Destination Guide: Christmas Caribbean

Standing in spectacular turquoise waters, the Caribbean is made-up of over 7,000 islands, islets, cays and uninhabited reefs. With a near endless variety of anchorages, there is no better way to experience the delights of the Caribbean than by boat...

As a traditional holiday hotspot and a renowned destination for charter yacht vacations, second only to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean covers a huge area and offers fantastic sightseeing diversity. Magical both on and offshore, and with the peak yachting season stretching from November across the festive period into July, the Caribbean is both the place to see and be seen at Christmas. It is for this reason that the Caribbean is home to a huge selection of privately owned and chartered yachts.

SYOG spoke to Dayle Reimer, charter broker at Select Yachts about the best places to visit in the Caribbean during the holiday season aboard a superyacht.

The turquoise waters at Sandy Island, Anguilla

Sailing regulations and clearances

Entry requirements and clearances for foreign vessels vary widely across the Caribbean, often with each island having its own documentation requirements. It is therefore recommended that you check the official tourist website of your chosen island(s) before travelling.

Depending on your nationality and the duration of your stay, a visit to the Caribbean and its waters should not require a visa. It is always best practice to ensure that you hold a valid passport with at least six months of validity for all Caribbean islands, and a return or onward ticket is sometimes also required for those arriving by air to meet their superyacht.

Sailing conditions

No special equipment or preparations are required for sailing in the Caribbean, but you should keep an eye on wind speeds when planning any island hopping at Christmas-time.

Festive trade winds, known locally as the ‘Christmas Winds’, provide a welcome breeze from the hot sunshine, with average temperatures of 26°C (80F) and constant winds for sail yachts – be sure to remember your sunscreen, sunhat and shades!

Yachts afloat at Lagoon Port de Plaisance, St. Martin

Superyacht berthing

Of all the Caribbean ports catering to superyachts, the best can be found in the northern Leeward Islands.

The Princess Port de Plaisance Resort in St. Maarten is a dazzling full-service marina, showcased perfectly by the beauty of Simpson Bay. Combined with state-of-the-art facilities, including five restaurants, a large casino, spa and health club, this marina has 70 berths for vessels of all sizes.

Alternatively, the St. Maarten Yacht Club, Isle De Sol, caters strictly to superyachts accommodating berthing for 45 yachts of up to 109m (360ft). This port is special due to its secluded location, which creates a very private environment for visitors to spend the holidays.

The Antigua Yacht Club and Marina is equipped to hold 60 superyachts of up to 100m (330ft). The Yacht Club offers outstanding megayacht and guest services, with gourmet restaurants, shopping boutiques, travel agent and supermarket onsite. Chandlery and fuel are also available with a new system of delivering fuel directly at the slip, at a rate of up to 250 liters per minute.

Also notable, Port de Gustavia in St. Barths is as exclusive as it gets. Pristine beaches, great restaurants and indulgent shopping are all nearby. Superyacht services include berthing for 60 superyachts up to 60m (200ft), on-site customs, fuel bunkering, security, waste disposal and Wi-Fi.

Festive Caribbean highlights: The Leeward Islands

St.Maarten or St.Martin: An island of two halves

An island of two halves, St.Maarten, or St. Martin, offers the perfect yachting centre for the holiday season.

This island gem is shared harmoniously by two nations: in the north, French St. Martin is less developed, more secluded, and boasts many small elegant resorts and fabulous restaurants. On the other hand, southern Dutch St. Maarten is lively with excellent shopping, restaurants, casinos and a buzzing nightlife offering the perfect option to see or be seen among the rich and famous. 

At Christmas, the French town of Marigot, with its colourful cottages and picturesque harbour comes to life with holiday festivities. The Christmas Follies draws colourful dancers, musicians and performers out to fill the streets, and a large Christmas market provides shopping opportunities for that special gift.

Make sure to visit Father Christmas’ House; open evenings throughout December offer up mesmerising holiday decorations, music, food and drink. Not to be missed, the Marigot Waterfront Tart & Pudding competition reflects local festive traditions.

Tax-free shopping makes for the perfect excuse to treat loved ones to high-end jewelry, designer goods and electronics for Christmas. Once finished, stop by a local bar to enjoy a glass of festive red Sorrel or Guavaberry, the unique Christmas drink of both St. Martin and St. Marteen, and a local holiday tradition.

St.Barths: Playground of the rich and famous

Neighbouring St. Maarten to the southeast, St. Barths is a sophisticated and ultra-exclusive French island and superyacht hub. As the playground of the rich and famous, you may spot a celebrity or two on board your neighboring yacht.

As Christmas approaches, St. Barths quickly transforms itself into the holiday spirit. A festive Christmas Village is set up along the quay in Gustavia Harbour; intoxicating aromas, local foods and great family entertainment are all local highlights. Santa makes his appearance, and younger guests should not miss the children’s parade and costume contest.

Gustavia harbour is a place to stay for New Year’s Eve; luxury yachts fill the harbour and lavish parties abound, all captured by the paparazzi for the glossy magazines.

St. Barth's Gusatavia Harbour New Year's Eve party

Anguilla: High-style and low-key elegance

Carefully managed tourism and off-shore banking legislation have made Anguilla one of the most exclusive destinations of the Caribbean. Found north of St. Martin, there are no crowds here. In fact, you may find yourself the only person on the islands’ gorgeous sandy beaches.

Locally known as “Old Year’s Night”, Anguilla is a competitor for the must-visit New Year’s destination. This island offers spectacular options; a celebration that doesn’t get much finer. The fireworks display at Cap Juluca is definitely of note; for those aboard a yacht, drop the anchor below the Viceroy Anguilla, atop the coral point separating Barnes Bay and Meads Bay, and watch the stunning magical display of wish lanterns as they are released into the night. This is followed by a dramatic fireworks display to welcome in the New Year.

For serious partygoers, local musician and legend Bankie Banx throws a party at Dune Preserve, voted by CNN to be the number one Best Beach Bar in the World. Bankie’s daughter, Tahirah and son Omari are both exceptional musicians too, so expect music until morning, which is celebrated with a champagne breakfast on the beach, watching the sunrise on yet another perfect day in paradise.

Suggested 10-day holiday itinerary

Day 1 – Simpson Bay/Marigot, St. Martin

Meet your superyacht charter at Simpson Bay, settle in before departing the Lagoon through the famous lift bridge as Yacht Club drinkers watch on as you pass by. Cruise around the west coast to the beautiful French St. Martin capital, Marigot and its festive harbour. Enjoy cocktails, a large Christmas market and a festive feast on board.

Leeward Islands, St. Martin

Day 2 – Tinatamarre Island

Awake to the delicious smells of breakfast before cruising over to the island of Tintamarre where you can spend the day enjoying the deserted and inaccessible beach. Swim and snorkel from anchor in the bay, taking in the sunset over the Anguilla channel.

Day 3 – St. Barths/Gustavia Harbour

Before crossing back to St. Barths, it is worth stopping at Ile Fourche (Fork Island), for its unique landscape. An extinct volcanic island, home to wild goats, lizards and cactus plants, climb to the summit of Fourche’s five peaks for panoramic views of St. Barths and St. Martin. Make your way to Gustavia Harbour and soak up the atmosphere among the rich and famous, many of whom have palatial homes here.

Day 4 – St. Jean Bay, St. Barths

Enjoy a short cruise over to St. Jean Bay before hitting the tiles. Hotspots Eden Rock and Nikki Beach are notoriously attended by the likes of Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Naomi Watts and Paul McCartney.

Day 5 – L’Anse de Columbier

Enjoy a continental breakfast of croissants and pastries from the local French bakery before cruising to L’Anse de Columbier, reachable only by boat or by foot.

Day 6 – Grand Case

Depart early to cruise to Grand Case, a historic fishing village on St. Martin. Visit the highest peak of Pic Paradis Mountain and the Loterie Farm Nature Reserve. Rent a cabana and enjoy the Jacuzzi and fresh spring pool, cocktail in hand. Anchor for the evening before tendering to shore to enjoy the restaurants, galleries and boutiques, open late.

French St. Martin coastline

Day 7 – Cap Julucu, Anguilla

Swim and snorkel off St. Martin’s Creole Rock before departing for Anguilla’s Cap Julucu to enjoy a relaxing spa day to prepare for the exclusive New Year celebrations.

Day 8 – Cap Julucu, Anguilla

Cruise over to the incomparable Viceroy Hotel, winner of numerous awards and accolades for being the finest luxury resort in the world. With A-listers all around, enjoy a special dinner and celebrity-spotting on board before watching the wish lantern ceremony and fireworks, then head off to the Dune Bar to watch Bankie Banx play. Celebrate the morning on the beach with champagne and breakfast before heading to bed.

Day 9 – Sandy Island/Road Bay Anguilla

Sleep in while the boat cruises to Sandy Island for a relaxing day at the small beach and beach bar. Return to Road Bay for evening food and music at the Pump House or Jazz at Johnno’s where you can dance until morning. Road Bay provides easy clearance for your departure in the morning.

Day 10 – Port de Plaisance, St. Maarten

Prepare to depart at noon. How to best deal with the ending of such an incredible holiday? By making your reservations to return again next year.

Originally written for MegaYacht News.

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