Yacht Charters in Belize
It’s always surprised me that the demand for either crewed or bareboat yacht charters in Belize isn’t far greater. Perhaps it’s one of those places that people simply don’t know enough about yet, and speaking selfishly that’s a good thing in many ways. I was reminded of this during the past week as I helped two different customers explore the sailing possibilities there. As is often the case, and one of the reasons I love working in the charter industry, fond memories of my own vacations are refreshed in chatting through various anchorages to visit and activities to take part in.
Simply put, Belize is a spectacular destination. It has all you expect from the typical Caribbean yacht charter destination – myriad low lying sandy palm-strewn islands with steady trade winds to afford easy island hopping. Some have larger towns with eclectic shops and unique restaurants, some have smaller towns, and some have nothing but what you bring along and a nice coral garden to snorkel.
As if that weren’t enough, Belize offers so much more. It’s of course known for its diving and snorkeling on the world’s second largest barrier reef; but, often overlooked by the sailor is a fascinating interior, filled with everything from Mayan ruins, (the ancient Mayan city of Caracol in Western Belize is believed to rival in size its better known neighbor Tikal, in Guatemala), to free-flowing rivers surrounded by lush jungle, it even has a pine forest as well as the world’s only jaguar preserve. While Ed Hamilton & Company specialize in arranging yacht charters, and it might not be in our best interests, I do recommend reserving some time in your vacation to do a land based stay to explore Belize’s mainland wonders.
Clearly I get carried away – back to the sailing. The cruising ground could be described as two halves. The northern half is accessed from San Pedro on well-known Ambergris Caye, and generally speaking, has larger islands with more population and development. San Pedro itself is perhaps the most touristy town in Belize with its many dive resorts due to a 5 minute ride to numerous dive sites on the barrier reef, but somehow retains its charm as a colonial village filled with friendly people who possess a disarmingly genuine nature. The island hopping is easier here, albeit the water is very shallow and I would choose to sail from here if I were more interested in a mix of culture and island ambience, with the easiest access to a variety of dive operators. TMM operates a fleet of catamarans from San Pedro, a 5 minute ride from the airport.
The southern ‘half’ of the cruising ground is accessed from Placencia, where The Moorings operates a fleet of both monohulls and catamarans. As you go south, the Belizean coastline bends in to the west, giving more, (and deeper), water in between the mainland and the barrier reef. This area has a wonderland of sparsely to uninhabited cayes to explore, many of which are part of national parks. One can still find a few restaurants at resorts on some of the cayes, and this area is a great choice for people who want to enjoy the natural beauty from their yacht, and don’t require nightlife. You have a bit more room to stretch your legs, so in my view the sailing itself is also better in this area.
On a bareboat charter, all of the sailing takes place inside the barrier reef, so you can explore all the cayes in relatively flat water sailing conditions. If you take a skipper aboard your yacht, or opt for a fully crewed yacht, you can also access the outlying atolls of Turneffe, Lighthouse, and Glover’s Reef, which are a must for the serious diver.
At Ed Hamilton & Company, our role is to paint as accurate a picture of boats, crews, and destinations as possible for our customers, and we strive to highlight the positives as equally as the negatives. As I’ve written this blog entry, I’ve been searching for the downsides of Belize to note, and have come up relatively empty. I do recognize my own bias, so will say that if you are looking for shopping, continuous nightlife, and 5 star resort after 5 star resort, don’t go to Belize; if you’re looking for the opposite of that, go there, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve been twice, and can’t wait to go back