Travels

Diving in Belize: Blue Hole and Atolls

January 12, 2018

Diving in Belize is a great idea, especially since it’s the second largest barrier reef in the world. Read on for the best dive sites and recommendations.

One of the main reasons we traveled to Belize was for the diving! The second largest barrier reef in the world has an abundance of wildlife, and Belize has three of the four atolls in the Western Hemisphere. (An atoll is a ring of coral reef that grew along the shore of an island.) While Blue Hole is the “must do” and most popular dive, there are certainly better dives in Belize that you must do. You can easily spend at least four days diving in Belize!

One of my favorites: squirrelfish

Best Time to Dive in Belize

You can dive year-round in Belize, and the water temperature is usually 78-85 degrees Fahrenheit / 25-30 degrees Celcius. The best time to dive (for visibility) is April through June, and this is also when you can see whale sharks in the southern barrier reef.

High season for tourism is December through May, which is also the dry season. While this means less rain, it also means cooler temperatures or the Belizean winter. Low season is May through November, which means it’s the rainy season and hurricane season.

We dove Belize the last week of November and the dives were pretty good. I dove with a 3mm shorty and while I had slight chills here and there, I was still comfortable. The coral wasn’t as bright as around April. We had to skip diving The Elbow, one of the popular dive sites, because the currents created horrible visibility.

Lionfish

The Best Dive Sites

Because of distance from the mainland andΒ cayes, dive trips might cost you more than usual but I thought they were worth it. Dive trips to the atolls usually require a minimum of eight divers.

Blue Hole is the “must-do” dive, and manyΒ diversΒ say they wouldn’t do it again because there are many better dive spots in Belize and around the world. The big draw is seeing the stalactites at 130 feet down but there is limited wildlife to see. Thankfully, a dive trip to Blue Hole usually includes dives at two other noteworthy sites.

Visibility depends on the currents, so my preference may be skewed on how the conditions were that day. If you’re limited to one day of diving in Belize, I say take a trip to Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Blue Hole.

nurse shark

Here are some of the notable dive sites:

Lighthouse Reef Atoll & Blue Hole

  • Blue Hole
  • Half Moon Caye
  • Long Caye Aquarium

Glover’s Reef Atoll – most remote of the three atolls and the least visited

  • The Pinnacles

Turneffe Islands Atoll – largest and closest atoll to the mainland

  • The Elbow
  • Chasbo’s Corner

Ambergris Caye – one of the most popular places to stay in Belize, so plenty of dive shop options

  • Hol Chan

Southern Barrier Reef – most popular place to see whale sharks in the season; closest dive spots if you’re staying in Hopkins or Placencia

  • Laughing Bird Caye
  • Southwater Caye Marine Reserve
  • Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes

What You’ll See When Diving in Belize

The biggest sight, literally, is whale sharks from April to June. This is also when the coral will be most vibrant. Even if you don’t dive between April to June, there areΒ about 500 species of fish and 100 types of coral to see.

You’ll see many of the typical Caribbean wildlife. Some typical sights are green sea turtles, eagle rays, southern rays, nurse sharks, black tip sharks, moon jellyfish, squirrel fish, parrot fish, angel fish, triggerfish, trumpet fish, eels, and grouper.

green sea turtle!

shrimps

Belize Diving Costs

  • Full gear rental is around USD $25-30.
  • Dive trips to the atolls range from $150 to $300 per person.
  • Many resorts and hotels have packages that include your stay and diving.

garden eels

Dive Resorts, Shops, and Liveaboards

Ok, now that I’ve convinced you to travel to Belize to dive, you’ve got to find a place to stay. I lean towards dive resorts because it’s easier to coordinate the diving, but there are plenty of dive centers a short distance away to make your diving plans. If you’re planning to do lots of diving, there are also liveaboards.

Here are a handful of places I liked and considered when researching for my trip.

Dive Resorts

Somewhat Remote Dive Resorts

If you’re going to Belize solely for the diving, it might be nice to stay closer to the atolls and not on the mainland or Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. These places will feel like you’re on your own private island.

PADI 5-Star Dive Centers

If you already have a hotel in mind and it is not connected to a dive shop, here are a few 5-star dive shops to choose from. Most of these are in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

Liveaboards

Want to sail around Belize and dive? Of course, you do!

The Aquarium

moon jellyfish

Diving with Hamanasi

We stayed at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, a 5-star PADI resort. You can read all about our experience here but I’ll give a few details about their dive operation, Hopkins Divers, here.

  • Every dive trip has a PADI instructor or dive master.
  • They don’t have shore diving but the Southern Barrier Reef is about 30 minutes away and available often. They also do day trips to Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Blue Hole (2.5 hours away), Turneffe Atoll (1.5 hours away), and Glover’s Reef Atoll (1.5 hours away).
  • They require a minimum of eight interested guests to do the day trips but while we were there, we easily met that requirement for all three of the atolls. (I was nervous about this before arriving because I wanted to be sure we got to dive!)
  • They also have options of lionfish spearfishing dives and night dives.
  • They have gear rental for $25 a day, and nitrox tanks for $10 a dive.
  • Their equipment was in pristine condition, and I had no doubts about the equipment or dive guides.
  • For day-long dive trips, they pack you a lunch of your choice and also have plenty of cookies and fresh fruit as snacks.

Conclusion

Diving in Belize was a fun adventure! While the wildlife and underwater environment were similar to diving in Roatan, I prefer Belize more because of the full travel package – being able to experience the culture, feeling safer, and more variety in activities. If you’re wanting to dive in the Caribbean, I highly recommend Belize!

Last but not least, the only recompression chamber in Belize is located in San Pedro. πŸ™‚

The view when you wake up early to scuba dive

Check out all my Belize posts here.

P.S. See more diving adventures here.

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  • I’ve always had a “secret” dream to learn how to dive and take trips to go diving. But it TERRIFIES me. I can barely snorkle for more than 15 minutes without thinking I’m being hunted down by a shark. However, one day, I’d like to work on that fear. Maybe one day I’ll go diving in Belize. πŸ™‚ It looks so, so beautiful!

    • I still think about that sometimes! What I’ve learned is sharks usually don’t attack unless they are provoked. They also don’t like the smell of neoprene (wetsuits). It’s taken me plenty of dives to feel comfortable and even still, I like to stick close to other people in case something happens. I hope you get to experience it one day or at least travel to Belize!

  • That’s a lot cheaper than I thought it might be! Wow…looks so cool, but I’d need to get over my fear of fish, haha!!

    PS, I love love love that the word “abundance” shows up in the first paragraph. Ever since you mentioned that it was your word of the year for 2017, I’ve been thinking about that word more and more! It definitely changes how I live my day-to-day life. Just wanted to say thanks for that. πŸ™‚

    • Underwater creatures definitely takes a little getting used to! I love that ‘abundance’ is on your mind. Even though it was my word last year, I think and hope it’ll be a word that will stay with me my whole life. πŸ™‚