SUPERYACHT DESTINATION GUIDE: THE LEEWARD ISLANDS
Last updated: 13/12/2019
With its heavenly white-sand beaches, tranquil turquoise waters and picturesque scenery, the Leeward Islands – much like their Windward Islands counterparts in the south – are jewels in the Caribbean crown.
The Caribbean requires no introduction; its seductive landscapes and laid-back lifestyle have cemented it as a must-visit destination for all private and charter yachts. The Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands showcase the best of the Caribbean region, made up of unique islands that each offers something a little different – making them the perfect location for superyachts to cruise.
Yachting Pages dives in to the enchanting world of the Leeward Islands and highlights everything that makes it a must-visit destination for superyacht cruising.
What are the Leeward Islands?
The Leeward Islands are a group of islands situated where the north-eastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. They begin with the Virgin Islands, east of Puerto Rico, and stretch south-east to Guadeloupe and its dependencies.
The term ‘Leeward Islands’ refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain – the more southerly section of this chain is known as the aforementioned Windward Islands.
The full list of islands that make up the famed Leeward Islands are:
- U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Water Island
- British Virgin Islands: Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada
- Spanish Virgin Islands: Vieques, Culebra
- Saint Martin/St Maarten
- Sint Eustatitus
- Saint Kitts
- La Désirade
- Îles des Saintes
Visiting the Leeward Islands aboard a superyacht
The superyacht industry is renowned for its luxury and extravagance, and thus it’s typical for those within the industry to desire locations that match their exuberant lifestyle.
The Leeward Islands are a little different; they offer luxury but don’t necessarily facilitate extravagance – but they don’t need to. What they lack in casinos and boutique shopping malls they make up for in mesmerising panoramas and uplifting beach parties. And when you’re on a quiet island surrounded by nothing but sunshine and calm, it’s all you can possibly want.
When to visit: Climate and attractions
The weather in the Caribbean is renowned for having arguably the most desirable climate on the planet, with temperatures a warm 24°C to 29 °C (75°F to 84°F) year-round. The best time to visit these isles, however, is generally considered to be December – April as the weather is drier and less humid. May-November can be slightly wetter, with hurricane season lasting from July – November, but generally speaking the Leeward Islands have one of the most pleasant climates in the entire Caribbean.
What to do when in the Leewards Islands?
There is a myriad of beaches to enjoy across the Leeward Islands. St. Barth’s, in particular, is famous for its bright sandy beaches, of which there are 16 in total, each with its own unique personality. Just a short walk from Gustavia harbour is the famous Shell Beach, where tourists flock to watch a beautiful sunset in the evenings.
If you would like a wider selection of beaches, why not visit Antigua? Home to 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, from the stunning Jolly Beach to the spectacular Half Moon Bay there are plenty of sands to explore on these stunning islands!
US and British Virgin Islands
Amazing seaside venues, ideal anchorage and easy navigation makes the US Virgin Islands an ideal yachting destination. St. Croix, St John and St. Thomas form the US trio of the islands, which vary from bustling, charismatic bars and restaurants to peaceful national parks, whilst the British Virgin Islands consists of over 40 paradises, including Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke. The British Virgin Islands are a colourful collection of beautiful mountains and stunning coastlines to be explored.
St Martin/St Maarten Guide
Totalling just 37 square miles, the island is one of two halves, offering visitors the unique experience of visiting two very different colonies and cultures in one destination stopover.
In the north, French St Martin is known for offering a secluded break with a continental flair. It has many small and elegant resorts, impressive continental cuisine and a harbour that’s reminiscent of a Mediterranean fishing village. In the south, Dutch St Maarten is much more developed; well known for its excellent shopping, restaurants, casinos and a buzzing nightlife.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
From its idyllic coastlines to calming rainforests and quiet anchorage, Saint Kitts and Nevis is swiftly becoming a preferred superyacht destination. The success of Christophe Harbour has seen yachting enthusiasts the world over flock to the island.
Mount Liamuiga on St. Kitts is the highest point of the entire British Leeward Islands and makes for quite the vantage point for a look out over the beautiful island of St.Kitts. If this interests you, then you cannot miss the stunning dormant volcano Mount Nevis: Standing at 3,232 feet, you will be able to spot Mount Nevis from miles away.
Part of the French West Indies, Guadeloupe is a stunning romantic stop-off for any yachtie. The nation is comprised of two islands that look like the wings of a butterfly, joined together by a bridge over the Riviere Salee.
The eastern island, Grande-Terre, is known the world over for its white sandy beaches, chilled out resort areas, sugarcane fields and the stunning Saint Francois. The larger of the two islands is Basse-Terre, which is full of beautiful, equatorial plant life, due to the volcanic soil on the island. There is also a lovely variety of culture to be absorbed on this island, from amazing marketplaces, to the historic Bologne Distillery, which specialises in delicious rum.
Antigua & Barbuda
Jacqueline Williams, marketing consultant at Nelson’s Dockyard shared some of her tips and advice for visiting Antigua & Barbuda, “For sailors and guests alike, there are fewer locations with more natural beauty and deep history than Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour. A recently inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic marina offers the charms of Caribbean vernacular architecture, stunning views, culinary delights, and world class yachting amenities for owner and charter alike.”
“Off the boat there are several great culinary opportunities within English Harbour. Immediately off the boat is the Copper and Lumber Inn, a boutique hotel situated in an 18th century naval warehouse. On Fridays they have a Seafood festival along the quay, leading to an absolutely unique culinary experience in the heart of the islands. A bit farther away are several well-established and well patronized restaurants and bars where you can indulge in delicious food and drink.”
Williams continued, “For beach lovers, Galleon Beach at Freemans Bay offers one of the most picturesque spots on Antigua. Located at the entrance to English Harbour, this sheltered bay allows you to enjoy the sun and sand on a quiet beach. On Thursday and Sunday evenings, steel pan music from the Shirley Heights Lookout and Barbeque wafts across this beach, adding to the Caribbean vibe. For those more interested in a local gem of a beach, Pigeon is favorite. Flanked by several restaurants including Catherine’s Café and Bumpkin’s Beach Bar, and available amenities, Pigeon always attracts a party crowd, with locals from English Harbour setting up their barbeques and music on the weekends.”
“Combining dramatic views with Caribbean Steel Pan music, barbeque, and the longest running Sunday party in Antigua, the Shirley Heights Lookout Sunset Party is always a crowd pleaser. With Reggae on Thursday evenings, and a band covering international favorites on Sunday, come and watch the sun set over the Caribbean with a Rum Punch in your hand.”
“In addition to the historic renovations, Clarence House offers an events space, with a fully equipped industrial kitchen, for weddings or other parties. With the Dockyard as a backdrop, any event is perfect here.”
Superyacht berthing: Ports and marinas in the Leeward Islands
Port De Gustavia
Considered one of the world’s most exclusive marinas, Port De Gustavia is the marina of choice when visiting St.Barths. Aside from being one of the most gorgeous and popular natural harbours on the planet, the marina provides space for up to 60 superyachts and all manner of amenities for the Leewards cruiser. The port offers 60 berths over 80 foot, with accommodation for yachts 60m LOA.
Located alongside the stunning Marigot Bay in St. Martin, this spectacular facility provides all fuel bunkering and port clearance services. The marina also has a dive shop on premises as well as a yacht club and resturant. The friendly staff will make sure your cruise gets off to a wonderful start.
The marina offers bridge-free access to 150 wet slips for up to 30 superyachts up to 260ft or 79.24m LOA with a draught of 12ft (3.7m). The development is also equipped with 24-hour gated security, on-site and online immigration, electricty and water, WiFi and a wide variety of amenities.
Yacht Haven Grande
Located alongside the stunning Charlotte Amalie Harbour in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, this spectacular facility encompasses a 48-berth superyacht marina alongside a shopping Galleria with over 80,000-square-feet of retail space.
From marina operations to services and amenities, Yacht Haven Grande dedicates itself to ensuring the efficiency, comfort and safety of your stay. It offers side-to berthing for yachts up to 656ft (200m), in-slip high-speed fuelling, waste and oil removal, 24-hour security and nearby access to yacht provisioning, catering, laundry, a fitness centre and chandlery.
Christophe Harbour offers a varied range of luxury real estate, with the main attraction of Christophe Harbour being the superyacht marina and village, which can accommodate both small crafts and superyachts. The experienced staff at the marina provide a wide range of services to assist with both guest and crew needs.
Located on the stunning island of Saint Kitts, the marina boasts amenities such as 24-hour security, internet services, in-slip fuelling, VIP customs and immigration services. The marina can accommodate a max LOA of 76m (250ft) and offers a total of 250 berths.
Leeward Islands yacht clearance and regulation
The different islands that make up the Leeward Islands are either completely autonomous or are politically aligned with France, the Netherlands or the UK, which can make bureaucracy complicated. Customs and borders authorities are usually directly together or side-by-side.
The ship’s papers for the charter yacht, all passports of the crew members, and the complete crew list with all names, nationalities and passport numbers should be provided. It is good practice to carry identical multiple copies of these documents.