Our 12 Most Exotic Sailing Destinations

exotic locations In the past 15 years of rounding the globe, certain destinations were high on our “exotic” scale. We define an exotic place as one that's beckoned to us, maybe because of its historical significance, maybe for its tropical, faraway appeal, maybe because it always seemed alluring, out of reach and fascinating with that we've-read-about-it-in-books-and-now-we're-really-here quality.

San Blas Islands, Panama

The San Blas Islands, known by the locals as Kuna Yala (Land of Kunas) is the home of museum-worthy molas, women who wear gold rings in their noses and beads on their arms and legs, and proud, independent people who live in thatch huts and get married and buried in hammocks. This was our first really unusual, exotic adventure into a totally different culture and we relished it.

san blas island

Galapagos Islands

Charles Darwin and his discoveries in the Galapagos Islands … something we'd read about since grade school and here we were, visiting the Galapagos just like the HMS Beagle. The animal life was incredible with Galapagos penguins swimming around the boat, marine iguanas sunning on rocks, sea lions sleeping in dinghies and giant century-old tortoises munching on greens.

galapagos island

Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile

If you've ever read Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, this was the island upon which the real Alexander Selkirk was marooned. We scrambled to the top of the lookout that Selkirk climbed daily watching for a ship. We saw endemic Juan Fernandez hummingbirds (picafloras) feeding on cabbage trees. We took in the history and legends of a place few will ever visit.

juan fernandez islands

Easter Island, Chile

Rapa Nui, Isla Pascua or Easter Island … whatever you call it, it's an exotic place to visit. Moai statues stand sentry, facing inland to the island and its people, not facing out to sea. Wandering around these giant monoliths was incredible.

easter island

Pitcairn Island, Pacific Ocean (British Territory)

Anchoring off Pitcairn Island, we tried to imagine what the mutinous crew of the HMS Bounty must have thought as they chose this isolated island for their new home. Brenda Christian, great-great-granddaughter of the infamous Fletcher Christian, and her husband, Mike, provided hospitality and tours of the island that stretched up, up, up out of the sea.

pitcairn island

Chatham Islands, New Zealand

We'd never even heard of the Chatham Islands until someone happened to mention them to us as a potentially interesting place to visit. Located 500 miles east off the coast of New Zealand's South Island, we found the inhabitants of the “first island to greet each new day” warm and welcoming though the wild and windy Chatham Islands weather was not. The expanse of the Te Whanga Lagoon abounded with graceful native black swans, fossilized shark's teeth and endemic flora and fauna.

chatham islands

Tristan da Cunha, Atlantic Ocean (British Territory)

Touted as the most isolated island in the world, Tristan da Cunha's 300 self-reliant inhabitants are a hardy lot clinging to a volcano top in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. We know several sailors who passed by because of bad weather. We were fortunate enough to have settled conditions to call at this seldom-visited island for a taste of Tristanian hospitality.

tristan de cuna

Chesterfield Reef, New Caledonia (France)

Located in the Coral Sea on the route between Australia and Vanuatu, we thought we'd stop overnight and a week later found it difficult to leave this uninhabited reef teeming with birdlife, sea turtles, whales and dolphins.

chesterfield reef

Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands

The protected anchorage inside this atoll allowed us to enjoy the Cook Island's only national park and it was absolute magic. We visited several islands and islets within the atoll, amazed at the bird life, the beauty and the number of other cruisers in the middle of nowhere with whom we had to share it.

suwarrow atoll

Tierra del Fuego, Chile

The Land of Fire at the bottom of the world was cold and remote and beautiful beyond belief. Sailing alongside the magnificent glaciers that swirled down the mountainsides and kissed the water below; wending our way through a labyrinth of channels in the Straits of Magellan and along the Beagle Channel; anchoring in tiny coves in the century-old wake of Joshua Slocum. This was beyond exotic … it was surreal.

tierra del fuego

Tasmania, Australia

Taswegians refer to Tasmania as “Down Under, Down Under”. The endemic flora and fauna was a delight, but mostly we reveled in the natural beauty and ruggedness of the place. In particular, Port Davey, accessed only by boat, was sheer eye candy.


Tahiti, French Polynesia

Waking up at the marina located in the middle of downtown Pape'ete, Tahiti, smelling the coffee and fresh croissants in the morning and hearing the market buzz was nothing short of fantastic. This is the stuff dreams are made of and it rates right up there with the most exotic ports of call there are, especially with such a warm Polynesian welcome.


If you'd like to taste more of these exotic destinations, check out the Nine of Cups website pages with the highlighted links above.