Belize Diving and Sailing Charter


In 1994 I finished college and went to work at Oracle Corp. Also starting that year was Bill, a recent college graduate from Georgia. We became fast friends with him and his soon to be wife Dara. I am so happy to say that 30 years later we are still the best of pals. We’ve spent time together in our home and boat here, their homes in the Portland area, traveling in Europe and chartering sailboats in amazing places. Eventually, though, they decided it was time to start a family and we went sailing.


Fast forward to now and the kids are grown and in college. Jenna, the oldest, has always wanted to learn to scuba. She’s in her last year of undergrad at University of Oregon and had some spare credits so she took a dive class and got certified in a very cold lake in western Oregon. One day last winter I bought some concert tickets for a show in Eugene and called Bill & Dara to see if we could meet up while we were in their neighborhood.

Bill says “Well, we were thinking about you. Jenna is on spring break that week and we want to go to Belize and take her diving.” It took us zero time to say “Heck yes, let’s rent a sailboat and make a trip out of it”. Rob and I had more time to spare, so we went a week early and did some other touring around Belize on a ferry and then in a rental car. They flew in and we provisioned and sailed out into the beautiful waters of the Caribbean. Here are some highlights of that trip.

After a direct six hour flight from Seattle to Belize City, I wanted to stay somewhere close to the airport. We knew Belize City is not for tourists – it’s very crime ridden and unattractive. Right after we left they issued at state of emergency for the area because of the crime problems. I found a “resort” right near the airport across the river. When we arrived we found the pictures were not even close to the reality of the facilities. It had barely survived covid and was up for sale. But we had the driver/river boat captain/maintenance man named Ben stop at the store and I made dinner for he and Rob & I and we made the best of it. It did make me nervous, though, about the remaining spots I had booked in other locations.

The next day we took a taxi across Belize City to the waterfront and caught a Belize Express catamaran out to Ambergris Caye. It was a 90 minute ride each way, and our first trip into the Caribbean in too many years.

We stayed in a VRBO hosted by a super nice guy from Austin. It was beachfront with a private dock and beautiful beach. The barrier reef is very close to the Caye, and we could watch the boats sail past in the gorgeous and warm turquoise waters.

We toured around San Pedro for a couple of days and had some nice walks, great meals out and took some pretty pictures. After two days we caught the ferry back to Belize City, grabbed a shuttle to the airport, rented a car and hurried out of town. I had thought the Belize countryside would be mountainous like what we had seen in Guatemala, but what I saw as we flew in was quite flat. The drive up into the highlands was not particularly interesting, but our next spot was quite lovely.

We stayed in a cabin at the Dream Valley lodge. It was down a quiet dirt road alongside the Belize River, and totally run by young women. We saw no men, only women aged 30ish, and our stay there was delightful. The facilities were first class, the food was delicious, and the grounds and hospitality first rate. My fears of a repeat of the first night were quickly gone.

One day we drove up to Xunantunich, a site of Mayan ruins very near the Guatemalan border on the road to Tikal. It was a hot day, but there was plenty of shade to walk around and see the nicely restored structures. It’s a smaller site than Tikal or Machu Picchu, but still interesting history on display.

The next day we took a canoe trip through a cave. Turns out Belize has a significant number of caves and we saw Barton Creek, which is the 5th largest at 8,000 meters long. We couldn’t get very far up because of a rock bridge, but it was an interesting tour. The guide paddled the canoes and told stories of Mayan historical events that occurred inside the caves. It was nice and cool inside the cave, which was a relief from the significant heat in the highlands.

The next day we drove back down to the coast to start preparing and provisioning for our sailing trip. This is the porch and beach at our hotel.

And this is our tiny little cabana for two days. We met with the Moorings Charter company and talked about sailing inside the barrier reef and the best places to anchor for day stops and overnight. We met with the dive company that I had been corresponding with and confirmed three dives for us where they would come out and pick us up from the boat and coordinated where we would be anchored (this turned out not to be as good as they advertised, as they cancelled one of our dives at the last minute). We also scoped out all the grocery stores in town since we still had our rental car and stocked up on paper goods and liquids for our trip and dropped those at the charter base.

Bill and Dara and Jenna flew in from Portland late in the day and we made our final visit to the dive shop and plans for morning provisioning and checking out the boat.

As always, I had been doing tons of research, reading the cruising guide and watching the chart briefing from the Moorings and talking to the dive shop about where to dive and where to be picked up from. I had searched through the charts to find the little spots where we would anchor among all the coral and shallows inside the barrier reef. So we set out the first day and headed to Lark Caye where Go Sea Tours would pick us up the next day for a dive out at Glovers Reef.

Our first dive was spectacular. We were picked up and had a 90 minute high speed boat ride to the edge then outside the barrier reef into the Caribbean Sea to Glover Reef. We had two dives with lunch between. The first one (Jenna’s first warm water dive ever) was spectacular, taking us through and around underwater pinnacles covered with coral and teeming with marine life and fishes of all kinds. The boat ride was long but worth every second.

The next day we were heading north in very fickle winds, and I was teaching Jenna to sail in very difficult conditions. Then the wind picked up significantly on our nose and the seas were high and we were pounding north. I had just enough cell service to check email and found the dive shop had cancelled our dive at the next schedule (and agreed upon) pickup spot. We decided to stop bashing and diverted over to Pelican Range and went to Hideaway Caye for dinner. This is an American expat from Florida who lives there with his wife and daughter on a tiny little island, and we had the best meal of our entire vacation. Conch fritters to die for, fresh caught fish, shrimp and conch with rice and veggies for dinner. Off the charts delicious and a special night out.

The next day the north winds were blowing strong and with no dive scheduled, we abandoned our plans to continue north and set sail downwind. The base had promised us a very favorite spot was Hatchet Caye, so Bill and I had a glorious day of sailing down that direction. Unfortunately, once we got there we found the protection from the north wind nonexistent, so we turned back west and went around Laughing Bird National Park and into the protection of South Long Coco Caye. Which is where we stayed for the remainder of the charter.

But we had spectacular snorkeling right off the boat, and the dive shop picked us up again for another day of diving at Laughing Bird. The park does not allow any private boats into the park waters, so we enjoyed two dives with Go Sea Tours again, with lunch at the island. It again was a beautiful day of diving and Jenna did great and was actually the first one off the boat and into the water.

We changed our flight the last night to avoid a stay over in Belize City and found a nice room at the May Cove Inn. Again we had a sweet little room on the beach and a nice last dinner with a Caribbean view.

It was, all in all, an exceptional trip and I’m grateful to our friends for suggesting it. Now we just need to make sure it’s not another 20 years between charters. I’m thinking maybe a dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef on a liveaboard dive boat, then sailing the Whitsunday Islands. Maybe we can make that work!

Pix from this trip are here at Belize Pix