The Caribbean Islands are a popular place to travel to. Many North Americans and Europeans go there, often just to relax in the sun and maybe do a day trip or two. Of course, for the independent traveller there are lots of options for travelling around and seeing much more of the islands than beaches and beer. Most travellers fly into one island and usually fly out of the same island again at the end of their trip. But there are several ways to combine many islands and thus create a fantastic trip.
Unlike what many might think, there are not abundant ferry connections between the islands of the Caribbean. As a result lots of travellers use airplanes to hop from one island to another. Several airlines offer the opportunity to buy airpasses which can be a good deal. But of course there are people who just don't like to fly all the time and would rather travel by boat between the islands. More so than in the Pacific, where distances between the islands are much bigger, there are thankfully a few options open for travellers to travel between islands and fly back home from a different island than the one on which they arrived. Of course, the occasional flight still is needed if you want to see lots of islands. A good mixture between flights and ferries would be the best way. And then of course there are other ways of getting around by using other boats, including (private) yachts, cruise ships or even cargo ships.
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The following connections are all possible using regular public transport by ferries. If you have the time and luck, you might be able to find a yacht to go with or maybe some cargo transport. Those options are not listed, but for some countries this actually is the only option, so shopping around for a place could be interesting. Countries without international connections include Cuba, the Bahamas (there used to be a ferry to and from Florida though), Haiti, the Cayman Islands, Barbados, the ABC Islands Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire (although they used to have connections with each other in the past) and Saint Kitts and Nevis, among other smaller islands. Most other countries and islands have several international and/or domestic services. Although technically not considered part of the Caribbean in this travel guide, a few ferries in Mexico and Venezuela are mentioned, as well as a reference to Central America for more information about Caribbean islands of the coast of for example Honduras, Belize and Panama.
Note that schedules, services and operators might change over time. From north to south you have the following choice of international and domestic ferry services.
Discovery Cruise Line operates a daily (except Wednesdays) cruise ferry between Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale in Florida and Freeport on Grand Bahama. It leaves at 9:30am from Fort Lauderdale, arriving in Freeport around 1:30pm, and returns from Freeport at 5:15pm, arriving in Fort Lauderdale around 10:30pm. So a one-way trip takes around 4 hours to the Bahamas, and about 5 hours back, which barely leaves you 4 hours at Grand Bahama Island. There are options to spend the night though and take a ferry the next day back to Florida. Services on board include three buffet meals and a Las Vegas style casino! A return ticket costs around US$140.
1. Bahamas Ferries has car and passenger services from the capital Nassau to destinations on Eleuthera, Exumas, Andros and Abacos. Fast daily ferry services travel between Nassau and most of the main islands. The main connections are:
Other services with Bahamas Ferries include Cat Island - Nassau, Driggs Hill - Nassau, Current - Nassau, Fresh Creek - Morgans Bluff, George Town - Nassau and Spanish Wells - Nassau. The latter leaves Nassau at 8:00am and arrives in Spanish Wells around 10:00am, and is often advertised as a possible daytrip as well.
2. Pinder’s Ferry operates small boat running twice a day between McLean’s Town, Grand Bahama and Crown Haven on Little Abaco.
3. On the Abacos, the Albury's Ferries operates regular ferries between Marsh Harbour and Great Guana and Scotland Cay, Man-O-War Cay, Hope Town and Elbow Cay. Also on the Abacos, there is the Green Turtle Ferry
Service between Treasure Cay Airport and Green Turtle Cay.
To add, there are watertaxis between Nassau and Paradise Island regularly making the crossings. Several other offshore islands and their neighboring cays are served by private water taxis. Also, there are about 20 mailboats serving many islands, including the Outer Islands further away to the south and southeast. Although less comfortable, they are a great but slow alternative to the normal ferries and watertaxis.
Because of the fact that Jamaica is not really close to most other Caribbean islands, international services are non-existent. But there are several options of taking a ferry between a few coastal towns/cities in the country. One option is to board a ferry from the capital Kingston to Port Royal. There is also a ferry between Port Antonio and Navy Island, only just over 5 minutes away from the mainland.
There are several domestic ferries travelling between the mainland of Haiti and several islands off the coast. Services include those to and from the capital Port-au-Prince and Jérémie and between Cote des Arcadins and Ile de la Gonave.
There is a ferry between North Sound and Rum Point on Grand Cayman which takes about 40 minutes each way. The ferry departs from the Hyatt Regency Canal at 10:00am, noon and 4:00pm on Mondays - Thursdays, on Friday to Sunday the last one leaves at 6pm. The return times from Rum Point are 11:00am, 3:00pm and and 6:30pm Mondays - Thursdays, on Friday to Sunday the last one is at 9:15pm.
There are several options regarding domestic ferry services in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Dale Marie is a weekend ferry between Bottle Creek in North Caicos and Middle Caicos. It runs Saturdays from about 8:00am through early afternoon. It is a 30-minute ride and carries 1-2 vehicles. Friday evenings and Sundays crossings are by appointment only.
The Buccaneer is a ferry between Grand Turk and Salt Cay. It is passenger only and it takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Travelling is one Wednesdays and Fridays only and it departs Salt Cay at 7:00am and Grand Turk at 2:30pm.
TCI Ferry Service is a ferry service between Walkin Marina Leeward on Providenciales and Sandy Point Marina on North Caicos. with 4 departures each day in both directions. There are 5 daily departures in both directions from Monday to Saturday and 3 on Sundays and holidays. It's US$25 for a single trip and US$40 for a same day return ticket. Check current timetables online.
There are several domestic services to take in the Dominican Republic. One of those is between Samana and Sabana de la Mar. Another option is to take one of several ferries in the southeastern part of the country, for example to Saona Island. More islands and national parks can be explored by ferry here.
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Ferries del Caribe offers three weekly ferries between Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic and Mayagüez in Puerto Rico. From Santo Domingo they leave on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:00pm arriving in Mayagüez at 8:00am the following morning. From Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, they leave on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8:00pm, and arrive in Santo Domingo at 8:00am the next morning. The journey takes about 12 hours in both directions.
There are ferries between the main island of Puerto Rico and some island to the east. Boats leave Fajardo for the islands of Culebra and Vieques at least four times a day to either island. It takes around one hour and services are with the Puerto Rican Port Authority Office.
Every two weeks leaving on a Sunday at 1:00pm, there is a fast ferry between Fajardo in Puerto Rico and St. John and St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. In the opposite direction, boats leave every two weeks on a Thursday at 5:00pm from St. John and 6:00pm from St. Thomas. The trip takes about 2 hours and services are wih Transportation Services Virgin Islands.
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Passenger ferries operate between St. Thomas (Red Hook & Charlotte Amalie) and St. John (Cruz Bay). Car ferry service is available between Redhook, St. Thomas and Cruz Bay, St. John. There are three independently run car ferries and you only pay for the car, no matter how many passengers there are.
The Water Island Ferry travels between Crown Bay, St. Thomas and Water Island, contact Water Island Ferry (340) 690-4159 for details on services.
There is also a ferry between Christiansted, St. Croix and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The ferry departs from the Marine Terminals in Gallows Bay on St. Croix and in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. Contact VI Seatrans for more information about schedules and prices.
Contact Inter Island Boat Service (340) 776-6597 for these last three international connections by ferry.
There are at least 6 operators between several destinations within the British Virgin Islands with many connections on a daily basis. Two of them have services between Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Other connections include Virgin Gorda to Beef Island vv, Tortola to Jost van Dyke vv, Beef Island to Marine Cay vv and Tortola to Peter Island vv. Check the schedule (also between BVI and the US Virgin Islands) at the BVI Welcome site. Smith's Ferry now also makes sailings to and from the northern island of Anegada from both Tortola (Road Town) and Virgin Gorda (Spanish Town) three times a week in both directions.
Other operators between several islands include North Sound Express and Speedy's. New Horizon Ferry travels between West End on Tortola and Jost's Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke.
There are two companies offering ferries between Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel of the coast of Yucatan. Crossings are about 15 times a day, with very early (starting at 5:00am) and late (up to midnight) sailings being a possibility to do some long daytrips. There are also ferries from the mainland to Isla Mujeres.
In Central America, there are several possibilities of travelling between the mainland and the islands of the coast in the Caribbean sea. Although not mentioned in dept here, you have the possibility for example of travelling to the Bocas del Toro of the coast of Panama and to Roatan island of the coast of Honduras. Many other options are available, but check the Central America guide and the individual countries for details.
In season, ferries operated by the Anguilla Ferry System run between the islands of Anguilla and Saint Martin. They leave daily between 7:00am and 7:00pm roughly every 20 minutes between Blowing Point (Anguilla) and Marigot on the French part of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
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Although it takes a little longer compared to Saint Martin, there is also a convenient route between Anguilla and Sint Maarten directly. Ferries travel between Blowing Point in Anguilla and Philipsburg in Sint Maarten. For more information about prices and schedules of this trip can be obtained by calling (264) 497 6665.
There are possibilities to go by ferry from Saint Martin to Saint Barthélemy. The MV Voyager travels two times daily between Marigot to Gustavia, except on Wednesdays and Sundays, when it leaves from Oyster Pond on Sint Maarten (Dutch part of the island). It takes about 75 minutes from Marigot, 45 minutes from Oyster Pond. The ferries leave at 9:00am and 6:45pm.
The MV Voyager travels daily and on Wednesdays and Sundays twice daily (one in the morning at 9:00am and one in the early evening at 6:45pm) between Oyster Pond and Gustavia.
Another option is to take the high speed ferry The Edge that travels to Gustavia once a day from Tuesday till Saturday. It leaves from Pelican Marina in Dutch St. Maarten at 9:00am. This passage lasts around 45 minutes.
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The MV Dawn II has sailings 3 times a week according to schedule between Philipsburg on Sint Maarten and Fort Bay on Saba, both leeward islands of the Netherlands Antilles. Crossings are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, leaving Saba in the morning and returning from Sint Maarten in the late afternoon, taking about 2 hours each way. Sometimes there are cancelations, so check the latest schedule over here.
Another option is taking the Edge Ferry, departing Pelican Marina in St. Maarten at 9:00am on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, returning from Saba later that day. It takes about 90 minutes to cover the sea between the islands.
In Saint Kitts and Nevis six ferries operate between the islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis: the MV Caribe Queen, MV Carib Breeze and MV Carib Surf, the MV Mark Twain, the MV Geronimo and the MV Sea Hustler. The MV Mark Twain is currently inactive, but the other 5 vessels have a total of 15 sailings a day between both islands in either direction, between 6:30am (first sailing from Saint Kitts) to 7:00pm (last sailing from Saint Kitts). From Nevis, the first one leaves at 7:00am and the last at 6:00pm. Crossings take about 45 minutes and provide an excellent way of travelling between the capital Basseterre on Saint Kitts and Charlestown, the 'capital' of Nevis.
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The Antigua to Barbuda Ferry takes 1.5 hour and the ferry departs at 8:30am on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from Saint John's, arriving at River Dock, Barbuda. The return service from Barbuda departs at 3:15pm on the same days. On Tuesdays and Fridays the service departs Antigua at 4:45pm and returns the following day from Barbuda at 6:30pm. Reservations can be made by phone (001 268 464 9453). Or check the Antigua Ferries website.
The MV Fjortof is operated by Twin Islands Ferry Service Ltd (TIFS) and commenced regular ferry services to Montserrat from Antigua in December 2009, with a one-way trip time of approximately 90 minutes. The fares for the ferry service are EC$125.00 for a one-way-trip, EC$250.00 for an adult return trip and children under 12 pay EC$120 (US$1 = EC$2.65). Each passenger is allowed 2 pieces of baggage free of charge and any additional baggage is charged at EC $50.00 per piece.
No advance ticketing is required, as travelers can purchase their tickets upon check-in. To facilitate ticketing, check-in and other clearances at the point of sale at the ports, passengers are asked to check in 90 minutes in advance when travelling from Antigua and 60 minutes before the scheduled time for departure in Montserrat. In order to ensure continuity of service during the busy upcoming winter season, TIFS will have a backup ferry available to provide cover as may be required.
Travellers coming to Montserrat for the winter 2010-2011 period will benefit significantly from an expanded ferry service to the island from Antigua. From December 1st, 2010, the MV Fjortof ferry will operate the following schedule:
For further information on the service contact Twin Islands Ferry Service Ltd by phone at (268) 464 8474 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on the ferry service, updates, as well as general tourism information can be found at Visit Montserrat.
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The islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Lucia are a perfect example of combining several different Caribbean islands without the need to fly. Although there might be more operators, an example is given below. Note that these are not all direct services and travelling from for example Saint Lucia to Dominica might involve a brief stop on Martinique. All crossings are made by fast and comfortable catamaran services.
L'Express des Iles has daily services between the main island of Guadeloupe and several other islands. To the Iles des Saintes, there are daily connections leaving Pointe-a-Pitre (Grande-Terre) for Terre de Haut at 8:00am. In the opposite direction they leave Terre de Haut at 4:00pm.
There are two crossings daily (one in the morning and one in the late afternoon) as well between Terre de Haut and Trois Rivières (Basse-Terre) and between Terre de Bas and Trois Rivières.
From Terre de Haut you can take another local ferry to Terre de Bas as well.
Other connections include the ferry from Point-a-Pitre to Grand Bourg on the island of Marie-Galante, which travels 3 times on weekdays, one of which is via Saint Louis. During weekends, especially on Sundays, there are less services.
Trois Rivières and Marie Galante are connected by ferries as well.
There are also daily regular ferries to Grande Anse on the island of La Désirade, east of Grande-Terre with Le Colibri. You can contact them at 357947 in Port de Peche. Iguana is another ferry operator between several islands, including connections between St Francois and Terre de Haut and Marie Galante and La Desirade and between St Anne and Terre de Haut and Marie Galante and La Desirade.
From Sainte Anne and/or Saint Louis in the west of Grande Terre you can take ferries to most of the above mentioned places, like La Desirade, Marie Galante and Iles del les Saintes. To add, there are also ferries to Petite Terre between Grand Terre and La Desirade, that make brief stops here.
CTM Deher has services between Basse Terre and Les Saintes several times daily.
You can find detailed maps, schedules, prices and information about companies at this website
L'Express des Iles operates almost daily services between the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe. They leave Roseau, the capital of Dominica on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 3:00pm (Saturday 1:00pm) and take about 2.5 hours. In the opposite direction, they leave Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe at Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 8:00am (Sundays 10:00am) and take under 2 hours.
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L'Express des Iles has regular services between Pointe-a-Pitre and Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique. They leave almost daily around 8:00am and arrive around 11:45am. The ferries first go to Dominica, travelling onwards to Martinique.
Several companies offer ferry services between Fort-de-France and several resort areas. Somatours Vedettes runs a ferry to Pointe du Bout taking about 20 minutes and leaving every hour or so. Vedettes Madinina travels there as well. Matinik Cruise Line goes to the village of Trois-Ilets every 75 minutes or so.
L'Express des Iles has at least 3-4 weekly services to Castries. It's the same ferry which goes to Dominica and Martinique, thus leaving around 8:00am from Pointe-a-Pitre. It arrives in Castries around 3:00pm.
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L'Express des Iles has 3 weekly services between Dominica and Martinique at 10:15am Wednesdays and Fridays and 12:15pm on Sundays, travelling between the capitals Roseau and Fort-de-France. From Martinique they leave on Mondays at 1:00pm and Saturdays at 11:30am. It takes about 1.5 hours in both directions.
L'Express des Iles has 3 to 5 weekly sailings between the capitals of Dominica and Saint Lucia, Roseau and Castries respectively. All of them stop on their route in Fort-de-France, Martinique (see above). Most boats leave around 10am and take about 4.5 hours to complete the total journey.
Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:30pm and Sundays at 3:30pm, L'Express des Iles travels from Fort-de-France to Castries on Saint Lucia. In the opposite direction, ferries leave 5 times a week. Both crossings take about 80 minutes.
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There is an Inter Island ferry between several of the main islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Four ferries operate between the islands of Saint Vincent, Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island. The exact schedule can be found on this page.
Admiralty Transport (phone 784 458 3348) and Bequia Express (phone 784 458 3472) have 4 boats together, travelling between the island of Bequia and Kingstown on Saint Vincent. There are 7 sailings on weekdays, 5 on Saturdays and 2 on Sundays.
From Union Island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines there are ferries to and from the island of Carriacou, Grenada. The M.V. Jasper travels from Union Island to Carriacou at 6:00am on Mondays and Thursdays. In the other direction, it leaves Carriacou on the same day around noon. The costs is about EC$20.00, which is around 7.5 US Dollar. In addition various fishing boats leave Union Island at 7:30am and will drop passengers in Carriacou for about the same price. Expensive watertaxis ply the same route between Carriacou and Union Island.
Ospreylines has ferry services connecting several islands in Grenada, including the main island, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Services between Grenada and Carriacou and Carriacou and Petite Martinique usually are twice a day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon.
From October 2009 onwards, BEDY Ocean Lines, based in Grenada, will have two lines operating ferries for residents of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
One ferry will be based in Saint Vincent, serving Saint Lucia and Barbados, while the other ferry will be based in Grenada, serving Trinidad and Tobago. For now, ferries are for residents only and in the near future more Caribbean Islands (mainly to the north) can be added.
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The Trinidad and Tobago Port Authority operates daily car ferries between the capital Port of Spain on Trinidad and the capital of Tobago, Scarborough. The T&T Express & T&T Spirit are fast ferries while the Panorama & Warrior Spirit are conventional ferries. The difference means the choice between 2.5 hours or 5.5 hours of travelling. You can find their schedule over here. Tickets can be bought at the ferry terminal.
There is supposed to be a weekly car ferry travelling between La Guiria in Venezuela and Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago but check the port authorities if this option is still available for travellers. The ferry arrives late in Trinidad and onward transport to Port of Spain can be hard to find. As of August 2010 the ferry leaves Chaguaramus, not far from Port of Spain, Trinidad at 09:00am every Wednesday. It gets to La Guiria, Venezuela before 1:00pm local time. The main option to travel out of La Guiria is a taxi to Carupano where more travel options are available. That's the one down side to the ferry, La Guiria not having more travel options.
There are express ferries from Isla Margarita 4 times daily to Puerto La Cruz on the mainland of Venezuela. There are at least two daily slow ferries as well between the two places. Also, there are ferries to and from Isla Coche from Monday to Friday two times a day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. There used to be ferries from Isla Margarita to La Guaira for connections to Caracas, but these were suspended in 2007. Check Conferry for details on schedules and prices.
Palm Ferries opens new ferry services from late 2008.
They will travel between many island, from Sint Maarten in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south and many island in between including Montserrat, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados and Grenada.
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Throughout the Caribbean, there have been several ferry service, both domestic as international, which unfortunately are not available anymore to travellers. Mentioned earlier, there had been ferries between Florida and the Bahamas, as well as ferries between Isla Margarita and the mainland near Caracas. Other former services include the ferry between Antigua and Montserrat, which is still out of order these days. Also, there are no ferries whatsoever between the islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. Not between the three of them and not between one of the islands and other islands or the mainland of South America. There used to be several connections between the three islands and between Aruba and Venezuela. In 2009 there is supposed to be a once weekly ferry service again though between Curacao and Bonaire.
Also, there have been discussions and rumors about new international ferry services between Barbados and several islands in the West Indies, even up north to Guadeloupe, stopping along the way at other islands like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica. Unfortunately, still in early 2008 there are no ferries from Barbados.
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