Below the waves, Central and South America boast some of the finest diving on the planet: the world's second-largest barrier reef, freediving lizards, majestic mantas, blue holes and cenotes, schooling hammerheads and more. Topside, you have the Amazon rainforest, Incan and Mayan ruins, the Andes mountains and miles of pristine beaches. You shouldn't be asking yourself, 'Should I go to Latin America?' You should be asking yourself, 'When's the next flight?'
But with so much on offer, it can be difficult to decide where to go and how much to pack into your trip. Whether you want to focus on enjoying the best diving in Latin America or taking in some of the cultural highlights on land as well, your ideal Latin American itinerary is just a phone call away…
When it comes to ranking the best diving in Latin America, few would begrudge the Galapagos Islands being awarded the top spot. The Ecuadorean archipelago spans the equator and has been known as a hotspot for biodiversity since it was explored by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of HMS Beagle in the 1800s.
You'll be hard-pressed to find an avid diver who has not dreamed of diving at Darwin's Arch and Wolf Island. Although the arch itself recently collapsed, the diving in this location has not suffered. The dive begins in the protected shallows, where playful sea lions and marine iguanas like to hang out, before heading deeper to meet the hammerheads and whale sharks.
A liveaboard trip to enjoy the stunning diving in the Galapagos is not complete without a trip ashore to discover the creatures that intrigued Darwin so much. Giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and the world's only northern hemisphere penguins will be waiting to greet you...
The Belizean coastline is shadowed by the world's second-largest barrier reef system, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS). Also known as the Great Mayan Reef, the MBRS stretches for more than 700 miles from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down into Honduran waters and features plenty of stunning dive sites along the way.
The most iconic area of the MBRS in Belize is Lighthouse Reef, home of the Great Blue Hole. The hole is circular in shape, around 300 metres across and 125 metres deep, and it provides shelter for nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and black-tipped reef sharks.
Aside from some of the best diving in Latin America, a trip to Belize will also allow you to explore ancient Mayan ruins, lush rainforests teeming with exotic birds and a healthy population of jaguars. The former British colony has enjoyed political stability over the last few decades, and as a result, it is gaining popularity as a tourist destination. Go now, before the masses descend...
Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama, with its west coast lapped by the Pacific Ocean and its east coast by the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica should not be overlooked by those seeking out the best diving in Latin America. With its reefs featured in the BBC's Blue Planet series, you can be assured that Costa Rica has some of the best diving in Central America.
Cocos Island National Park lies around 350 miles off Costa Rica's Pacific coast, and it may be one of the more remote dive destinations in the world, but it's also one of the best. The memorable white-tipped reef shark night-time feeding frenzy featured in Blue Planet was filmed here, and similar underwater scenes await you. The cruise out to the islands requires a good book (it takes 36 hours), but it's worth the trip - the unique ecology and diverse marine life of the island and its surrounding waters led UNESCO to declare Cocos Island National Park a World Heritage Site in 1997.
Aside from the frenzied white-tips, you can also expect to see hundreds of scalloped hammerheads, whale sharks, dolphins and manta rays. If you're looking for a stunning big-fish dive destination far from the madding crowds, you just found it...
In terms of diving, Mexico is a country of two coastlines. The wilder west coast faces the might of the Pacific Ocean, whereas to the east, golden-sand beaches are lapped by the gentle Caribbean Sea. The land that divides the two coasts is covered with dense jungle, interspersed with impressive Mayan ruins, Mesoamerican pyramids and a series of canyons that are larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Socorro Island, the largest of the Revillagigedo Archipelago's four islands, is the highlight of diving Mexico's rugged west coast. You may remember a viral video on social media showing a whale shark being tailgated by four dolphins, as a huge manta ray cruises below them; that's Socorro. If you are looking for big fish, Socorro delivers.
A Yucatan Peninsula itinerary will allow you to feast on Mexico's famous cenote diving, explore the pre-Colombian ruins at Chichen Itza, snorkel with whale sharks at Isla Mujeres, and drift along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. And you can wash it all down with a pina colada as the sun sets into the Caribbean Sea. You can enjoy some of the Riviera Maya's best beaches and some of the best diving in Latin America in one trip!