This small archipelago off the coast of Phuket has some of the best diving in the world. Two of the main draws are Koh Bon, known for its manta ray sightings, and Richelieu Rock, where majestic whale sharks may swim beside you as they feed on krill. Refuel with one of the many healthy local dishes featuring Chinese and Malaysian influences such as moo hong (a spicy, savory stew of pork and peppers) or goong pad sataw (a shrimp and bean curry). You can try both specialties at Phuket culinary institution Raya, situated in a vintage mansion.
In this Mexican peninsula, athletes can swim through an underwater art museum, the MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) off the coast of Cancun and come face-to-face with life-sized sculptures. It's also worth checking out the submerged stalactites in the Cenote Dos Ojos, an underwater freshwater cavern near Tulum. After working up an appetite, enjoy Yucatán-style tortas and tacos topped with shredded chicken in poblano chili sauce from local favorite Waynan’e. Or opt for a gastronomic 13 course tasting menu at K’u’uk, which features dishes such as a ‘fake fossil’ made with ginkgo leaf, pollen, nopal cactus, seaweed, and dehydrated fish.
Star chefs such as Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain have deemed Filipino cuisine the next big thing and there's no better place to have it than on the southeast Asian archipelago nation. Named after King Philip II of Spain, the food still retains a heavy influence from the Spanish conquistadors. One such dish is the popular sisig, diced pig head and liver spiced with chili peppers, served on a sizzling hot platter. In the western island of Palawan, a rendition made with crocodile meat can be sampled at Kinabuchs in Puerto Princesa, the main entry point to the terrific diving destination, Tubbataha Reef. Make sure to go between mid-March and June as this UNESCO World Heritage site is only open during that time in order to preserve its high concentration of marine life, including about 600 species of fish, 360 species of coral, 11 types of sharks, and 13 dolphin and whale species.
Loggerheads and leatherback sea turtles are often spotted at the Boot dive site off the southwest coast, where a drift dive along a boot-shaped reef can also reveal eagle rays and of course many colorful fish. When diving the numerous sites of Barbados, it’s not uncommon to witness a local spear fisherman on the prowl for lionfish, the tropical fish with venomous, fan-shaped pectoral fins that resemble a mane. While indigenous to the tropics, they are an invasive species to the Caribbean that kills off much of the local marine life. This is why they’ve been deemed fair game to catch year-round. They’re quite tasty once the venomous spines are removed, and can be served different ways, including as fresh ceviche. Try them at Daphne’s in Paynes Bay Beach or Champers in Skeetes Hill.