Home to one of the world’s few Blue Holes, scuba diving in Belize is on the list for many divers. But Belize has so much more to offer than the crystal depths of the Blue Hole.
We’ve collaborated with our friends at Original Diving to bring you the ultimate guide to exploring Belize’s beautiful Caribbean coastline. Whether you’re hoping to encounter whale sharks in Gladden Spit or glide alongside stingrays, this guide will help you plan the ultimate Belize scuba diving adventure!
Belize – The Basics
Belize is located in Central America, just south of the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico. The country has a low population density in comparison to nearby locations. This gives it a much more untouched and quieter feel, whether you’re adventuring in Mayan ruins on land or diving below the waves.
The Belize Barrier Reef, lying in the Caribbean Sea, is one of the largest in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scuba divers flock to Belize to see some of the healthiest coral in the Caribbean. There are three atolls to explore, but as it’s a small country it’s easy to hop around – even in a short space of time.
International flights will arrive into Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE) in Ladyville, close to Belize City. There are direct flights available from many North American cities, whilst Europeans will usually fly via Miami.
Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye, and Turneffe Atoll can be accessed by either ferry or flight. Your tour operator or accommodation will be able to help plan your internal transfers.
Belize City is also a popular cruise port, although ships are often in port for one day only. This means you’ll be limited on which dive sites you can access, and which dive operators can accommodate the embarkation schedule.
What marine life can I see in Belize?
When scuba diving in Belize, you can definitely expect to see the usual Caribbean reef residents. This includes brightly coloured parrotfish, curious clownfish, schools of snappers, and multiple species of grouper.
Turtles are a common sight in Belize. You will get to dive alongside green sea turtles, loggerheads, and hawksbill turtles. Manatees also visit the Belizean reefs, and you may see spotted eagle rays gliding alongside you.
Glancing out to the blue on your dives you’ll most likely see jacks and barracuda, as well as sharks. Nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and lemon sharks are most commonly sighted, with the possibility of hammerhead sharks. There’s also the chance of an underwater visit from dolphins!
Whale Sharks in Belize
If you’re wondering whether you can see whale sharks in Belize, it actually appears on our list of the best places to see whale sharks!
Gladden Spit Marine Reserve is the whale shark hot spot in question. To access Gladden Spit, you’ll want to stay in Placencia in the south. Chabil Mar offers beautiful boutique villas to base yourself in, packed with traditional Belizean charm. Placencia is also a fantastic spot for those wanting to dive the famed Blue Hole.
Timing is everything for this encounter. The best time for seeing whale sharks in Belize is between March and June. More specifically, a mass fish-spawning event happens in April and May which attracts even more of these gentle giants to the area. Aim to dive within the 10 days following the full moon to increase your chances.
What are Belize diving conditions like?
Belize’s scuba diving conditions are fairly consistent year-round. The rainy season falls between June and November, however, this has minimal impact on the diving conditions.
The conditions and variety of sites mean that Belize is suitable for all levels of diver. The visibility is usually fantastic, often stretching between 18-30m (60-100ft). Water temperatures are a comfortable 26-29ºC (79-84ºF), so you won’t need to travel with a thick wetsuit.
Depths at the dive sites vary from shallow reefs topping out at 5m (15ft) down to deeper explorative dives at 40m (131ft). Currents vary depending on the area, but there are plenty of sheltered spots making it accommodating even for newer divers.
Where should I scuba dive in Belize?
With multiple atolls on offer and a sprawling coastline to explore, where should you head in Belize? Here are some of the top scuba diving areas you’ll want to consider.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan (meaning “little channel” in Mayan) is the oldest Marine Reserve in Belize. It’s accessible from both Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, and divers will enjoy abundant marine life on the reef. This channel is a split in the larger Belize Barrier Reef, so currents can be stronger than in other areas.
Expect to encounter stingrays and sharks, and don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of the reef itself, too. The Elkhorn coral in the area is particularly impressive.
Turneffe Atoll is said to be one of the most biodiverse marine environments in Belize. It also has unique topography due to its offshore location. Steep drop offs are located fairly close to the atoll, making for some dramatic, plummeting wall dives. This depth also means a higher chance of seeing pelagic (open-ocean) marine life.
Don’t miss the site “The Elbow” at the southern tip of the atoll. Gargantuan gorgonian fans and large schools of fish make this site a photographer’s playground.
Scuba Diving the Blue Hole in Belize
If scuba diving Belize’s Blue Hole isn’t on your bucket list, where have you been? Located close to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole is at least a few hours boat journey from most popular locations.
Approaching the 300m (1000ft) wide sinkhole, you’ll witness the turquoise waters plummet into deep blues. Many people say that sinking into the Blue Hole is the closest that divers will get to experiencing the feeling of being in outer space. Reef sharks and the occasional bull shark patrol the outer reefs, but the amount of marine life dwindles as you drop into the azure depths.
Once you’ve descended into this unique underwater environment, you’ll feel miniscule next to the colossal stalactites and overhangs. The Belize Blue Hole bottoms out at around 135m (443ft), so divers must be mindful as they approach the recreational limit of 40m (140ft). For this reason, this is a dive for advanced divers who are trained and certified to explore deeper depths.
Belize Scuba Diving Resorts
If you want to simplify your scuba trip, dive resorts are always a great option. Belize’s scuba diving resorts are no exception, and these are some of the highlights from Original Diving’s carefully chosen portfolio.
If Ambergris Caye is calling your name, Victoria House Resort is where you want to be. An in-house dive shop means you’re on the doorstep of the Belize Barrier Reef, with many dive sites just minutes away by boat. The accommodation is made up of a variety of rooms and private villas, surrounded by lush tropical gardens and close to the beach.
Turneffe Island Resort is, as the name suggests, a private island in close proximity to Turneffe Atoll. You’ll be in prime position to access The Elbow and the Blue Hole, with an attentive dive staff on site. The beautiful, intimate resort with sprawling sea views is an idyllic base after a long day of diving.
If you’re looking for a truly tailor-made adventure in Belize, reach out to Original Diving’s Travel Experts. They will be on hand through every step of your trip planning to help you explore all that Belize has to offer!