Outside Travel has rated our Belize Coral Islands SUP trip as one of the 30 best trips for 2015
Our Coral Islands SUP itinerary journeys between local island lodges in Southwater Caye Marine Reserve and is the only lodge-to-lodge Stand Up Paddleboard & Snorkel trip in Belize. Stand Up Paddleboarding is one of North America’s hottest new sports, and the sheltered lagoons and turquoise waters of the Southern Barrier Reef are ideal for paddlers of varying abilities.
You will discover the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve by day, and spend your nights in small, family-run island lodges. At your lodge, you will dine family-style on fresh Belizean fare and enjoy breathtaking sunsets from the hammock on your deck. This trip also includes an inland overnight adventure to the Tropical Education Center and an optional Nocturnal Tour of the Belize Zoo.
- Paddleboard along the Southern Belize Barrier Reef
- Visit small islands that see fewer visitors: Tobacco Caye, Southwater Caye, and Billy Hawk Caye
- Sheltered lagoons and protected turquoise waters – ideal conditions for exploring by SUP
- Inland overnight adventure to the Belize Zoo’s Tropical Education Center; interpretative trails and specially arranged (optional by donation) nocturnal zoo tour.
- Ideal trip for those seeking the adventure of a guided SUP journey combined with the comforts of family-run island lodges
International Guest Instructor - SUP expert and enthusiast Norm Hann joins select departure dates as Guest Instructor and Trip Coordinator. Norm Hann is one of the top SUP instructors in North America and has been working alongside our Belizean guides on our unique Coral Islands SUP trip. Norm is an instructor trainer for Paddle Canada and offers industry-leading standup paddleboard skills and instructor training in all disciplines of SUP. For more information visit Coral Islands SUP with Norm Hann trip page.
Meals: Dinner is included on this night
Day 1 is the day to meet your fellow travelers and acclimatize to your new tropical environment. Transfers from the airport, lodging and dinner are included.
You arrive at the Belize International Airport where an Island Expeditions representative will meet you and welcome you to the country. You will be taken to the Tropical Education Center, which is adjacent to the Belize Zoo. The accommodations are Forest Cabanas situated in the midst of idyllic tropical pine forest. There are a network of interpretative trails and wildlife viewing platforms at your doorstep, allowing you to explore the diverse ecology of Belize, and making this the ideal starting point for the adventure that awaits you.
After checking into your accommodations, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a ‘Welcome to Belize’ dinner with your fellow travelers, followed by an optional nocturnal tour of the Belize Zoo.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Waking up to the sounds of the tropics is a pure delight with the chatter of parrots and parakeets flying overhead. After breakfast you will travel the Hummingbird Route through the Maya Mountains to your motorboat charter which will take you to Tobacco Caye, your first island on the Southern Barrier Reef and home for the next two nights. Once you have settled into your accommodations, our certified staff will offer an introduction to tropical marine safety, and you will be led through the first snorkeling session. Thorough instruction and demonstration are provided, and beginner to advanced snorkeling skills are reviewed. These lessons take place at the Tobacco Caye cut and outer reef walls.
Following a tasty Belizean lunch, our staff will review the fundamental skills of paddle boarding and help you fine tune your existing skills. Safety, efficient forward stroke development and touring techniques are typically covered. Once you’ve been shown the skills needed to use the equipment confidently, you’ll have the opportunity to practice and play in the calm turquoise waters near Tobacco Caye.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Situated on the Barrier Reef in the heart of the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve, our lodge is ideally positioned to explore the surrounding reefs and cayes. Starting with a steaming mug of coffee and fresh tropical fruits, you can enjoy an early morning swim or island walk before breakfast. Today’s focus will be discovering this amazing area by paddleboard. Conditions permitting, you and your group will journey into the Tobacco Range - a cluster of mangrove islands and protected waterways teeming with pelicans, manatees, and frigate birds. You’ll have the opportunity to paddle to nearby cayes and explore turtle grass beds, sheltered lagoons, and narrow mangrove channels. After an exciting day of exploration and learning, you’ll return in the evening to a delicious dinner.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Gazing south, following the line of breaking waves along the Barrier Reef crest, you will be able to see the next island we will be travelling to today – Southwater Caye. After bidding fond farewells to our hosts, we will paddle along the protected waters of one of the most beautiful sections of the entire reef system. The waters are shallow and clear and you will see a tremendous variety of marine life, including southern stingrays, eagle rays, grouper, nurse sharks, and more. You will enjoy a leisurely paddle, snorkel, and picnic lunch as we travel towards tonight’s destination. We cross Tobacco Caye cut, stopping to snorkel along the reef wall. One of today’s highlights is a visit to the renowned Smithsonian Carrie Bow Caye Field Station, where scientists and their collaborators conduct research on the biology, ecology, and geology of coral reef ecosystems. As we arrive at Southwater Caye you will paddle your board right up to the beach beside the lodge. After settling into your room, you can enjoy an ice cold drink or explore the island before we meet for a delicious Belizean dinner. Watching the tropical sunset from an open-air bar is an experience that should not be missed!
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
You will have plenty of time to snorkel, paddle and enjoy the scenery and marine life of Belize. You’ll explore different regions of the Barrier Reef including the inner and outer walls, patch and fringing reefs, mangrove ranges, and protected lagoons. For diving enthusiasts or those who’d like to try diving for a first time, we can arrange Discover Scuba courses or dives with advance notice. As we explore by paddleboard, it is not uncommon for our routes to cross those of the fishermen who make their living from the sea. These candid interactions with the locals are often fun and enlightening of a way of life very different from our own.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Your last day on the cayes is usually spent paddling to Billy Hawk Caye in the Blue Ground Range where you will enjoy a specially prepared lunch. Weather and wind permitting, your instructor and trip coordinator will lead you on a fun downwind paddle as we challenge your developing SUP skills. In the afternoon we return to Southwater Caye by motorboat and enroute we stop for a final snorkel. At sunset we will celebrate our last night together with a local Belizean meal and various island festivities.
After an early breakfast, our water taxi carries us back to the mainland and the town of Dangriga where the trip finishes. Taxis can be arranged for transfers to the Belize International Airport, or to local bus stations to continue exploring Belize on your own.
Travel note: For travelers who will be leaving Belize on Day 7, international connections out of the country require a departure after 11:30am. To connect with Friday afternoon departures from Belize, a short domestic flight is required. This flight is from Dangriga to the Belize International Airport. Please call for details - our office can confirm pricing and book your domestic flight. This is one of our most adventurous trips. Weather conditions can greatly affect paddling conditions and may increase the level of difficulty. Because of the distances traveled on the trip, previous paddleboarding experience is recommended. We also believe that variability of conditions are what make this trip the best of its kind in Belize. Please note that all itineraries are subject to change depending on weather or safety considerations. Flexibility as our guest and as an international traveler is the key to an awesome experience.
The Barrier Reef, which runs the full length of the Belizean coastline, is considered one of the richest marine ecosystems on earth
The 185 mile long reef runs from 10 to 25 miles offshore, and is the longest continuous reef in Caribbean; the second longest in the world. Along the Barrier Reef are over 225 cayes, ranging from small sand-fringed islands perched along the reef's edge, to larger islands of partially submerged mangroves.
Historically, ships avoided this area of the Caribbean because of inaccurate charts and the difficulty of navigating the shallow reef-strewn waters. Teeming with brilliantly-colored fish, sea grass beds, and patch reefs, the reef systems have not seen nearly the level of human impact as witnessed in Mexico to the north and Honduras to the south. We travel in the less-developed southern regions of Belize's Barrier Reef which remains a near-pristine marine ecosystem and is unparalleled in the Caribbean. It is in this region that we find the best sea kayaking and snorkeling. Our base of operation, in the southern coastal community of Dangriga, is the ideal launching point for us to explore this spectacular region.
The Belize Barrier Reef
Off the coast of Belize lies a biological gem among the world’s tropical marine habitats.
Extending north and south for one hundred and eighty miles the barrier reef offshore of Belize is considered the most diverse section of the entire Mesoamerican Reef system. The Belize Reef is unmatched for snorkelling, sea kayaking and diving with an incredible diversity of corals and an abundance of tropical fish. Our area of exploration is within the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. We travel from caye to caye by sea kayak, staying at small, family-run lodges, soaking in the easy-going, friendly Belizean character and each day venturing out to explore the magic and beauty of this tropical marine wilderness.
In Belize, we find a continuous reef structure running the length of the country and paralleling the coast. From the mainland coast, the reef cannot be seen; it lies 10 to 20 miles offshore. Travelling east from the mainland, the reef first becomes visible as a line of white surf crashing over the reef crest, with blue sea to the outside marking the deeper habitat of the fore reef. Approaching closer, we first enter the reef’s lagoon; a shallow area of turquoise waters, brilliant white sand flats and waving beds of turtle grass and corals. Cuts or breaks in the outside reef are common; this is where wave action cuts out channels into the lagoon which serve as navigation routes to and from the open sea. Shielding the coast of Belize from the full force of the sea, the barrier reef is a unique example of a living community of coral animals that has profoundly changed geography. Sheltered behind this living reef, small cayes (islands) of coral-sand form and in the sheltered lagoons mangroves thrive. The mangrove’s submerged roots trap sediments, which create important habitat for juvenile fish, countless marine invertebrates and a rich array of seabirds.