Belize – Best For Diving

I love diving in Belize.

The graceful beauty of stingrays, multi-colored tropical fish, swaying sea grass, dawdling giant sea turtles…and yes, even the sand-papery skin of nurse sharks…are all part of the dive experience of Belize.

I’m a novice, or what is commonly known as a “resort diver.” No certification, but after taking a short 45-minute course I’m good to go. For me, this is the best-case scenario. My PADI dive master takes care of all the technical and safety aspects so I’m carefree to explore ocean life at depths of 20 to 40 feet—which is where most of the tropic fish hang out.

Belize’s 185-mile meandering, untainted barrier reef is the longest in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world. It’s ranked as one of the top three diving sites in the Caribbean, but because Belize has been slower to develop than other Caribbean “hot spots,” its piece of the underworld is not crowded.

It’s the perfect place to experience your first dive. My guide and my companion diver were the only other humans encountered during the entire dive. I can tell you, that’s not the case in other Caribbean dive sites such as St. Thomas or the Cayman Islands where you’re part of a large group with other competing groups nearby.

In fact, diving in Belize is good value compared to most places I’ve visited—it’s not less expensive than Curaco…but it does cost less than places like St. Thomas and Grand Cayman.

In the 82-degree Fahrenheit crystal blue waters of the Hol Chan Cut, just a short boat jaunt from the palm-lined beaches of Ambergris Caye, you can see up to 100 feet in all directions. You won’t get that in sites like Puerto Rico (depending on the current, the visibility there can be less than 20 feet.)

Eyes wide open, nothing can prepare you for the stillness and peace of the Belize underworld. Ethereal in its tranquility, the ocean forces you to slow down the frenetic pace of life and take in the mesmerizing panorama of flora and fauna in every size, shape and color: marine life, shellfish, coral, sea sponges, and fans flourish in the protected waters. The contrast in texture is as attention-grabbing as the colors.

Emerging from the water, Ambergris Caye’s land-lubber charisma rivals the drama of the sea. Packed dirt roads navigated by golf carts, slow-paced and friendly, the postcard-perfect town of San Pedro entices with its small, colorfully painted houses and shops.

It’s the idyllic Caribbean of 40 years ago—laid-back, yet things to do if that’s what you’re looking for. English-speaking restaurateurs, bartenders, and shop owners love to be engaged in conversation. Don’t be at all surprised when they ask your name…or that they will remember it when you return.

Fast approaching is the day my youngest is off to college. Then my dream of ditching the long snowy winters of New England for a sun-drenched Caribbean island with tropical trade winds, crystal turquoise waters, sandy palm-lined beaches, friendly English-speaking locals, fresh seafood, and first-class diving could become a reality.

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