One of the coolest things to do in Belize is the three-day sailing trip over the Belize Barrier Reef. This is the second-largest coral reef in the world, stretching for 250 kilometers (155 miles). It may be smaller than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but it’s in much better condition. For those who love sailing, snorkeling, and exploring paradisiacal islands, this multi-day sailing trip is a must-do in Belize. The lively island of Caye Caulker is the starting point for the sailing journey to the city of Dangriga on the Stann Creek River. The three days are all about sailing, snorkeling, making new friends, discovering uninhabited islands, and, last but not least, indulging in delicious Caribbean food and drinks.
Sailing from Caye Caulker to Dangriga
Caye Caulker is the starting point for your adventure on the Caribbean waters. This island is a short boat ride from Belize City, taking about an hour. If you’re traveling from Mexico to Caye Caulker, you can also take a boat from Chetumal, passing through San Pedro, and reach Caye Caulker in about two hours. The island has a very laid-back atmosphere, and it’s no wonder because Caye Caulker’s motto is ‘Go slow.’ So, spend a few days here before embarking on the sailing trip because you won’t be coming back. The boat sets sail from Caye Caulker, crosses the Belize Barrier Reef, and heads to the coastal town of Dangriga, located 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Caye Caulker. During three days and two nights, you can fully enjoy life on and in the water.
How to continue your journey afterward? Upon arrival in Dangriga, you’ll disembark and be taken to the nearest bus station by taxi. From there, you have various options. If you’re heading to Hopkins, it’s about an hour’s journey. If you want to go the other way to San Ignacio, you can take the bus to Belmopan from where you can continue your journey to San Ignacio, or you can head northward towards Belize City. From these cities, you can easily continue traveling within Belize or cross the border to neighboring countries like Mexico or Guatemala. Check out our Belize itinerary to see how the sailing trip fits into a Belize round trip.
Day-to-Day Description of the Belize Barrier Reef Sailing Trip
The day before departure, you’ll meet up with the entire group for a briefing in the afternoon. You’ll get to know the crew members and the rest of the group with whom you’ll be sailing over the Belize Barrier Reef for the next few days. The crew provides a lot of practical information about the sailing trip, the program, and safety. Our group consisted of 21 fellow travelers and 5 crew members, and it’s important to note that a minimum of 12 people is required for the trip to proceed. During the low season from June to November, the sailing trip may depart only once a week instead of twice a week during the high season. Below, you’ll find an approximate schedule of the days, but keep in mind that this program can always vary due to factors such as weather conditions.
Day 1: Sailing via the ‘inner reef’ to an uninhabited island
Early in the morning, you can leave your luggage at the designated pier on the east side of Caye Caulker while the crew stows your bags. Afterward, you’ll have time for breakfast on the island. Ice and Beans is recommended for a healthy and delicious breakfast. At 08:30, the catamaran’s ropes will be cast off, reggae music will play, and if there’s enough wind, the sails will be raised. Today, you’ll sail from Caye Caulker to Rendezvous Caye, following the inside of the coral reef, also known as the ‘inner reef.’ The route of the sailing trip goes via the inner reef, so you’ll be continuously sailing on calm waters.
During the 7 hours you spend on the water, you’ll dive into the sea multiple times to explore the colorful reef beneath you. Along the way, you’ll be treated to delicious Caribbean treats. After snorkeling, the rum punch bottles come out, and it’s time for a refreshing drink on the deck.
As the sun sets, the chef starts preparing a delicious dinner. Then it’s time for some socializing with the group. You’ll spend the first night in a tent on Rendevous Caye, falling asleep to the sound of the waves. Don’t forget to admire the beautiful starry sky before crawling into your tent.
Day 2: Belize’s Most Beautiful Snorkeling Spots
When you open your tent, you’ll be greeted by the rising sun and feel the fresh sea breeze in your hair. Together, you’ll pack up the tents and have breakfast with your feet in the sand. Today, too, you’ll spend most of the day on the boat. On the way to Ragga Caye, you’ll stop at three different snorkeling spots. All the snorkeling spots are beautiful, but the shallow ones are particularly impressive because you can dive closer to the colorful coral. Never touch the coral as it can harm it. In the deeper spots, you’ll see impressive stingrays, sea turtles, and, if you’re lucky, even more marine life, perhaps even manatees.
Today, as well, all meals are excellently prepared. Enjoying the sun on the deck with music and a rum punch, you’ll reach Ragga Caye in the late afternoon. This island is slightly more luxurious than Rendezvous Caye as it has running water. Here, you can choose between a hut over the water or a tent. Since it’s the last evening, the barbecue is fired up. If you visit Belize during lobster season between July and February, grilled lobster will be served. It’s guaranteed to be your tastiest Caribbean meal so far!
Day 3: Ragga Caye, Tobacco Caye, and the Final Moments on the Water
The third and final day of sailing over the Belize Barrier Reef has arrived. After breakfast, you’ll leave Ragga Caye and sail through a natural reserve to Tobacco Caye. Just before Tobacco Caye, the boat drops anchor. Here, near the island, there’s a natural passage in the reef. This is where all the creatures from the open sea come to the calm inner reef. Snorkeling here is breathtaking, with beautiful coral that left a lasting impression on us.
After snorkeling, you can take a walk or have a drink on Tobacco Caye. Then, you’ll sail back to Ragga Caye, where you’ll be picked up by a speedboat and taken back to the mainland. From the Dangriga port, it’s only a ten-minute taxi ride to the bus station.
What Will You Encounter While Snorkeling?
During the multi-day sailing trip over the Belize Barrier Reef, exploring the beautiful underwater world is the main focus. With six to seven snorkeling spots spread over three days, you’ll spend a significant part of the sailing trip in the water. The Belize Barrier Reef consists of 65 species of hard coral and 35 species of soft coral, providing a habitat for many large and small marine animals. Along the route, you’ll notice that deeper and shallower areas alternate. In deeper spots, you can spot larger marine animals such as stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, manatees, and even whale sharks if you’re lucky. The shallow spots allow you to admire the colorful coral up close, not to mention the dozens of tropical fish swimming around you.
Tip: You’ll spend a lot of time in the water with magnificent coral. Buy sunscreen that is not harmful to the coral before the trip.
Where Do You Sleep During the Sailing Trip?
The catamaran does not have enough sleeping spaces. Therefore, on the first night, you’ll sleep on an uninhabited island in a tent. It’s far from a punishment! You’ll set up the tent yourself, with assistance from the crew if needed. You’ll also receive a mat and a sleeping bag. It’s a back-to-basics experience but in a unique location!
The second night, you’ll sleep on a slightly more luxurious island. You can book a private cabin or share it with three others from the group. It’s also possible to set up your tent and sleep in it. This island has running water, so you can (cold) shower here. You can also use the shower on the catamaran.
Tip: Bring a thick sweater or an extra beach towel that you can use as a pillow. Unfortunately, the organization does not provide pillows.
Food and Drinks During the Tour
Are you a seafood lover? Then you’re in the right place! It doesn’t get fresher than this. Fishing is done during the sailing and snorkeling trips, and you can also try your hand at fishing. Our biggest catch was a 5 kg Black Grouper. But don’t worry if you don’t eat fish or if you’re a vegetarian because there are plenty of other meal options. A chef is on board, and he prepares the tastiest Caribbean meals. From a hearty breakfast to a delicious dinner, there’s plenty of variety and tasty snacks. If you’re interested in Caribbean cuisine and want to learn how to cook, let the chef know! He’s happy to share his passion for cooking and can always use some help.
Packing List for Sailing at the Belize Barrier Reef
For the multi-day sailing trip in Belize, we recommend packing as lightly as possible. You really don’t need much. Your backpack will be stored in the ship’s hold upon departure. The items you want to bring on board should fit in a daypack or dry bag. We’ll tell you below what you need for the sailing trip.
- 2 Towels
- 2 Short-sleeve shirts
- 1 Pair of shorts
- 2 Pairs of underwear
- Jacket or hoodie with a hood for the evenings
- Rain gear or poncho
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Hat and/or cap
- Mosquito repellent
- Camera and accessories
- Phone and charger
- Power bank
- Cash for drinks on the islands
- Seasickness pills
The Best Time to Sail in Belize
The best time for this sailing trip is from February to May. During these months, you have the most chance of sunshine, and rainfall is significantly less than in other months. Try to avoid the months from June to October when the chance of rain is higher. In the European summer months, you may also encounter strong storms. We did the sailing trip in February and planned to board on a Tuesday. Due to unfavorable weather forecasts, the trip was canceled and rescheduled for a few days later. So, having some flexibility in your travel schedule can be handy, allowing you to book the next sailing trip last-minute if needed.
What Does the Three-Day Sailing Trip at the Belize Barrier Reef Cost?
With over twenty years of experience, Ragga Sailing Adventures is the perfect organization to book your multi-day sailing trip off the coast of Belize. Formerly known as Raggamuffin Tours, the company received this new name in 2022. Since day one, they have been organizing sailing trips that will leave you speechless. The boat departs twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. If you want to secure a spot on the boat, be sure to book in advance, as the tour is often fully booked during the high season. The three-day sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Dangriga costs $550. The trip is fully facilitated, and from the moment you board in Caye Caulker, you won’t have to worry about a thing.