Bimini Island, the Bahamas
The Bimini has hosted fishermen for 70 years, including Ernest Hemingway. Here the Gulf Stream, which has been described as a "sushi conveyor belt of fish," delivers marlin, tuna, sailfish, wahoo, swordfish, grouper and barracuda. Snapper can be found on the reefs and the flats are home to bonefish and permit fish. With more than 50 record-setting catches in the waters around the island, Bimini has been called the Sport Fishing Capital of the World.
In the summer of 2010 the resort unveiled a multimillion-dollar overhaul, which included creation of the Dive Bimini dive and snorkel program. The program is overseen by Neal Watson, a Bimini native who holds two Guinness World Records, including the underwater distance record (he swam 66 miles nonstop) and the deepest dive on compressed air (a don't-try-this-at-home-kids depth of 437 feet).
Because a mere 20 percent of Bimini guests are there for diving or snorkeling, an average of 12 people hop the dive boat to world-class sites including reefs, wrecks, wall dives, drift dives and the famous Atlantis Road site, thought by some to be part of the lost underwater city of Atlantis. Guests commonly spot Southern stingrays, dolphins and nurse sharks.
Rates: The resort's Diver Package includes two nights of accommodation and two dives for $272 per diver. A la carte dives (including tanks, weights and weight belt) are $100 for two morning boat dives, $60 for one afternoon boat dive and $85 for a night dive. Snorkeling rates (including mask, fins and snorkel rental) are $39 for adults and $29 for children under 12 with a guide (www.biggame clubbimini.com).Hawks Cay Resort
Duck Key, Fla.
This is where the Versus channel fishing show "Saltwater Experience" is shot, chronicling the excellent offshore, reef and backcountry flats fishing in the area.
Hawks Cay is also close to the third-largest living barrier reef system in the world with pristine snorkeling locations and more than 30 dive sites. A highlight is the Thunderbolt, a 188-foot-long ship that lies upright and fully intact in about 120 feet of water. Intentionally sunk in 1986, the wreck is now habitat for nurse sharks, manta rays, spotted eagle rays, loggerhead sea turtles, goliath grouper, and colorful tropicals like sergeant majors plus puffer fish and moray eels.
At Hawks Cay the ratio of fishermen to divers and snorkelers is 2-to-1, and dive boats average five to 20 divers.
Rates: If you have your own scuba gear it's $60 for two dives, or $115 for two dives with gear rental. Snorkeling is $39 with your own gear or $44 with fins, mask and snorkel rental (www.HawksCay.com).Solmar All-Inclusive Resort & Beach Club
Cabo San Lucas, Baja, Mexico
With one of the largest and most experienced sport fishing fleets in Cabo San Lucas, this is the place fishermen come to hunt enormous blue marlin, stripe marlin and black marlin. This spot at the tip of Baja, dubbed "The Marlin Capital of the World," also offers cabrilla, dorado, roosterfish, sailfish, Sierra, snapper, wahoo and yellowfin tuna.
Guests are roughly 90 percent fishermen and 10 percent divers and snorkelers at this 40-year-old property, which upgraded to a premium all-inclusive resort in December of 2010. An outing with just two divers is not uncommon, making exploration of sites like El Arco (the natural rock formation that is iconic of Los Cabos and home to a sea lion community) that much more spectacular.
Rates: $75 per dive including full gear rental. Snorkeling is $45 per person per trip including beverages and a light lunch (www.solmar.com).Weigh West
Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Opened in the early 1990s, the recently renovated Weigh West overlooks Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and offers salmon and halibut fishing. In 2009, Weigh West began offering snorkeling and diving through neighboring dive shop Ocean Planet Adventures. Guests can now explore the reefs, walls and shipwrecks in the area, which are loaded with giant pacific octopus, wolf eels, expansive kelp beds, and resident seals and sea lions.
The water here is cold (about 46 degrees), requiring the use of thick wet suits. The upside is that the colder the water, the clearer it tends to be -- so clear that Jacques Cousteau dubbed the waters in the area "The Emerald Sea" and declared them second only to the Red Sea in terms of diversity of marine life.
With half of Weigh West guests coming to fish and just 15 percent coming to dive or snorkel, Ocean Planet Adventures' dive and snorkel boats average just four people.
Rates: $199 for two boat dives at two different sites including all gear rental (including a cold water wet suit). Snorkeling rates are $89 per person including all gear rental and a guide (www.weighwest.com; www.divetofino.com).