Belize is one of the more famous dive destinations in the world due to the world-renowned Blue Hole.
But, there are plenty of spots in this Central American country that you’ll be bummed if you miss. The good news is, the country is small and, with the right planning, it is quite possible to do a lot of these dives on one trip.
The country is about 290 km (180 mi) long and only 110 km (68 mi) wide.
So, get your logbook ready and make sure your dive computer is set up and let’s get going down the list.
Best Belize Scuba Diving Locations
The Blue Hole
Let’s get it out of the way. This spot is on the bucket list of almost every diver, and for good reason. Located about 72 km (45 mi) from Belize City, the Blue Hole is a sinkhole which began formation over 150,000 years ago. The sinkhole bottoms out at depths of around 124 m (406 ft).
If you are only recently getting into diving, you should wait a bit before attempting this one. Most dives in the hole will go to depths of around 40 m (130 ft) for advanced divers and 21 m (70 ft) for open water divers.
Adding to that, most dive schools will require a divemaster to approve you before getting on the boat. The dive master will test how easy you equalize and your buoyancy control before the trip. This is one dive where it is good to know your limitations
- When to Dive: The best time to dive the Blue Hole is between the months of April and June. Belize’s rainy season lasts from late June to November. March, October, and November typically have the most wind. The Blue Hole, especially, is affected by wind due to being so far out in open waters. If the water becomes too choppy, your dreams of diving the blue depths will be postponed for another day.
- What to See: You should go into the dive with the right mindset. Many divers are disappointed after the dive due to incorrect expectations. The waters around the Blue Hole are teeming with aquatic life. Inside, however, is dark and mostly lifeless. Expect to see coral growth around the hole and shark species from reef sharks to hammerheads. Inside you can see limestone formations dating back hundreds of thousands of years.
- Insiders Tip: The Blue hole is typically a day trip and can take as long as 4 hours to get to if you hit choppy seas. If you have a few days to dedicate to the trip, though, we recommend staying on Long Caye, 8 miles from the hole. From here you can experience many other dives and have the benefit of being the first group of the day at the hole.
The Blue Hole is the most famous dive site in Belize and known throughout the world. You can’t go wrong here as long as you are at the right skill level and go into it with the right expectations. Make sure you plan accordingly as it can take more than one try to make the trip depending on the weather. Here’s a video to get your imagination going.
Half Moon Caye
Half Moon Caye is a small, crescent-shaped caye located about 80 km (50 mi) from Belize City and past Turneffe Atoll. You may be excited to know this site is one of the best places to dive in Belize and often the follow up to the Blue Hole. Breathtaking reefs and an abundance of larger aquatic animals await you if you can make it.
- When to Dive: As with neighboring Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye is heavily affected by the weather. It is best that you plan your trip during the peak season around April or June. This will improve your odds of good weather and lessen your chances of boats being canceled for the day.
- Where to Dive: Half Moon Wall is the premier dive spot in the area. This is most likely where you will be going after the Blue Hole. You can expect crystal clear waters and plenty of robust coral. Also, expect to see reef sharks, the occasional hawksbill turtle, and giant grouper. Here’s a video to tempt you with.
- Insiders Tip: You need to pay particular attention to your depth gauges during this dive. Because the sunlight can shine down to 30 m (100 ft), it can be easy to lose track of how deep you are. Always make sure you are paying attention to the dive master and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Many local divers consider Half Moon Wall to be one of the best sites in the Caribbean. This is good news if you are lucky enough to fit it into your trip. Canceled boats to the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye are not uncommon due to weather. It is best to plan a few days for the dive in case your first date doesn’t pan out.
If you don’t already know, a caye is a small sandy island that sits on a reef. Belize has over 200 of them with the largest being Ambergris Caye. It’s also a great dive location to add to your list if you’re into sharks, rays, turtles, and porpoises. Who isn’t?
You can get to the caye via plane from Belize city. From there, it is a matter of choosing which dive school to go with and enjoying the sites the island has to offer.
Most of the dive sites are around the island’s reef. You can expect Caribbean Reef Sharks, nurse sharks, and larger varieties of manta rays.
- When to Dive: Year-round. The wet season runs from June to November. That doesn’t mean it is going to rain every day, though. Only that this period receives the highest amount of rain. The beginning of June can be one of the best times to visit as tourism numbers are lower and dive sites less crowded. Water temperatures average 28°C (82°F) with September the warmest month and January the coolest.
- Where to Dive: Due to the location of Ambergris Caye, dive sites are abundant. Yet, this also means we need to narrow it down so you can plan to hit the best. So, let’s look at the top three dive sites around Ambergris Caye.
- Hol Chan Canyon- if you are looking for a good place to see rays and large coral then look no further. This area is known for the large underwater canyons teeming with aquatic life. The canyons are a part of Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is well protected by local authorities. This video does a good job of showing what the dive is like.
- Punta Arena Canyons- make sure you have deep diving experience before attempting this site. The canyons are a short distance off the caye and can be reached by a five-minute boat ride. Expect excellent visibility and amazing ocean life. Watch out for the red algae lining the caves. It can leave bad gashes if you scrape it. Check out this great video for an example of what you can see.
- Shark & Ray Alley- the site is ranked as one of the best places in the Caribbean for animals. Shark & Ray Alley is the place to go if you want to get up close to nurse, reef, and other shark species and a wide variety of rays. This site is shallow and more for snorkeling but still one you need to visit. Here’s a great video of the site.
Ambergris Caye is one of the best places to be if you want to spend your time in one area and get a large number of dives in. Most of the sites are close to each other and the reefs around this spot are some of the best in the Caribbean. Make sure to place a few days aside for this area when diving in Belize.
If secluded dive spots surrounding robust reefs tickles your fancy, Turneffe Atoll is for you. Turneffe is the largest of three atolls in the Carribean sea off the coast of Belize. You can get there by boat from Belize city. There are a few resorts in the area if you want to make it more than a day trip.
- When to Dive: If you are looking for months with the least amount of rain, February through April will be best. The temperature remains warm and humid year-round. Because of this, the water stays between 26°C-28°C (80°F-84°F) throughout the year.
- Where to Dive: As the largest atoll in the Americas, dive sites are in abundance here. You can expect spectacular reefs teeming with large aquatic life. Divers of all skill levels can find something here. We recommend the Elbow as the top site in the area.
- The Elbow- want to see one of the more interesting coral formations in the area? Put this site on your list. The Elbow is named due to the bend in the coral where it changes directions. You can also see large numbers of jacks and groupers in the area. Check out this video to scope out the site.
Turneffe Atoll is a good choice if you want to get off the beaten path. Fewer tourists make the journey so dive sites are going to be less crowded and reefs untouched. If you really want to get away from the crowd, you can make the trip further south to the even more remote Glover’s Atoll. Glover’s is known for untouched reefs but is extremely small with only one resort.
High up on the list of most divers is swimming with whale sharks. If you have yet to experience this, Gladden Spit is one site you don’t want to miss.
The area is a part of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. You can get here by boat from Placencia near the southern coast of Belize. It is ranked as one of the best sites in the world to spot and swim with whale sharks.
- When to Dive: Between the months of March and June is the best time for you to get up close with these giants. The spawning of various types of tropical fish during this period attracts whale sharks to the surface. This is one of the best chances you will have for seeing groups of whale sharks when diving in Belize.
- What to See: The whale sharks are obviously the top thing to see in this area. However, Gladden Spit is part of a larger marine park with well-preserved coral and a variety of larger fish. This video does a great job of showing everything Gladden Spit has to offer.
If you are interested in seeing the whale sharks make sure you plan accordingly. There is only a small window during the year when this is possible so take this into consideration. Make sure to check out reports from other divers and enjoy swimming with the largest fish in the ocean.
Practical Advice for Diving in Belize
Many popular destinations in Belize are in the open sea and can be easily affected by bad weather. Make sure you are planning and leaving yourself time in the event that boats are canceled that day.
Nothing is worse than getting to a location and leaving the next day sans diving because of bad weather. Allowing an extra day in each location should help you to avoid this disappointment.
Many spots around Belize have strong currents so follow your dive masters instructions. Also, stay within your comfort and experience level as far as depth and dive site difficulty. This is especially true for the Blue Hole.
You can always come back later on when you’ve logged more dives and visit any sites you missed the first time.
So, what do you think?
Are you itching to get on the next plane to Belize?
The country holds a special place for divers worldwide and we are no exception.
Tell us about your experiences diving in Belize in the comments.
We are always looking forward to hearing from fellow divers.