Belize is home to the second-longest barrier reef on Earth, running the entire length of the country (over 192 miles). All of the snorkeling in Belize is located on this barrier reef (or the offshore atolls), and much of it is quickly accessible for snorkeling by boat.
In fact, that may be one of the only downsides to Belize snorkeling, you have to use a boat or at least a kayak for nearly all good spots.
General Snorkeling in Belize Trip Prices (USD)
Prices vary by dive shop and dive spot, but these are the general prices. Prices include tour guide and your boat ride.
Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley
(9:00am or 2:00pm)
Mexico Rocks & Tres Cocos
(9:00am or 2:00pm)
Full day Caye Caulker
(9:00am – 4:00pm)
Full day to the Blue Hole
(6:00am – 5:00pm)
(9:00am – 5:00pm)
The Season For Belize in Snorkeling
Belize is a year round snorkeling destination. February and March represent the driest months. March through June experiences occasional rainfall and August through October, “the wet season”, represents the more likely period for hurricanes. Visibility remains constant year-round away from the mainland shore.
Snorkeling in Belize is always more comfortable in warm water and fortunately, the water here is warm year round. August through October tend to be the months with the warmest water temperatures at around 82 to 84°F (28 or 29°C). Even at the lower end of the annual water temperature range, Belize is very much a warm water destination. The temperature rarely dips below 79°F (26°C) even around the cooler months of January and February. Seldom would you need more than a shortie wetsuit and most snorkeler’s choose not to use a wetsuit at all during the warmer months. Air temperatures remain relatively constant around the 80°F (27°C) mark.
The best conditions for snorkeling in Belize are generally considered to be from March through December, although outside this period it is common to still find optimum conditions. The first few months of this period (March through June) are considered by some to represent the very best months. April through June is whale shark season in Placencia, in the south of the country. October and November are when thousands of groupers mate and give birth to their young in the shallows of the Cayes.
Top Snorkel Spots in Belize
The most popular Belize snorkeling starts from the growing, island town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The reef is very close to Ambergris, which is one reason this is the most popular spot. Clarity is also better further north because of the rain forest rivers down south.
Ambergris Caye Snorkeling – This is the most popular caye to snorkel from and provides the fastest and easiest access to the reef as well as the best accommodations in Belize. Most of the Ambergris snorkel spots are detailed below.
Shark Ray Alley – Snorkeling Shark Ray Alley in Belize is better than I thought it would be and it is one of the easier spots to get to from Ambergris Caye. This exciting snorkel adventure is in shallow water (less than 10 feet) in a feeding area, which attracts many harmless nurse sharks as well as lots of stingrays and fish. It even has some nice coral tp see. Sharks may sound scary to some, but the truth is, Nurse Sharks are gentle, not very dangerous and are mostly bottom feeders. The stingrays are surprisingly bold when being fed. So long as you let your guide do the feeding and just watch, it is all very safe, fun and interesting. Shark Ray Alley is an area where fishermen often clean their catches and toss the remnants in the sea. All this free food is what attracts the Nurse Sharks, many Southern Sting Rays, and the occasional Eagle Ray. When your boat arrives it attracts the local Nurse Sharks and rays looking for their free food. Your guide will feed the Nurse Sharks and they will swarm around whoever is feeding them, allowing you the snorkeler, to touch them. Shark Ray Alley is now part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It is located south of Ambergris Caye, close to Hol Chan.
Hol Chan Cut – I enjoyed snorkeling Hol Chan Marine Reserve very much and can certainly understand why it is the favorite snorkeling in Belize place accessible from the island of Ambergris Caye. This is also the greatest disadvantage to Hol Chan, it is usually quite full of snorkelers and boats! There is a cut in the barrier reef, which offers deeper waters with bigger fish species. The park is essentially centered around this channel or “cut” in the barrier reef. In fact, the Mayan words Hol Chan mean “little channel”. The cut in the reef is only 75 feet across and about 30 feet deep. Hol Chan is an underwater Marine Reserve in a Belizean National Park. It is usually a quick and fun boat ride out to the cut with some beautiful views of the south end of Ambergris Caye. The park was founded in 1987 due to over-fishing, which has allowed the marine life to recover significantly. You can check out the park on its official website here. The park consists of four ecological zones, covering about three square miles. Shark Ray Alley was recently added to the park, as well as some mangrove areas and the shallow grass bed areas nearby. Many snorkel excursions to Hol Chan are coupled with Shark Ray Alley. To get there you need to charter a boat or tour operator and in addition to their charge, the park also charges a small fee that each snorkeler must pay. Most tour operators consolidate this fee with their fee. These tours run from San Pedro and also from Caye Caulker and Belize City.
Tres Cocos – Snorkeling Tres Cocos is quite interesting. This spot is usually combined with Mexico Rocks into one trip by the snorkel tour operators based out of San Pedro. This shallow area is along the edge of the barrier reef and has a lot of sea life and quite a current. It is very shallow snorkeling, averaging less than eight feet deep. I saw much more fish here than at Mexico Rocks and there was lots of large Brain Coral and Elkhorn Coral. I also saw a variety of soft corals and fans and a mix of small tropical fish. There is a decent current at this location. I have often found that you may experience stronger currents in shallow areas like when snorkeling Tres Cocos. Tres Cocos is so close to San Pedro that this is a pretty quick boat trip and well worth doing. It is easy to recommend.
Ambergris Caye 2
Mexico Rocks – Snorkeling Mexico Rocks is fantastic and it is a short boat ride out of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize. It is located about one-third of the way up the coast of Ambergris Caye. This is actually a patch reef area that is great for beginners and experienced alike. The snorkeling at Mexico Rocks is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of fewer than 12 feet. Since this area is well inside the reef it is shielded from the bigger swells, making it an excellent beginner’s snorkeling spot. Unlike many of the other spots for snorkeling in Belize, near San Pedro located on the barrier reef, Mexico Rocks is a patch of star coral that is located in the shallow waters midway between the reef and the island. Although I did not see a many large fish, I did see many immature fish. I also spotted a turtle swimming away as I arrived. Even experienced snorkelers will find this a great spot with its beautiful corals and soft sponges to see. I found lots of soft corals (Gorgonians), sea fans, fire coral, sea rods and a variety of sponges to photograph. Due to the shallowness of the area, the sun lights everything up, providing good underwater visibility for taking pictures. The Mexico Rocks trip is often combined with another stop, usually Tres Cocos. It is very easy to recommend these spots to anyone going snorkeling as they are both in perfect depths. So, give it a try. It is easy to find a boat operator that visits this area.
Tuffy Rocks – Located near the popular dive spot Tackle Box Canyons, south of Tres Cocos, almost straight out from San Pedro. Tuffy Rocks has some fantastic snorkeling and is excellent for viewing a variety of fish.
Coral Gardens – Located inside the reef, in sandy, shallow waters just south of San Pedro. You may view some beautiful corals as well as a large variety of fish.
Mata Cut – This is a cut in the reef that is located by a quick boat ride from San Pedro. Snorkeling here can be hit or miss. The big attraction here is a shipwreck inside the reef in about 8 feet of water. The wreck is covered in corals and is often teeming with fish. The drawback to snorkeling this spot is that the shipwreck is very close to the cut and it is often rough with low visibility.
Bacalar Chico – Bacalar Chico is as far north as you can go and is a relatively new reserve with some fantastic snorkeling in Belize adventures. The reef is pristine, with a large conch population and a few manatee sightings. There is a shallow area with a sandy bottom and big coral patches. There are deeper areas with huge coral heads and schools of barracudas. Closer to the reef, there is a wall of coral with crystal clear water and thousands of fish. Bacalar Chico is a great spot to see Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles. If you can get there, I highly recommend you do it.
Basil Jones – To snorkel here you will have to persuade a tour operator to take you. It is pretty far north and will make for a full day. The lagoon behind the sandy beach there provides some great snorkeling in Belize also. And since it is so far north, there appears to be a lot more sea life.
Finally, south of Ambergris Caye Island, there are hundreds of snorkeling in Belize spots inside of the barrier reef and all around the hundreds of cayes. Although, as mentioned previously, the water clarity is worse the farther south you get. Also, there are fewer cayes, providing less weather protection in these southern areas. Here are few I have explored.
Rendezvous Caye – Snorkeling Rendezvous Caye is well worth it if you can get out to this little piece of tropical heaven. It is a tiny tropical island with palms and a small shade shelter. This picturesque little island looks like it comes straight out of a movie, and is one of the better snorkeling in Belize spots. Rendezvous Caye is about halfway between Belize City and Dangriga, out on the reef between Middle Long Caye and Bluefield Range. It is located right on the barrier reef. It is deep open ocean on one side and shallow on the other, surrounded by a coral reef.
Carrie Bow Caye – The snorkeling here, next to the cut in the barrier reef, is worth checking out.
Colson Caye – Another excellent little snorkel spot is at the patch reef just south of Rendezvous
Gladden Cayes – Located close to Gladden Spit, which is another break in the barrier reef, these patch reefs are in perfect depths and have lots of life.
Little Water Caye – This spot is closer to Placencia, and while decent, suffers from the muddier water.
Pompion Caye – This caye is due east from Placencia, on the barrier reef edge. It is worth exploring, even though the reef health and visibility are not as good as spots further north.
There are three offshore atolls that offer some fantastic snorkeling in Belize. Unfortunately, these all take fairly long boat rides across the open, often rough sea.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll – This is the furthest atoll, it is surrounded by reef, is shallow in the middle, less than 10 feet in depth on average and contains literally hundreds of coral heads. This is the home of the world famous Great Blue Hole, discovered by Jacque Cousteau.
Blue Hole – This bucket-list spot is one of the most famous dive spots in the world. I snorkeled it, but suggest you skip it. Once in the water, you snorkel about the inside of the ring of the reef while below you, the sea floor drops straight down into the depths. At the surface, I saw some beautiful fans, corals, and sponges all around the ring. It is one of the healthier reefs I have seen in Belize, but it is not that much different or better than what I have seen closer to the barrier reef, only a mile from my hotel (instead of 50 miles across the open ocean). Unfortunately, there are very few fish at the Great Blue Hole. In the depths, I could see some large fish, some big groupers, barracuda and a handful of big sharks. But around the reef, there were very few tropical fish. So for a snorkeler, the Blue Hole is kind of a boring experience.
Half Moon Caye – Snorkeling Half Moon Caye was a gift, somewhat since the caye is preserved by the Belize Audubon Society and has a community of rare Red Footed Boobies that perch here. This is a great snorkel spot, with a shallow area that is perfect depths for a snorkeler. We stopped here second on our Lighthouse Reef snorkel trip. The stop was for lunch and an excellent snorkel in some shallow blue waters. Our tour guide showed us around while a bunch of the divers went to go to a different dive spot.
Long Caye Wall – Snorkeling Long Caye was just OK. This is the third stop on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll snorkel trip. This location is also called the Aquarium. This spot is really for divers as it is too deep for snorkelers, but I still enjoyed it. It is a coral wall that drops down into the depths. Since it starts at about 20 feet deep and gets deeper quickly, it is pretty tough to snorkel. Also, there is usually a pretty strong current that pulls you quickly along the length of the wall. For a diver, this is nice. The boat drops them off at one spot and picks them up at another later on. But the snorkelers have to stay with the boat, so you are constantly fighting the current. There are a couple of good things about snorkeling here though as the water clarity was the best I’ve seen in all of Belize and there are thousands of fish and dozens of eels to see. The sea bottom sponges, corals, and fans are gorgeous. Unfortunately, it is just too deep for it to be a great snorkeling spot.
Turneffe Islands Atoll is the closest of the three atolls. It is different from the other two because it is actually a collection of several hundred mangrove covered cayes within a reef.
Glovers Reef Atoll – Glover’s is a circular atoll reef that is very shallow at the center, but towards the outside, the ocean drops rapidly to over two thousand feet. The maximum depth within the atoll is about 40 feet, with most areas being much shallower. What makes it a snorkeler’s paradise, is that there are over 750 patch reefs within the atoll. This is the southernmost atoll and I believe this is the best for Belize snorkeling of the three outer atolls. You could spend a month snorkeling here while staying at one of the rustic resorts on Glover’s Island. Glover’s Reef Atoll is considered the most remote of the three major atolls off the coast of Belize. While Lighthouse Reef may be the farthest out, Glover’s is farther away from the tourist areas and has fewer people boating out to it.
Visitor Water Safety Tips
Ambergris Caye relies heavily on boats for transportation not only around the island itself but for inter-island travel, mainland travel, transportation of cargo and of course tourism. When Swimming or snorkeling on Ambergris Caye please BEWARE OF BOAT TRAFFIC and follow these safety guidelines:
- Swim/snorkel between docks and in designated swim areas when available
- Do not attempt to swim out to the reef
- Consider not wearing jewelry when snorkeling or swimming
- If any vessel is heading in your direction signal to make yourself visible
- Use a life vest or diver down buoy for visibility when snorkeling or swimming
- Touching coral, plant life and dock posts may cause extreme allergic reactions
- Always have someone watching when snorkeling or swimming at night
- Do not dive from docks as there could be shallow water or obstructions underwater
- Pay attention to the wind speed and direction when kayaking away from shore
- A kayak and/or paddle are useful to make yourself visible while in the water
- Your belongings should not be left unattended on the beach or dock
We want your vacation in Belize to be a memorable and enjoyable one so please be safe while exploring our natural wonders.