For such a small country, Belize looms large in the dive world. This Central American gem harbors some of the most unique adventures in the Western Hemisphere. The world's second-longest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, stretches out parallel to the Belize coastline for more than 300 miles. It starts at the renowned Belizean island of Ambergris Caye, a tropical swath of palm and sand ruled by the dive flag. From there, the Barrier Reef meanders south where the only true coral atolls outside the Pacific await intrepid and savvy divers. Turneffe Atoll, Glover's Reef Atoll and other locations provide launching points for a lifetime of dive adventures, including incredible wall diving, lush coral gardens and even big-animal adventures with the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark. In April, whale sharks show up every year at Gladden Spit, a marine reserve located in southern Belize. If you've ever dreamed of spending a dive vacation on a small, nearly private island or in a coastal village, being lulled to sleep by the sound of lapping waves and waking up in the morning, walking a few steps to the water from your beachside bungalow and wading in for a dive, this is your kind of destination. And after you've experienced the tropical perfection and dreamy escape of the barrier reef, for action, you can explore one of the planet's most untapped stretches of jungle. You can go eco-crazy on the mainland. Belize offers cave tubing, jungle trekking through forests haunted by elusive jaguars and the heart-stopping cries of howler monkeys, and ancient Mayan ruins to explore. For bird watchers, you've found heaven. And thanks to the British for whom Belize was once a crown colony, the locals all speak English.
AVERAGE WATER TEMP: 77ºF
WHAT TO WEAR: 3-5 mm fullsuit (or diveskin in summer) AVERAGE VIZ: 100 feet
WHEN TO GO: Year-round
WHAT TO EXPECT: A gargantuan Blue Hole, true coral atolls and the Western Hemisphere's largest barrier reef LANGUAGE: English CURRENCY: Belize dollar; exchange is fixed at BZ$2 = US$1 TAXES: 9 percent room tax ELECTRICITY: 110V, 60 cycle (U.S. compatible) TIME ZONE: Central Standard Time
AIRPORT/EXIT FEES: $39.25 KEY GIFT: A Belizean walking stick
DON'T FORGET: A good pair of hiking shoes
THE VIBE: Caribbean with a Latin American beat
TOPSIDE: Eco-adventure set against an ancient Mayan backdrop
MUST DO Ride an inner tube down Caves Branch River and explore caves along the way. Travel back in time to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai, Altun Ha, Xunantunich or Caracol. Glide above the forest floor on a zip line.
FOR MORE INFORMATION SPORTDIVER.COM/BELIZE