Waves gently rock beneath you and your board. From the west, Belize’s thick jungle calls over the water – birds chirping, monkeys crying, trees rustling in the warm sea breeze. To the east, the great Atlantic Ocean unfolds into the distance, dotted with the twinkling lights of fishing boats. In the water below, brightly colored fish and sea creatures go about their business, and above ocean birds glide on gentle thermals. You stand in the middle of it all, paddle in hand, and the ultimate freedom surrounding you.

Most who come to Belize for the reef, start their journey at Half Moon Cay and work their way south, island hopping through the Bahamas, or paddling back towards the mainland as their odyssey unfolds. Getting to Belize is easy, and so is getting around. The locals all accept the American dollar as currency (at twice the value of local currency), English is the national language, and the people are friendly to tourists.

Belize’s barrier reef runs almost the entire length of the country. It is a famous destination for ocean lovers, beach bums, and anyone else looking for a radical Central American water adventure. There are few ways to see the reef more intimately than by stand up paddleboard (SUP). Many local shops rent SUP boards, and unlike kayaks, the extra height you get on a SUP board gives you a much better view of the ocean scene transpiring beneath you. Travel from beach bungalow to beach bungalow absorbing the amazing tropical scenery and don't forget your snorkel equipment!

A photo posted by Jane (@a_plainjane) on

This is considered the most biodiverse section of the Mesoamerican reef system, so the amount of ocean life that is observable beneath the water is staggering. When your arms are tired of paddling, slap on your goggles and dive into the world below. Meet turtles and eels and swim through the beautiful coral structures that have allowed this ecosystem thrive. Find starfish and watch crabs and lobsters roam their natural habitat as groups of small sharks hunt their prey.

Besides being an amazing snorkel/scuba destination, Belize is extremely paddleboard friendly thanks to the relatively gentle conditions throughout the year. But no paddleboard odyssey is ever a total breeze… just like any coastal region, the area is susceptible to high winds which are hard to fight against atop a thin piece of fiberglass. Additionally, Paddling for long distances can result in blisters and cramps. You may need to sleep in unexpected places if a storm runs you ashore, but the hardships of the journey are well worth the trouble. Most boards come equipped with a strap where you can attach rain jackets, first aid kits, snacks, water, and other necessities for your excursion between the islands, reef and coast.

There are no bounds to the freedom you have exploring the reef: exploring coastal caves, having a beachfront picnic, listening to the ethic drumming of the Natives, venturing up a jungle river on a whim, and paddling under the crystal clear milky way. There’s something very personal and introspective about wandering the coastline by paddleboard – moving by the power of your own strokes and pausing in the warm Caribbean waters.

A journey along Belize’s Great Barrier Reef is the kind of experience that could change your life. And it is very affordable. The freedom of the Caribbean sea and the natural splendor of this reef set the perfect scene for your next epic odyssey.