Coastal Tranquility: Eight Great Sea Kayaking Spots

Belize: Fantasy Islands

Remember the old cartoons in The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post about guys (and/or gals) marooned on desert islands? The island is typically a splash of white sand about the size of a large living room, with a couple of palm trees and nothing else in sight but a vast blue ocean stretching to the horizon. Discounting the fact that one is marooned, it's a close approximation of many people's idea of Paradise on earth.
This is in fact a fairly accurate description of any number of Belize's Caribbean islands. And if you happen to have a sea kayak, and are therefore not technically marooned, islands like Ranguana Caye and Laughing Bird Caye and Long Caye come pretty close to this vision of Paradise. The islands are protected by reefs (Belize's barrier reef is the world's second longest), which assure generally smooth water and world-class snorkeling. The kayaker can paddle languidly from island to island, then set up a hammock to contemplate the lapping waves and the sunsets. A skilled spearfisherman can keep himself well fed, while natural containers of coconut milk (i.e., coconuts) litter the ground. If you can't relax here, you are truly beyond hope.

Practically Speaking
Independent kayaking in Belize is a logistical challenge. If you are a veteran expedition kayaker and can schlepp along your own Klepper folding boat, fine. But you'll still be limited in your paddling; many of the best islands are either in a national park, where overnight camping and spearfishing are prohibited, or privately owned.
Best bet for most of us is to sign up with one of several outfitters who offer one- to two-week kayaking trips at prices in the range of $125-150 per day. There are two styles of trips: base camp or expedition. On a base camp trip, you'll stay on one island typically somewhat larger than a living room), sleep in a thatched-roof hut, and make daily out-and-back paddling forays in the outfitter's kayaks. Or you can simply hang out on the island, swim, snorkel, or possibly scuba dive or windsurf. On an expedition-style trip, you'll paddle from island to island and sleep in hammocks or, in case of bad weather, tents. The expedition trips are more adventurous but less flexible.

David Noland is a full-time professional freelance writer specializing in adventure travel, sports, and science. His book, Travels Along the Edge , published in 1997 by Vintage Books, is now in its fourth printing.

Published: 30 Nov 1999 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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