Glover’s Reef, Turneffe Atoll & Lighthouse Reef – Sailing, Fishing, Diving
The aquamarine waters, fascinating corals, and biodiversity of the Belize Barrier Reef are no longer a secret known only to select scuba divers, marine researchers, and locals. While still retaining their laid-back charm, Belize’s Islands (cayes) are attracting more attention from travelers seeking marine adventures on or under the water, or who just want a laid-back island getaway to enjoy ocean breezes and gorgeous views. More than 400 islands (cayes) and atolls line Belize’s Caribbean coast. Some islands are barren or, during high tide, even submerged, while others proffer postcard-perfect palms, mangrove clusters, and beaches with exceptional snorkeling, fishing, sailing, wind-surfing, and scuba diving.
“Postcard-perfect palms, mangrove clusters, and beaches off of which you’ll find exceptional snorkeling, fishing, and diving.”
The largest and most-visited islands (cayes) are Ambergris Caye, (about 40 km/25 mi long and 2 km/1 mi wide), and Caye Caulker (about 6 km/4 mi long). Once quiet Maya fishing villages, a colorful mix of locals—speaking English, Spanish, Creole, and Maya languages—now call the cayes home. San Pedro Town, on Ambergris Caye, features dive shops, waterfront restaurants, and tiki bars along its small sandy streets. You’ll also find white-sand beaches on Ambergris, although many hotels use piers so swimmers can pass over protected sea grass rather than wading through it for a swim. The less visited and more laid back Caye Caulker has no beaches to speak of, but along with Ambergris, it offers outstanding opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
Belize’s three coral atolls—Grover’s Reef, Turneffe Atoll, and Lighthouse Reef—take you far from tourist towns to secluded lodges on islands surrounded by unparalleled diving, snorkeling, and fishing excursions. All of Belize’s cayes and atolls are only about a one- to two-hour boat ride from mainland marvels such as the ancient Maya ruins of Caracol, the biodiverse Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the beaches of Placencia, and the Garifuna culture of Dangriga.
Turneffe Atoll – Diving & Sport Fishing at its Finest
Turneffe Islands Atoll is a ring of islands (most are uninhabitable) about a 1.5 to 2-hour boat ride east of Belize City. More than 400 mangrove islands comprise the atoll, which boasts outstanding scuba in more than 70 dive sites. But Turneffe is also renowned for its sport fishing, with many anglers aiming for the grand slam: bagging a bonefish, permit, and tarpon in a single day. Lodging on the atoll is simple and limited, but still a good option for those looking for an off-the-beaten path experience or a fishing/diving holiday.
Outer Atolls – Pristins, Secluded Ocean Getaways
Just a short boat trip from the mainland delivers you to the uncrowded and unspoiled coral atolls along the outer rim of Belize’s Barrier Reef. Along Glover’s Reef, named for a 17th-century pirate, divers can expect to see old shipwrecks, manta rays, and sharks. Lighthouse Reef, home of the world-famous Blue Hole, an enormous, sapphire-blue sea cave visible from space, offers more than 50 km/80 mi of extraordinary diving in crystal clear waters. Divers know biodiverse Turneffe for wall diving, but this atoll is an even greater magnet for anglers casting for bonefish, permit, and tarpon.