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Old 26-07-2012, 14:48   #1
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Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Hello! I will be heading down to the Caribbean for Christmas this year with my girlfriend's family. They have a wonderful 45 foot sailing monohull which we'll be living on while down there. I've been sailing my own boat for about 6 months (23' boat in SF Bay) but it'll be about 12 by the time we head down. Not entirely clueless but more aware than ever of how much I don't know and still need to learn.

I'm looking for any and all advice, recommendations, etc for where to go and what to do while in the area. Her parents make the trip down nearly every winter and are very familiar with the area. They're asking what I'd like to do and frankly I have NO idea. Until recently all I could do was locate the islands on a map. I'm a west coast boy and have no exposure to anything in this area and know almost nothing about any of the islands.

We will probably arrive on Dec 22 and leave Jan 2.

Some initial thoughts:
-I dislike tourist traps and have little interest in shopping.
-I'd love to do some real sailing but probably not more than a full day length as my GF and her Mother won't be as keen on just sailing around without getting off the boat.
-I love historical sites
-I'd love to do some snorkeling
-They've made it clear that the entire area is open to us, however we feel we should be picked up and dropped off within reasonable reach of a large airport.

So what would you recommend? Anything that's too amazing to miss or should be avoided? Are there Christmas or new years events that are a must see? What did you love or hate about previous excursions?

Thanks for any help you can provide!

--Chris
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Old 26-07-2012, 14:51   #2
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Jost van dyke on new years for sure, I hear it's quite a party. White bay I think?
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Old 26-07-2012, 14:55   #3
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Caribbean covers a lot of territory. Where is the boat?
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Old 26-07-2012, 15:22   #4
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Currently the boat is in Newport, RI I think...

They're asking where we want to go and what we want to do and seem willing to bring the boat wherever necessary. If you could go anywhere in that area where would you want to go?
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Old 26-07-2012, 16:23   #5
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Well, from RI, the Bahamas are the closest. Lots of options there for the Holidays. Incredible cruising ground.

Many years past I used to spend New Year's in Bimini -- lot of fun then.
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Old 26-07-2012, 16:39   #6
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

St. Barts....fly into st. martin.
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Old 26-07-2012, 16:41   #7
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

If your GF's family knows the area you may want to ask them for suggestions. There are folks who spend months on the East side of Andros. The Bahamas can get cool in the winter, especially if a cold front with strong North winds hit which means diving could be chilly. Cuba is sorta opening up but going there could open a real can of worms. Puerto Rico probably has the best mix of big cities and out of the way places. Dominica is always a crowd pleaser.

Doing justice to hitting all of these places would probably take six months at a minimum. My advice would be Puerto Rico if only because of the number of flights going and the wide array of things to do.

YMMV
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Old 26-07-2012, 23:44   #8
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

we leave Curaçao in November and plan to spend X-mas in Cartagena - Colombia, seems to be THE place to be at X-mas ...
can't tell you anymore though, because I haven't been there before ...
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Old 07-08-2012, 23:25   #9
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Start off by sailing the Virgin Islands. St. John - USVI is a National Park worth exploring; St. Thomas - USVI has the main airport; ferry boat to St. John. Visit Virgin Gorda - BVI which has the "Bath". Guadeloupe - French West Indies, has hundred of miles of forests, in addition to an active volcano and many water falls; a car rental is a must in touring the twin islands. Further south, The Grenadines have one of the best sailing waters in the world. Start off in St. Vincent and sail to Grenada. Make a snorkeling stop at Tobago Keys, with lunch in Union island or Palm island. In Grenada, stock up on spices and tropical fruits. Continue on to the island of Tobago (Trinidad's sister) for forest exploration, snorkeling and diving.
Buy a Caribbean travel guide to help you organize your trip. Most guides will suggest itineraries over the course of set days. Make sure that you have a current passport. Have fun and do not rush your trip. You have plenty of territory to cover. Sail away!
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Old 07-08-2012, 23:45   #10
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

St bart is the most elegant place in the islands , many rich and famous go there for x mas , but I do not like the mega yacht scene,
there.
Antigua has history , the mega yachts that usually get stored there are in ,,,, st barts .
I have been in Antigua for the past 3 X masses , my wife is able to come down for 2 weeks.I will be there this x mas , ja willin.
Sxm is cheaper to fly in and out, but sxm has lost its; culture.
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Old 07-08-2012, 23:47   #11
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Teknav - all that in two weeks? And you say not to rush the trip?

If it's supposed to be a vacation, pick a smaller area and hang out, moving as you feel motivated. The BVI used to be a good place for that - I spent two weeks over Christmas on a charter boat in the BVI, including New Year's at Foxy's bar on Jost van Dyke, but that was 25 years ago. Now it is pretty crowded with charter boats so if you have a private boat you might be better off getting off the beaten path.

There are many nice spots available. Personally I would consider Trinidad and Tobago. They have a very special Christmas music there called parang IIRC - very beautiful. Tobago has some gorgeous anchorages, and Trinidad has trips to the Asa Wright bird center and the Caroni swamp for the Scarlet Ibis.

There are many other places as well. I would think that you should ask your hosts whether they have a place that they would enjoy sharing, or one that they haven't been to. If they know a place then they will know how to get the most out of it, and if they don't then you get to explore together. Either way is a win.

Greg
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Old 08-08-2012, 00:00   #12
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

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Originally Posted by bailout00 View Post
Jost van dyke on new years for sure, I hear it's quite a party. White bay I think?
White Bay is STUNNING (soggy dollar bar) but new years eve is next door at Foxy's Taboo at GREAT HARBOUR - Jost Van Dyke (personally dont like the anchorage there though, so would stay in White Bay and only sail in for new years)
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Old 08-08-2012, 00:14   #13
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crstophr View Post
Hello! I will be heading down to the Caribbean for Christmas this year with my girlfriend's family. They have a wonderful 45 foot sailing monohull which we'll be living on while down there. I've been sailing my own boat for about 6 months (23' boat in SF Bay) but it'll be about 12 by the time we head down. Not entirely clueless but more aware than ever of how much I don't know and still need to learn.

I'm looking for any and all advice, recommendations, etc for where to go and what to do while in the area. Her parents make the trip down nearly every winter and are very familiar with the area. They're asking what I'd like to do and frankly I have NO idea. Until recently all I could do was locate the islands on a map. I'm a west coast boy and have no exposure to anything in this area and know almost nothing about any of the islands.

We will probably arrive on Dec 22 and leave Jan 2.

Some initial thoughts:
-I dislike tourist traps and have little interest in shopping.
-I'd love to do some real sailing but probably not more than a full day length as my GF and her Mother won't be as keen on just sailing around without getting off the boat.
-I love historical sites
-I'd love to do some snorkeling
-They've made it clear that the entire area is open to us, however we feel we should be picked up and dropped off within reasonable reach of a large airport.

So what would you recommend? Anything that's too amazing to miss or should be avoided? Are there Christmas or new years events that are a must see? What did you love or hate about previous excursions?

Thanks for any help you can provide!

--Chris
We have just sailed up through the entire Caribbean Island chain ... without a shadow of doubt the BVI's are the most spectacular and sailing friendly cruising grounds you will find We have decided to stay in the BVI for 6 months ... just cant leave the place!

Other than that ... I would recommend the French Islands above all else, but hey, that's my personal choice for my own personal reasons. I found the French Islands well organised and it seems the mother land still pours money in there so we discovered people on the whole were a lot less DESPERATE for your money!

Iles Des Saintes was a fascinating stop ... Martinique was great ... steeped in history from Napoleons times and diving off Pigeon Island (Guadeloupe) was a really stunning dive.

We cover our views of the various islands on our blog below if you are interested, but then again, we have met sailors who liked different islands for different reasons
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Old 08-08-2012, 00:15   #14
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

If the boat is in Rhode Island, it is going to take a bit of time to get it to the Caribbean or the Bahamas. So picking someplace in the Leeward Islands or west seems reasonable rather than having the owners try to get the boat all the way to the Windward Islands and south.

However, the Windwards offer, IMHO, a much better experience both in the variety of cultures and warmer, more stable weather.

However, if you are looking for shore-side activities, parties, etc., then you cannot beat the British Virgin Islands. And you can fly into St Thomas, USVI very economically to join the boat before it heads across to the BVI's.

If you are looking for some great sailing experience and European style shore activities then the island from Guadeloupe south like Dominica, St Lucia, Martinique, and Grenada offer some really superior opportunities.

A lot will depend upon the owner's plans to take the boat south and how far south they really want to go that early in the Caribbean sailing season (winter).
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Old 08-08-2012, 00:21   #15
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Re: Caribbean Christmas - What to do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarinaPDX View Post
Teknav - all that in two weeks? And you say not to rush the trip?

If it's supposed to be a vacation, pick a smaller area and hang out, moving as you feel motivated. The BVI used to be a good place for that - I spent two weeks over Christmas on a charter boat in the BVI, including New Year's at Foxy's bar on Jost van Dyke, but that was 25 years ago. Now it is pretty crowded with charter boats so if you have a private boat you might be better off getting off the beaten path.

There are many nice spots available. Personally I would consider Trinidad and Tobago. They have a very special Christmas music there called parang IIRC - very beautiful. Tobago has some gorgeous anchorages, and Trinidad has trips to the Asa Wright bird center and the Caroni swamp for the Scarlet Ibis.

There are many other places as well. I would think that you should ask your hosts whether they have a place that they would enjoy sharing, or one that they haven't been to. If they know a place then they will know how to get the most out of it, and if they don't then you get to explore together. Either way is a win.

Greg
Interestingly enough ... BVI has calmed down rapidly ... I think the hurricane season plays a role, but we hate crowds and find it quite peaceful. The beauty is that one can choose to be in a crowded anchorage or a more peaceful one ... still are some of those left!
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