Río Dulce, Guatemala: This is the best and safest choice for hurricane season and for leaving a boat for inland travel. Marinas are protected 25 miles upriver and insulated by mountains. Specialized services, such as electronics repair, are available. Basic labor (nonprofessional) cost less than US$20 per day.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico: Two professional marinas are located here. Cruising friends rebuilt their rudder in Isla, then rejected spending hurricane season (it’s too exposed). “We hauled at Puerto Isla Mujeres Marina¿a good choice for extensive boat work,” said Harold Clapp. Prices were US$30/hour for skilled labor and US$10 for unskilled.
Honduras: Roatán’s deep bays offer substantial protection from north winds. “Every year, a handful of boats spend hurricane season cruising the south coast,” said Carl Heckrotte, who explored Roatán on two cruises. “You watch the weather.” French Harbor Yacht Club and Brick Bay offer decent hurricane holes; cruisers weathered Hurricane Mitch there. A second recommended option is La Ceiba (on the mainland), a great choice if you’re leaving a boat for an extended period or doing boat work. We kept Ithaka at Lagoon Marina for 10 days in January (it’s protected a mile upriver) while exploring Honduras. Lagoon is new and professional, with first-class showers, docks, and a beautiful pool. Near Lagoon is La Ceiba Shipyard, an excellent facility for boat work and where we hauled Ithaka. It has a 100-ton Travelift, a skilled workforce, boat storage on the hard, American management, and reasonable prices.
Panama: There are two good choices below the hurricane belt: Pedro Miguel Yacht Club, in the middle of the Panama Canal, is an hour’s drive from Panama City and its services. It’s clean, extremely secure, and well protected from bad weather. A second popular option is Bocas del Toro, which is in a beautiful part of Panama that attracts significant ecotourist traffic and American ex-pat emigration and has two large marinas: Bocas Marina and Marina Carinar.
Cartagena, Colombia: Here you’ll find the greatest bargain for boat work. Cartagena is well below the hurricane belt, and many cruisers do major refits¿bring your own specialized parts¿while enjoying this exquisite Spanish colonial city. The workforce is professional and cheap; labor ranges from US$10 to US$25 per day. There are three yards in Cartagena: Manzanillo Marina Club, Ferrocem S.A. Marine Boatyard, and Todomar Boatyard.