Sail the Maya Riviera, Cancun, Mexico

The Yucatán, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, and all they have to offer

The Mexican Caribbean, colloquially known as the Maya Riviera, is one of the most popular overseas destinations for North American residents. Especially in this time of Covid-19, the region centered on Cancún is seen as a safe place to visit on vacation. The local authorities and tourism operators are by all accounts doing good work in looking after their visitors.

So if looking ahead to next winter and a sailboat charter somewhere southward, the Mexican Caribbean awaits you. And it’s all so easy to access, your boat charter base being a very short hop from Cancun – Destination Central for so many of your compatriots.

As far as sailboat vacations go, the Maya Riviera has everything that is quintessentially Caribbean: the sandy beaches, the cays, the forested landscapes, the delicious food, the colorful people. It has some of the best wildlife encounters you’ll ever experience, and the fascinations of human occupation old and new. This sailing region sits at the northern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System that stretches south to Honduras.

A typical 7-day charter out of Isla Mujeres (an easy transfer from Cancun Int. Airport) will take you north to the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and south to the city of Tulum, exploring the coastline and island of Cozumel along the way.

Enjoy your Mexican Caribbean sailing charter by going bareboat. Or if you prefer we can organize a local live-aboard skipper for your extra comfort and worry-free leisure time: what we call Crewed Bareboat

Your Sailboat Charter in the Maya Riviera

Your Maya Riviera sailing charter vacation begins with a flight to Cancún International Airport. Our operators offer pre-arranged transfers, or use a taxi or transfer company to take you to the Ultramar Ferry for the crossing to isla Mujeres and the boat harbor.  Allow two hours from Airport to charter base.

Isla Mujeras itself is a relaxing place to start your charter, and after provisioning you may choose to spend your first night tied up at the base. Main tourist attractions are the Garrafon Natural Reef Park at the southern tip of the island, and the MUSA underwater sculpture museum.

Northwest of Isla Mujeres is the contrasting Holbox, a natural wonderland away from the Cancún crowds. Separated from the mainland by a lagoon. There’s plenty of birdlife and aquatic creatures to observe as you explore this magical place by kayak or dinghy. It’s around 50 nautical miles from Isla Mujeres to beautiful Playa Punta Cocos at the western tip of the long, narrow Holbox island.

Turning around at Holbox, you’ll have more time to see Isla Mujeras as a stopover on the way to Cozumel, 45 km south of the base. That’s if you don’t choose to do the Holbox – Cozumel passage in one day, or skip Holbox completely, which would be a shame. It all depends on your crew’s appetite for covering the ground.

Cozumel is the Mexican Caribbean’s largest island, abundant in marine life with clear blue waters highly regarded for diving and snorkeling. The ‘Devil’s Throat” underwater cave formation at Punta Sur is a major diving attraction.  Most boats anchor in the roadstead off the main town San Miguel, but the island does have two boat harbours with marinas along its western coast and your operator will be able to advise.

While staying in Cozumel and if you’re safely tied up in a marina, you may like to take the Ultramar ferry across to Playa Del Carmen, a short trip with frequent departures. Playa Del Carmen is heavily developed for tourism with lots to do, or just relax on the beach. A nice place to take a break from on-board life.  

When charter sailing this sector of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef your most southerly point will be the city of Tulum, and it’s not to be missed, especially if you are interested in the Mayan civilization. There are plenty of ruins nearby that you can combine with a swim in a cenote, the natural fresh-water sinkholes indented in the limestone coastline.

Tulum is 30 nautical miles from San Miguel in Cozumel. It is protected by a reef and before your trip advice is needed regarding anchorages.

Puerto Moreles is a convenient stopover point on the way back to base. This traditional fishing town has a secure marina where you can tie up, and get use of the adjacent resort’s facilities. Relax on one of the fine beaches, swim in a cenote, cycle the forest trails, or explore Puerto Morelos National Reef Park., for which you need a guide. If wishing to travel inland, say to the famous Chichén Itzá 2.5 hours’ drive away, this is the place to spend your last night (or two) before the short sail back to Isla Mujeres and completion of your charter.

Best Time to Charter a Sailboat on the Maya Riviera

Eastern Mexico enjoys a Caribbean climate, and the best times to visit are in December through April. January and March are the peak months. At that time of year the humidity is low, there is little rain, and the average around 82ºF. Sea temperatures are cooler than the summer months but still good for swimming.

The low season weather can be equally pleasant for sailing and there aren’t the crowds. If you want to see the whale sharks that migrate through the region, visit between May and September. Hurricanes can lash the Yucatán Peninsula from July to October, so this needs to be taken into account when planning your charter.  

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