Our experts have snorkelled in the world's most beautiful waters, and Belize is certainly among the best of them.
An abundance of rare marine life, including hammerhead sharks and jaguar cichlids, reside in the islands' protected marine reserves, which are cared for by the local community. Your chances of spotting whale sharks are particularly high in April and May, so we recommend visiting Belize then if those are your favourites! As the second-largest barrier reef in the world, bursting with over 1,400 species to discover, snorkelling in Belize is never short of eye-opening underwater adventures.
Here's our list of exactly where you'll find the best places to snorkel in Belize.
Surrounded by the swirling blues and greens of the Caribbean Sea, Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island. It’s just a short boat ride from the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest reef system in the world. It houses several hundred sand cayes, mangrove forests and coastal lagoons, and shelters a wide variety of threatened species, including marine turtles and manatees.
Over the years, a number of community-based conservation projects have been put in place in order to preserve life within this reef; volunteers continually replant coral formations to restore its foundations. The reef is home to a vast array of creatures, and it protects the coastline from the damaging effects of wave action, tropical storms, and hurricanes, so its survival is vital.
The sun beats steadily throughout the year here, and so the waters are ideal for snorkelling through most of the year. The water temperatures peak around September time and then dip to their lowest (which is still around 25C!) in January. The rich blue waters are consistently calm, with little-to-no current, which in turn makes the marine life more likely to linger. The waters also have some shallow lagoons, where you can observe the marine life up close, admiring the tiniest details on their scaly skin. These conditions allow for snorkellers of all abilities to explore the waters, especially beginners.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Mexico Rocks are the most popular snorkelling sites by Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan, meaning “Little Channel” sits just beyond the south of the island, at a cut in the Belize Barrier Reef. As you make your way to your snorkel tour here, you can pause at Shark Ray Alley to swim with any lingering nurse sharks and southern stingrays.
Over at Mexico Rocks, north of San Pedro town, you’ll find an incredible boulder coral formation (there’s only one other of its kind in Belize!), large schools of technicolour fish and, if you’re lucky, some sea turtles! Be sure to explore every tiny nook and cranny on the reef to find fluorescent flamingo tongue snails, Christmas tree worms and Caribbean spiny lobsters.
Please be aware that some sections of the Belizean Coastline do suffer from build-ups of seagrass or Sargassum. This is particularly prevalent in the wetter season from May to October. Luckily, we know all the best snorkelling spots and the best times to visit them, so you can avoid any obstacles like this!
Resting on the Belize Barrier Reef, the small island of Caye Caulker was formed by the sediment remains of corals and animals collected over the years. It’s the mosaic of a long marine history, and home to an estimated 100 coral species and at least 500 types of tropical fish. As it’s replete with such precious marine life, UNESCO has made the Belize Barrier Reef a World Heritage Site, enforcing protective policies such as the banning of oil drilling in any of its offshore waters.
The Split is a popular beach area on Caye Caulker, and one of the rare access snorkelling spots in Belize. It’s easy to reach from Belize City and Ambergris Caye by water taxi, and it’s definitely worth it! The Split is surrounded by flourishing mangroves, and a kaleidoscope of colour can be found beneath the water's surface. It's a popular hangout spot for checkered puffers, sergeant majors and some four-eye butterflyfish. As you go deeper, you might find that southern stingrays make an appearance, if they’re not feeling too shy – another rare beauty!
At the height of the travel season, Caye Caulker can get very busy, so keep an eye out for boat traffic, kayaks and swimmers during your snorkelling adventures - or, visit in the quieter periods for one of Belize's best snorkelling experiences.
Great Blue Hole
Settled in the centre of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Great Blue Hole is one of Belize’s lesser-known snorkelling spots. This remote atoll encloses amazing fish life within its circular shape, and leads you 130ft deep into the Caribbean Sea, passing 30ft stalactites, sharks and stingrays as you go. You could also see midnight parrotfish, Caribbean reef shark, and other juvenile fish species. Bull sharks and hammerheads have been sighted there a few times but haven't tended to stick around for long, so only a lucky few will get a glimpse.
Nearby, you’ll find the Half Moon Caye Wall, also known as “6,000ft of vertical abyss”, is a great spot for wall diving, with a vast amount of aquatic life, including corals, garden eels and eagle rays, alongside some of the most stunning sponge formations in the world. You can stop for lunch on Half Moon Caye Island and watch as the red footed boobie birds flutter in the distance. The Long Caye diving site also lies nearby, housing schools of Bermudan chubs and sergeant majors.
Placencia is a paradise of palm trees on the Caribbean coast. It’s at the southern tip of the Placencia Peninsula, offering sweeping beaches and spectacular sea views. Between the peninsula and the mainland, you’ll find Placencia Lagoon, one of Belize's best spots for snorkelling in waters that are home to manatees and dolphins.
Offshore, there is a scatter of dive sites across the Belize Barrier Reef. Reserve a private day trip to Silk Caye, Turtle Alley or Laughing Bird Caye National Park for incredible snorkelling opportunities. These islands boast beautiful coral gardens, overflowing with fish and intricate critters. On your travels, you might also meet trumpet fish, angelfish, damselfish, parrotfish, coral gardens, with underwater canyons and mountains as a beautiful backdrop.
Adjacent to the Belize Barrier Reef, the stunning Harvest Caye offers shallow water entry, great for beginners who are just dipping their toes into snorkelling. It’s a short scenic boat trip from the Harvest Caye Marina, where plenty of fascinating creatures await your arrival. Admire the rainbows of reef fish as they dash and dart around the hard and soft coral formations, the sponges, the sea fans and the sea anemones. You can also keep your eyes peeled for spotted eagle rays, starfish, queen conches and sea cucumbers.
Turneffe Atoll’s beauty extends along a staggering 30 miles, making it the largest atoll in the Caribbean. It’s surrounded by a fringing coral reef, with deep waters inside, reaching up to 30ft below the surface. After years of evolution, this atoll now houses a globally significant coastal ecosystem, with interwoven habitats that work in harmony. Witness the collaborative life of coral reefs, back reef flats, sea grass bed, mangroves and the littoral forest, and the many species of fish passing through.
There are multiple world-renowned diving sites scattered across the atoll. If you're an advanced diver, you might venture to the Elbow for the chance to see snappers, permit, horse-eye jacks and spadefish at 100 feet deep. At Sayonara Wreck, explore the remains of a sunken ship surrounded by coral formations, home to coral shrimp and brittle stars. The Terrace, Triple Anchors and Galles Point are also popular with snorkellers, each enveloping their own unique ecosystem with a wide variety of amazing creatures!
Discover the best snorkelling spots in Belize
Seeking a snorkelling adventure in Belize?
This beautiful island on the Caribbean coast of Central America boasts an immense array of marine life to discover. Explore the islands’ beautifully preserved coral reefs and atolls with the help of our Travel Specialists. They have the expert knowledge to help you deep dive into the mystical Caribbean sea.