Guide to Scuba Diving in Belize

Belize is one of the best places on earth to scuba dive. Situated between Mexico and Guatemala, this is the least populated country in Central America, but has much more to offer than most of its larger counterparts.

There are over 400 islands, or cayes, in the immediate vicinity that are covered in spectacular white sand. The warm water, beautiful beaches and ideal diving makes this the perfect Caribbean vacation. (Before you go, be informed about Belize City crime)

Diving with whale sharks is one of the greatest adventures you will have here, and this is one of the few places in the world where you can safely enjoy these amazing creatures.

Probably most famous to divers for having the world’s largest blue hole, appropriately named Blue Hole, it also has a wide variety of different types of dive sites, including the second largest barrier reef in the world. There are some great walls and pinnacles too, all of which divers of all skill levels will enjoy.

Below is a list of the top dive locations in Belize, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Where should you dive in Belize?

With so many cayes and wonderful dive features here, scuba diving Belize is like eating from a giant buffet! So many choices and it will take more than one trip to sample it all.

Here are some of the top recommendations of sites, listed by areas, that are sure to please!

The Outer Cayes and Atolls

belize barrier reef

The Outer Cayes and Atolls has some of the best scuba diving in Belize as well as any you will find in the world. From here you not only have beautiful islands and isolated dive sites, but access to the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, the Belize Barrier Reef.

1. The Blue Hole

This is one of the most famous dive sites in the world. Looking down on it from above is spectacular, and has been photographed many times. It is over 1,000ft wide and 400ft deep, which is why it is only for advanced divers.

Inside you will see caverns with some amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Jacques Cousteau listed it as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. While not that many fish live here, you can expect to see some amazing creatures.

Keep in mind that there is a $40 per day park fee to dive here, and if you use a DIN regulator you will need to bring and adapter with you.

2. The Belize Barrier Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world. It is an ideal dive for those at all skill levels, but is especially enjoyed by novice divers. It is shallower and lacks much of a current at all, so is a very easy dive.

At over 190 miles long and 25 miles wide, there is a wide range of marine life to see. A full range of types of corals and sponges as well as fish such as the whitespotted toadfish await you here. Be sure to bring your camera!

3. Lighthouse Reef Atoll

This atoll is where the Blue Hole is, but it also has many other attributes to be enjoyed. There are some amazing deep walls to explore, with all of the sponge and coral gardens you would expect in a Caribbean setting.

Also explore the crests, spurs and groove formations that harbor some amazing macro species as well as larger fish. Located at the most eastern point of Belize and the furthest site from the mainland, it is well worth the effort to see.

4. Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Hol Chan Marine Reserve includes four zones – The Reef, The Mangroves, Shark Ray Alley and The Seagrass Beds. This tiny reserve is the smallest marine reserve in the world, and the oldest one in Belize.

However, great things come in small packages! It has one of the highest concentrations of nurse sharks and rays in the world, and you will be sure to see those and so much more.

Shark Ray Alley was once where fishermen cleaned their catch, which is what originally attracted these guys to the area, and they have stayed. Being only 27ft at the deepest, it is an ideal spot for an amazing night dive.

5. Turneffe Atoll

moray eel

Turneffe Atoll is a beautiful atoll that is covered in vegetation. It is also home to some great dive sites like The Elbow where you will find large shoals of schooling fish.

Lying directly east of Belize City, it is a magical mixture of mangrove islands, lagoons and inlets where you could spend your entire vacation.

6. Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is in close proximity of the Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and is a perfect place to base your vacation at. It is the biggest caye in the area, situated the furthest north of them all.

There are many good dive operators that can take you to some of the lesser known sites as well, where you can enjoy swimthroughs, channels, seagrass beds, drop-offs and so much more.

7. Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is one of the most magnificent and relaxed places to scuba dive in Belize. It is a key place for drift dives as you explore the many species of colorful coral and the many fish that live here.

But there are also some deep canyons, tunnels and steep walls in Island Queen Canyons that makes it a place where divers of all skill levels will want to come back often.

Most divers that come here head to Blue Hole, so elsewhere is quiet and calm, with the warm water so clear it will feel like you can see for miles.

Southern Belize

whale shark southern belize

Placencia has long been one of the favorite places for scuba diving in Belize. It is starting to become more popular to base out of here than Belize City. A big reason for this can be attributed to the graceful whale sharks.

If you visit some time from April to June, you will most certainly be able to dive or snorkel with these gentle giants. Gladden Spit is one of the most predictable spots for encountering them during this time.

1. Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye is now a national park in the inner portions of this area. It is shallow with very little current around the reef which makes it ideal for novice divers or those wanting to hone their skills while getting to see some spectacular marine life.

It is also a great place for spotting some rays.

Further out there is deeper diving with steep walls where experienced divers can enjoy more diverse scenery. The walls drop off to a depth you can only imagine, as getting to the bottom is not possible for scuba divers.

2. Gladden Spit

3. Glovers Reef

4. Placencia Inner Reef

5. Placencia Outer Reef

6. Turneffe Lighthouse Atolls

There are a lot more dive sites out of Placencia, and during the right season, you can also swim with whale sharks. Most dive centers also offer lion fish hunts, which is a lot of fun!

Critter highlights:

red grouper

Scuba diving Belize is one of the best opportunities to see a wide variety of marine life. The amazing geographical diversity in the Atolls and Outer Cayes makes ideal places for a wide range of species you can expect to see.

Of course, swimming with the nurse and reef sharks is one of the big attractions of Belize, and you will not be disappointed. These and rays are very common is several areas.

There are all of the usual suspects that you would see in the Caribbean Sea, but there are also a number of them that are unique to this area. Be sure to bring your camera so you can capture those memorable ones.

Here are just a few critters you’ll see:

Reef sharks, hammerheads, bull sharks, nurse sharks, whale sharks and tiger sharks are just some of the varieties of these big guys you could see.

Leatherback, Loggerhead Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley are some of the turtles that call this country home.
Manta rays and Eagle rays as well as the green morays are always fun to get pictures of.

Whitespotted toadfish, Jawfish, Sleeping parrotfish and trumpetfish are some amazing fish that you do not always have a chance to see.

Spotted lobsters and slipper lobsters, Hermit and neck crabs as well as Flamingo tongue cowrie are also easy to find.

Flounders, Groupers, Snappers, Jacks, Barracuda as well as game species like Tarpon and Tuna flourish in these amazing waters.

Of course, with all of the reefs that are around the country, you will be fascinated by all of the colors of coral and species of sponges and other creatures that live here.

How to get to Belize:

Most tourists get to Belize by flying in to Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City. From there you can get to any of the cayes or atolls by boat that you can charter in the city.

Water taxis are available in Belize City, and there are small airstrips on some of the larger islands. Maya Island Air or Tropic Air are a couple of the domestic airlines that can get you where you want to be.

Once on the islands, there are golf carts everywhere that you can use to get around if you do not want to hoof it. But the islands are all small enough that walking is still the best way to get around.

Visa info for Americans:

Unless you are a citizen of China, Colombia, Cuba, India, Libya, Pakistan, Peru or Taiwan you to not need a tourist visa. All you need is a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled end of your stay and a return ticket.

Visits are limited to 30 days, but you can request an extension. You may be asked for proof that you have enough funds for the stay – typically US $50 per person per day.

There are no requirements for vaccinations before visiting Belize, as there are no diseases that are epidemic to the country. However yellow fever and dengue fever are present, so if you plan to visit the jungle areas much, you should consider the use of anti-malarial medications.

Best times to visit:

While there is no bad time to visit Belize, some times of the year can be more ideal than others.

The dry season of the year generally runs from November to July, which is more optimal for diving. It does tend to be a bit more crowded as tourists from the north head here to avoid their cold winter months.

June to October is the wet season, which is also called the green season. It makes the vegetation so lush and pretty, but can adversely affect diving and visibility, although not to a degree that stops anyone.

There are very few hurricanes here, but if they were to occur it is from August to October.

For many divers, March to May is the very best time to dive in Belize. This is because it is whale shark season! Many people love to dive with these gentle creatures.

Travel information about Belize

Belize is on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America and shares borders with Mexico and Guatemala. The total area is 22,960 square kilometers (8,860 sq. mi) where land area is 21,400 square kilometers (8,300 sq. mi) and the population is approximately 287,730. You’d love to go whether on the beach or in the jungle, Belize has lots to offer.

Capital city of Belize: Belmopan

Closest neighbors to Belize: Its closest neighbors are Mexico to the north, and Guatemala to the west and south.

Best times to visit Belize: It’s best to go in Belize on late November to mid-April where sunshine is continuous and outdoor activities are ideal. The water is clear and calm fit to go scuba diving and snorkeling. Hotels rates are also moderate.

How to get to Belize: If you want a cheaper way to Belize, you have to take a flight to Cancun. There are lots of charter flights from US, Canada, and even Europe to Cancun then take a bus from there.

Visa requirements for Belize: It doesn’t require a visa for US citizens and its territories. You just need a passport valid for 30 days as a tourist.

Currency of Belize: Belize dollar is the currency of Belgium (BZD).

Official Language of Belize: English is the official language of Belize.

UNESCO World Heritage sites in Belize

There is 1 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belize.

    • Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

More Belize travel and scuba resources

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