Belize was a Western Hemisphere diving mecca decades before it became the romantic and trendy destination it is today. Dive shops exist everywhere there is access to the reef and cayes in Belize—this means San Pedro  and Caye Caulker , Belize City , Sittee River , Placencia —and then there are more shops and dive resorts scattered throughout the islands and atolls. Options are much more limited in Punta Gorda , which means you’ll have the ocean to yourself when diving the southern hook of the Barrier Reef.
No matter which path to diving you choose, your first order of business is choosing a dive shop. You’ll have no trouble finding a shop; in fact, you may have a difficult time choosing between so many options. In most cases, prices are more or less the same between shops, but it pays to do a bit of comparing.
Expect to pay US$60–75 for a two-tank fun dive, possibly extra for gear rental or for longer boat trips. Know that the bigger a shop’s boats, the more comfortable a long ride will be, but also the bigger your group will be, a serious consideration; small groups (6–10) assure more personalized attention from your dive masters. Also, to beat the crowds at more popular sights, choose a dive shop with early start times.
Courses accredited by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) are offered at most dive shops in Belize. Expect to pay about US$250–400 for Open Water or Advanced certification courses. Belize diving prices are roughly on par with diving prices in Roatán in the Honduran Bay Islands , but more expensive than they are in Utila , another of the Bay Islands.
You’re in Belize on vacation and want to dive — but you don’t want to spend four precious days (and US$400) getting certified. What can you do? How about a “resort course” — a one-day introduction to scuba. Also called “discovery” courses, these usually include one tank of air and cost around US$75.
If you want to guarantee the most diving time possible, several live-aboard vessels based in Belize City are designed for serious divers but can also accommodate an avid diver’s companion if he or she is a sea lover or a casual angler. Your own luxury hotel and chef travel with you to some of the best diving spots in Belize . Most of the rates are weekly and all-inclusive (plus a few hundred dollars of extra charges, of course). Options include:
U.S. tel. 800/348-2628
U.S. tel. 800/932-6237