Belize is a small country in Central America; Mexico is to the North, and Guatemala is to the West and South.
The country’s pristine Caribbean coastline stretches for 240miles or 386km and is littered with many uninhabited coral islands or ‘cayes’ that can only be explored by boat.
Here’s Why Belize is a Great Place to Sail:
Belize offers year-round easterly trade winds that blow between 15 and 22 knots most days. The reef helps to protect the sailing grounds, and calm waters with short passages are almost always guaranteed. Clear, calm waters, sandy beaches, and secluded anchorages make Belize a great place to sail.
Is Belize A Good Place To Sail?
The coast of Belize is one of the few truly unspoiled destinations globally. So, if you are looking for a sailing destination that escapes the crowded anchorages often found in many Caribbean islands, then you have come to the right place.
After the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Belize is home to the second-largest coral reef globally. The Mesoamerican Reef ran 350nm from Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico) down the coast of Belize and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 1996.
This reef and the surrounding waters are perfect for sailing, diving, and snorkeling. Some say that the underwater scenery is equal to some of the best locations anywhere in the world.
Here you can find over 50 species of corals, more than 500 species of tropical fish, whale sharks, turtles, and many different types of seabirds.
Is It Safe To Sail Belize?
When we think of sailing safety in Belize, there are two different aspects to think about:
Safety At Sea In Belize:
The coral reefs and many islands can make navigation difficult in Belize.
The maze of shallow waters, sandbanks, and coral reefs mean sailing briefs (before you leave), course-plotting, up-to-date charts, and modern chart-plotters are highly recommended. Even armed with the latest gadgets, there is nothing better than keeping a good watch.
In addition, as the reef area itself is generally considered quite difficult to navigate, most bareboat charters are only allowed with experienced and qualified sailors. Even so, it would be best if you were careful not to run aground as there are potentially big penalties for destroying the reef.
If you do not have the prerequisite experience or qualifications for a bareboat charter, qualified captains are available for hire at a daily rate.
Crime In Belize?
Like anywhere in the world, there are petty crime issues in Belize, but most people report feeling very safe there.
However, in February 2021, several minor piracy incidents were reported against local fishermen in the ‘cayes’ and off the coast of Belize, where outboard engines, fish, and electronics were stolen.
There have been no reports of piracy incidents against cruisers or private yachts.
Normal safety precautions like locking your boat while you go to shore and storing valuables out of sight should be sufficient safety measures against petty crime while sailing in Belize.
What Is The Best Time To Sail Belize?
As Belize has constant trade winds and a sub-tropical climate, the best time to sail in Belize is any time of the year! However, while temperatures throughout the year average at around 80ºF or 27ºC, there are two distinct seasons.
The dry season runs from December to May, and the wet season runs from June to November, which coincides with the hurricane season. Hurricanes are very rare in Belize, but it’s good to be aware that they can occur during this time.
The water temperature in Belize ranges between 79 – 83ºF or 26 – 28ºC, which is perfect for all-year-round diving, swimming, and snorkeling.
In addition, Belize has consistent easterly trade winds which blow, on average, 10-15 knots. This means that Belize has pretty ideal sailing conditions for some gentle cruising all year round. You can expect perfect weather during your yacht charter or holiday in Belize.
Plus, if you sail within the barrier reef, you are protected from the open ocean, and so you should always have flat water and minimal waves!
Chartering in Belize can get busy during the high season, which runs from mid-November to late April. So if you’d like to skip the crowds, it’s best to go in late May and early June.
How Much Does It Cost To Charter A Boat In Belize?
The price to charter a boat in Belize will depend on the size and type of yacht you want to rent, whether you need a caption and crew, a steward or a private chef, and any extra equipment not included in the basic boat charter price.
However, due to the shallow waters in and around Belize, catamarans and a few shallow draft monohulls are available.
Costs to charter a catamaran in Belize can start from $8,000 per week in the low season and go up to over $20,000 per week in the high season. A sailing monohull in Belize can start from around $2,500 per week to rent in the low season and go up to over $3,000 per week in the high season.
In low season you may be able to shop around and get even better deals!
The price difference between the two styles of boats is based on the fact that a catamaran is more spacious and comfortable aboard. If you are traveling as a large group or a big family, a catamaran offers plenty of space both inside and on deck for everyone. Plus, having two hulls gives stability and comfort suitable for anyone.
Sailing monohulls offer smaller accommodation below, and the cooking facilities are not as luxurious as on a catamaran. They are more suited to smaller groups or couples who want to experience the thrill of sailing.
As monohulls ‘heel’ or lean over when sailing, there is a higher chance of sea-sickness for those with a tendency for motion sickness, so a monohull is not for everyone!
What Are The Main Reasons People Like To Sail Belize?
Belize is a country that is a little bit off the beaten track and offers something different from other sailing destinations.
Unspoiled beaches, pristine rainforests, exotic flora and fauna, ancient Mayan ruins, and a melting pot of culture can all be found here. This small Central American country is certainly a hidden treasure.
Sailing in Belize is one of the best ways to explore this beautiful country. With more than 200 offshore islands and ‘cayes’ and a long stretch of unspoiled coastline, there are many secret places to throw out your anchor and live your desert island dreams.
In addition, Belize boasts of having the second-largest barrier reef after Australia. The reef runs along the entire coast and offers an abundance of coral and tropical fish to see – you need to pack your flippers and a mask. It’s no wonder that the famous explorer and navigator Jacques Cousteau described the reef in Belize as one of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world for diving and snorkeling.
Plus, after a fun-filled day, you can usually find a local beach bar serving fresh coconut water and icy cold rum cocktails along with hammocks to relax in. For dinner, there’s an abundance of fresh fish to choose from, that’s if you didn’t catch something yourself!
What Are The Main Reasons To Stay Away?
Sailing along the coast of Belize does require a certain level of experience, so if you are a novice sailor or have never chartered a boat before, it’s best to stay away or start your sailing experience somewhere that is less of a challenge.
The maze of coral reefs, sandbanks and small islands makes it a tricky destination to navigate by boat, especially if you have no experience sailing in shallow waters. Plus, if you happen to hit a reef, you will be liable to pay damages to the Belize government.
The Belize coastguard has been trained by the strict US coastguard (USCG) to keep an eye on anyone on a boat. So, if they suspect any wrongdoing, they will board you, check your papers and take action if they find anything out of order.
They may even impound your boat, which would be a disastrous end to any holiday!