

Devil's Bay beach at the Baths in BVI
Boulders at Devil's Bay | the Baths, BVI
Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
Lagoon swimming on the north shore of Anegada
white bay east side jost van dyke
Beach bars line White Bay, Jost van Dyke

Highlights of a British Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Hike through the gigantic granite boulders at the Baths to Devils Bay

  • Anchor in North Sound and enjoy the sights of one of the finest harbors in the Caribbean

  • Sail offshore to the sunken island, Anegada. Sip cold beverages at rustic beach bars on the beautiful north shore

  • Go Beach Bar hopping for painkillers at famous White Bay, Jost van Dyke

  • Jump into the water from the second deck of the floating pirate ship bar, Willy-T at Norman Island

Sandy Cany sandbar in the Exumas
One of the many sandbars in the Exumas, this one at Sandy Cay

Exuma, Bahamas

Yes, I know, it’s not technically the Caribbean, but it’s close enough.

I love the Exumas for the fishing, solitude, easy travel options from the USA, oh, and those dreamy blues…

This is also more of an advanced sailing destination and I would not recommend it until you have 2+ charters under your belt. You’ll need to anchor more frequently and pay close attention to weather, tides, currents, and depths. We first visited the Exumas on my third sailing trip.

The water in the Exumas is absolutely stunning, with some of the most vibrant turquoise blues I’ve ever seen.

If you want to learn more about the Exumas, check out my cruising guide, or my Exuma destination page.

Pirate's Lair in the Exuma Bahamas on a Exuma Yacht Charter
Pirate's Lair at Warderick Wells in the Exuma Land and Sea Park
Wahoo caught on the drop in the Exumas sound
Catching wahoo on the drop in the Exumas
Staniel Cay anchorage near Thunderball Grotto
Navigating to the anchorage near Staniel Cay and the Thunderball Grotto

Highlights of an Exuma, Bahamas yacht charter

  • Visit the Exuma Land and Sea Park – our favorite mooring field is the Pirate’s Lair

  • Dinghy the mangrove river at Shroud Cay and hike up to Camp Driftwood

  • Pass through a cut to the Exuma Sound and fish the drop for mahi, tuna, and wahoo

  • Cross the Yellow Bank and stop for lunch at one of the many coral heads you’ll pass along the way

  • Grab a peanut colada at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and snorkel nearby Thunderball Grotto

Sunset at Green Beach Vieques
Sunset at Green Beach in Vieques

Spanish Virgin Islands

Part of Puerto Rico, they lie right next to the US Virgin Islands.

If you want to seek out the old school Caribbean vibe, the Spanish Virgin Islands are for you. They are far less popular and developed than their Virgin Island neighbors to the east.

The SVIs consist primarily of Culebra, Culebrita, and Vieques. There are also a number of smaller cayos to explore as well.

You can find two of the most stunning beaches in all of the Caribbean here: Playa Flamenco and Playa Tortugas.

If you want to learn more about the SVIs, I wrote a cruising guide, with more info on the SVI destination page.

View of Culebrita, one of the Culebra anchorages
Tortuga Beach and the lighthouse at Culebrita
Lagoon 46 in the Spanish Virgin Islands, Culebra at sunset; culebra anchorage
Epic sunset at a Carlos Rosario
Tank at Flamenco Beach
One of the abandoned tanks at Playa Flamenco

Highlights of a Spanish Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Hike to the abandoned lighthouse at the top of Culebrita for incredible 360 views

  • Sip $2 Medallas from the vendors at Playa Flamenco

  • Snorkel the beautiful reef from your mooring ball at Carlos Rosario

  • Watch an epic sunset over the Puerto Rico mainland at Green Beach

  • Take a bioluminescence kayak tour at Mosquito Bay

Petit Rameau at Tobago Cays
The idyllic Tobago Cays, a must stop in the Grenadines

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

You’ll enjoy easy sailing, white sandy beaches, abundant marine life, and many vintage Caribbean beach bars to help cool you off.

Consider a roundtrip or a 1-way passage south to Grenada. This option avoids a potential uncomfortable upwind slog back to St. Vincent.

Most people don’t spend much time on the main island of St. Vincent – the many unspoiled islands of the Grenadines to the south beckon.

If you want to learn more about the Grenadines, pick up a copy of the Sailor’s Guide to the Windward Islands.

Anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay
The anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay
Petit Tebac
Captain Jack Sparrow's island, Petit Tebac
The lone umbrella at Mopion Island
The lone umbrella at Mopion Island

Highlights of a St. Vincent and the Grenadines yacht charter

  • Visit the stunning Tobago Cays, snorkel the coral reefs, swim with turtles, and arrange for a lobster beach barbeque

  • Anchor at idyllic Salt Whistle Bay and walk along the beautiful palm-lined beach

  • Explore the island where Captain Jack Sparrow was marooned – Petit Tabac

  • Head to Mustique and grab a cocktail at the legendary Basil’s Bar

  • Get your picture taken with the umbrella on the castaway island, Mopion

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We have relationships with the Caribbean yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
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Often photographed Trunk Bay at St. John, USVI

US Virgin Islands

During Covid, the US Virgin Islands made a resounding comeback due to travel restrictions elsewhere. Many long-time BVI visitors discovered the USVIs for the first time. Some were pleasantly surprised!

Why is the USVI appealing? Good provisioning options, cheaper prices, and direct flight options are a few reasons.

Consisting of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, most boaters spend the abundance of their time circumnavigating St. John and visiting the pristine National Park areas.

You can even use it as a jumping off point to explore the Spanish Virgin Islands. Read about how I did this in my recent USVI and SVI bareboat charter trip.

Epic sunset at Magen's Bay, St Thomas, USVI
The lovely bight of Magens Bay
Beautiful fall day at the Maho Bay mooring field on our US Virgin Islands bareboat charter trip
Beautiful day at Maho Bay in the Virgin Islands National Park
Christmas Cove anchorage on our USVI bareboat charter in the US Virgin Islands
Christmas Cove anchorage and a sunset over St. Thomas

Highlights of a US Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Lounge on the beach at Maho Bay and take in the spectacular surroundings

  • Be adventurous and conduct an offshore passage to St. Croix to visit the pastel-colored town of Christiansted

  • Stroll the lovely town of Cruz Bay and grab a bite to eat or do some shopping

  • Sail the north shore of St. Thomas to the bight at Magens Bay. Simply enjoy the magical scenery or head ashore for a drink at the beach bar

  • Enjoy the solitude of the Salt Pond Bay anchorage – lime away the afternoon or hike for the views at Ram’s Head

Shirley Heights Overlook at the Sunday barbeque during our Antigua bareboat charter
Historic English Harbour in Antigua

Antigua & Barbuda

After spending a lot of time recently in the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, we recently visited Antigua and Barbuda and absolutely loved it. You can read about the trip here.

Antigua and Barbuda is a single country, located in the southern Leeward Islands near Montserrat and Guadeloupe (potential offshore destinations for a longer yacht charter trip).

This destination has something for every type of crew. Gorgeous beaches (they attest to having 365 of them), offshore fishing, plenty of bars and restaurants, British naval history, reef snorkeling, and some adventure at offshore Barbuda.

Why else do I like this Caribbean bareboat charter destination? It has a great balance of the get-away-from-it-all anchorages that we enjoy, but it also has a great beach bar/nightlife scene.

pink beach in Barbuda
Quiet pink beaches await after an offshore sail to Barbuda
Antigua bareboat charter
Carlisle Bay on a Antigua yacht charter
With 365 beaches, there's one for every day

Highlights of a Antigua & Barbuda yacht charter

  • Sail offshore to Barbuda, one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems; anchor in solitude anywhere along the Caribbean’s longest pink sand beach (11 miles)

  • Relax amongst the reefs at peaceful Green Island

  • Drag some fishing lines and catch mahi, wahoo, or tuna in the deeper water offshore

  • Hike to Shirley Heights for commanding views and some nightlife at their famous Sunday evening bbq parties

  • Gaze at 200 foot mega yachts in Falmouth Harbour or rub elbows with the rich and famous at the establishments ashore near historic Nelson’s Dockyard

  • Arrange for a tour of the frigate bird sanctuary at Codrington Lagoon

Book your next yacht charter with us

We have relationships with the Caribbean yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.

Thanks for reading my post about the best Caribbean bareboat charter destinations! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about how the British Virgin Islands’ vibe is changing.

BVI Catamaran Charter: 10 Day Sailing Plan

swimming at white bay jost van dyke

Do you have 10 days to explore the British Virgin Islands on a BVI catamaran charter? I envy you! I usually only have time for week-long yacht charter trips.

I drew up the perfect 7-day sailing itinerary for the BVIs, but what if you have a few extra days?

Here’s how I would design it, let’s dive in!

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter
Looking towards Saba Rock in North Sound

The yacht charter plan: 10 days sailing the British Virgin Islands

Day 1: Head for North Sound

Is sailing up to North Sound too ambitious for your first day? No!

It’s only a 2-3 hour trip, and there’s no better setting to enjoy a first night aboard.

Sail up Sir Francis Drake Channel from the Road Town area and skip the Baths (we’ll come back!). If you haven’t been before, try Mountain Point for a lunch and snorkel stop along the way at the NW tip of Virgin Gorda. The Dogs are also a great alternative if there are no moorings available or if there is a northerly swell running. Read more about BVI sailing conditions.

Grab a mooring ball near the Bitter End Yacht Club or Saba Rock and marvel at the beauty or the protected harbor of North Sound.

Pour yourself a cocktail, you’ve arrived in paradise!

Consider making a reservation ahead of time at either the BEYC or Saba Rock. You can’t go wrong with either to enjoy an excellent meal to kick off the trip.

Boulders at Devils Bay at the Baths
Devils Bay at the Baths, Virgin Gorda

Day 2: Explore Virgin Gorda and the Baths

Today we’re going exploring ashore. Make the quick motor across the sound to Leverick Bay for a change of scenery. You can pick up a mooring ball, or spend the night on the dock if you wish.

Grab some walking shoes and arrange for a taxi to take you for a shore-based visit of the Baths. I like this option since you don’t have to worry about red flag conditions on the beach from a northerly swell. No need to swim ashore from your catamaran!

On the way, consider grabbing a bite at Hog Heaven and marveling at the panoramic views.

You can also consider eating at the Top of the Baths after hiking through the giant boulders. All in, it’s about a 30 minute taxi ride, one way.

Today is also a great opportunity to eat that CocoMaya, one of the top-rated restaurants in the BVIs with a gorgeous setting. Make sure to make reservations early! Leverick Bay also has excellent options for dinner.

Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
The lagoon of Cow Wreck Beach

Day 3: Sail offshore to the Sunken Island, Anegada

Next up we’re sailing north to my favorite BVI destination, Anegada. I wrote more about navigating to Anegada and what to expect there in this post.

This is a great day to get those fishing lines in the water – you can expect to catch mahi, little tunny, mackerel, or barracuda along the way (check out these BVI fishing tips).

I like spending 2 days at the sailing destination of Anegada on our BVI catamaran charters – it is 100% worth it, trust me.

Break up your visit into 2 parts:

  1. Epic north shore beach exploring on your first day

  2. Horseshoe Reef tour on your second day

Grab a mooring ball at Setting Point, get your things organized, and head ashore for a full day of beaching and liming away the afternoon. You can taxi it, but we like to rent mokes for the flexibility they offer.

In the morning, we usually head to Flash of Beauty which lays claim to the best snorkeling spot on the island. Just to the west is Loblolly Bay.

Big Bamboo or Monica at Flash of Beauty can serve you up something for lunch. Try Monica’s roti!

Set your sights for Cow Wreck Beach in the afternoon for some lagoon swimming and chilling at TIPSY’s beach bar.

After a long day, take it easy and mix up something easy for dinner aboard your catamaran with a sundowner and an epic sunset.

Conch mounds in Anegada on a BVI catamaran charter

Day 4: Tour beautiful Horseshoe Reef

Before you get picked up for your tour, make lobster dinner reservations at one of the establishments at Setting Point.

A couple weeks before your trip, you’ll want to reserve a tour with Kelly or Sherwin. I’ve used Kelly in the past, but I’ve heard Sherwin is great too from what I hear.

They’ll pick you up right from your yacht sometime mid-morning. t’s a fun ~30 minute speedboat ride out to the reef. He’ll set you up on a drift snorkel and you can also help him look for lobster. While it’s illegal for visitors to take lobster, Kelly and Sherwin are able to when they are in season. They can also hook you up with conch.

The reef is really beautiful, and we’ve even seen nurse sharks and eagle rays.

After the snorkel, you’ll stop by the famous conch mounds on your way back. Make sure to hop in the water and get your picture taken.

Back at the yacht, relax and get ready for an awesome lobster dinner party, right on the beach.

sunset at Cane Garden Bay in the BVIs on a bvi catamaran charter
Sunset view in Cane Garden Bay

Day 5: Enjoy an easy downwind sail to Cane Garden Bay

With prevailing easterly trades, this is usually an enjoyable downwind sail to Cane Garden Bay. If you’re fishing again, troll over the wreck of the Chikuzen – there are a lot of big fish that hang out here.

I like Guana Island for a lunch stop. Monkey Point has good snorkeling or if you are looking for more of a challenge, try anchoring at Muskmelon Bay. I talk about it in my secret BVI anchorages post.

Cane Garden Bay is a quintessential Caribbean bay with it’s pastel colored houses and palm tree lined beach.

This is a great day to re-stock on provisions mid-trip if you need something. Bobby’s Supermarket is a well stocked grocery store you can walk to from the dinghy dock.

Pro tip – pick up a mooring ball at the back end of the anchorage. It’s a longer dinghy ride ashore, but you’ll be rewarded with an unspoiled view of the sunset over Jost van Dyke to the west.

Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit (pre-Hurricane Irma)

BVI Catamaran Charter Day 6: Relax at Sandy Spit and hike to the Bubbly Pool

Take your time in the morning – you aren’t going far. Mosey up north and drop the hook at the anchorage to the west of Sandy Spit – it’s a idyllic uninhabited white sandy island.

Swim, snorkel, or head ashore for a picnic.

After lunch, the moorings at Diamond Cay are a good option to overnight. You have access to two excellent bars/restaurant – Foxy’s Taboo and B-Line. You can’t go wrong with either.

The Bubbly Pool is another popular attraction which is around a half mile walk from the dinghy dock at Foxy’s. Waves crash through the rocks here into a pool that you can swim in. Try and time it for high tide – it will be more exciting!

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
Liming away the afternoon with some painkillers

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We have relationships with all of the BVI yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
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Day 7: Party at the famous Jost Van Dyke beach bars

Today is another beach day. Woo!

This is your day to just chill – and there is no better place than the beach bars at White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.

World famous Soggy Dollar Bar, inventor of the painkiller, beckons. Check out their webcam for a live look at the action.

You have two options for anchorages. The easiest option is to grab a mooring ball in Great Harbour, dingy ashore, and then either grab a short cab, or walk ~30 minutes to White Bay.

You can also relocate the yacht to White Bay, but you’ll need to exercise caution. For some bareboat charter companies, White Bay is off limits because squalls and backwinding can easily put boats on the beach – so, check first. It can also get very crowded, and the anchorage is tight – there is not much room for error.

I talk about my concerns in this post and some of the other options you have for enjoying White Bay.

We are content to just hang out on the beach at Soggy Dollar Bar all day long, sipping painkillers. But you should check out the others if you want to explore!

Hendo’s Hideout, next door, is newer to the scene. The food here is fantastic.  Coco Loco, Gertrude’s, and Ivan’s are also worth checking out.

Norman Island Caves British Virgin Islands
The famous caves you can snorkel at Norman Island

Day 8: Norman Island’s floating bar and the Indians

On the way to Norman Island, make a pit stop at the Indians for some snorkeling around the pinnacles that jut from the sea. It can get busy, so try and arrive early!

If you need water or fuel, Soper’s Hole is a good option on your way.

Continue to Norman Island and grab a mooring ball in one of the biggest anchorages in the BVIs. Read more about what to do at Norman Island in this article I wrote.

If you didn’t get enough snorkeling, hop back in the dinghy and head over to The Caves – Normand Island, and in part, this snorkel site is rumored to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. There are 3 caves here that make for an awesome snorkel experience.

The legendary Willy T (or William Thornton) resides in the Bight and is a permanently moored bar and restaurant, known for it’s wild times among cruisers and vacationers.

Grab some food, a cocktail, and be sure to jump into the bight off the upper deck.

fresh mahi caught on a sailboat during a bvi yacht charter
Fresh mahi hitting the deck

Day 9: Fishing and chilling at Peter Island

This is a bit of a free day. If you like fishing, head for the shelf and south drop on the other side of Norman Island. We have had some success with mahi in this area.

Peter Island is a good overnight – check out Key Bay for some seclusion. There is only room for a couple boats. Conveniently located here is the wreck of the old Willy T. In 2019, Beyond the Reef successfully sunk the Willy T here as an artificial reef. It was beached nearby at Norman Island after Hurricane Irma.

It’s best as a dive, but you might be able to see it snorkeling with good visibility.

Other Peter Island anchorages we like are Little Harbour or Deadman’s Bay.

HMS Rhone diving on a bvi catamaran charter
Diving the HMS Rhone

Day 10: Dive the Rhone and celebrate at Cooper Island

Last day or your bareboat or crewed charter! Let’s make the most of it. Sail for Salt Island and the moorings where you can snorkel/dive the famous wreck of the HMS Rhone, a National Park site. It always impresses me just how big this dive site is.

After lunch, sail for Cooper Island. Make sure you are familiar with BoatyBall as you might have to play the lottery to secure a mooring ball here. Anchoring is prohibited to protect the sea grass.

We always try and eat ashore here to celebrate our final night in the British Virgin Islands. The meal never disappoints and the rum bar and brewery are also worth checking out.

Sunsets here are spectacular over Tortola and the US Virgin Islands to the west. Not a bad way to finish up your BVI catamaran charter trip!

First time on a BVI catamaran charter? You might want to check out my Bareboat Charter Guide for Beginners.

Want to take a BVI trip like this one?

We have relationships with all of the BVI yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.

Exuma Sailing Itinerary: 10 Days to See it All

10-day Exuma Sailing Itinerary

Stretching well over 100 miles in length from north to south, there is a lot of ground to cover on an Exuma yacht charter.

Too much, in fact, for a week-long round trip Exuma sailing itinerary from Nassau, Bahamas. If we only have 7 days, we usually turn around mid-way, around Staniel Cay. There is just too much to see!

But, let’s say you want to sail through all of the Exuma Cays. Is it possible?

Yes, I’m going to show you how to do it. Have two weeks? Even better.

If you’re planning a trip like this and don’t yet have a copy of the Explorer Chartbook for the Exumas, make sure you pick up a copy. It’s the gold standard.

To learn more about an Exuma yacht charter, check out my Exumas page or the Exuma Criusing Guide.

Let’s get into it.

Sandbar at Sandy Cay on a Exuma yacht charter
The Sandy Cay sandbar near Staniel Cay

Why this plan works to sail the Exuma Bahamas

Remember, we’re trying to see it all! If you have an extra few days, perfect. You can slow down a bit. Another idea is to skip Elizabeth Harbour – this will give you an extra more chill day or two to relax.

But to get all the way down and back to Georgetown, Great Exuma, we’ll be moving about 20 nautical miles a day. Here’s what to expect:

  • 2-3 hours of sailing a day (a couple longer days)

  • A new destination each night

  • We’ll take a few extra days to go south when you’re more likely to be sailing to windward; heading back north you should have some downwind sailing

  • A beach bar or restaurant every couple days (but not every night, this is the Exumas!)

  • Several options to re-provision along the way

  • If you attempt this trip in the winter months, be prepared for a possible itinerary disruption should a cold front sweep down, which they do like clockwork every few days

The Highbourne Cay Marina

The 10-day Exuma Sailing Itinerary

Day 1: Cross the Yellow Bank to Highbourne Cay

After your sleepaboard, try and get an early start to cross the ~30 nautical miles over the Yellow Bank to the northern part of the Exuma Cay chain.

It the weather is settled, it’s fun to stop mid-way for lunch on the Yellow Bank. Toss out the anchor in 10-15 feet of water, and enjoy a snorkel of a nearby coral head. Perhaps you’ll find some Bahamian lobster for dinner (lobster season runs August 1 – March 31)! Snorkeling may be difficult if the tides are running – exercise caution.

Highbourne Cay is a good option for your first night. Near your anchorage, the beach is beautiful and is great for an evening stroll. The Highbourne Rocks also offer great snorkeling.

Crack a beer and enjoy the view – it doesn’t get any better than this. You’ve arrived in paradise.

Shroud cay anchorage and the mangrove river
The Sanctuary Creek mangrove river at Shroud Cay

Day 2: Sail south to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is huge, with over 170 square miles. It’s an ecological reserve and marine sanctuary – you won’t be disappointed by the snorkeling here.

One of my favorite highlights of the Exumas is riding the mangrove river at Shroud Cay to the water slide. The Sanctuary Creek dinghy ride is an absolute must for any Exumas visit.

The mangrove “river” is full of sea life such as turtles and rays. On other other side is the absolutely stunning Driftwood Beach and Camp Driftwood.

PLEASE NOTE: you need to check the tides and begin this river ride on a mid to, rising tide. This will give you time to explore and avoid being stranded. The river is only passable on a mid or high tide. If this doesn’t work out for your second day, try to work this in on the back end of your yacht charter.

Beach your dinghy, and enjoy a ride or two on the water slide. Here’s a video of us enjoying it on a recent charter tip.

Camp Driftwood is worth exploring, so bring some walking shoes. It was built in the 1960s by a hermit who lived there with his sailboat. The camp was later used by the DEA to conduct reconnaissance on the drug kingpin Carlos Lehder’s operation at Norman Cay.

Emerald Rock mooring at Warderick wells on a Exuma sailing itinerary
Emerald Park mooring field - that beach you see is awesome!

Day 3: Visit the jewel of the Exumas Park, Warderick Wells

Keep sailing through the park to one of the more popular destinations on this Exuma sailing itinerary, Warderick Wells, for good reason.

We recommend grabbing a mooring ball in the Emerald Rock mooring field. When you are within range, call “Exuma Park” on channel 9 to check ball availability. Once you’ve taken one notify them. You can pay the $35 mooring ball fee at the Visitor Center (larger yachts have higher fees). They also might send around a boat to collect the it.

The Emerald Rock area is near a couple beautiful white sand beaches and has trail access to the wonderful hiking on Warderick Wells. Make a quick dinghy ride over to the visitors center to snap a picture with the whale skeleton. They can give you a trail map too.

Boo Boo Hill is a popular destination and the highest point on the cay. It’s tradition for cruisers to leave a piece of driftwood behind with your boat’s name on it.

Staniel Cay Anchorage
Anchorage near Staniel Cay with Thunderball Grotto in the background

Day 4: Enjoy an evening at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club

It’s back to civilization as we leave the park boundaries.

Sandy Cay is a fun lunch stop close by with one of my favorite sandbars. Anchor on the west side and head ashore for a picnic!

Big Major Cay is the location of the famous swimming pigs. Some words of caution: this is a busy anchorage, so if you’re looking for more solitude, check out Between the Majors anchorage (more advanced anchoring) or Bitter Guana Cay a bit farther south.

Pig beach is fun to see once, but it isn’t a place I’ll need to return. Go get your pictures while swimming with the pigs if you decide to stop here.

The other famous attraction in the area is Thunderball Grotto. It’s an amazing cave snorkel featured in the James Bond movie Thunderball. It’s a short dinghy ride over from Big Major Cay. Otherwise, there are several places to anchor your yacht nearby. Try and plan your visit for slack tide.

Don’t miss your chance to do some re-provisioning and dump some trash. Use the government dock to access two of the nearby grocery stores.

The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the biggest establishment you’ll come across in this part of the Exumas. We like to plan a meal ashore here, for either lunch or dinner. At a minimum you’ll want to try out their SCYC original – the Peanut Colada.

Lee Stocking Island during an Exuma sailing itinerary

Day 5: Onwards to Lee Stocking Island

If the weather is settled, consider using one of the cuts to enter the Exuma Sound for some deep water fishing. If you go in the fall, it’s a great time to catch some wahoo – my favorite eating fish. Check out our sailboat fishing guide for some advice or my more specific Exuma fishing tips post.

This is a longer day on the water, as we’re going to make a push all the way down to the northern part of Great Exuma. Rudder Cay Cut or Galliot Cut are good final options to transit to the Exuma Sound.

You have a few options for anchorages, so it depends what your crews likes. A lot depends on how strong the easterly winds are blowing as some can be quite rolly.

A good option is Lee Stocking Island where you can go ashore and visit the abandoned marine research center – deserted since 2012. Recent reports are that it might be under construction and will be re-opened in the future.

Go ashore for some hiking and exploration after a long day on the water. You can hike to Perry’s Peak, the tallest point in all of the Exuma Cays.

Or, just relax and float in the turquoise water with a cold beer!

You should have very good protection here from easterly winds.

The Chat n Chill beach bar

Day 6: Visit the Bahamas cruiser’s paradise of Elizabeth Harbour

This is our final day heading south on this Exuma sailing itinerary. Use Conch Cay Cut to enter the channel to Elizabeth Harbour, a large, sheltered basin with room to spread out for hundreds of yachts.

Many full-time cruising yachts spend time here, especially in the winter. But don’t worry, you’ll fit in just fine as a charter yacht.

I would set up shop at the top 10 beach bar of Chat n Chill and spend the day liming away the afternoon. Enjoy the people watching and hustle/bustle of the cruising community that has been established here.

If you need to stock up on supplies, dinghy over to Lake Victoria where there is a dinghy dock. You’ll find plenty of shopping options within walking distance.

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Anchorage on the west side of Little Farmers Cay

Day 7: Back north to Little Farmers Cay

Time to retrace our Exuma sailing itinerary steps! This is probably our longest day on the water, at ~40nm. Get an early start if you can.

This is another great day for fishing as you can as you can ride the drop nearly the entire way up to Farmers Cut.

We’ll spend the night at Little Farmers Cay, one of the more established areas in this part of the Exumas. You have a few anchorage options – try Great Harbour to be closer to the action.

Head ashore to explore at the Farmers Cay Yacht Club or the government dock at Little Harbour. The Ocean Cabin is a popular local spot to grab a bite.

Hiking on Compass Cay Exumas
Hiking to Crescent Beach on Compass Cay

Day 8: Beach day at Compass Cay

Get those sails up again on your catamaran for a ~20nm passage to Compass Cay. You have a few options for anchoring. I like the Compass Cay (Outer Anchorage) since it is less affected by the tides. 

If you want more of a challenge, check out the many options at Pipe Cay. It’s a maze of sandbars and one of the most beautiful areas in the Exumas. 

Compass Cay Marina is worth a visit. Get your pictures with the nurse sharks and check out the trails on the cay. Crescent Beach on the east side is said to be one of the finest beaches in the world. It’s a short hike.

Pack a cooler of cold ones and spend the afternoon at this beautiful spot.

Note that you’ll have to pay a landing fee for your dinghy and crew.

Enjoying a final night's sunset at Norman's Cay

Day 9: Final night in the Exuma Cays at Norman’s Cay

The main attraction at Norman’s Cay is the sunken drug plane from Carlos Lehder’s activities in the 1970s. If you want to snorkel it, try and do so at slack tide.

Macduff’s is a quaint restaurant ashore which seems like it is in the middle or nowhere. You may want to radio ahead for reservations if you plan to eat there for dinner.

Anchoring is easy on the west side of the cay. You can also anchor in the cut closer to the sunken plane – you will swing on the tide, so be prepared.

Another final night option is to head farther north to Allen’s Cay. This is the location for the local species of iguanas. There are numerous anchorages marked on the charts. Be prepared to share the area with tour boats depending on when you arrive.

Palm Cay Marina in Nassau, gateway to an Exuma Yacht Charter
Palm Cay Marina on a calm day

Day 10: Crossing back to Palm Cay to complete the Exuma sailing itinerary

Hopefully the wind gods cooperate and give you some great, downwind sailing. The first time we made this crossing back to Nassau, we had 5 knots directly behind us – no fun!

If you weren’t able to have a lunch stop at a coral head, give it a shot.

You may either return to the Palm Cay marina and enjoy the amenities, or, head over to Rose Island if you prefer another night on the hook. Make sure you plan for time in the morning to return and go through check-out procedures – it’s about an hour’s motor.

Sandy Toes is a excursion-focused bar at Rose Island. There are mixed reports of whether they permit cruisers to come ashore.

Thanks for reading my post about a 10-day Exuma Sailing Itinerary. If you enjoyed it, you might like some of the other articles I’ve written about the Exumas.

The BVI Beach Top 10 List

BVI Beach Top 10 list in the British Virgin Islands

After many bareboat yacht charter trips to the British Virgin Islands over the years, I’ve put together my Top Ten BVI Beach List. Yes, I’ve checked each of these out personally.

Some of these are accessible only by boat, and others are intended to be visited by land. There’s something for everyone! Most BVI beaches have everything you would want in a tropical Caribbean setting: white sand, palm trees, turquoise water, and nearby beach bars.

If that sounds good to you, these are the best beaches in the British Virgin Island you need to visit and what you can expect to find there:

  1. Anegada’s north shore beaches: Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay

  2. Devil’s Bay at the Baths

  3. White Bay Beach, Jost van Dyke

  4. Sandy Spit

  5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

  6. Smuggler’s Cove

  7. Deadman’s Bay, Peter Island

  8. Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

  9. White Bay, Guana Island

  10. Brewer’s Bay, Tortola

Loblolly Bay offers excellent snorkeling and beach walking

1. Anegada’s north shore beaches: Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay

Anegada’s north shore beaches stand alone atop this list. It is one of my favorite places to visit and a highlight of any British Virgin Islands yacht charter trip.

These beaches are best visited by renting transportation (mokes preferably) from vendors in Setting Point. You can learn more about how to do that in my post on visiting Anegada.

Start on the east end with Flash of Beauty where you can find the best snorkeling in the BVIs and a great lunch spot. Monica’s roti is the pick of the menu. Wander along the beach of Loblolly Bay and consider a visit to Big Bamboo.

After lunch, hop back in your mokes and work your way to Cow Wreck Beach. Lagoon style swimming and liming away the afternoon is all that’s on the agenda. Grab a cocktail or two from Tipsy’s or the Cow Wreck Beach Bar.

If you are into windsurfing the north shore is your best option in the BVIs. You can rent equipment and other water sports from the Anegada Beach Club.

Devil's Bay beach at the Baths in BVI
The small, but stunning Devil's Bay, part of the The Baths

2. Devil’s Bay at the Baths

The reward at the end of your hike through the Baths is a stunning little sandy bay beach surrounding by immense granite boulders. We usually hang out here for an hour or so – there is no better place than Devil’s Bay to relax and swim.

After a morning dip, you can take the trail to the Top of the Baths for lunch and commanding views of the area.

If you plan to visit by charter yacht, make sure you arrive to the NPS mooring balls early! They fill up fast, especially in peak season.

You also need to pay attention to the beach safety flags which can be seen from the mooring field. If a north swell is running it can be hazardous to swim ashore (there is no dinghy landing allowed). A red flag indicates danger.

Still want to visit if there is a north swell? Grab a slip in Spanish Town to the north and take a taxi to the Baths. You can also taxi from other Virgin Gorda locations, such as North Sound.

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
The Soggy painkiller lineup at White Bay Beach

3. White Bay Beach, Jost van Dyke

You can’t write a top 10 BVI beach list without including White Bay towards the top of the it. It can also be found atop several “best of the Caribbean” lists. Recently in USA Today’s Top 10 Caribbean Beach Bars, the Soggy took #1 and Hendo’s Hideout, #4.

It’s the best place in the British Virgin Islands to spend a full day beach bar hopping. Be prepared for crowds, however, as it’s the most popular beach in the BVIs.

Visit the Soggy Dollar Bar for the original painkiller, or find out which establishment serves up the best bushwacker.

To visit White Bay, you can anchor on the east or west side, if not redlined. I actually prefer to stay overnight at Diamond Cay and take a short taxi ride. You can read more about why I think this is better in my post about the hazards of staying in White Bay.

Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit, before Hurricane Irma gave her vegetation a haircut

4. Sandy Spit

Sandy Spit is a fantastic lunch option on your way to an overnight anchorage at Jost van Dyke or Cane Garden Bay.

It’s a tiny white sand beach island, that was laid bare by Hurricane Irma. Accessible by boat only, you’ll likely only have a few other neighbors. Grab a picnic lunch, a football, and head ashore for the afternoon. The views of the surrounding area, are also, fantastic.

If Sandy Spit happens to be too crowded or if the anchorage is rolly from a swell, check out nearby Sandy Cay for a similar experience.

Savannah Bay, a top 10 BVI Beach
Secluded Savannah Bay in Virgin Gorda

5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

If you are looking for a more secluded beach, Savannah Bay might interest you.

For yacht charters, the entrance through the reef is tricky. Many charter companies make this bay off-limits. That said, it is best visited by a short taxi ride from North Sound locations such as Gun Creek.

This is a beautiful, gem of a beach, perfect for strolling and swimming. With no services ashore, solitude and natural beauty are why you visit. There is also excellent snorkeling on the protected reef.

Smuggler's Cove, one of the best BVI beaches
Smuggler's Cove beach on Tortola

6. Smuggler’s Cove, Tortola

Smuggler’s Cove is also off the beaten path with the anchorage redlined by charter companies. There are reefs on two sides, with a narrow anchorage down the middle.

Ashore you’ll find a great beach for lounging and swimming. Park yourself at Patricia’s Beach Bar for an old school BVI experience with cheap drinks and open fire grilled beach entrees including fish sandwiches, hot dogs, and jerk chicken.

To visit, grab a taxi ride over from nearby Soper’s Hole.

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Deadman's bay, a top BVI beach
Peaceful Deadman's Beach with Deadchest Island in the background

7. Deadman’s Bay, Peter Island

Even when the British Virgin Islands are busy, you can usually stretch out at one of Peter Island’s many bays and beaches.

My pick is Deadman’s Beach on the north side. It’s best visited in settled conditions with no northerly swell forecasted.

Peter Island is a private resort, that is still in the re-building process from Hurricane Irma in 2017. That said, you can use the beach here, but you’ll notice plenty off no trespassing signs asking you not to venture in farther ashore.

Drop the hook in the SE corner of the bay for the best protection. Aside from enjoying the calm waters of the beach, you can also dinghy over to Deadchest Island for some snorkeling. It’s a nearby National Park.

Cane Garden Bay's beach in BVI
The popular Cane Garden Bay beach on Tortola

8. Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

One of the most popular bays in the BVIs, it also has a nice beach with a protected swimming area. It’s a beautiful bay lined on the hillside with pastel colored houses.

There are plenty of options here for eating, drinking, and shopping. Many establishments cater to cruise ship visitors, so you might want to check the schedule before choosing to visit.

Stroll along the beach and take your pick of places to grab a cold Carib. For an excursion, the Calwood rum distillery is nearby, or, enjoy a dinner with huge views from Bananakeet just up the hill.

White Bay beach on Guana Island, an overlooked BVI beach
White Bay on Guana Island, a private eco resort

9. White Bay, Guana Island

Another private resort island, you come here for the beautiful scenery and relative seclusion. The setting is spectacular and we usually find fewer visitors than other anchorages. When we are looking to escape the crowds, this is the BVI beach we visit.

You can use the beach, as local laws allow, just don’t venture farther inland. Resort staff will surely be keeping a close eye.

Monkey Point is a good snorkel option, a short dinghy ride away. I also love Muskmelon Bay, just to the north. The birds are sure to put on a show as they use it frequently to feed on bait fish. You can also dinghy here in settled conditions.

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands, a top BVI beach
Brewer's Bay beach - look at those inviting coconut palms!

10. Brewer’s Bay, Tortola

Often redlined due to it’s northerly exposure and trickier anchoring protocol, Brewer’s Bay is also a lesser visited, unspoiled gem. If you are able to come here, I recommend at least a lunch stop and snorkel.

Nicole’s Beach Bar on the south side of the beach serves up local fare and cold beverages.

Relax on the palm tree lined beach or try a snorkel on the many coral reefs in the bay.

Thanks for reading my post about my BVI Beach Top 10 List! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about the perfect week-long BVI sailing itinerary.