Belize is slowly growing in popularity as a destination for cruising sailors. Its diving and marine life are reputed to be amongst the best in the world. Inside the barrier reef are hundreds of small cays, idyllic desert islands fringed in palm trees, ranging from the uninhabited to small resorts with welcoming beach bars. Many are part of a protected network of marine reserves, from the famous Blue Hole and Half Moon Cay in the north, to the little known and remote Sapodilla marine reserve in the south. Sailors used to the busy eastern Caribbean will delight in secluded anchorages, with unsurpassed snorkelling and diving, and rarely another boat in sight. Those sailors we met while sailing there on holiday remarked that it was like the eastern Caribbean was thirty years ago.
The period of unstable weather over Christmas is pushing longer into the Caribbean cruising season. In southern Belize this manifests itself in the form of strong (25-30kt) winds from the north west, bringing cloud and rain, and making the barrier reef into a lee shore hazard, rather than the trade wind drive easterlies. From March onwards through April and May, the weather is beautiful and the winds reliably from the east.
Although an increasingly popular holiday destination for American travellers, Belize is still comparatively undeveloped, and for the most part safe and friendly. Belize City is probably best avoided, sailors are better served using the town of Placencia in the south as a base to explore the barrier reef. The town is charming, friendly, safe and welcoming to tourists. There are a number of supermarkets offering a reasonable range of groceries, and a reasonable range of fresh produce available from roadside stalls.
Freya Rauscher’s cruising guide “Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast (Third Edition)” is a must have for exploring the region. Recent developments since the last edition include a new Placencia Marina and resort (16° 38' 15.08''N, 88° 19' 42.84W) a little way up the coast from town. It offers basic domestic facilities like fresh water, fuel, ice and rubbish collection, but little infrastructure beyond that. Thunderbirds Marine in Placencia (16° 32' 46.62''N, 88° 21' 39.25W), is less glamorous, but offers more in the way of yacht maintenance and haul out.