Belize is the epicenter for adventure travelers hell bent on spending their New Year’s Eve scuba diving one of the world’s underwater holy grails. But fewer travelers are aware of the country’s deep-rooted Mayan history. Geek out with REI Adventures; the tour operator has a true knack for mixing culture and history with heart-pounding adventure. The trip kicks off with a tour of the remnants of a 900 B.C. Mayan city, Cahal Pech. Next up is Actun Tunichil Muknal, sacred Mayan burial caves straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Hike, wade, and swim your way to the sparkling bones of a young woman, known as the crystal maiden, who lies calcified to the cave floor amidst bat guano, freshwater crabs, and predatory spiders. Then it’s 50 miles offshore to the shipwreck-strewn waters of Lighthouse Reef Atoll and the Blue Hole, where you’ll spend the day exploring the reef and a 4,000-ton rusted wreck that sank in 1971. REI Adventures rings in New Year’s Eve in style, well away from the mystique (and hype) of the Mayan ruins, with a gourmet al fresco dinner, wine, and beer on Half Moon Caye, a coral-sand island teeming with red-footed boobies. $2,299; Dec. 26 - Jan. 2, 2012.
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