Leaf-peeping may be in full swing in the northern hemisphere, but in the yachting world, it’s always an endless summer. The closest thing you’ll find to a turning of seasons is the change from “Mediterranean season” to “Caribbean season” and back. The Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show marks the seasonal migration of many boats from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and is the perfect chance to ogle the super-luxe lifestyle and start planning (or daydream about) your yacht itinerary. But take it from a former crew member: Yacht life is so much more than top-deck hot tubs and sun bathing on the bow. That mini boat trailing your yacht (the “tender”) is your key to skipping the tourist masses and joining the privileged few on the kinds of awe-inspiring secluded beaches only reached by boat. Here are six we love.
1. Navagio, Zakynthos, Greece
Veteran sailors of the Mediterranean will tell you that some of the most turquoise waters in the world can be found at the hidden beach of Navagio in the Ionian Islands. You may recognize the picture, but the high cliffs that made the beach a viral sensation also make it impossible to reach except by boat or BASE jump. You read that right: Navagio is a famous BASE jumping destination. However, most people head to the beach for the pristine sands, warm waters, and to explore the remains of the cigarette smuggler ship that wrecked on the shore in 1983 and gave the beach its name. And hey, you just might be lucky enough to watch some daredevils plunge.
2. Saleccia, Corsica, France
While it’s not exactly unknown, the peaceful beach paradise of Saleccia is still entirely undeveloped—there’s not a café in sight. With the obligatory white sand and clear blue water, it is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in France, if not the whole of the Mediterranean. Saleccia may be becoming more and more popular among locals and tourists, but its famed beauty is not over-hyped and its proximity to the popular yacht spot St. Florent makes it ideal for an afternoon picnic.
3. Cala Luna, Golfo di Orosei, Italy
The Golfo di Orosei has long been a must-stop on the Mediterranean yacht circuit. In season, many of the coves are dotted with shiny white yachts bobbing at anchor; but despite the area’s stunning beauty, it remains a haven from tourists because many of the beaches are accessible only by boat. While the whole area is enchanting, it’s no secret that the loveliest beach by far is the crescent-shaped Cala Luna, renowned for its clear waters that make it an excellent snorkeling and SCUBA destination. There is also a small beach bar and café near shady pink oleander trees.
4. Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands
St. John is considered the most beautiful of the U.S. Virgin Islands, partly because of its status as a national park thanks to John D. Rockefeller. That designation protects it, so it is almost untouched. There is no airport on St. John, so the only way to reach the island is by boat. The clear water and light waves at Trunk Bay make for fantastic snorkeling and there are picnic tables and grills along the white-sand beaches. As a national park, there is a small admission fee, but that feeling of tranquility is priceless.
5. Stocking Island, The Exumas
It’s no secret that the Bahamas are a maze of uninhabited cays and lonely sandbars that are just waiting to be explored. But if you’re cruising the Exumas, there’s no excuse to skip Stocking Island, 4 miles off of the northeast coast of Great Exuma Island. It’s not a deserted island by any means—there are two restaurants, a hotel and 10 full-time inhabitants—but it’s a legendary stop for yacht guests and yacht crew on leave alike. SCUBA enthusiasts go for the blue hole at Hurricane Hole, but the real draw is the Chat ‘n’ Chill restaurant which is only accessible by boat. It doesn’t get more Caribbean than eating a plate of Chat ‘n’ Chill’s famous barbequed ribs or grilled chicken while watching the clear blue water from a hammock chair on the beach. It’s a refreshing break from 5-star gourmet meals on board.
6. Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico Flamenco Beach on Culebra Island is so beautiful that Puerto Rican locals will wait hours in line for a ferry ticket on the weekends. But from a yacht, you can skip the line and hop in the tender to motor ashore. The beach itself is about a mile long and contains everything a beach goer’s heart could desire: SCUBA and snorkeling, hiking, swimming, and relaxing. And for the history buff, the island used to be a pirate refuge and the remains of a few large tanks are scattered around the beach, vestiges from when the island was militarized. The main city of Culebra, Dewey, is not too far off, so vendor and restaurants are close—but not close enough to spoil the vibe.