Belize Blue Hole: The Ultimate Diving Guide

When it comes to scuba diving destinations, Belize is a jewel in the crown of the Caribbean.

Densely packed with mangroves and reefs filled with a high diversity of life, Belize is home to three of the four coral atolls found in the western hemisphere, and has the second largest barrier reef in the world. The barrier reef of Belize is a designated UNESCO heritage area which protects its wildlife.

But the main attraction in Belize?... The world-renowned Blue Hole. 

What makes Belize Blue Hole unique?

Scuba divers are drawn to Belize primarily to dive the great Blue Hole at Lighthouse reef. It is one of the largest oceanic blue holes in the world, and was made famous by the visit of oceanic legend Jacques Cousteau in 1971. At more than 300m/984ft across and 120m/394ft deep, the blue hole was first formed 150,000 years ago and is filled with limestone stalactites in the numerous overhangs and ledges on its walls. These are navigable by divers and it is recommended that divers carry their advanced certificate with deep specialty to take advantage of the opportunity to lay their eyes on these spectacular formations. Marine park tickets payable to the Belize Audubon society are required to visit Belize Blue Hole and expect to be checked by rangers to make sure these have been purchased. Sailing yachts can purchase these with a quick visit to Half Moon Caye at the southern end of Lighthouse Reef, whilst dive operators traveling from Ambergris Caye as a day trip will organize these for you. 

Lighthouse reef along with Glovers Reef and the Turneffe islands to the south are three of the four coral atolls found in the western hemisphere. With over 100 species of corals and 500 species of fish the waters of Belize are healthy and diverse, in fact Charles Darwin described the Belize barrier reef as the most remarkable in the entire West Indies. The designation of the reefs of Belize as a UNESCO world heritage site shows the remarkable biodiversity present in the region with estimates of up to 90% of it still being researched and documented by the scientific diving community.

Best time to visit

April to June is considered the best time to visit Belize Blue Hole. Water is warming up after the winter months with temperatures approaching 26C/80F, so a 3mm wetsuit would be perfect to stay warm in Belizean waters during these times. This is also before the official start of Caribbean hurricane season (June to November) so a good time to visit to ensure that mother nature does not scupper your diving plans. Bring plenty of sunscreen and a good hat as the days on the water can be long.

Can you tell the difference between hard coral and soft coral? Learn how here: Hard Coral vs Soft Coral: What’s the Difference?

Experience level

Divers of all experience levels will find suitable sites to dive in and around Belize Blue Hole, ranging from shallow snorkeling all the way to deep drop offs. Currents are present on many of the offshore sites so it is always recommended to choose a reputable dive operator in the country to get the most from your dives in a safe manner. There are a huge number of dive shops to choose from with Ambergris Caye having the best selection to cater for every divers needs. 

Dive sites to explore

The outer atolls have well maintained moorings that provide safe and effective tie ups for dive boats or traveling sailing yachts alike. Blue Hole itself has the majority of the formations on the south western edge, and there are some fantastic shallow patch reef sites as you explore the inner lagoon at Lighthouse Reef. The entire rim of Lighthouse Reef boasts spectacular wall diving and with careful mooring in the right conditions the boat can hang at the dive platform straight over the drop off. Request to dive  Chain wall, Half Moon Caye wall, Silver Caves, Long Caye ridge, as well as Tres Cocos, Cathedral Reef, and Que Brada to make sure you fill your quota of both drop offs and shallow reef diving.

Want to dive like a pro? Here are 5 Tips to Perfect Your Buoyancy

Marine life in Belize

Belize is known for the quality and diversity of its marine life. Huge eagle rays are common sights here with wingspans of over 1.8m/6ft not uncommon and fevers of multiple eagle rays on the sand flats a welcome sight from the flybridge of dive boats. Healthy corals are ever present with fields of Staghorn and Elkhorn branching corals dominating the shallow reefs as well as large Porites and Brain corals forming large structures making habitat for schools of fish and numerous invertebrates. Towering pillar corals stand high from the reef like skyscrapers and are a real highlight of the coral formations on dives in the region.

Green, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead turtles can all be seen here along with numerous species of shark. The blue hole is famous for having Caribbean reef sharks, bull sharks and the occasional great hammerhead can be seen patrolling the sandflats of the inner lagoon. Nurse sharks frequent the shallow snorkel sites and make for great ways to spend your surface intervals.

One of the most shy and hard to spot inhabitants of the waters of Belize is the manatee. These huge and gentle aquatic herbivores tend to frequent the more inshore and often murkier waters near the mangroves and river mouths feeding on seagrass and algae. Sadly they are often struck by boats with many displaying scars and damage from propellers. Numerous campaigns have been put in place to try to save their numbers and encourage more responsible boating practices.

Would you like to learn more about turtles? Why not become a SSI Sea Turtle Ecology Diver?

How to get there 

Belize City is the easiest to fly to with many flights connecting from the US but tourists are advised to stay in their hotels at night for security reasons. Ambergris Caye is easily accessed via ferry to dive Lighthouse Reef and the Turneffe islands. Placencia to the south is the ideal town for traveling to Glovers reef.

If you have the time, visit Half Moon Caye at Lighthouse Reef, a truly stunning little island (also designated as a national monument) inside the atoll lagoon that has a massive seabird nesting colony with a viewing platform for Magnificent Frigatebirds and Red Footed boobies that only nest in the orange zapote trees found on the island.

Will Belize be your next scuba diving trip?