The northernmost country in Central America — just south of Mexico — Belize is the only Central American country that doesn’t share a border with the Pacific Ocean, only the Caribbean Sea. The Belize Barrier Reef, part of the larger Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, stretches for almost 200 miles along the coastline and features three of the four atolls in the Western Hemisphere: Glover’s Reef, Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe Atoll. These atolls and the reef, along with hundreds of sand cayes, coastal lagoons, estuaries, and mangrove forests, make up the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. Here you’ll find moree than 50 species of coral, over 500 species of fish, and hundreds of mollusk types. You can enjoy the reef from a land-based location such as Ambergris Caye or via liveaboard. In either case, here are our pics for the best scuba diving in Belize.
Aquarium, Long Caye, Belize
This 1.5-hour boat ride from San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, takes you past Caye Caulker, Geoff’s Caye, and Turneffe before arriving at Long Caye located just in front of Lighthouse Reef. Here you’ll find the famous Aquarium dive site, known for its tabletop coral formations. As the site’s name suggests, the plethora of fish life will leave you imagining you are swimming in a whimsical fish tank. You may see schooling queen angelfish, some Bermuda chubs, tons of sergeant majors, creole wrasse and parrotfish. Eels are common as well, and as you descend a bit check the overhangs for stone crabs hiding from predators.
Love Tunnels, San Pedro Town
The Love Tunnels boast small cave-like formations where, as you wind through some tight spots, you will almost feel the blanket of coral surround you. As you maneuver through the 90-foot-long (27 m) tunnel, follow the flicker of light until you slowly surface through a narrow passageway. At the end of the channel, you may encounter a school of blue tang swimming by. Be on the lookout as well for hawksbill or loggerhead turtles.
Why the name Love Tunnels? This dive site is known for its romantic ending — imagine, ascending from the long passage and your partner is waiting with a sign that says “Will you marry me?” If you are one of the lucky ones to either experience this wonderful scene or witness it, then Love Tunnels is the dive for you.
Christ of the Abyss, San Pedro Town
You don’t have to be a “believer” to appreciate this undersea treasure. Although the site’s name refers to Christ, in the minds of many Belizeans this is actually a statue of St. Peter. Either way, this impressive life-size statue is a must-dive.
Diving the Christ of the Abyss you’ll also see barracuda, spiny lobsters an abundant long-spine black urchins. You may also see a brittle star tucked away in the coral or a flamingo tongue snail on a soft coral.
The Blue Hole, Long Caye, Belize
You can’t discuss diving in Belize without mentioingn the famous Blue Hole. This giant sinkhole is 985 feet (300 m) wide and 410 feet (125 m) deep. While it is a 2-hour boat ride from San Pedro Town, it should be on every diver’s bucket list. Jacques Cousteau made this site famous when he brought his research ship to investigate the sinkhole in 1972, where he found, to his surprise, submerged stalactites. Cousteau and his team concluded that the sinkhole was formed before the seas rose.
You must be an advanced diver to visit the Blue Hole. First, you’ll descend to around 138 feet (42 m) You won’t see much marine life at that level, although a few reef sharks and an occasional hammerhead may surprise you. But the amazing swim-throughs of stalactites for a short eight minutes will take your breath away. You’ll then ascend slowly along a different route, and enjoy an extra-long safety stop of 10-15 minutes.
Tackle Box Canyons, San Pedro
San Pedro Town is the closest Caye to the Belize Barrier Reef so, as you can imagine, many dive sites are located just minutes away. Tackle Box is known for deep, narrow canyons and colorful vertical walls. It’s almost a certainty that you’ll see reef sharks here and cool winter waters at 79 F (26 C), help to cultivate the fresh, new coral blooming with its vibrant colors. Divers here will appreciate the healthy brain and elkhorn coral, as well as bright red boring sponges and various orange crinoids.
Mark Cohn and guest author Beth Biersdorf founded Belize Happy Adventures in 2017, to help visitors easily plan Belize trips. For more information about diving and snorkeling adventures check out Seastar Belize.