Belize is one of the world's top spots for scuba diving and snorkeling. It has the second longest barrier reef in the world, as well as three spectacular mid-ocean atolls. The diving and snorkeling all along this reef and at the atolls are world-class. In general, the reef is in very healthy shape and the water quality and visibility are consistently excellent.
Amateur or casual divers and snorkelers should really be happy almost anywhere in Belize, and every major beach and island destination has easy access to some fabulous dive and snorkel sites. Truly dedicated divers will probably want to head to one of the outer atolls. Glover's Reef, Turneffe Island, and Lighthouse Reef atolls all offer outstanding diving opportunities. The Blue Hole and several other sites on Lighthouse Reef Atoll make it the top choice for scuba divers, amongst a crowded field. Shark-Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve are two deservedly popular snorkel spots just off of Ambergris Caye, although overpopularity and overcrowding are threatening the experience there. And finally, only just becoming known to cognoscenti, the Gladden Spit area, off the coast from Placencia, is one of the top spots on the planet to snorkel or dive with giant whale sharks.
There are several dedicated dive resorts around Belize. Another option for hard-core divers is to stay on a live-aboard dive boat. These midsize vessels usually carry from between 10 to 20 divers in private staterooms. The boats feature fully equipped dive operations and a host of amenities. One of the advantages here is that you get to hit several of the top reef and atoll sites in a weeklong vacation.
Almost every beach resort in Belize, as well as most hotels in Belize City, either has its own dive shop and operation or can hook you up with a local crew. Below are listed a couple of live-aboard operations, and a couple of the best dedicated dive resorts in Belize.
Note: While many of the beach and island hotels and all of the dive shops in Belize have snorkeling and diving gear for rent, you might consider bringing your own. If nothing else, bring your own mask. A good, properly fitting mask is the single most important factor in predicting the success of a dive outing. Faces come in all sizes and shapes, and I really recommend finding a mask that gives you a perfect fit. Fins are a lesser concern, as most operators should have fins to fit your feet. As for your own snorkel, well, in this day and age, I think you should want your own. If you plan on going out snorkeling or diving more than a few times, the investment will more than pay for itself.
Live-Aboard Dive Boats
Aggressor Fleet (tel. 800/348-2628 or 706/993-2531 in the U.S. and Canada; www.aggressor.com) has the 34m (110-ft.) Aggressor III, and Agressor IV are both comfortable dive boat with deluxe staterooms.Rates cost around US$2,995 to US$3095 per week.
Tip: This fleet is very comfortable and well equipped, with full dive and photo-lab operations, rental equipment, attentive service, and plenty of deck and lounge areas. Each boat has one or two master staterooms with a queen-size bed for couples. The Aggressor III features TVs and VCRs in every stateroom, and even has a hot tub on the upper deck. Couples will probably prefer the Aggressor III's wider lower bunk of their staggered quasi-bunk bed arrangement, while buddies traveling together may be more comfortable with the two separate single beds in the standard staterooms on the Sundancer II.
When a Package Isn't a Deal -- While it's often tempting to purchase all-inclusive dive packages before coming to Belize, this limits your flexibility. For example, if the weather and water are really rough, you're already committed, even though you might prefer taking an inland tour to a Mayan ruin instead of a rough dive.
Diving Resorts & Outfitters
Hamanasi (tel.844/235-4930 in the U.S., or 520-7073; www.hamanasi.com) is an excellent dive resort located on a beautiful patch of beach south of Hopkins Village. The location grants good access to a wide range of dive sites, including the outer atolls.
Isla Marisol Resort (www.islamarisolresort.com; tel. 888/623-5403 in the U.S. and Canada or 610-4204 in Belize) has the distinct advantage of being located on Glover’s Reef Atoll, an isolated spot loaded with world-class dive sites.
St. George’s Caye Resort (tel. 800/813-8498 in the U.S. and Canada ; www.belizeislandparadise.com) is a boutique resort located close to Belize City and well located for trips to most major dive destinations in the country.
The Inn at Robert’s Grove (tel. 800/565-9757 in the U.S., or 523-3565 in Belize; www.robertsgrove.com) is an excellent luxury resort in Placencia, with a top-notch dive operation.
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.