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Your Guide to the Tobago Cays

Explore the magic of the Tobago Cays on a unique sailing holiday. Here is everything you need to know about this Caribbean paradise, and some of our favourite activities.

Nestled in the southern Grenadines, the Tobago Cays in the Caribbean offer unspoiled natural beauty and thriving marine ecosystems. Sailing the Tobago Cays is a great way to experience the magic of these ‘Jewels of the Grenadines’ and the perfect destination for anyone looking for a fun, relaxing tropical holiday.

The Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays are made of five small uninhabited islands, or cays, including Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradal, Petit Tabac, and Jamesby. Unlike many Caribbean destinations, these islands remain pristine and untouched by human development.

Port of Spain

There are no hotels, no bustling towns, no cruise ships and no infrastructure beyond basic amenities for visiting sailors. This is due to their protected and undeveloped status as part of the Tobago Cays Marine Park, a government-protected sanctuary dedicated to preserving the natural beauty and delicate marine ecosystems of the area. This untouched charm creates a sense of seclusion and tranquillity that is increasingly rare in the modern world.

Understanding the Tobago Cays Marine Park

Owned and run by the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines government, the Tobago Cays Marine Park is a protected area located within the Tobago Cays, in the southern islands of the Grenadines. This national park is celebrated for its rich biodiversity and pristine coral reefs and is known for its population of green turtles.

At its heart lies the Horseshoe Reef, one of the Caribbean’s largest and healthiest coral formations. The reef serves as a crucial habitat for diverse marine species, including sea turtle nesting sites. Above the waters, the cays are home to bird species, like pelicans and frigatebirds, iguanas and large hermit crabs.

The marine park promotes responsible tourism, offering educational programs, and designated anchoring zones to minimize environmental impact. While the Tobago Cays themselves are uninhabited, nearby islands like Union Island provide visitor facilities.

What To Do in the Tobago Cays

From exploring incredible reefs to hiking the islands on foot, the Tobago Cays offer something for everyone.

See the Underwater World

The underwater world of the Tobago Cays is nothing short of spectacular. Crystal-clear waters reveal vibrant coral reefs, fascinating shipwrecks, and an astonishing variety of marine life. Hop in the water off of Baradel Beach to see green sea turtles. It is one of the best places in all of the Caribbean to see them!

Tobago Cays Diving

Horseshoe Reef, located within the Tobago Cays Marine Park, is another great snorkelling spot. It is a few kilometres long and a lively coral and sea fan reef full of a great number of colourful fish like parrot fish, pufferfish, rays and even small barracuda schools.

Go Hiking

There are some nice hikes on the larger of the four cays. On the southern end of the beach at Petit Bateau there is a rocky path up the hill which offers great views of Petit Tobac and Sail Rock in the distance. Just off the beach at Baradel there is another path up the hill. Hike up and keep your eyes peeled for iguanas in trees.

Jamesby islands might have the best hike of all. Dingy or swim to the beach and take the path up the hill for 360 degrees from the top. Petit Tobac doesn’t have any hikes to speak of, but it is also worth a walk around if you want to feel like a pirate on a deserted island for a day. It was the site of filming for the Pirates of the Caribbean, in the scene where Jack Sparrow was marooned.

Enjoy the Food

As the cays are uninhabited there are no traditional restaurants on the island. However, if you don’t feel like cooking on your yacht, you can enjoy a meal on the beach at Petit Rameau by visiting one of the several “pop-up” beach restaurants on the islands.

These establishments bring in fresh ingredients and supplies each day, set up picnic tables and serve delicious BBQ seafood and lobster right there on the beach. Dining on the beach at sunset is an unforgettable experience.

Relax and Kick Back

The Tobago Cays are not somewhere you should impose a strict itinerary. Embrace island time, swim, lounge on the beach, have a drink, read a book, or just socialise with your fellow passengers. The Tobago Cays are the perfect place to kick back, relax and enjoy the view.

However, if you want to be a little more active. There are some designated kitesurfing spots at Jamesby and Petit Rameau.

Sailing in the Tobago Cay

The calm waters and straightforward navigation of the Tobago Cays make it a great sailing destination for sailors of all levels of experience. Whether you’re chartering a private yacht, bringing your own or enjoying a sailing trip, the Tobago Cays offer a unique opportunity to navigate the Caribbean’s hidden gems.

Popular routes and moorings

Sailing enthusiasts from around the world are drawn to the Tobago Cays for its ideal sailing conditions and stunning landscapes. There are several popular sailing routes that incorporate these islands into their itineraries from all over the Caribbean.

However, since there is no marina in the Tobago Cays, you can set sail from one of the surrounding islands like Bequia, Canouan or Union Island to arrive in no time.

Tobago cays
Tobago cays

Anchoring near Baradal or Petit Bateau is recommended, as these locations provide easy protection from the wind, and access to the best snorkelling spots and pristine beaches. Stay between the buoys. If you have questions, the Tobago Cays Marine Park authorities can provide guidance on responsible anchoring practices to protect the fragile marine environment of the area.

There are several boats that come around for help with mooring, supplies and provisions, water taxi services and more for a fee. They even have a legitimate garbage collection service!

Sailing conditions

Understanding the sailing conditions in the Tobago Cays is essential for a safe and enjoyable voyage. The region enjoys consistent easterly trade winds, which make navigation relatively straightforward.

However, it’s important to stay informed by checking local weather forecasts, and navigational charts, and adhering to local regulations to ensure a smooth and secure sailing experience. Safety should always be a top priority when exploring the Tobago Cays. If you don’t have any sailing experience or don’t feel comfortable navigating the waters of the Tobago Cays, you can join a sailing trip or crewed charter.

When to Visit the Tobago Cays

Choosing the perfect time for your Tobago Cays getaway depends on your preferences and priorities.

Peak Season (December to April)

The peak tourist season, spanning from December to April, offers the best weather conditions for sailing, snorkelling, and beach activities. During this period, rainfall is minimal, temperatures are pleasantly warm, and you’ll have abundant sunshine. However, it’s essential to note that this is also the busiest time of the year, and mooring spots can fill up quickly. Music and shenanigans from day-trippers by disrupt the silence and solitude of the area but it creates a more lively atmosphere.

Shoulder Seasons (November and May)

For those seeking a quieter and more tranquil experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of November and May. These months offer a delightful compromise between good weather and fewer crowds, allowing you to connect more intimately with the natural beauty and serenity of the Tobago Cays. Mooring spots may be more readily available during this time.

Off-Season (June to October)

The off-season, from June to October, is characterised by the hurricane season in the Caribbean. While this period typically experiences fewer visitors, it also comes with an increased risk of storms and rainfall. It’s generally not recommended for sailing or outdoor activities, and many “pop-up “beach restaurants and optional boat services will be closed during this time.

The Tobago Cays is one of the gems of the Caribbean. Its untouched beauty and incredible marine life draw visitors from around the world looking for a relaxing tropical getaway. Sailing around the islands is one of the best ways to explore the islands and is on the bucket list of many a sailor (and landlubber). So whether you visit with your own boat, join a Kraken Travel sailing trip or charter a yacht with us, you will have an unforgettable holiday in this island paradise.

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