Sailing the BVI in the Caribbean vs Bahamas
Considering a sailing vacation to the British Virgin Islands or the Bahamas? Maybe you’re new to sailing and would like to sail with a skipper or aboard a cabin cruise. Or perhaps you’ve sailed in one of these stunning regions and are considering another. Either way, the BVI and the Bahamas are two of our most popular sailing destinations and we have options for sailors and non-sailors alike.
Both offer dazzling white sand beaches, swaying palms, fun beach bars, excellent fishing and snorkeling, and more!
So the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean vs Bahamas, which destination is right for you? We’re here to share information on some of the key factors that can help you decide… The good news is, you simply cannot go wrong with either one!
BVI vs Bahamas sailing vacation – natural beauty & beaches
The British Virgin Islands are entirely different from the Bahamas when it comes to geographical features, including land formations, vegetation, animals and sealife, and of course the beaches that everyone looks forward to. Both areas feature extraordinarily beautiful natural landscapes, and both have beaches that are known as some of the most beautiful in the world.
The Bahamas breathtaking beaches
The Abacos and Exumas are the two regions of the Bahamas that are the most available for sailing charters. They are similar in topography, with both areas consisting mainly of very low-lying islands with pure white sand beaches and shallow brilliant-turquoise waters surrounded by coral reefs. And both also enjoy world famous beaches. In particular, in the Abacos you can enjoy Treasure Cay Beach, a long stretch that was voted one of the best 10 beaches in the Caribbean by a Travel and Life reader’s poll, as well as Tahiti Beach, a secluded gem visited by locals and charterers alike. And of course, many more!
The pristine beaches of the Exumas seem to sprawl out far and wide in almost every direction you look. While the Abacos are sparsely populated, the Exumas have more uninhabited islands and national parks for a very “remote” feel and some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the world. Another wonderful thing about the Abacos and the Exumas – both are known for their particularly clear and calm waters.
British Virgin Islands beauty and the beaches
In contrast, the BVI features rugged coastlines, scenic coves, and lush greenery-covered hillsides and of course, also pristine beaches, which tend to be tucked into protected harbors. While there are plenty of secluded beaches throughout the islands, with some even known for surfing opportunities, one in particular is very well-visited; White Bay beach on Jost Van Dyke is dotted with beach bars from one end to the other, and occasionally attracts a raucous group of boaters!
BVI, Caribbean vs Bahamas – sailing conditions
When choosing between the BVI and the Bahamas for a sailing vacation, some of the most important considerations involve the sailing opportunities, conditions and distances. Particularly for those that choose to sail themselves or not accustomed to spending a week or more on the water.
The BVI is well known as one of the most ideal sailing destinations in the world. The region provides consistent balmy trade winds of 10-20 knots year round, deep waters, calm seas, and a multitude of protected anchorages. For those new to chartering there is simply no better place to get your feet wet!
Navigation is very easy in the BVI, with line-of-sight providing adequate guidance in good weather with a few exceptions. And while anchoring is permitted in many places, mooring balls are plentiful and preferred by most charterers for security and peace of mind.
The short sailing distances complete this trifecta of sailing perfection. Mind you, this does not mean there is little to see. The BVI packs 60 exceptionally beautiful islands into a 58 square mile space, with the furthest away being the island of Anegada – a pleasant 11 mile sail.
The Bahamas can also be fabulous for newer charterers that have sailing experience, or those that wish to hire a skipper. With warm tropical temperatures and constant trade winds of 5 to 20 knots, the sailing is top notch. In contrast with the 58 square miles of the BVI, the 700 islands and 2400 cays of the Bahamas span an impressive area of nearly 5,400 square miles.
Again in contrast with the BVI, the cruising areas along the banks of the Bahamas are very shallow and known for narrow passages. More skill is needed to navigate the reefs and shoals, and tides will also come into play when navigating.
The island chains of the Abacos and the Exumas each offer a unique cruising and overall vacation experience. While navigation is similar in each cruising area, the Abacos feature more small harbors with narrow entries. But the primary differences are the cruising distances. The Abacos are relatively compact making it easy to cover many of the highlights during a week or less, while the Exumas are much more expansive. Departing from Nassau, the first cay in the Exumas island chain requires a 36-mile passage. Allow a week, or preferably 10 days to see the best of the Exumas!
BVI in the Caribbean vs Bahamas sailing vacation – activities
What kinds of activities do you enjoy while traveling? Read on to discover some of the most irresistible activities and highlights when sailing the BVI or Bahamas.
BVI things to do
The BVI is known as “nature’s little secret” and offers up some breathtaking scenery. Many charterers so love these islands that they visit them again and again. Varied activities will keep everyone in your crew happy including snorkeling, diving, hiking, bar-hopping, and discovering the incredibly unique local restaurants and resorts that were designed specifically with sailors in mind.
- The Baths National Park is a natural wonder, featuring boulders and caverns that make up a dazzling maze that leads to sparkling pools and (more) stunning beaches
- Jost Van Dyke is a favorite hang out for partaking in the famed Pain Killer cocktails and soaking in tropical beach vibes
- Anegada, the “sunken island” known for unmatched snorkeling and the particularly tender and sweet Anegada lobster
Abacos things to do
The Abacos exude a charming local culture. The islands are laid back, relaxed and incredibly beautiful. Part of the unique culture stems from the many quaint settlements dotting the islands throughout the chain, some cobblestone streets and lovely shops and restaurants. Fishing, snorkeling, diving, and visiting the settlements are top attractions.
- Visit Hope Town on Elbow Cay to shop, dine and climb the steps of the the last active kerosene lighthouse in The Bahamas
- Rent a golf cart to explore the lovely settlement of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay
Exumas things to do
The Exumas islands are for lovers of nature and wildlife! Enjoy longer sails while soaking in the sun and surf. The restaurants and shops are few, and many charterers enjoy cooking aboard their yacht while enjoying the quiet, spectacular sunsets. Visitors enjoy snorkeling, diving, exploring mangrove creeks by dinghy and observing the abundant wildlife.
- Snorkel at Thunderball grotto, an impressive underwater cave full of marine life and coral
- Visit the rock iguanas inhabiting the tiny uninhabited island of Allen Cay
- Swim with friendly nurse sharks at Compass Cay
Will you sail the BVI or Bahamas? … you can’t go wrong
As you can see, there are so many wondrous things to discover in both of these world class sailing destinations that you simply cannot go wrong with either. Taking the helm yourself and looking for the most forgiving sailing experience? Perhaps it’s the BVI.
Your family and friends want to explore undisturbed pristine islands and cook meals in secluded anchorages? Sounds like it’s time to book an Exumas charter.
No sailing experience? Never a worry with Dream Yacht. We have an option that’s perfect for your next travel adventure!