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Snorkeling In Belize Barrier Reef

What Cant I Do

Shore Excursion – Barrier Reef Snorkel

Traveling to Belizes gorgeous reefs isnt just a snorkel and diving paradise. There are countless activities awaiting travelers who make it to these remote reserves. Kayaking and paddle boarding across the still water can be a surprisingly exciting outing, as travelers can spot dolphins and sea turtles from the surface. Taking some time off from the waters, explorers can see an abundance of birdlife on the various islands, including brown pelicans, green herons and laughing gulls. Botany enthusiasts can also explore the native flora on the islands, including mangroves, morning glory flowers and spider lilies.

Belize gives you the comfort of a short plane ride from the United States, while still feeling like a world away. Spot some of your favorite marine species, like turtles, dolphins and rays, as you navigate the tropical waters of Belize. With a secluded location, abundance of wildlife and an overwhelming number of activities, Belize is truly a nature-lovers dream destination.

How Is The Equipment

The Belize Barrier Reef snorkeling excursion provides snorkeling equipment, though we also saw some cruisers who brought their own. I loved the higher quality fins provided, which meant we could swim more easily and with less effort.

The mask and snorkel were similarly above average, though less so than the fins. They had various sizes to fit younger kids and larger adults. They also assured us that all equipment got sanitized between uses no surprise there.

Ignore her face. She really did want to snorkel!

Every snorkeler, no matter the experience, must also wear a life vest. This was a simple yellow vest that clipped around the waist and between the legs and can be inflated manually to fit your flotation preferences. We appreciated that the guides checked everyones equipment prior to entering the water.

Barrier Reef & Atoll Snorkeling Trips To Belize

Most famous for its extensive Barrier Reef ecosystem and pristine coral, Belize is the perfect place for a tropical snorkeling trip. Belize scuba diving has long received more attention in the country since it is such a widely known sport, but few people realize that the snorkeling opportunities are also exceptional. The clear warm waters of the Caribbean are more salty than in temperate regions, and creates extra buoyancy for swimmers which allows anyone to feel comfortable while exploring the reefs with a mask and snorkel. And Glovers Reef Atoll is the most remote, and therefore has the most undiscovered and unspoiled snorkeling sites in the country.


The first three minutes of this video by Glenn Boer are a great montage of our island trip, and include some great snorkeling sessions with our guides.

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Skill Session & Divesno Certification Required

While not a scuba certification course, the Discover Scuba program will allow you to safely dive in shallow water with an instructor for the duration of your time with Belize Underwater. This introductory dive lesson takes approximately two hours with a certified PADI scuba instructor. Once comfortable in the water, you and your instructor will explore the reef together, diving to a maximum depth of 40 feet. The Discover Scuba program is perfect for people who would like to try diving before committing to a full certification course, or for those wanting to try diving but are on a tight schedule.

Time: Full Day

Whats The Best Place To Snorkel In Belize

Southern Barrier Reef Snorkeling Tour

The best locations for snorkeling right off shore are the three atolls of Belize: Glovers Reef, Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe Islands, as well as the the southernmost cayes of the Barrier Reef. In these spots the islands sit right on the reef and you can jump in and snorkel right there.

View our map of Belize snorkel spots to see how close snorkeling is to our island.

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Silk Cayes And Turtle Ray Ally

Located about 22 miles from Placencia , it is made up of three small islands located inside the Gladden Split & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve.

This location is quickly becoming famous for a snorkeling spot call Turtle Ray Ally. Here you can get close encounters with Sea Turtles, Sting Rays, and Nurse Shark. This is normally done as a bonus snorkel for both diver and snorekelers at the end of the day.

Some of the more frequent dive sites we visit at Silk Cayes are:

  • North WallConsider among one of the best dives in Belize, and one of the most popular dives from Placencia, it is known for almost every kind of Caribbean reef creatures, including a few reef sharks, and the occasional whale shark sighting.
  • Turtle CanyonsNamed from the Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles that rest here, this site makes a great second after North Wall. This site also makes a great nursery for spotted drum, arrow crabs and cleaner shrimp, which also makes for good photography.
  • White HoleNamed for the white sandy patch of sand where the dive normally begins. You are likely to run into a few Southern Stingrays, Nurse Shark, and Green Moray eels.

Where Are The Best Belize Snorkeling Spots

Belize has the second longest barrier reef in the world, nearly the entire length of the country . All of the snorkeling is located on this barrier reef , 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 for nearly everything.

Check out the map. The light blue areas inside the reef are very shallow, averaging 20 feet. The atolls are thirty to sixty miles offshore across deep waters. And you can also see that the barrier reef is dotted with cayes .

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Snorkeling At Glovers Reef

Our island at Glovers Reef is the premier snorkeling destination in the country. We know that sounds like hype, and we do admit to bias. However, there are very few places in Belize where you can snorkel right offshore, and our island, Long Caye, is one of them. We also access nearby snorkeling spots by kayak, and train you to do it on your own with a buddy. So the snorkeling opportunities are extensive within about 15 minutes of our island. To see a map of snorkeling spots we visit weekly view our Belize snorkel map.

Because our island is so remote, the boat only runs two days a week. We offer all-inclusive packages of set lengths and set start dates.

Laughing Bird Caye National Park

Barrier Reef & Snorkel Island Beach, Belize

Located inside the Barrier Reef, about 10 miles from Placencia , this long narrow aisle stands on a reef known as a Faro.

A Faro is an angular atoll on a continental shelf, also known as a shelf atoll. this makes it ideal for beginners and novices because the water is calm and clear. While the vast numbers of fish you will see outside the reef are missing, it more than makes up for it with a variety of juvenile fishes and hard and soft corals.

Some of the dive sites we visit :

  • Laughing Bird Caye SlopeThis is accessible by shore and boat and is a favorite spot to begin our Discover Scuba Diving Course or Confine Water Dives for the Open Water Certification Classes. It is an excellent fish nursery and gives learning divers something to see while taking these courses.
  • Coral GardenThis is a novice boat dive known for its diversity of Corals. There are also lots of reef fish including spotted drums, as well as invertebrates like lobsters, cleaner shrimp and arrow crabs.
  • Laughing Bird Caye SouthIt is home to a huge canyon that runs north to south giving it multi-dive potential on either side of the canyon or in between. You can find lobster hiding in the walls, while nurse sharks and southern stingrays lay on the sand.

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Snorkel The Belize Barrier Reef

You wont want to miss out on the opportunity to snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef. Consider diving or snorkeling in San Pedro, Belize. Our Belize Barrier Reef system is a part of the second largest reef in the world! On parts of the island you can easily reach it by swimming, taking a kayak, or a short boat trip.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is also known as the Great Maya Reef. It is a marine region that stretches over 1,000 kilometres . From Isla Contoy at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico down through Belize to the Bay Islands of Honduras you will still be in the MBRS. The Belize Barrier Reef is a part of this system.

The Belize Barrier Reef is less than one mile from the beach in San Pedro Town, making it an optimal place to snorkel and dive from. Just take a 10-15 minute boat ride and jump in the water! Kayaking to the reef is also an option with how short of a distance it is to shore. From other locations on mainland Belize, it is a much longer boat trip.

If you are just starting to research your trip to San Pedro check out our article on What To Expect in San Pedro. There may be more for you to learn!

This map below shows the best dives and snorkel places in Ambergris Caye which are located 15 to 20 minutes away from town.

San Pedros prime location makes it a tourism hub for thousands of people to visit every year. Check out our snorkel and adventure tours here.

Gladden Spit And Silk Cayes Marine Reserve

Gladden Spit is the best place in Belize to snorkel with whale sharks, which migrate through the area between March and June. Plan your trip around the full moon for the best chance of spotting these enormous fish.

To protect wildlife, the government strictly controls the number of tour boats allowed in the whale shark areas at any given time. Make sure to book your spot early if swimming with whale sharks is on your Belize bucket list.

Tours to Gladden Spit leave from the town of Placencia on the mainland in southern Belize. The marine reserve is part of the Belize Barrier Reef System and lies about 28 miles off the coast of Placencia.

Another top site within the marine reserve is Turtle Alley near Silk Cayes. Visitors can spot hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles in addition to stingrays, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, snappers, barracudas, and corals.

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Belize Snorkeling Cayes South Of Ambergris

Finally, south of Ambergris, there are innumerable Belize snorkeling places inside of the barrier reef, and around the hundreds of cayes all the way down to Placencia. Although as mentioned above, the water clarity is lower the farther south you get. Also there are fewer cayes, providing less weather protection in these southern areas. Here are few we have explored.

Rendezvous Caye – This picturesque little island looks like it comes straight out of a movie, and is one of the better snorkel spots around Belize.

Colson Caye – Another excellent little snorkel spot at a patch reef just south of Rendezvous.

Carrie Bow Caye – The snorkeling here, next to the cut in the barrier reef is worth checking out.

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.

Pompion Caye – This caye is nearly due east from Placencia, on the barrier reef edge, and is worth exploring, although the reef health and visibility is not as good as further north.

Little Water Caye – This spot is closer to Placencia, and while decent suffers from cloudier water.

Would I Do This Belize Barrier Reef Snorkeling Excursion Again

Our Favorite Snorkeling Spots in Belize

In a heartbeat.

The guides were fantastic, friendly and open throughout our Belize Barrier Reef snorkeling experience. They assisted my daughter and came back to check on her and reassure her that she can snorkel another day. We learned a ton about Belize and the reef on the boat ride, and we appreciated that it didnt have a party vibe, which makes it more family friendly.

I loved the color and clarity of the water near the Barrier Reef. The water was calm, with only the advanced snorkelers heading out on the windy side that had a little more chop than the rest of the water. Best of all, we saw tons of fish and other sea life, and the guides shared what the different fish were if we didnt know ourselves.

The equipment was great, and we felt relaxed and not pushed all day. We saw a ton of sea life, and I loved that the guides dove down to bring up some of the more interesting species or pointed out where to look.

For the Snorkeling Wonders of the Barrier Reef, we paid $74.99 per adult and $64.99 per child. You must be at least five years old for this excursion. The other Barrier Reef snorkeling option is the same price but requires you be eight years old. This also snorkels in one location then takes you to an island to relax after. We didnt want two separate boat rides, and we noticed that this excursion had a water park and kayaks available for an additional cost. We didnt want our kids begging for more to do.

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Silk Cays Turtle Alley

There are many extraordinary places for snorkeling in Belize, and Silk Cayes is one of them where youll find tons of sea life and healthy reefs. This protected area lies 36 kilometers East of Placencia and several operators offering tours there.

The most famous spot of the area is Turtle Alley where you can certainly expect to see happy sea turtles swimming around, including a resident Loggerhead that is measuring more than 4ft in length!

But theres far more to discover. Nurse and lemon sharks, as well as stingrays also make their home in this area.

When Is The Best Time To Go Snorkeling In Belize

The best time to snorkel in Belize is from December to May, during the countrys dry season. This period is also the prime tourist season, so you should expect higher rates and busier attractions.

Although the subtropical climate allows for snorkeling and scuba diving throughout the year, showers and strong winds during the rainy season can reduce visibility and make snorkeling less enjoyable. Hurricanes and tropical storms are also possible, with August, September, and October experiencing the highest chance of severe weather.

Water temperatures are relatively stable year-round. The sea hovers around 77-78°F from November through March and rises to about 83-84°F between April and October .

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Location And Geographic Setting


Belize City spreads out Mile 6 on the Western Highway and Mile 5 on the Northern Highway, at the Haulover Bridge.The city proper is usually divided into two areas: Northside, bounded by Haulover Creek and ending in the east at the Fort George area, and Southside, extending to the outskirts of the city and the port area including downtown. Politically, it is divided into ten constituencies.

Where To Stay To Explore The Belize Barrier Reef

Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef, and Outer Atolls with Island Expeditions

Often used as principal hubs for scuba diving or snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are the most popular cayes in Belize. These cayes are the largest in the country and are near popular attractions such as Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the famous Great Blue Hole.

This is not to say that other smaller cayes or atolls are not frequented by travelers. Places such as Turneffe Atoll and Glovers Reef are loved by many for their remoteness and the countless opportunities to swim right offshore and encounter exotic marine wildlife.

Also popular is staying at coastal destinations where some of the best dive resorts in Belize are found. For example, scuba diving enthusiasts often stay in Hopkins or Placencia to explore the Southern Barrier Reef. From Hopkins, its easy to dive the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, and the possibility of potentially swimming with Whale Sharks lures divers to Placencia every year.

Alternatively, some travelers stay at mainland Belize and take day trips to the Reef. This option is less popular, however, since although the coast is near the mainland, Belize doesnt have speedways which makes travel by road lengthy. But as long as guests dont mind leaving their destinations early in the morning and returning late afternoon , day trips to the Reef are feasible.

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    Belize Barrier Reef Conservation

    The reef is clearly an important tourist attraction probably the most important in Belize but theres much more to it than just that. It is a symbol of Belize, intertwined with nature and the people.

    About 200,000 Belizeans are dependent on the reef for their livelihood in some way. That includes tourism and its worth mentioning here that Splash Dive Centre has a few community projects that helps local youth get jobs working on dive boats or as instructors.

    But the reef also provides many other jobs that are dependent on its health. This is why the Belize Government has made such an effort to look after the reef after a troubling conservation period.

    In 2009, UNESCO added the Belize Barrier Reef to the List of World Heritage in Danger, which is for sites that are under severe threat .

    This stated reason was because of concerns about sales of lands for private development within the property, mangrove destruction and offshore oil extraction.

    This was obviously a wake up call and, although there was no immediate, the government of Belize became very active from 2015 in addressing these concerns. One of the major actions it has taken is a permanent oil moratorium across the entire Belize offshore waters!

    So, its really good news to see that in June 2018, UNESCO took the Belize Barrier Reef off the danger list, describing it as a pivotal moment for the World Heritage Convention and the oceans.

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