The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings

The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

September 26, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • A sailing school can help teach you new skills or give you insights to sailing
  • Some schools allow you to learn to sail in beautiful places like the British Virgin Islands
  • Whether you do recreational sailing or professionally there is a sailing course for you
  • Most people take beginner courses to improve their learning time or take private lessons
  • A bareboat charter is a good way to test your skills on a boat without additional help

A sailing school is arguably the best place to learn sailing as these sailing classes can teach you the basics. But what sailing schools are best?

The best sailing schools vary by location and what you want to learn with top choices being San Juan Sailing School and Blue Water Sailing School or even Club Nautique. Other good choices around the world include RYA Sailing School and Andaman Yachting but also Nautilus Sailing School.

In my experience sailing schools will differ based on the competent crew course and how good your sailing instructor will be. Your sailing skills will also develop over time with more practice in addition to any knowledge obtained from the American Sailing Association.


Table of contents

Top Eight Best Sailing Schools

Sailing schools are all over the world but you will need to take the sailing course that is meant for your skill level. In addition you will need sailing certifications once you pass the sailing courses.

Depending on where you are in the world you might be able to learn to sail in your backyard or turn it into a vacation to learn sailing across the world. Check out which sailing schools are deemed the best around the world.

San Juan School of Sailing

San Juan School of Sailing
Image credit: San Juan School of Sailing

The San Juan Sailing School is in Bellingham, Washington and offers a range of courses and teaching vessels from 30 to 49 feet. Notably they have an advanced coastal course in Desolation Sound priced around $1400 per stateroom or $700 per person for a couple.

Despite being a smaller institution they prioritize quality with low teacher-student ratios. This is perfect if you are new to sailing and want more personal instruction from experienced sailors.


  • Has a 4.6 out of 5 star reviews
  • Offers basic and some advanced courses


  • Does not have smaller boats under 30 feet

Blue Water in Florida

Blue Water in Florida
Image credit: Blue Water in Florida

Blue Water Sailing School is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is an ASA-affiliated institution with a 21-year history and a history of being named ASA School of the Year. It has four locations in Fort Lauderdale, St. Thomas Newport and the Bahamas to meet various needs to failors.

The school offers a range of sailing courses catering to both those looking to charter a boat and those interested in full-time cruising. The courses are live-aboard cruises with varying destinations depending on what course you are taking taught on 40 to 50-foot Beneteaus and catamarans. A one-week course costs $1895 and includes accommodations, instruction provisions and certification fees.


  • Has a 4.7 out of 5 star reviews
  • Features desirable sailing destinations perfect for the sport


  • Do not typically offer one day courses

Club Nautique of California

Club Nautique of California
Image credit: Club Nautique of California

Those wanting to learn on a luxury sailing yacht can check out Club Nautique in San Francisco Bay with locations in Alameda and Sausalito California since 1980. They specialize in certifying intermediate and advanced level students in coastal and offshore passagemaking for both sailboats and powerboats.

They are a US Sailing-affiliated school offering a diverse fleet of 50 boats within 26 to 50 feet in length and have Coast Guard certified instructors. They provide an 8-day basic cruising skippers package for $1295 and have a successful track record.


  • Has ratings of 4.0 out of 5 stars
  • Best for beginners but can expand to all experience levels


  • Has mixed reviews depending on skill level

Royal Yachting Association Schools

Royal Yachting Association Schools
Image credit: Royal Yachting Association Schools

RYA Sailing school has locations around the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. One popular option is situated on Procida which is the smallest island in the Bay of Naples offering an authentic Italian sailing experience. Located away from the typical tourist destinations Procida provides a unique blend of local life and beautiful coastal scenery.

The school offers a variety of sailing courses allowing students to explore the many different islands. Prices for the RYA Competent Crew Course start around $800 with courses running from April to October making it a fantastic option for those seeking a genuine Italian sailing adventure.


  • Has a 4.5 out of 5 star reviews
  • Plenty of options to consider


  • Could potentially have a language barrier

Andaman Yachting in Thailand

Andaman Yachting
Image credit: Andaman Yachting

Andaman Yachting has sailing schools in Thailand's coastal region especially around Phuket which is a sought-after destination for adventure enthusiasts and sailing enthusiasts. It provides an ideal setting for sailing adventures with numerous nearby islands and even the possibility of sailing to Malaysia.

They showcase beginner-friendly courses equipping participants with the skills and confidence to be effective crew members. Prices for their 5-day courses begin at THB 35000 (approximately $1160).


  • Has 5.0 out of 5 star reviews
  • Great for entry level sailors


  • Does not offer more advanced offshore sailing

Nautilus School of Sailing

Nautilus School of Sailing
Image credit: Nautilus School of Sailing

Nautilus Sailing offers luxury sailing courses in various locations like the Caribbean Mexico Spain South Pacific and Croatia. Students experience live-aboard training on catamarans or monohulls during the one-week course gaining a strong foundation in sailing skills.

Successful completion leads to ASA certification and membership with the course price inclusive of three daily meals on board. Prices begin at $5475 for the Monohull course and $6275 for the Catamaran course with certifications for various courses that you chose.


  • Has a 5.0 out of 5 star reviews
  • One of a kind learning experience


  • One of the more expensive sailing schools out there

How to Find the Right Sailing School

Finding the right sailing school for you will be different from what others might be trying to do. Everyone has their own budget and sailing goals that will likely be different from yours so take the time to figure out your sailing goals.

You may be taking a sailing course to improve your knowledge with yacht charters before a vacation or want to have more control of your surroundings while at sea. No matter your desires there is a sailing course designed with that in mind.

Once you have your goals and budget figured out it is time to see where you would like to conduct these courses. Location matters especially if you are crunched for time.

Time Crunch

If you are pressed for time and need to learn a sailing course within a given period consider combination classes and destination courses. These provide sailors with a faster paced learning style and allow more certifications to be earned. But rushing anything in sailing is never a good thing.

It is recommended that you take your time and study then apply your skills with practice before jumping into something new. If you have more experience you can likely learn more things at one time.

Experienced Staff

A sailing school cannot survive or thrive without a good sailing instructor. The person responsible for teaching your class has a responsibility to convey sailing as a memorable time.

The instructor must be a positive person and a good leader. Having someone to look for in guidance during tough lessons can prove to be key in your success.

Additional Classes

When choosing a sailing school consider whether you want to continue with that school for additional courses as some offer multiple levels of instruction. Continuing with the same school can offer benefits such as familiarity with their boats instructors and the local area.

Alternatively you may prefer gaining experience in a different setting. If you have specific interests like docking or navigation check which courses the school offers. Inquire about options like private classes couples or classes flexible schedules on weekends and weekdays and the school's policy regarding classes during busy holiday weekends when waterways may be crowded.

Check the Curriculum

Enrolling in a sailing school with a structured curriculum provides reassurance through standardized skill development ensuring a methodical learning process. This structured approach unlike learning from a friend prevents skipping essential skills and facilitates skill assessment.

Additionally it ensures clear communication of your progress to other sailing companies. When choosing a sailing school consider the balance between on-water and classroom instruction based on your preferences and expectations.

Read Reviews

Not every review you see online is going to dictate how good or bad the class can be but the reviews should aid in your decision to some degree. If a lot of people are raving about how good the class was there is a good chance you may like it too.

To make an informed decision about spending money on a class it is advisable to research reviews. The ASA recognizes outstanding sailing instructors based on positive reviews from students.

This gives you an opportunity for what to expect based on what other people have gone through. If there is any doubt consider giving the instructor a call to ask the many questions such as helm time and class sizes.

Consider Age and Size of Boats

Getting your feet wet for sailing might not matter a lot depending on how old the sailboat is but it must be in good shape. If you intend to use one or more charter boats in your life you might want to consider training on one before renting it. Some schools have many options to choose for their boats.

Keep in mind the type of boat and the condition it is in before making the leap to take the course. Some courses have newer boats more often than others and it could make an impact on your learning experience.

The size of the boat matters too as you typically want to have a smaller or mid-sized boat if you are new to sailing. Larger ones are fine too but you will be learning more information at the same time to navigate the boat.

Certifications Matter

The course you are taking might have different certifications in different locations around the world. For example ASA schools and USS Sailing standards are similar but have different focuses.

If you come across a good sailing school that has slightly different certifications ask about how that applies to you and your sailing goals. You do not want to miss a key element that you may need to know somewhere else in the world.


You need to be honest with yourself about how much money you can spend on a sailing course. It might make sense to wait several months or longer to save up for a sailing school.

Some schools might be more expensive up front but might be necessary to learn a specific course to get a proper sailing education. In addition some schools include the costs of other things bundled into the sailing lessons such as food gear and fees for certifications.

You might even find a good deal on a sailing school depending on the time of year as they have their busy and slow seasons too. They could offer discounts if you have a friend to bring along or a small group package but these vary based on school.

Refunds or Cancellations

Check with the school of choice to see about refunding your money if something were to come up. If you need to cancel for any reason this is important to know if you are getting your money back or not.

Make it a Vacation

If you live in Florida but do not want to train in local waters around you you could consider taking classes overseas. While the conditions will be different depending on where you go you can still learn what you need and apply it back home.

A handful of people will make it a vacation and travel to excotic places to learn sailing. Who would not want to learn how to sail in Croatia especially near the Dalmatian Islands?

The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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