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Belize is fantastic destination for the active and adventurous traveler. The range of available sport and tour options is wide; the quality of the adventures and local tour operators is high; and the fact that the country is so compact allows you to mix and match. Whether your interests are scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, spelunking, mountain biking, horseback riding, or bird-watching, Belize has some fabulous terrain and opportunities that are perfect for you.

Each listing in this section describes the best places to practice a particular sport or activity and lists tour operators and outfitters. If you want to focus on only one active sport during your time in Belize, these companies are your best bets for quality equipment and knowledgeable service.

Adventure activities by their very nature carry certain risks. In the past couple of years there have been several deaths and dozens of relatively minor injuries in activities ranging from mountain biking to white-water rafting to canopy tours. I try to list only the most reputable and safest of companies. However, if you ever have any doubt as to the safety of the guide, equipment, or activity, it's better to be safe than sorry. Moreover, know your limits and abilities and don't try to exceed them.

Biking

Belize is not a major biking destination. In fact, there are only four or so major paved roads in the entire country -- the Northern, Western, Southern, and Hummingbird highways. Except for the wild Maya Mountains and Mountain Pine Ridge areas, the country is almost entirely flat. It would be possible to tour Belize's major mainland destinations on a touring bike, but the heat and humidity are often oppressive, and those few highways get plenty of traffic and generally don't have very wide shoulders.

The options are slightly more appealing for mountain bikers and off-track riders, however. Fat-tire explorations are relatively new and underexploited in Belize. Just about every major hotel in the Cayo District and the southern zone has mountain bikes for guest use or rental, or can hook you up with a local rental company. These bikes are fine for day trips and nontechnical riding. However, if you plan to do any serious biking, you might consider bringing your own rig, as quality mountain bike rentals are still a rarity in Belize. The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and the area around it win my vote as the best place for mountain biking in Belize. The scenery's great, with primary and secondary forests, waterfalls, and plenty of trails. Truly hearty bikers can make it all the way to Caracol.

Golf

Belize is not one of the world's great golfing destinations; in fact, it's not a golf destination at all. But Belize does boast one beautiful oceanfront course that takes up almost an entire private little island. While relatively flat, the par-72 course features plenty of water and sand hazards, and an unmatched number of oceanfront holes. The steady trade winds often come into play here, so be prepared. However, there are never any crowds or waits on the course.

Caye Chapel Island Resort (tel. 800/901-8938 in the U.S. and Canada, or 226-8250 in Belize; www.cayechapel.com), has luxury condominium units and private villas, as well as a marina, a pool, and tennis facilities. Rates run between BZ$600 and BZ$2,400 (US$300-US$1,200/£159-£636), with unlimited golf included. Players not staying on the island can play with an advance reservation. Rates for a full day of unlimited golfing, including carts, club rental, and use of the resort's pool and beach area cost BZ$300 (US$150/£80) per person.

Spas & Retreats

So far the trend towards destination spas and yoga or tai chi retreats hasn't caught on in Belize. In fact, there are no true dedicated destination spas or retreats in the country yet. However, the two places listed below do a pretty good job at what they do.

Primarily a nature lodge and ecotourism resort, Chaa Creek, off the road to Benque Viejo in the Cayo District (tel. 824-2037; www.chaacreek.com), has a very nice full-service day spa offering a wide range of body and skin treatments. Multiday packages are available and can be designed to give the feel of a full-destination spa experience.

Maruba Resort Jungle Spa (tel. 800/627-8227 in the U.S., or 225-5555 in Belize; fax 225-5506; www.maruba-spa.com) is a true spa, offering a wide range of treatments and packages. Their various massages, mud and exfoliating treatments, and the general sense of sensual overload and pampering, are all top-notch. But aside from horseback riding options, they don't really offer any of the classes or active exercise programs that you would expect at a destination spa.

Windsufing & Kitesurfing

Its steady trade winds and calm waters make Belize a great place for beginning and intermediate windsurfers, and a good place to learn how to kiteboard. More advanced boardsailers would probably want more extreme conditions, but this is a great place to learn and perfect your skills. That said, this is still a relatively minor activity in Belize. Your best bet for either of these activities is to check in with the folks at Sail Sports Belize (tel. 226-4488; www.sailsportsbelize.com) on Ambergris Caye, or Kitexplorer (tel. 602-9297; www.kitexplorer.com) on Caye Caulker. Both offer top-notch equipment rentals and lessons in both sports.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.