Charter Vacation: Bumming Around in Belize

A week of boating bliss in Belize brings a fresh perspective.

If you're beginning to think about a late fall getaway before the holiday rush, consider chartering out of Belize.

Belize Moorings charter sailboats
The Moorings's base in Belize.

As November hit its stride, we decided to put a pause on Thanksgiving meal preparation and the relentless Christmas music and get out of town to the more laidback vibe of Belize and a week of boating bliss with The Moorings

We had chartered a Moorings 4500 catamaran which was so new, it still had that new yacht smell. The base is impeccably run by manager Renee Brown and her husband, and everything was ready when we arrived. Having watched their online chart briefing, I came armed with questions, but luckily, we received a brief overview of the charter grounds as well as a detailed walkthrough of the boat. All that done, we still had time to get out of the marina and make it to Monkey River for our panga tour of local wildlife and birds the next morning. 

We spent the rest of the week moseying from one cay to the next. One absolute highlight was Ray Cay where we snorkeled around an island and right beside a local fishing boat. We had to book a tour since it’s a national park and you can’t dinghy in yourself. The local guides knew the exact time when all the critters showed up near the local fish boat which was dumping tempting goodies for them. I came literally face-to-face with a giant turtle and watched sharks, stingrays, and remoras my size dance all around us. It was like snorkeling in an aquarium. 

One note on Belize. It’s shallow.

You can follow the charts to the inch and still find yourself on top of coral heads and shifting sandbars. Know your navigation. Keep a sharp lookout. Also, a word on the weather: no matter how much you think you’ve planned, November comes up with iffy breezes from all directions in Belize (make sure to check the prevailing breeze in any season). We sailed little, mostly due to the incredibly shallow water near the cay. That said, we enjoyed a wonderful lazy sail that lasted the majority of our last day.

Placencia, Belize
Placencia, Belize

Some practicalities

When you book air travel, be sure to add a flight down from Belize City to Placencia. Tropic Air operates frequent 30-minute flights that deposit you on the peninsula. From there you can take a taxi to your accommodations. 

Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and private homes are plentiful for all budgets. You can go with basic accommodations local style or opt for luxury digs in resorts such as Naia or Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn. We booked an upmarket townhouse from Placencia Pointe via Vrbo with a full kitchen, two outdoor terraces, and a pool. It was walking distance to town and all its great restaurants.

Placencia is very walkable, but you can rent a golf cart from Captain Jaks. We decided not to rent a car but instead booked tours for adventures afield. Not only did we not have to stress over the roads, but we also learned a lot about Belizean culture and wildlife from our drivers. 

The currency is the Belize dollar which exchanges 2:1 with the US dollar, but American currency is widely accepted. Bring some cash because smaller outfits and street vendors don’t take credit cards like most of the restaurants and grocery stores. English is widely spoken but sometimes with a strong dialect. 

Provisioning via the Moorings was easy. We picked up a few more goodies in one of the many Placencia grocery stores. We also found restaurants on just about every island and cay. 

Tubing in Belize
Tubing in Belize.

A land tour is a must.

Take a few days before or after your charter because a land tour is a must. We booked via Truly Wild Belize for a long drive to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich plus a cave tubing adventure. Due to the recent heavy rains, we couldn’t reach Xunantunich, but our driver diverted to Cahal Pech, a smaller ancient village that we had to ourselves. The cave tubing was a hoot as we floated down a river and through fantastic caves, our tubes tied together in a long centipede. 

Prepare your certifications because Belize adds a hurdle to the process of bareboat chartering where the government must approve you and your experience before you even arrive in Belize. The Moorings will help with this process, but it’s up to you whether you qualify.

sailboat off Belize
When you book air travel, be sure to add a flight down from Belize City to Placencia.

A gift to yourself

Would you believe it’s only six months until the holidays? If you have a chance to get away before then, especially somewhere tropical and mellow, do it. Not only is it a wonderful reset before all the madness, it’s the best of shoulder season. In November, The Moorings had great boats from which to choose, the restaurants were wide open, and the islands were nearly our own. It’s the best gift you can give yourself if only for the fresh perspective it brings.

by Zuzana Prochaska

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