‣ Lighthouse Reef, Belize
Forget the hustle and bustle of Belize City, Ambergris or even Caye Caulker. Head out paddling on the real islands, mon, by hopping a boat to Halfmoon Cay. Located in the easternmost portion of Belize, 45-acre Halfmoon sits in the heart of Lighthouse Reef National Park, the first protected marine area in the entire Caribbean. One of the crown jewels of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, the electricity-free island offers sea kayak access to world-class snorkeling, letting you cannonball out of your cockpit to view everything from manta rays, sea turtles and nurse sharks to angel-, surgeon- and the fake-eyed butterfly fish. You can also paddle and sail to other palm-lined tropical islands.
Local Knowledge: Bring your birding binoculars. The island is also home to the primary research center in the 10,300-acre bio-preserve for the Belize Audubon Society, which bases there to study the red-footed boobie.
— Eugene Buchanan