The Best Snorkeling Spots in Belize

Belize is increasingly popular among sailors, divers and snorkelers due to its stunning reefs and shores
Belize is increasingly popular among sailors, divers and snorkelers due to its stunning reefs and shores | © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
Tamara Hinson


Belize has something for every type of traveler: it’s a brilliant sailing and yachting destination popular with sailors who can cruise between its hundreds of islands – 450, to be precise – along with a Unesco-listed barrier reef and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The best bit? It’s a fantastic snorkeling destination, too – so, we’ve rounded up the places which should be on your radar if you fancy exploring beneath the waves.

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Ambergris Caye

One of Belize’s most popular snorkeling destinations, Ambergris Caye is an offshore island on the outer edge of the country’s barrier reef – and a very popular destination for guided snorkeling tours. Three of Ambergris Caye’s best snorkeling locations include Shark Ray Alley – look out for ultra-bright coral as well as nurse sharks and rays – as well as the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, famous for its larger species including groupers, barracudas and eagle rays and finally, Mexico Rocks, known for its colorful coral and popular with beginners due to its calm waters.

Proof that the best things come in small packages, Little Water Caye is a great destination if you’re a fan of corals – there’s a huge range to see here and it’s a fantastic place to spot sea sponges. If you’re visiting in the low season, it’s worth noting that visibility isn’t always the best – due to its proximity to the mainland and the rains which come from Belize’s mountainous areas. However, its shallow depth means there’s generally plenty to see throughout the year.

Turneffe Atoll

This is the largest atoll of Belize’s barrier reef. Since 2012, it’s been a dedicated marine reserve and it’s one of the best places to see turtles. There’s also an abundance of lionfish, which are now legally hunted as a method of population control – you’ll see them on menus throughout Belize. Rays, lobsters and manatees are also regularly spotted and if you’re arriving by yacht, don’t be surprised if a pod of curious bottlenose dolphins pops up to greet you.

Bannister Caye (Starfish Island)

Bannister Caye – also known as “Starfish Island” – is a private island, but it’s worth flagging because the owners allow boats to stop for snorkeling sessions and many snorkeling tours visit. Amenities – which include bars, a restaurant and a kids’ play area – make it incredibly family-friendly and younger snorkelers will love the calm, clear waters. There’s plenty to see, although we suggest making a beeline for Starfish Beach, so-called because the water is full of starfish. Obviously.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll

This atoll is the furthest from the mainland, so if you’re prone to seasickness, consider visiting on a calm day – the ride back can get a little bumpy. But it’s worth the effort, largely because it’s where you’ll find the Blue Hole underwater sinkhole. With a depth of 124m (406ft), few divers have reached the bottom, but the clear water means there’s plenty to see near the surface – including nurse sharks, angelfish, parrotfish and butterflyfish.

Goff’s Caye

Another easily accessible snorkeling spot – a 30-minute boat ride from Belize City – Goff’s Caye is a small island, famous for more than just its marine life. Love a bit of birdwatching? Take a second to admire the island’s frigatebirds – distinct for their bright red chests – and diving cormorants, before heading below the waves to see conch, lobsters, starfish and stingrays, as well as exceptionally bright coral.

The Split on Caye Caulker

Named so because it’s a channel dividing Caye Caulker’s northern and southern halves, the Split is great for beginners – swim straight to the best bits from the sand and the water is so clear that you’ll be able to see fish from the beach. Try to visit when the water’s calm, though – on rougher days, the speed at which water passes through the Split means less time to admire the fish zipping through the channel.

Tobacco Caye

Tobacco Caye – a tiny inhabited island on Belize’s barrier reef – offers the best of both worlds. With brilliant facilities – including beachfront cabins which can be rented for short periods of time – and its position within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, it has long provided much-needed protection for marine life. Our favourite species to spot? The bright-blue seahorses, closely followed by the eagle rays. And if you’re very lucky, you’ll spot a hammerhead shark or dolphin.

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