The yachting holiday is defined by freedom. Whether you are sailing or traveling by powerboat, you choose the itinerary, and you can change it day by day—which is good news for anyone who has arrived on an island only to find your hotel is super remote when you wanted to be in the heart of the action, or vice versa.
Likewise, sometimes you may not know what mood you’ll be in when you arrive—whether you want to focus on the seclusion of nature or spend your evenings meeting people. Travel by boat, and whenever you want new scenery, you simply pull anchor.
Yes, most Americans have Croatia on their travel radar, but most haven’t been… yet. Picture an unlimited number of quiet coves with white-sand beaches, plus dozens of wineries on islands throughout the Adriatic Sea, and you have a Croatia.
Moreover, so many of the country’s UNESCO sites and national parks are close to shore. Telascica Bay is home to sheer white cliffs dropping into the blue, warm sea. In the town of Split, Diocletian’s Palace, built in the fourth century AD, stands as a testament to Greek and Byzantine architecture—and makes for a lovely day trip.
In exotic Thailand, most yacht trips depart from the beach town of Phuket, a 90-minute flight from Bangkok. From here, set sail for destinations like the island of Ko Racha Yai, home to a few resorts and the gently sloping beaches that Thailand is famous for. Sister island Racha Noi is uninhabited, save for the sea turtles just offshore. Head east and reach the largely undeveloped Ko Lanta, where mangroves and rainforests claim most of the island — save for a few dive shops, restaurants and resorts.
Between the bigger islands lie dozens of smaller spits of sand with nothing more than a few palm trees set back from the beach. Because most visitors to the smaller islands are day-tripping from Phuket, come mid afternoon, the places are supremely isolated—where you hear nothing more than the sound of water lapping against the hull and the crack of opening another Chang beer.
We love Belize, a paradise for travelers who love the beauty and beaches of the Caribbean coupled with an unlimited menu of adventures. Belize’s barrier islands, such as Glover’s Reef, Turneffe Atoll and many more, serve as ideal launch pads for snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, flats fishing and bonefishing, among many other activities.
The island resorts have dive shops to refill scuba tanks or provide lessons, as well as guides to make sure you land the bonefish, permit or tarpon you came for.
Easily the best crowd-pleasing destination in the Caribbean, this singular island—with two sides, one French and one Dutch—can make happy the foodie, beach lover and shopaholic, as well as travelers seeking nature at its quietest.
Anchor off towns such as Grand Case for unforgettable dining at Bistrot Caraibes or La Villa Restaurant for, what else, French fare. Those who want to retreat to unspoiled nature can motor or set sail for offshore islands such as the Prickly Pear Cays or Tintamarre Islands.
Best of all, this island has one of the largest airports in the country, welcoming daily nonstop flights from most major U.S. cities. Because it’s so easy to reach, you spend less time traveling and more time at the destination.
They call it Caribbean sailing on steroids. This destination satisfies captains who crave longer sails that demand more skill. From St. Lucia, boaters can sail seven hours to St. Vincent, then explore the Grenadine Islands. Then, it’s onto Grenada, known as the spice island for its fragrant tropical forests yielding up nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf.
Some say these islands are much like the British Virgin Islands 20 years ago, before so many resorts and bars popped up. Best of all, outfitters such as the Moorings allow customers to fly into St. Lucia and out of Grenada, letting you sail one-way as opposed to the there-and-back style of trip offered nearly everywhere else.
Even the names of the islands—Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora—sound like sensual poetry. Arrive and discover that everything about the islands of French Polynesia delights the senses, from the perfume of the jasmine and gardenia flowers to the cotton-candy-pink clouds at sunset.
Here, you’ll find a unique culture, where food honors the country’s French influence and the abundance of just-caught seafood, dished up as poisson crû— chunks of raw tuna in a bath of coconut milk, lime juice and salt and pepper. Of course, this isolated outpost is also known for marine fauna—big, big fauna. Humpback whales pass through June through December. Year-round, snorkelers, scuba divers and even sunbathers on the bow are commonly treated to sightings of dolphin and giant mantas.
If you hear the word “Bahamas” and think Nassau—the capital, largest city and tourism hub with casinos and mega hotels—you’re not alone. Only, the rest of the islands that comprise this country are nothing like Nassau. The Out Islands, as they’re called, include the Exumas and the Abacos where, by day, boaters anchor off uninhabited islands for quick hikes to caves and hilly overlooks.
In the Exumas, islands are colonized by swimming pigs, iguanas and sea birds, with reefs rife with sea turtles and nurse sharks. By night, the action happens at places like Staniel Cay Yacht Club—an outpost with a hopping bar, restaurant, hotel and marina. After the drama of sunset comes happy hour, then dinner, followed by a cold one while swapping stories with other boaters, or retire to your boat’s stern where you can watch the stars above or the tarpon feeding below.
There’s no better destination for foodies who love idyllic beaches. Start in Athens, then explore islands such as Kea or Kythnos where taverns dish up grilled octopus, the dip skordalia of potatoes and garlic, and a host of lamb and seafood dishes accompanied by a bounty of fresh ingredients: sorrel, capers, feta, dill and more.
In between meals, head to secret coves to swim, or to villages to shop for pottery, weavings, jewelry and leather goods.
One of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mallorca entices with natural beauty that includes pine forests, limestone cliffs, white sand beaches and shimmering turquoise waters. Better still, Mallorca serves as a jumping-off point for places like the nightlife hotspot that is Ibiza — or head to the quieter island of Menorca.
Sailing around Mallorca itself, boaters can hopscotch between secluded beaches and small towns with seaside dining.
British Virgin Islands
The place that made yachting vacations famous, the British Virgin Islands is the best-known destination for boating—especially for learning the, er, ropes of sailing. Distances between islands are small, allowing for quick sails between places like the main island of Tortola and Salt Island, where you can snorkel one of the most famous shipwrecks in the Caribbean. Or head to the island of Jost Van Dyke, where bars like the Soggy Dollar keep the party going all day long with shaken painkiller cocktails, a mix of pineapple and orange juice, coconut cream and rum.
Because this destination is home to four major islands and 50 smaller ones, boaters can choose to keep it social and dock at places like Scrub Island Resort or Cooper Island Resort. Alternately, choose the nature route and stick to the uninhabited islands such as Ginger Island, Great Dog and Little Jost Van Dyke.