The Top 9 Places to Snorkel in Belize

The Top 9 Places For Your Belize Snorkeling Experience


Located in the beautiful continent of Central America, Belize offers some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful landscapes both above and below its crystal waters.

With a year-round tropical climate and ocean temperatures to match, Belize is renowned for its world-class snorkelling, which you can combine with relaxing on idyllic white beaches and sipping a delicious rum cocktail at the end of the day!

And with plenty of choice when it comes to Belize vacation rentals, it’s easy to pair up where you want to stay in this gorgeous country with where you want to snorkel.

Oh and if you’re travelling more widely around this fab little country, then I highly recommend using Bookaway to research, plan and reserve your transport in advance.

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#1 Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Coming in at number 1, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is without a doubt one of the most amazing places to snorkel in Belize.

As the country’s oldest reserve, this marine national park in the north of the country is teeming with incredible marine life.

At only 6km from Ambergris Caye, it makes for a very popular day trip.

Essentially a small channel within Belize’s Barrier Reef, the reserve is split into 4 different zones, each with their own flavour.

Do some research on Hol Chan Marine Reserve to decide which zone you want to visit and then plan your trip accordingly.


#2 Shark Ray Alley

Technically a zone within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve – Zone 4 to be specific! – Shark Ray Alley is probably the best Belize snorkelling spot if you want to see, yes you guessed it – some sharks and some rays!

From lemon sharks to nurse sharks and even some tiger, bull and black-tipped reef sharks thrown in, this place is amazing!

There are also a huge number of rays to be seen here, including yellow stingrays and spotted eagle rays, the tips of which can often be seen breaking the surface of the water even as you approach in the boat!


#3 Turneffe Reef Atoll

The largest of the 3 atolls in Belize’s Barrier Reef, Turneffe Reel Atoll is also the most northerly in this collection, meaning it’s a full day trip to get here from Caye Caulker, where many people stay.

Established as a marine reserve in 2012, and largely comprised of hundreds of small mangrove islets, you have a very good chance of spotting turtles out at Turneffe Reef, who come to feed off the rich waters created by this ecosystem.

The place is also teeming with lionfish, which are hunted here as part of a population control method, so you may even get one for dinner if you’re lucky!

Turneffe Reef Atoll is also famous for its primary dive site, The Elbow, which features a 30m drop off into the deep blue waters below.


#4 Lighthouse Reef Atoll

The second atoll in Belize’s Barrier Reef, Lighthouse Atoll is also furthest from the coast, which means you’ll need to pick a calm day to visit here if you want the smoothest boat ride possible!

However, many people make the journey out here, even in rough conditions, because of the reef’s massive drawcard – the famous Great Blue Hole, which is the world’s largest underwater sinkhole.

At 124m deep, there isn’t much fish life here, but giant stalactites are the main drawcard and, of course, the kudos to say you’ve been here!

As well as the Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Atoll also features both Half Moon Caye and Long Caye Wall which do have amazing fish life.


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#5 Glover’s Reef Atoll

The 3rd Atoll in Belize’s Barrier Reef, this one is the most southerly and was named after a couple of pirate brothers!

Part of the World Heritage area, this atoll is 145km big and is surrounded by sheer drop-offs that plunge metres down into the Caribbean deep blue.


#6 Gladden Spit

This top Belize snorkelling spot is most famous because of its whale shark population which can easily be spotted here between the months of March to June.

One of the largest creatures in the ocean, these amazing creatures come here to feast on the many spawning fish populations, which result from the healthy marine life.

This means the magnificent whale sharks can easily be viewed by scuba divers and snorkelers alike.

Located in the south of Belize, trips to Gladden Spit leave from the coastal town of Placencia, so head here if you want the once in a lifetime opportunity to see these incredible giants.


#7 Coral Gardens

Known for its diversity of coral, this is probably the best Belize snorkelling site for beginners.

Indeed, the shallow depths, yet incredible diversity, of the Coral Gardens, make it the ideal location if this is your first time donning a snorkel and mask!

Located on the inner side of the reef, Coral Gardens are also sheltered, which means currents here are less strong and swimming around to see the tons of colourful fish is much easier.

Right near Caye Caulker and part of the local marine reserve there, this place is an easy half-day trip is you want just a shorter snorkel excursion and is normally paired with Shark Ray Alley.


#8 Mexico Rocks

Another shallow site, Mexico Rocks is the ideal Belize snorkelling site for marine photographers, as the great visibility here, means of the colours of the coral real pop in front of the lens.

Located only a 20 minute boat ride from Ambergris Caye, Mexico Rocks showcases a delightful array of boulder coral and brain coral and is one of the top places to spot lobsters and eels.

At only 12ft deep, this snorkel site is also nicely sheltered and usually quite calm with tons of angelfish and yellowtail snapper regularly seen.


#9 Goff’s Caye

And finally, the 9th best Belize snorkelling spot goes to Goff’s Caye.

Actually more of a tropical island, experiencing a day trip here also provides you with ample time to enjoy the white sands and laze under a tropical palm tree or 4!

Great for kids, this place is also popular with cruise ships and is only 30 mins from Belize City.

With a huge selection of brilliant-coloured fish, as well as the occasional turtle and dolphin, Goff’s Caye is definitely a good choice if you are basing yourself in or near the capital.




So there you have it, the top 9 places to head for your Belize snorkelling experience!

Hopefully this has given you a greater understanding of what you can experience in the waters around this magnificent country and where you might want to base yourself as a result.

Have you been snorkelling in Belize?

What was your favourite spot?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…


30 thoughts on “The Top 9 Places to Snorkel in Belize

  1. Anthony says:

    Hey Steph,
    I’ve heard of so many amazing places to go snorkeling in Belize. I spent tons of time in Central America but couldn’t get to Belize and kept hearing of people’s top places to visit and they were always place for snorkeling and diving. Shark alley sounds incredible just not sure I could get my wife to join me on this. I knew there were some whale sharks and being from the Philippines I’m glad to hear other spots for whale shark watching. It’s currently a mess out here with very unethical practices. Hope to visit there one day soon.

    • Steph says:

      Hi Anthony, definitely get there if you can, so much amazingness to see. Sad to hear about the unethical diving situation in the Philippines, definitely avoid those spots. Panama is another great place to see them and of course Australia’s west coast too!

  2. Laura says:

    Are there places to snorkel in Belize where you’re not on a rigid tour timeline? I’m reading about tours that only spend an hour or two in one spot. Ideally, we’d like to find a great place to hang out for the day(s) and go in and out of the water as we please. Even better would be a place to stay for several days without relying on hired boats to get you to snorkeling spots. Any recommendations?

    • Steph says:

      Hi Laura, thanks for your question. It would really be best to speak to the individual operators regarding this question, as I can’t speak for them or their tours I’m afraid. I’m sure if you send them an email they’ll be happy to answer your questions, as the responses will, of course, depend on the time of year and particular location of your visit. It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the best snorkelling places are either protected or isolated reefs, so staying on the them or visiting without an official tour isn’t possible.

      • Terry says:

        I am also wondering if I could snorkel in Belize and stay in one place for a while rather than snorkel for an hour and then be shuttled away.
        Are there private biats you can rent that will let you be on your own timeline?

        • Steph says:

          Hi Terry, I would think there are, but sadly don’t have personal experience on this to advise. Likely it might be a private tour / boat rental and therefore a little more pricey. Would love to hear how you get on. Please let me know so we can help other travellers. Thanks Steph

  3. Pat says:

    Thanks for the tips!
    Could you please change the intro to read “located at the southern end of the North American continent, Belize is both Central American, Caribbean and a commonwealth”

  4. Ralph says:

    I have heard good things about Laughing Bird Caye. A short trip out from Placencia, you can snorkel at your leisure, hang on the beach, etc. Do you have any insights about it?

    • Steph says:

      Hello Ralph, thanks for reaching out – I haven’t heard anything about Laughing Bird Caye, no. I do like the name though! Let me know your findings!

    • Kimberly says:

      Our family went to Laughing Bird Caye. It was the best snorkeling we have ever done. Went all the way around the island with a guide, Tulu. No rush, just had to catch the ferry back to our ship. To compare, we have snorkeled in Bonaire, Mexico, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, Curacao, Aruba, and many other Caribbean islands. Laughing Bird Caye is what led me to this article! I was looking for the best area to stay with our family in Belize for a week or two! I wasn’t sure if the coast of Belize had snorkeling like Laughing Bird, or other amazing spots! If you have the opportunity, take it!

      • Steph says:

        Thanks so much for joining the conversation Kimberly – it’s so great to have such detailed, personal input here and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave your comments. Best, Steph

    • Steph says:

      Hi Kim, as you know I’m a budget traveller, so higher end places not my field I’m afraid. Would hate to advise you about something I haven’t tested myself. Apologies

  5. Velynda Short says:

    Do you have recommendations for hotel or tour company for family with six kids, ages 8-15? Family friendly, budget and safety are all considerations. Thank you!

    • Steph says:

      Hi Velynda, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment here. Unfortunately, as I’m a solo traveller, I don’t know much about the best family travel accommodation / tour options in Belize and don’t like to recommend something I haven’t experienced myself. Hope you find something that suits you and enjoy your travels. Best, Steoh 🙂

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