Famed for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and swaying palm trees, Belize is an obvious choice for a tropical escape. It also boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world. After all, it’s where you’ll find the world’s second-largest barrier reef, measuring nearly the entire length of the country. You can snorkel in Belize all year round, but the best time to head out to sea is from the end of November to May. The rainy season is between June and November and, although it’s usually warm and humid, it can reduce underwater visibility. We’ve cherry-picked seven of the best places for snorkeling in Belize for those daydreaming about their next underwater adventure.
The best places for snorkeling in Belize
The largest island in Belize, Ambergris Caye is probably the country’s most popular snorkeling spot. It boasts an incredible coral reef system that’s teeming with tropical fish and exotic plants. Most of the snorkeling is accessible by boat, with the best sites located on the barrier reef and patch reefs. The island’s only town, San Pedro, run a range of different boat tours every day.
Tres Cocos and Mexico Rocks are two of the most popular sites in the area. They’re both excellent for beginners due to the notably calmer waters here. Coral Gardens, in the sandy shallow waters just south of San Pedro, is a good spot too.
2. Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker – or ‘The Split’ – is one of the most easily accessible snorkeling spots from the shores of Belize. Water taxis run as many as 20 trips per day in each direction. Once here, head to the northernmost tip of the island where you can take a ladder into the waters. It’s a relatively deep spot reaching depths of eight metres but the visibility is excellent.
Along the mangrove edge, you’ll find pufferfish, sergeant major fish and four-eye butterflyfish. In the darker spots closer to the roots of the forest, you’ll see thousands of fish larva.
As the name suggests, this idyllic reserve is brimming with sharks and rays. Fear not, they’re all harmless. The waters here are crystal clear, bathwater-warm and practically motionless, making for the best snorkeling conditions possible.
Interestingly, this became a hotspot for the marine creatures because local fishermen used to come here to clean their catches. The sharks started to come here in droves, anticipating a guaranteed meal. Nowadays, it’s the divemasters who feed them to keep them interested.
4. Hol Chan Cut
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is particularly popular given its proximity just 15 minutes from San Pedro. Since the area became a protected marine reserve in 1987, its fish population has exploded. It’s perfect for beginner snorkelers and even in the shallows, you’ll bump into huge schools of groupers, snappers and barracuda. If you’re a more experienced snorkeler, you can swim from one side of the cut to the other for steep drop-offs. You’ll swim alongside green turtles, nurse sharks, stingrays and moray eels, passing horse-eye jacks and elkhorn coral along the way.
You’ll need to book a tour to access the site but you can take one of many half-day trips to the spot from San Pedro, or a full-day trip from Caye Caulker.
For more adventurous snorkelers, add Lighthouse Reef to your bucket list. Located around 50 miles offshore, the atoll is the easternmost part of the Belize Barrier Reef. Its shallow centre is brimming with coral heads.
The three best snorkel spots here are the Blue Hole, the Moon Caye and the Caye Wall. The Blue Hole is beautiful but best for those looking to explore corals, sponges and sea plants. Caye Wall is deeper and best advised for experienced snorkelers. Moon Caye offers the best of both worlds, not least because it’s home to a colony of rare Red Footed Boobies.
6. Turneffe Islands
This cluster of mangroves and sandy atolls sits around 30 miles east of Belize City. It’s home to a handful of swish resorts and a tiny population of fishermen, but it’s becoming increasingly popular as more people discover that it’s home to the largest coral reef atoll in Belize. Hotfoot here to swim alongside tropical reef fish, coral, rays, turtles, lobsters and possibly even dolphins.
7. Glovers Reef
This circular atoll reef is another snorkeling hotspot in Belize, though more remote and harder to get here than most. The atoll itself is extremely shallow and filled with over 800 patch reefs. The outer rim drops sharply to over 2,000 feet.
Given that it is a little tricky to get here, most people tend to stay on one of the island’s resorts or camp out in the cayes.