Belize Packing List

What to Bring to Belize – How to Choose Snorkel Gear

Our Adventure Island kayak trips are all-inclusive. In addition to providing mainland hotels, transport, island lodging, meals, beer and soda, park fees, and guided activities and instruction all day long, we provide all the big sport equipment: single and double sea kayaks and accessories, surf kayaks, surf and paddleboards, windsurf boards and sails, kitesurf gear for beginners, lifejackets, paddles, and helmets. We do not provide the little stuff; all personal sport gear you must bring with you. Our Belize packing list includes mask, fins, snorkel, flashlight, diveskin or wetsuit, booties, and optional dive light. We do not rent this gear, nor have any to loan out. We don’t provide snorkel gear because it must fit your body and because we cannot buy replacements in Belize when you lose it. All gear is driven 3000 miles from Utah to Belize once a year.

We have an excellent checklist of what to bring on our Belize trips, a list we have refined over a 32-year period. You can request our best Belize packing list, we’ll be happy to send it to you by mail or email. When you write to us, specify which list you want, Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef (island only) or Belize Adventure Week (jungle-island combo trip).

Which gear you choose will directly impact your enjoyment of your trip. Exploring the underwater world is the trip’s highlight, so you need to know which are the best snorkeling fins, best mask and snorkel, etc. There is a lot of bad gear for sale out there. You get what you pay for, cheap gear may mean that you spend all of your snorkel time dealing with salt water in your eyes or throat or leg cramps. Test your gear before you get to Belize. Everything can be ordered online, but it is best to buy masks at a dive shop to insure proper fit.

This page will help educate you about the features of the different kinds of gear that you are looking for, and what to avoid. Attention to this detail now will greatly pay off in Belize. You can find more information on Belize diving on our adventure packages elsewhere on our site.

Experience Adventure Island

All Inclusive Packages
Friday or Tuesday start

9 nights, $2425 US per person

6 nights, $1675 US per person

5 nights, $1525 US per person

 

View Itinerary | Dates on Sale

 

Kayak - Snorkel - Dive - Kiteboard - Windsurf - Fish - Paddle - Surf
[photo credit at top of page: Carol Cashion]

Best Fins for Snorkeling

There are three kinds of fins: (1) fins with a built-in shoe, (2) “travel” fins, and (3) fins with a strap on the back that fit over your booties. The 3rd system is preferable, although more expensive than the first kind (don’t even consider getting the 2nd kind.) If you have the first kind you might need regular socks also to discourage blisters. Even with the built-in shoe kind you will still need booties to walk out to snorkel spots. You then leave the booties on shore and continue walking backwards in the fins to get to where you can begin swimming. If you choose the recommended type, buy your booties first and then make sure the toe cup of the fin fits over your booties. Don’t get booties with a huge sole because they won’t fit. See “Booties” below.

The most important aspect of any fin is how flexible it is. To test the flexibility of any fin, grasp the foot and aggressively wave it up and down to simulate an underwater kick. A good fin should bend easily.

how to choose snorkel fins

buying snorkel gear

recommended fins

NOT Recommended
-Snorkel fins with a built in shoe (not a deal breaker, however, the built in shoe kind will work, although you still need booties to walk out to snorkel spots)
-Note this is a solid fin, there is no built in weak spot
-This is a very stiff fin, which will make swimming difficult
NOT Recommended
-"Travel fins"
-These are a joke! People buy these to avoid checking luggage. Don't fall for this, you will end up leaving them on the island in disgust just like many others have done, you won't believe how many pairs have been ditched. We throw them away, they are worthless
Recommended
-Snorkel fins with a strap on the back
-Note the holes in the body of the fin, this acts as a hinge which makes the fin very flexible and easy to kick
-The material that this fin is made out of is also superior to the other two options pictured. It is very flexible and rubbery, and bends easily

Qualities of a Good Fin, a Visual Guide

stiff fin not recommendedsplit fin good second choicemares volo fin best choice

The fin at left in the photos above are the kind you do not want. It’s a completely solid fin. You can see that the fin doesn’t bend. All the bending has to happen at your ankle. It is very difficult to move through the water with those fins. The middle photo is a split fin. This is a compromise if you can’t afford the best fins. See how water can move through the split? So all the bending doesn’t have to be your body, the fin bends with water pressure. The photo to the right is the best kind, the Mares Volo Fin. Look at how much that fin is bending! It’s almost a 90 degree bend. This means a small kick and it bends like crazy to move the water. Much, much easier to get around in those fins. [photo credits left to right: Carole Crane, Rick Pratt, Nick Cashion]

Link to the best price we can find on our favorite fin

Budget option: Most of the cheap snorkel fins are terrible and make snorkeling very difficult because they are too stiff. However, here is a pair that is inexpensive but should work fine.

Link to the cheapest, but decent fin we can find

Fins For Canadians

Sad but true, you don’t have the options we have on amazon.ca as opposed to amazon.com. We recently went through 18 pages of fins on amazon.ca and found these four options. It really is amazing how about 90%+ of the fins are no good at all. (Updated on July 18, 2017).

1. Cheapest option: Get these dive fins and cut them down the middle to create a split fin (like the ones we recommend in the budget option above). They are $69.99 CDN. To see our experience with altering bad fins to make good ones, (it’s risky because you could overdo it and ruin them completely), visit our blog to see how we did it: Choosing Snorkeling Gear.

2. Here is a split fin that you cannot wear with booties (although you will still need booties for walking to snorkeling spots and for all of the other sports) for $89.00 CDN. Note what we say above about full foot fins vs. fins with the strap on the back that you can wear with booties. Although the full foot fins work, the fins with a strap on the back are preferrable.

3. Our favorite fin except this has the built in shoe (can’t wear with booties) for $114.93 CDN.

4. Finally, here is the best fin with a strap on the back (can be worn with booties) that is our favorite type for $203.51 CDN.

Snorkels

If you buy a cheap snorkel with no upper valve or purge valve you will not enjoy snorkeling nearly as much as you would have if you had bought a good snorkel, as you will spend the entire snorkel session dealing with salt water in your mouth and throat, which can be extremely uncomfortable, and might make you sick. Every snorkel is different, but you can spot the upper valve (often called something like a “dry” valve) because it directs splashing water that lands in your snorkel tube away from the main tube that feeds into your mouth. The lower purge valve can also be spotted easily because the water in the main tube has somewhere else to go (out the bottom of the tube) besides into your mouth. Another important feature of a good snorkel is a soft mouthpiece, allowing the snorkel to rest in your mouth without you having to grip onto stiff rubber to keep it in place. A stiff mouthpiece easily leads to jaw fatigue and headaches.

Link to the best price we can find on our favorite snorkel

Budget option: Most of the cheap snorkels are terrible and make snorkeling very difficult. However, here is one that is less expensive than our favorite but should work fine.

Link to the cheapest, but decent snorkel we can find

snorkel not recommended
recommended snorkel
NOT Recommended
-Snorkel with no upper valve and no purge valve
-Note stiffness of mouthpiece that is not made of a softer rubber
Recommended
-Snorkel with excellent upper valve and lower purge valve
-Note flexible mouthpiece made of a softer rubber than the body of the snorkel

Masks

We realize that some people don’t have a dive shop anywhere near where they live, so here is our favorite mask, but be sure to test it out!

Link to the best price we can find on our favorite mask

Budget option: If you do not go to dive shop with your entire group to have them fit a mask to each of you, you have to test them in a pool. There is no way to know if a mask bought online will fit or not until you test it. Masks are definitely more expensive at a dive shop, probably about $80 each. Here is a link to a $25 mask. We cannot recommend it one way or the other. It all depends on the fit. But it looks like a decent mask as far as we can tell.

Link to the cheapest, but decent looking mask we can find

Link to the best price we can find on a good slap strap

recommended dive mask
full face snorkel mask not recommended
snorkel mask slap strap
Recommended
We hesitate to recommend any particular mask because you really need to try masks on to get a good fit. Any dive store can help you find a mask that fits without leaking. A good fit is imperitive because if your mask leaks, you won't feel like snorkeling. Whether or not you are able to buy your mask at a dive shop, you should test it first in a pool to make absolutely sure it does not leak.
NOT Recommended
Be sure you don't fall for the (new product in 2016) full face mask! This is a terrible option! There are a myriad of reasons we do not like this mask, but one of the primary reasons is you can't talk to anyone! We are constantly answering your questions during a snorkel, and pointing out cool stuff to see. Being able to communicate with others is a big part of the experience.
Recommended Mask Strap
A neoprene mask strap (also called a “slap strap”) is recommended. The strap included with masks always gets caught in your hair easily, and this is painful and also not good for your hair. These special straps are much, much more comfortable.

Booties

Good footwear is important; foot injuries are common and are usually attributable to improper footwear. You will wear these every day! You need a sturdy bootie with a good sole and good traction that covers your entire foot and lower ankle (cover your ankle for protection, not support). Note: the new watershoe hybrids are not as good as neoprene booties with a good sole because they are more like sandals and don’t cover your entire foot. Don’t bring anything with “sock” in the name of the bootie, that means it does not have a sole and will become damaged the first time you wear them.

belize water shoe not recommended
belize what to bring and not to bring
recommended water shoe for belize
NOT Recommended
This shoe does not cover your entire
foot, leaving you vulnerable for sea urchin and stingray spine stings and broken shell cuts. They will not fit into the toe cup of your fins.
NOT Recommended
This shoe is too stiff; the sole is too thick. You won't be able to feel your sea kayak peddles and they will feel clumsy on a surf or paddleboard. They will not fit into the toe cup of your fins.
Recommended
These are the kind of shoe that you want. Full foot protection, thick soles, high traction, very flexible, and they will fit into the toe cup of your fins.

Here’s a great deal on a good bootie. They come in most sizes and only cost $23 a pair.

Budget option: Here’s another good pair for only $21.

Dive Skin or Wetsuit?

Many of our guests wonder why they need a wetsuit or diveskin (also called hydroskin, swim tights, or rashguard) when the water is 80 degrees. There are 3 reasons that we tell you to bring a skin or suit to wear when snorkeling, diving, surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding while on our Belize island. First, the water is warm but not 98.6, so with a skin or wetsuit you can dive or snorkel much longer. We often snorkel for one and a half hours at a stretch; with only a bathing suit you will start to get cold after about 30 minutes. Second, it is impossible to predict when stinging marine creatures will be present, and a tight-fitting wetsuit or skin protects you from them. Finally, a full-body skin or suit completely reduces the threat of sunburn and cuts way down on sunscreen in the water, which is so harmful to coral.

When deciding whether to get a skin or a wetsuit, consider if you get cold easily (a wet suit is thicker and warmer) and where else you might have a need for it later: the Bahamas, or off the coast of Oregon? Snorkelers cannot rent from the dive shop. If you do not bring a wet suit or skin you will regret it.

Dive Skin

Recommended Dive Skin

We first learned about this incredible deal from a guest, and have been recommending it to our guests for well over ten years. The price has varied between $26 and $32 for all of that time. We have purchased these ourselves for personal use and for our guides, and they last for many years before they start to develop holes.

This full body, front zip, lycra skin is quite thin. If you are visiting our island in the early season (November – February), it might not be enough warmth for you if you get cold easily. Those visiting the island in March – May can be assured that this skin will provide plenty of warmth for long snorkels. (Although the temperature of the ocean remains close to constant year-round, the air temperature and wind chill play a significant role in how cold you feel on a long snorkel.)

Budget option: The skin linked above is already the cheapest we can find

You are well-protected when you wear a full body skin
Nick Cashion

Rash Guards

If the Superman suit is just not your style, or if you are on on Belize Adventure Week and need a rash guard top, you can order this kind of gear at Northwest River Supply. Here are some examples of their men’s and women’s water clothing, but they have many other options on their site. These rash guards (aka hydroskins) will be slightly warmer than the dive skin, above. The disadvantage of a two piece suit over the one piece suit above is that stinging creatures (which are tiny) may get to your skin in-between the gap. We do not experience stinging creatures every week, or even every month, but we do experience them several times each season. If you are on the inland part of the Belize Adventure Week you will want a rash guard top for the rivers and caves, it would be inconvenient to wear a full body suit in those situations.

women's water gear for belizewomen's long sleeve rashguardwomen's water pants for belizewomen's hydroskin pants for belize
Short Sleeve Rash GuardLong Sleeve Rash GuardCapri Rash GuardFull Length Rash Guard Pants
men's shortsleeve rash guard for belizemen's long sleeve rash guardmen's surf shorts
Short Sleeve Rash GuardLong Sleeve Rash GuardRash Guard Shorts

Wetsuits

By all means if you get cold easily, and especially if you are joining us November – January, you might want a wetsuit. They are more expensive than the other options, so if you feel you would never use it again, we recommend layering the other options rather than buying an expensive wetsuit for one trip;, you can order this kind of gear at Northwest River Supply.

Men’s and women’s wetsuits.

You are well-protected when you wear a full body skin

Dive Lights

We often go night snorkeling on the island, although we cannot guarantee that conditions will permit it each week. However, there is no way to borrow or rent these lights, and each person night snorkeling must have a working light; two people may not share a light. There are many great dive lights available, but we recommend any light by Pelican. The more battery power in the light, the brighter it will be. Bright is good when you are swimming around in the dark! This is a great one, the Pelican 2000N Nemo, which costs about $35 and requires 3 C batteries.

Night snorkeling at Glover's Reef, Belize