Diving in Belize
Dive the Best of the Caribbean
Belize is situated on the Caribbean mainland coast of Central America and rightly deserves its reputation as one the region's best diving destinations. Whether you choose to stay in a Belize resort or experience more of the destination by liveaboard, there is always a wealth of underwater riches in this Caribbean paradise. Not only is there a great diversity of dive sites in Belize, but the warm, clear water also means that conditions are often ideal for exploring the underwater realm.
Belize is home to the longest stretch of coral in the western hemisphere and, in addition to its barrier reef, it also boasts 3 distinct Caribbean atolls (Turneffe Reef, Lighthouse Reef and Glovers Reef). This means that you can enjoy diving a number of different coral reefs including walls, pinnacles and reef flats that are located throughout an enormous diving area.
From shallow, clear reefs to spectacular drop offs, Belize caters for divers of every experience level. There are gentle, shallow reef dives at Ambergris Caye where a marine reserve plays sanctuary to barracuda, sharks and rays. Home to Belize's best species variety, Ambergris promises mangrove cayes, coral reefs, seagrass beds and lagoons, all offering something different.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll is known for its breathtaking sponges and corals including some spectacular spur and groove formations. There is a great mix of large pelagics and small reef animals and it is home to the famous Blue Hole. Turneffe Atoll, being a series of mangroves is a haven for juvenile species. There are some great drift dives here featuring larger marine animals.
In addition to the spectacular Belize scuba diving and islands, there is a wealth of ancient Mayan ruins to discover and miles of tropical rainforest sheltering exotic species of birds, plants and animals. It is little wonder that visitors to Belize return again and again to enjoy the incredible natural beauty of this ancient land.
Whether you opt for a land-based stay or a liveaboard depends largely on where you wish to dive. The main attractions are:
Ambergris Caye is the biggest and most northerly of the off-shore cayes and enjoys a location about 2 km from some 35 km of barrier reef. The dive sites dotted along the reef offer good variety, including canyons, swimthroughs, grass flats, mangroves, channels and drop-offs.
Turneffe Reef Atoll lies directly to the east of Belize City and is the nearest of the 3 atolls to the capital. This is an atoll covered in vegetation unlike the others which are collections of sandy islands. Turneffe is a series of mangrove islands, lagoons and inlets. As such it is a haven for juvenile species.
Most diving takes place off the southern edge of this atoll. Dives here tend to be shallow, but on healthy reefs teeming with life. Some sites feature current making them excellent drift dives where large pelagics are common including sharks, kingfish and eagle rays.
Lighthouse Reef is the most easterly Belize diving area and furthest from the mainland. The topography varies between patches of reef and is home to the Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1970. The atoll features a variety of topography including some spectacular spur and groove formations. Here you can expect a mixture of large and small animals from flinders and hermit crabs to turtles, sharks and rays.
How to Dive Belize
For some, this choice is a straight one between liveaboards and resorts. Belize liveaboards have the obvious benefit of being able to visit a wider area and allow you to be on top of the sites rather than have to take boat rides from the resort. Some people prefer to be stationed on dry land and to dive the best sites within reach from a dive resort.
The liveaboards allow you to make several dives at each of Turneffe Reef and Lighthouse Reef. Otherwise you can choose a resort in either of these atolls or in Ambergris Caye where the focus is more on local dive sites.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
Belize can be dived year round. February and March represent the driest months. March to June experiences occasional rainfall and August to October, "the wet season", represents the more likely period for hurricanes. Visibility remains constant year-round away from the mainland shore.
August to October tend to be the months with the warmest water temperatures at around 28 or 29°C. Even at the lower end of the annual water temperature range, Belize is very much a warm water destination. The temperature rarely dips below 26°C even around the cooler months of January and February. Seldom would you need more than a shortie and many divers choose not to use an exposure suit at all during the warmer months. Air temperatures remain relatively constant around the 27°C mark.
Surface conditions can become more choppy in the dry season although this is usually restricted to the more exposed dive sites further from shore. It is possible that some of the more exposed sites might be off limits during this time.
The best conditions for diving Belize are generally considered to be from March to December, although outside this period it is common to still find optimum diving conditions. The first few months of this period (March to June) are considered to be whale shark season and, for some, represent the very best months. October and November is when thousands of groupers mate and give birth to their young in the shallows of the cayes.
Good for: Visibility
Not so good for: Wreck dives
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 10 - 40m
Currents: None to very strong
Surface conditions: Mostly calm but can be choppy further from shore
Water temperature: 25 - 29°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >120
Access: Liveaboards and resorts
Recommended length of stay: 2 - 3 weeks
Background on Belize
So where do you want to go? Read more on the dive sites at these top spots:
• Belize travel information
View a map of:
Back to scuba destinations index