The barrier reef lies close to shore of Belize, which shelters the land and creates a calm turquoise sea - a veritable water sports playground. Sail, kayak or jet ski. Windsurf, kite surf or para-sail. Pretty much anything you can think of is available, waiting for you to have a go.

A day's sailing and snorkeling in crystal clear waters is (we think) a near-perfect way to spend your day.

Here are some suggestions of things to do, right off your beach:

Snorkel and island hop

If you are based on the northern cayes, enjoy a half day of snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, swimming amongst beautiful shoals of tropical fish, turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, moray eels and grouper.

Follow this up with a dip at Shark Ray Alley, a site where local fishermen used to clean their catch, which attracted more carnivorous species such as big southern stingrays and nurse sharks. Also look out for yellowtail snapper, parrotfish, sergeant majors and french angelfish in amongst the coral. When you've swallowed about as much salt water as you can take, kick back on a gentle boat ride to Caye Caulker and relax in one of the sleepy waterfront restaurants or explore the local art shops.

Sail away

Charter your own private catamaran for the day and set sail! Head out for full day's private sailing where you get to pick the tone and tempo (bring your own ipod if you want to choose the music!). Sail to the most northern point on the island where the reef touches the land, or hop across to Caye Caulker for the afternoon.

Snorkel, swim or relax while your guide dives for conch to prepare fresh ceviche, or enjoy a fresh, locally prepared Belizean lunch.

Wildlife wonder

An action packed day wildlife spotting on water. Venture out of the lagoon side of Ambergris Caye to the back of the island. Look for birds at Bird Caye, then travel north to Bacalar Chico national park, where there is a Mayan trading post that has a small exhibition of information and artifacts.

Look out for crocs and manatee as you weave through the mangroves bordering Mexico, then out into the sea for a spot of snorkeling and fishing. Your catch is then barbecued on the beach for you to feast on - an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Catch and cook

Spend a half day out on the water snorkeling, fishing and spear fishing with your guide for snapper, lobster (when in season), conch and perhaps a barracuda. Return to the beach and relax with an icy cold belikin beer under a coconut tree, while your guide prepares your catch and cooks it on a fire pit over coconut husks. It doesn't come fresher than that!

Paddle your own canoe (or kayak)

Take off at your own pace and discover the wildlife of the lagoon territory, or paddle in the calmer waters inside the reef, tie up to a buoy and snorkel to your heart's content. Canoes are more common inland and there is some great bird watching to be done on Mopan and Macal rivers near San Ignacio.

Gone with the wind

With the easterly breeze and the calm waters, conditions on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are perfect for wind and kite surfing. There are schools on both islands offering lessons and rentals. For the serious surfers, it is possible to windsurf the 12 miles between Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye and back, although a pit stop is recommended!