Belize Packing List
Our 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: 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 also we cannot buy replacements in Belize when you lose it. All gear is driven 3000 miles from Utah once a year.
Which gear you choose will directly impact your enjoyment of your trip. Exploring the underwater world is the trip’s highlight, so select your snorkel gear with care. 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.
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 the packing list from us, 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).
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.
[photo credit at top of page: Carol Cashion]
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.
-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
-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
-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
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Free Belize Map
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
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.
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.
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.