If you’re looking for a beautiful and exotic place to go snorkeling, then you should snorkel Belize! This Central American country is home to some of the most stunning coral reefs in the world and is teeming with marine life. Home to the famous Blue Hole and the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, Belize has something to offer everyone.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a wide variety of sea life, including coral gardens, sea turtles, rays, eels, sharks, and manatees.

Belize Barrier Reef Snorkeling Conditions

The water at Belize has an average visibility of 60 to 100ft with the lowest times being in the windier and stormier months between June to November. Generally, conditions for snorkeling are excellent. The temperature ranges from 77-84 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water is renowned for being crystal clear with great visibility for viewing the underwater world. Some people wear thin wetsuits in the winter months to enable them to snorkel for longer periods.

Although you can hire snorkeling gear at all of these locations, we recommend that you take your own and get familiar with it before you go, just to ensure that you get the best experience possible.

Belize Temperatures

  • Cooler months – Nov to March: approx. 77 degrees
  • Warmer months – April to Oct: approx. 84 degrees

Expect to see:

  • A myriad of colorful fish
  • Colorful Coral
  • Moray Eels
  • Spotted Eagle Rays, Southern Sting Rays
  • Harmless Nurse Sharks, Reef Sharks (possibly whale sharks)
  • Sea Turtles
  • and much more…..

Night Snorkeling on Belize’s Barrier Reef

Some tour operators offer night snorkeling tours and these are thoroughly recommended. If you’ve never snorkeled at night, it’s a completely different, other-worldly experience not to be missed. Take along a good quality dive light and witness a whole new world of night creatures. Colors are so vivid when illuminated in the darkness by your torchlight.

Snorkeling with Whale Sharks

Although not guaranteed, there’s a good chance you’ll see whale sharks while snorkeling in Belize. These gentle giants are often seen swimming in the waters off Ambergris Caye and Glover’s Reef Atoll. Swimming with these majestic creatures is an unforgettable experience.

Belize Barrier Reef Snorkeling Spots

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

If you’re looking for a breathtaking snorkeling experience, look no further than the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize. This reserve is home to some of the most diverse underwater life in the world and offers visitors a chance to see everything from coral reefs to tropical fish up close and personal.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The reserve is located about four miles south of the shores of Ambergris Caye and can be easily accessed by boat. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of snorkeling spots, each with its own unique ecosystem.

Our favorites are The Cut and Shark Ray Alley. At the Cut, you can snorkel through a 30ft deep, narrow channel between two coral reefs. In fact, the name Hol Chan translates to ” little channel”. The snorkeling here is excellent, and you’re likely to see all sorts of sea life.

Shark Ray Alley is one of the most popular spots in the reserve, and it’s easy to see why. As the name suggests, this is where you’ll find sharks and rays in abundance. Don’t worry though, these creatures are totally harmless and you can swim right alongside them!

Be warned that this site is extremely popular and snorkeling tours are plentiful.

Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Reserve

One of the biggest draws to Belize is the ability to swim, snorkel or dive with whale sharks. If you haven’t ever experienced this you definitely should add it to your bucket list. These majestic creatures can get up to 40ft (12m) long but don’t worry, they are filter feeders so they pose no threat to humans. The best time of year to see them is between March and June when they migrate through the area.

Gladden Spit Marine Reserve is the best location for doing this but you should definitely book well in advance as there are only a limited number of boats allowed into the whale shark areas at any given time.

You may observe hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles, as well as stingrays, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, snappers, barracudas, and corals at Turtle Alley near Silk Cayes.

Caye Caulker

Snorkeling at Caye Caulker in Belize is a great way to see some of the area’s best marine creatures. There are three main snorkeling spots on the island – Coral Gardens, the Split, and Shark Ray Alley.

Coral Gardens is an excellent spot for beginner snorkelers, as the waters are shallow and clear. You can see a variety of brightly-colored corals and fish here.

The Split is a channel that separates Caye Caulker into two halves, and it’s one of the only places on the island where you can swim right off the beach. This area is home to pufferfish, starfish, stingrays, and more.

Caye Caulker - Belize Snoreling Spots
Caye Caulker

Shark Ray Alley is only accessible by organized excursion, but it’s well worth the trip. This popular snorkeling spot is teeming with nurse sharks and stingrays.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, Caye Caulker has something to offer you. With crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life, it’s no wonder this island is a top destination for snorkeling in Belize.

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Turneffe Atoll

If you’re looking for an amazing snorkeling experience, look no further than Turneffe Atoll in Belize. This large coral atoll is teeming with marine life and offers visitors a chance to see creatures they may never have the opportunity to see again.

Turneffe is the most accessible of the four atolls, with a 90-minute boat ride from Belize City. Visitors can spend a few days or more exploring this aquatic wonderland, with several resorts providing all-inclusive snorkeling packages.

Turneffe’s ecosystems include everything from rays to turtles, lobsters, reef fish, and dolphins. If you’re fortunate, you could see manatees swimming nearby. It’s illegal to swim with manatees in Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary or other protected habitats, but just seeing them in their natural habitat is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or someone who’s never even put on a pair of fins before, Turneffe is the perfect place to explore everything the Caribbean has to offer.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Lighthouse Reef Atoll is one of the most beautiful and secluded atolls in Belize. It is located 55 miles (88 km) from the mainland, and getting there requires a several-hour boat journey. However, it is well worth the trip, as Lighthouse Reef has some of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the world.

This is home to one of the world’s best blue holes, a circular sinkhole that is a real fantasy for many tourists. The Blue Hole is a diving Mecca, but snorkeling enthusiasts can also enjoy the stunning vistas as the underwater cave plunges to a depth of about 125 meters.

A fine site to visit is Half Moon Caye, which sits on the southeast coast of the Lighthouse Reef. The island is a marine reserve and bird sanctuary, and it is one of Belize’s most beautiful Cayes. Half Moon Caye has several snorkeling locations with shallow waters that are ideal for beginners and experienced divers alike.

However, if you’re looking for someplace to start, this tiny island is the perfect location. It’s also known as “The Aquarium,” and it’s a wonderful spot for advanced snorkelers as the ocean currents can be challenging. The clear seas provide amazing underwater views and are home to bright fish and other aquatic life.

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Belize. The region’s reefs are inhabited by a variety of fish including snappers, angels, damselfish, and stingrays. In fact, the best offshore snorkeling is available on Ambergris Caye.

If you’re looking for a great place to snorkel in Belize that isn’t saturated with tourists then Ambergris Caye could make it onto your list. With its beautiful reefs and variety of fish, it’s an excellent destination for anyone looking to explore the underwater world around Belize.

Nurse Sharks at Ambergris Caye - Belize Snorkeling
Nurse Sharks at Ambergris Caye

Tobacco Caye

Looking for a place to relax and get away from it all? Look no further than Tobacco Caye. This tiny island in the Belize Barrier Reef System is home to just 30 year-round residents, making it the perfect place to disconnect and unwind. With crystal-clear water and beautiful white sandy beaches, Tobacco Caye is a paradise for snorkellers, divers, and kayakers.

Throughout the Belize Atolls, there’s a broad range of accommodation, with a lot of it geared towards snorkelers and divers. Accommodation at Tobacco Caye Paradise is no exception with a number of secluded cottages right on the beach.

Glover’s Reef Atoll

Snorkelers looking for a good spot to explore Belize’s vibrant aquatic life should consider Glover’s Reef Atoll. The lagoon is home to an abundance of fish and hundreds of pristine patch reefs, making it a great spot for snorkeling.

To get to Glover’s Reef Atoll, you’ll have to take a boat. The trip from Dangriga on the mainland takes about two hours, so it’s best to make a day of it. Once you’re there, be sure to stay at one of the resorts on the tiny cays. The rustic overwater bungalows are ideal for people looking for a quiet location to enjoy Belize’s aquatic delights.

Glovers Reef Atoll - Belize Snorkel Spots
Glovers Reef Atoll

If you’re looking for a good spot to snorkel in Belize, Glover’s Reef Atoll is definitely worth considering. With its abundance of fish and pristine patch reefs, the lagoon is sure to please.

Tres Cocos & Mexico Rocks

Both Tres Cocos and Mexico Rocks are great spots for snorkeling, with calm seas and depths deep enough to swim in. They can easily be combined with a visit to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is just a short boat journey from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.

The excellent visibility in the clear seas allows snorkelers to fully enjoy the colorful corals and varied sea creatures. In addition to brain coral and gorgonians, you may see rays, hawksbill turtles, spiny lobsters, eels, grunts, yellowtail snappers, and other tropical fish in this area.

No matter your experience level, snorkeling at Tres Cocos and Mexico Rocks is a must-do activity when in Belize.

Best snorkeling tours in Belize

If you’re looking for a sailboat & snorkel experience it’s hard to beat the full-day Sirena Azul Sailboat Tour of Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Caye Caulker. Setting off from Ambergris Caye you get to experience the sharks and rays of Shark Ray Alley for most of the day before heading off for a 2-hour tour of Caye Caulker. The return isn’t bad either as you relax on the yacht sipping a nice rum punch or two!

You can choose from a full list of tours that range from a few hours to a few days, but if you’re looking for the full package covering everything, then this 10-day See it All & Do it All Tour could be for you.

If you prefer a bit of privacy and independence you may want to look at a private charter. There’s a lot to be said for getting a personalized experience if this is a trip you’ve been looking forward to for some time.

It’s extremely important to note that as of 2018 Belize Barrier Reef was taken off the Endangered List of Heritage Sites, due to all the great work of the local government and UNESCO.

Having said that, we must all still do our part in maintaining this status for future generations.

Ways to help:

  • Instead of wearing sunscreen (harmful to coral & marine life), cover up with thin rash guards.
  • If you must wear sun lotion choose an eco-friendly sunscreen.
  • Everything you take to the reef, take away with you.
  • Do not touch coral.
  • Take no souvenirs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Belize has some of the best snorkeling in the world.

You can snorkel from the shore at Half Moon Caye which is part of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize.

Belize is better than Cozumel for snorkeling as the beauty of Belize’s atolls, the scale of the barrier reef, overall visibility, and the sheer abundance of sea life make it a true underwater wonderland for snorkelers. Plus of course, Belize has the famous Blue Hole!

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is among the best reefs in Belize due to the popularity of Shark Ray Alley and The Cut, however, the Lighthouse Reef Atoll is excellent for both beginners and experienced snorkelers and is home to the great Blue Hole.

A wetsuit is not essential to snorkel in Belize but if you’re going to snorkel in the winter months of November to March, we would recommend a thin wetsuit if you want to stay in the water for any great length of time.

Yes, the Blue Hole is a divers’ dream, but the same is also true for snorkelers. The rim of this world wonder is of course covered in coral and sea life, making it great for snorkeling. Be aware that nothing prepares you for the experience of snorkeling across the shallow reef to suddenly being over the top of a 1000ft cavernous drop. It literally takes your breath away.

Yes, there are sharks in the great hole at Belize, mostly Nurse and Reef sharks

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