There are several islands and coastal destinations that offer easy access to the barrier reef, which parallels the country’s entire coastline. All of these places also offer day trips to one or several of the coral atolls. Or you may choose to stay on one of the island resorts on the atolls themselves. Below is a brief description of the diving in these different destinations that should help you in choosing where to go.
Ambergris Caye: This is the original diving destination of Belize, with some of the first dive shops in the country. The barrier reef is visible from the shore of the island and offers many local dive sites like spur and groove canyons, patch reefs and walls. Just southeast of the island is Belize’s most visited dive site, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which includes Shark Ray Alley. You’ll find both great snorkeling and scuba diving here. Turneffe Islands Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll, home of the Blue Hole, can be dived on day trips as well.
Caye Caulker: Just south of Ambergris Caye, the diving here is similar. The barrier reef is visible from the shore and there’s also great snorkeling and scuba diving. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is only a 25 minute boat ride from the island. There are also day trips to Lighthouse Reef Atoll, home of the Blue Hole, and Turneffe Islands Atoll. Caye Caulker also has some nice dive and snorkel sites like the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve. The rates for diving are a cheaper here than in Ambergris Caye.
Belize City: Yes, you can even dive out of Belize City! The barrier reef is only a 30 minute boat ride away. Local dive sites include spur and groove canyons and very good walls. Day trips to Turneffe Islands Atoll can take you to popular dive sites like the Elbow. The Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef Atoll is also available. The Aggressor III Live Aboard departs on week long diving trips from here as well. The patch reefs around Goff’s Caye are quite popular for snorkeling as well. There are day trips available that will take you snorkeling all the way to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley.
Placencia: As you move south along the barrier reef, the inner reef changes into a series of faros, sinkholes and pinnacles. The barrier reef lays 20 miles off shore and includes Laughing Bird Caye Marine Reserve, among the best marine parks in Belize. Several islands on the inner reef and along the barrier reef offer excellent snorkeling as well. Whale Sharks can be seen in the Gladden Split area during their migration in March, April, May and June. Day trips to scuba dive or snorkel Glover’s Reef Atoll are also available.
Dangriga: Dangriga is just north of Placencia so the diving is essentially the same, with the interesting inner reef, excellent snorkeling off of several islands and whale sharks during March, April, May and June. A few of the differences are that the barrier reef is closer than Placencia, at 10 miles offshore. South Water Caye Marine Reserve, among the best marine parks in Belize can only be dived if you stay in this area. And finally, one of the other main attractions of this area is that all 3 coral atolls can be dived from here; Glover’s, Turneffe Islands and Lighthouse Reef.
Coral Atolls: Belize’s atolls are known for their great visibility, often 100-150 feet, and excellent coral walls. Because they are quite remote, the marine life is plentiful and diverse. These are destinations best appreciated by scuba divers as the diving is excellent. But there are plenty of shallow reefs for snorkelers to enjoy as well. The Blue Hole is on Lighthouse Reef Atoll; Glover’s Reef Atoll is a UN World Heritage Site and the Elbow is on Turneffe Islands Atoll. From Glover's Reef Atoll you can also see Whale Sharks in March, April, May and June. The Aggressort III Live Aboard dives Turneffe Islands and Lighthouse Reef Atolls on week long trips at sea.
Aggressor III Live Aboard: One popular option for scuba divers is live-aboards, yachts that will take you out to sea for several days to do nothing but diving. The Aggressor III is part of Aggressor’s fleet of dive boats in various parts of the world. The yacht is built for divers so it is very accommodating. They offer 7 day excursions visiting many dive sites along the barrier reef and on Turneffe Islands Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll. This is a great ways to pack a lot of diving, on some of Belize’s most popular dive sites, in just a week.