Why should you consider vacationing by boat along the coast of Belize? To start, there’s simply no better way to access the country’s fantastic barrier reef, postcard-perfect beaches, and hundreds of palm-dotted islets. What’s more, it can be surprisingly affordable.

When you charter a private boat, you set the course. “You see, experience, and do exactly what you want, when you want,” says Viaventure director Becky Harris, who recently took a three-day catamaran trip. “You determine the pace. If you want to fish, you can do so right off the boat or join locals on a group expedition instead. You can check out tiny islands—many of which would be near-impossible to access otherwise—visit gorgeous beaches you spot along the way, or just hang out on the boat’s deck while enjoying 360-degree views. Plus, there’s plenty of scuba diving and snorkeling. You feel like you have access to the whole Belizean coast. There’s an amazing sense of freedom.”

On board, guests enjoy top-notch services. Menus are determined in advance to ensure everyone is happy—“We had everything from fresh lobster to freshly baked croissants,” says Becky—and boats are top of the line. “Ours had lovely furnishings with comfortable beds—though the bathrooms were quite tiny.” The on-board crew will help you organize your days. “Our ‘crew,’ which comprised the captain and the cook, was fabulous. They went out of their way to create the best itinerary possible for us. One day, they even got up at 4:00 a.m. to motor further down the coast so we could see more on our short itinerary. They were the perfect hosts—always suggesting fun things to do and always with a smile—though they provided plenty of privacy, too.”

How long you set out depends on where you want to head. “In a perfect world, I’d say plan on a week,” says Becky. “But a lot of people don’t have that much time. Four days can get you to some really interesting places. If you’re doing three days and starting in Belize City, stick to the Caye Caulker and Ambergris area.”

Of course, for all its pluses, a private boat charter may still sound like a splurge few can make. But here’s the kicker: For those traveling as a family or a group, it can be a rather budget-friendly option. The daily price of a boat is fixed and offers a fully inclusive experience, with the exception of special excursions. Food and accommodations are covered (think how much you’d spend on land for just a few rooms), as is transportation to myriad areas that could otherwise be expensive to reach. Tack on the fact that you have the flexibility to go, see, and do what you want, and that a variety of activities like snorkeling, fishing, and swimming can be done directly from the boat, and a private charter can be a very practical option.

“If you’re used to doing beach holidays, it’s the perfect alternative,” says Becky. “It’s something different—a pampered experience you’ll never forget.”

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