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Sailing and Yachting in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean

Visitors who enjoy sailing and yachting can dock in several spots around the Mexican Caribbean

Photo credit: © CaptPiper
Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean Sailing

Although it is far from the most popular way to reach the Mexican Caribbean, chartered and personal boats can certainly be sailed into any number of harbors around Mexico. While many sailors have their own boats, sailing to Mexico is possible even for those who don't.

Party Boats

In Cancun, party boats are available for a number of occasions.  Tickets for booze cruises, sunset cruises, island tours, and dinner cruises all allow visitors to enjoy a few hours aboard a large boat equipped to entertain them, and serve them food and beverages.  Vacationers hosting an event in the Mexican Caribbean also have the option of renting a party boat.  Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and product launches are the most common type of party boat celebration.  Party boats range in size, but can typically accommodate between 30 and 300 people.


Yachts are usually chartered from within or near the Caribbean on a weekly basis. You may travel with this boat to Mexico, and return it an average of one week to ten days later. Your yacht rental options are bareboat, skippered bareboat, or crewed charter.

If you're an experienced sailor, you may decide to charter a bareboat - a rental boat with all the equipment needed to travel to the Mexican Caribbean, but with no crew. If you wish to rent a bareboat, you will need to prove your qualifications, and you may be given a tutorial of the Caribbean area including reefs and safe harbors.  Bareboats are further broken down into two categories: voyage charters and demise charters.  On a voyage charter, the boat owner accompanies you on your trip, though you maintain full control of the boat.  On a demise charter, you travel without  supervision.

Based on your knowledge and experience, the charter company may insist that you take a skipper for at least the first several days of your journey. If the company requires you to travel with a skipper, the cost of the skipper's service is your responsibility. If you're not quite ready to set sail on your own, choose a skippered bareboat. A skipper lends knowledge and expertise to your journey to the Mexican Caribbean, and is paid by the day.

Crewed charter yachts come with a skipper and full crew, including a cook. You will decide on the itinerary, but if weather or any other obstacle threatens this schedule, the captain may alter your course for safety. Captains know the region well, so they may be able to offer great alternatives when necessary. They can also help you plan the perfect itinerary when the weather provides the sunny days for which the Caribbean is known.

If you're traveling with a large group of experienced sailors, you may consider planning a flotilla sailing trip.  In flotilla sailing, three or more boats sail together to the same destination.  Someone knowledgeable in leading a flotilla and in the area is hired to captain the lead boat, while people from your party skipper the others. 

Sailors also have the option of choosing what type of boat they will sail.  Yachts and catamarans are the most popular choices. 

A yacht is a single hull luxury craft that ranges between 20 and several hundreds of feet long. Various sizes and styles of yachts have different names, including dingies, which are small yachts suitable for day trips; pocket yachts, mid-sized boats that work on weekend trips; and cruisers, or large yachts that can withstand days long trips.

Catamarans have two hulls, and one mast will fly one or two sails depending upon the size of the vessel.  Catamarans tend to go fast and are easy to maneuver; they also provide high stability, and have the ability to remain afloat when flooded.  The added size of a catamaran means more comfort for passengers.

On most charters you may choose between paying an additional fee to have the charter company provide the food or buying it yourself before you set sail. While buying the food yourself can save money, it presents some challenges. Bringing food into the Caribbean through customs can be time consuming, and buying food can be difficult, especially if you are not departing from a major port. Whatever you decide, remember that fresh fruit and vegetables must be purchased locally. Also remember that you will be responsible for feeding everyone on board, including the skipper and/or crew.

Charter Companies

Charter companies in the Caribbean come in all sizes. Larger companies are recommended for your first charter, since there are fewer guarantees with the smaller companies. For example, if the boat you had requested becomes unavailable, smaller companies may not have other boats for replacement. On the other hand, in the same situation, larger companies will most likely give you a similar or larger boat at no extra cost. Many of the better smaller companies, however, purposefully stay small in order to provide better customer service.

There are two "tiers" of charter companies, but these are not quality or service designations. In the first tier, companies use the newest boats, often with the most extras. Boats older than four or five years are no longer used by first tier companies. First tier boats may include the auto pilot function, GPS systems, stereos, and cell phones; check with the specific charter company for details. Second tier companies usually use older boats from the fleets of first tier companies. These second tier boats come with fewer extras and a lower price tag.

The most popular large yacht charter companies currently serving the Caribbean region are The Moorings and Sunsail.

Charter Brokers

When selecting a crewed charter, make sure you're compatible with the crew. The best way to find the right crew for you is through a broker. Yacht brokers act similarly to travel agents, and they can often provide quotes from several different chartering companies. The boat owner pays for the services of the brokers, so you can utilize their help at no cost. Brokers can also help you find a bareboat charter.

There are two main charter broker trade organizations: the American Yacht Charter Association (AYCA) and Charter Yacht Broker's Association (CYBA). Members of the AYCA and/or the CYBA include the following outfits in Florida:

Charter Broker Telephone Number
Broward Yacht Sales Charter Division 954-763-8201
Charter Specialists 800-479-9054
Fraser Yachts Worldwide 954-463-0640
June Montagne Yacht Charters 954-217-2992
Marine Group of Palm Beach, Inc. 561-627-9500
Nicely-Dunn Yacht Charters 800-874-0724
Paradise Yacht Charters 954-462-0091
Rikki Davis, Inc. 954-761-3237
RNR Yacht Charters 800-525-2526
Tom Collins Yachts Worldwide 800-637-5407
Whitney Yacht Charters, Inc. 800-223-1426
Yachtstore, Ltd. 888-376-5198

Sailing to the Caribbean

Private sailing boats heading to Mexico must enter the country through an official port of entry. Travelers will need to clear their entry with the Port Captain's Office (the Capitanía), the Immigration Office (Migracíon), and the Customs Office (Aduana). Immigration and customs services are available at the following ports along the Mexican Caribbean:

  • Cozumel
  • Puerto Morelos
  • Majahual

At the Aduana you will need to fill out an Import Form. This form states the rules for docking in Mexico and provides the fine amount for any rules broken. The ship's owner does not need to sign this form, but an original, notarized form giving another person power of attorney must be shown if the owner is not present. When leaving Mexico you must give this form to the departure port. You will also need to give one original and one copy of your boat's state registration or Coast Guard registration as proof of ownership. The Aduana will keep the copy of this document.

If you choose to handle port entry yourself, you should first visit the Capitanía with all of your documentation. He will later direct you through the other offices. Otherwise, clear through a marina, which may charge no more than $100(USD) for all services.  If you enter through a marina, you will receive blank tourist cards to fill out. Otherwise, you will need to get them from the Migracíon office, and every person must be present to fill out and sign their own card.

  • The documentation you will need includes the following:
  • The original (and 10 or more first copies) of your boat's documents as mentioned previously.
  • A valid passport for each person onboard. Be sure the passports will not expire soon.
  • A tourist card for everyone onboard.
  • An up-to-date crew list.
  • Pesca fishing papers, including boat permits and individual fishing licenses. These are required for everyone onboard, whether you have fishing gear and plan to fish or not.
  • Mexican officials charge no fees for boats or trailers left in Mexico for up to 20 years. Travelers may enter and leave without their boat. Once you have passed through all of these formalities, you may also stop in at local ports at Isla Mujeres, Chetumal, and Puerto Morelos.


Name Address Phone number VHF channel
Marina Barracuda Pier Blvd. Kukulcán KM. 14.1, Zona Hotelera, Cancun Q.Roo  (998) 885 2444 Unknown
Marina El Manglar Bld. Kukulcán Km. 19.825, Zona Hotelera, Cancun Q.Roo (998) 885 1808 Unknown
Marina Punta del Este Pier Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 10.3 Z.H., Zona Hotelera, Cancun Q.Roo (998) 883 1210 Unknown
Marina del Rey Pier Blvd. Kukulcán km. 15.7, Zona Hotelera, Cancun Q.Roo (998) 885 0273 Unknown
Marina Lagoonview Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 13.5, Zona Hotelera, Cancun Q.Roo (998) 845 0749 Unknown
Sunrise Marina Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 14.7, Zona Hotelera, Cancun Q.Roo (998) 193 0353 Unknown

    Day Rentals

    Waterski boats, family cruisers, runabouts, and cruisers are the four main types of boats typically available for day rentals.  Vacationers who want to spend some time sailing – but not he bulk of their time – can rent one of these boats for several hours.  Day rentals are ideal for sea tours, water sports, and fishing trips.

    Armed with this information, sailing into any or all of Mexico's ports should be a breeze. Whether you choose to spend a few hours on a party boat or a day rental, or to make a charter your main method of transportation, sailing is sure to add that extra special something to your Mexican Caribbean vacation.


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