Belize rightly deserves its reputation as one the Caribbean's best dive destinations. Unlike some of the region's other destinations where scuba is an add-on to your beach holiday, the diving in Belize is so good that it can be considered an excellent dive destination with some nice beach activity as an add-on! It's home to the world's second-longest barrier reef and 3 of only 4 true coral atolls in the western hemisphere.
Belize's barrier reef runs almost parallel to the coastline and your best bet for land-based diving is to stay close to the action in a resort on either of Ambergris Caye or Turneffe Atoll: This way you are right in the heart of some of the best diving and within reach of places like the famous Great Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef. Exploring the local sites will keep you interested for several days and both places have impressive variety, both in terms of topography and marine life.
If you plan on touring around Belize during your visit, pristine rainforest, ancient ruins, the Belize Barrier Reef and its beautiful atolls, all testify to the country as a unique and exceptional dive trip destination. With 93% of its land under forest cover and 42% of it under some form of legal protected status, it is one of the world's most biologically diverse countries. And unlike most other places in Central America, English is widely spoken.
To be right on the doorstep of some of Belize's finest diving, we strongly recommend you stay on one of the offshore islands which cater well to scuba divers:
It is the country's most popular travel destination and features many shops, restaurants, and bars as well as some resorts for divers, ranging from luxury to budget. If you prefer to be close to all the activity and enjoy both the barrier reef and capture the nightlife and Caribbean island charm of Belize, resorts in this area are a good option.
It is home to a small number of picturesque dive resorts that allow diving from your doorstep. The marine biodiversity and sheer numbers if fish are unmatched in this region and this means that scuba is the main focus of most guests who choose to stay here. Due to its remote location, the dive sites of Turneffe are less busy than those at Ambergris.
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Rainy season is roughly June through November and the dry season is December through May, which tends to be the warmest month. Being in the Caribbean, weather is varied. November through February can see 'Northers' blowing in which bring temperatures down with rain and choppy seas. Historically, most hurricanes occur in the August and October period here, although there hasn't been one since 2000.
Temperatures from April through October are 77-95°F (25-35°C), November through March are cooler at between 70-90°F (20-30°C). It may be slightly cooler than this on the mainland, especially in the south. There is usually a breeze, which is good considering the high humidity of above 80%.
Although Belize is a year round diving destination, the best conditions are generally considered to be from March through December as there is generally less wind then. Water temperatures range from 79-84°F (26-29°C). Conditions do vary across the country and there is some important seasonal information regarding specific marine creatures, so check our dive site descriptions for more details on the seasons in each destination.
The Philip Goldson International Airport is in Ladyville, some 10 miles (16 km) from Belize City. Unreliable buses and taxis run from the airport to the city center which takes about 30 minutes. However, many tourism operators run an airport pick-up service.
Sometimes travelers need to cancel trips for the most unexpected reasons so we recommend you consider insurance to cover both diving and travel activities. Visit our insurance program section for a competitive price:
North Americans, nationals of the United Kingdom and most countries in the British Commonwealth, member states of the European Union or CARICOM, and much of Central America do not require visas. Visas are needed if you are a national of China, Colombia, Cuba, India, Libya, Pakistan, Peru or Taiwan.
You will need a passport valid for 6 months beyond your intended stay and a return ticket. Visitors are permitted to stay for up to 30 days and extensions may be granted when in the country. You may be asked to show that you have sufficient funds for your visit (US$ 50 per person per day), plus an onward ticket.
Belize is free of serious epidemic diseases and no vaccinations are required for entry in to Belize. However, there are areas where yellow fever and dengue fever are more prevalent. Extra caution and the use of anti-malarials are advised for extended stays in the jungle. For vaccinations and other health precautions, we recommend you consult your local doctor when planning your Belize dive trip.
Belize City has a hospital and several private medical centers and clinics for less serious issues.
For scuba divers, there is a hyperbaric chamber on Ambergris Caye.
Belize is not a particularly dangerous place but, as with many destinations, a little common sense goes a long way. If you are staying in a remote resort, then your exposure to any risk is likely to be less than someone staying in Belize City.
The usual advice applies to visiting Belize, including avoiding dark or suspicious looking areas, not wearing expensive jewelry or accessories, and staying in groups. If you are going to be taking tours off the beaten track, then you should be sure to do so with a qualified guide.
Belize sits right in the heart of Central America, flanked by Mexico and Guatemala, and is lapped on its shoreline by the Western Caribbean Sea. Historically it has maintained a rather low profile but in recent times the profile of the country as a tourist destination has risen thanks to the twin wonders of its Mayan history and its underwater splendor.
The Caracol Ruins are the most high profile of the Mayan ruins, set close to Guatemala in the Chiquibul Forest, and are a must-see for anyone who intends to spend time on the mainland to learn about the areas ancient peoples and culture. Altun Ha was a major trade center and is the most extensively excavated ruin in Belize. There are 13 temples and residences to view here. Cerros and Lamanai, with its long history and beautiful scenic setting, are also worth a visit.
The Museum of Belize is a former colonial prison and much of it is dedicated to displaying this aspect of its history. It also is a great place to introduce the ancient Mayan and colonial history of the country. Built in the 19th century, it is an impressive brick building found at the corner of Gabourel and Hutson streets in Belize City.
Belize Zoo, some 31 miles (50 km) west of the capital, enjoys international acclaim as a wildlife education center exhibiting over 100 native species, the larger of which are housed in sizeable enclosures allowing a good degree of natural behavior.
Belize is the same as United States Central Time, -6 GMT
Banks: Monday - Thursday 08:00 to 13:00 hrs, Friday 08:00 to 13:00 and 15:00 to 16:00. Industry: Monday - Friday 08:00 to 12:00 hrs, 13:00 to 17:00. Some businesses are open on Saturday.
The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed exchange rate of BZ$2 to US$1. The majority of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will accept US currency, travelers checks, or credit card. Credit card payments often attract a 5% service charge. Always make sure that you understand which dollar rate is being quoted as the term 'dollar' is what you will hear for both currencies.
Although most of the electricity is provided by diesel/generator sets, the power is stable at 110/220 volts AC, 60 Hz - the same voltage as in the USA. Plugs are either North American 3-pin flat blades with round grounding pin, or British 3-pin rectangular blade plugs.
Internet service is widely available but is still expensive so do not expect internet cafes on every street corner. Some resorts will be connected, possibly with satellite internet, but as a general rule you might not be able to have access for several days during your stay. Telephone and fax facilities are widely available. The international dialing country code for Belize is +501.
The postal service in Belize is quite reliable and air mail takes about 8 days to Europe, 2 days to the USA. The main post office is on the north side of the swing bridge in Belize City.
Tipping and bargaining
Tipping is customary in restaurants where there is no service charge included and 10-15% is the norm. Higher end hotels, resorts and tour operators often include a 10% service charge meaning that further tipping is not required. Private tour guides may also expect a similar gratuity.
Formal clothing is almost never a necessity, even in the most expensive places. Wear cool light clothing, avoid excessive sweating and fungal infections. Protect yourself from the strong sun. Polarized sunglasses, a hat, and the rest of the "slip, slop, slap, wrap" advice should be heeded. You should be aware that refreshments are not always readily available when sightseeing, so pack all necessities in a small backpack.
Crime should not be a major concern for most tourists. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or accessories and exercise a reasonable amount of caution as "a stranger in a strange land". Deep inland there are probably some miscreants ferrying cocaine upstream or across borders but we do not expect Dive The World customers to encounter any such individuals.