Ambergris Caye snorkeling is excellent, and it is the most popular area to snorkel from in Belize. We have taken many Ambergris Caye snorkeling trips, and share our experiences and what snorkel spots we liked most below.
Ambergris Caye is the biggest offshore island in the chain of over 200 along the coast. It is still inside the vast Belize barrier reef, but just barely.
The reef is only about a mile from the caye in some areas. And that is one of the reasons that Ambergris is the snorkeling (and diving) center of Belize.
The vast majority of the snorkeling is accessed by boat, out on the barrier reef, or patch reefs between Ambergris and the barrier reef.
The town of San Pedro is the hub for many different boat tours that will take you to a variety of snorkel spots around the reef. You can find companies that only run snorkel trips, and those that also combine diving and snorkeling on one boat trip. Our preference is to be on the boats that are just for snorkelers, but sometimes you have to join in with the divers.
There are four major locations that most of the snorkel boat companies go to. These are quick trips that generally take less than a half day. They are all inside the barrier reef. To learn more about each and to see our snorkel pictures click on each link below.
Shark Ray Alley - This spot is often combined in one boat trip with Hol Chan below. It is a great shallow snorkel spot that provides some exciting encounters with nurse sharks, rays, large schools of fish, and some wonderful coral areas.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve- This is the most popular snorkel spot from Ambergris. You get a chance to see some bigger species here because of the flush of current through this break in the barrier reef.
Tres Cocos - This location is often combined with Mexico Rocks below, and gives you a chance to swim with lots of fish and nice corals in a shallow area on the barrier reef.
Mexico Rocks - This inner patch reef area is in excellent snorkeling depths, and would make a good spot for beginners, because of it's calmer waters.
In addition to the above popular spots, there are a handful of other locations that are Ambergris Caye snorkeling spots. The trips to these locations are often diver/snorkeler combined. The divers often snorkel the outside of the reef, but these areas we know have good shallow snorkeling opportunities inside the reef.
Coral Gardens - This spot is inside the reef in sandy shallow waters just south of San Pedro. You can see some wonderful corals here as well as a variety of fish.
Tuffy Rocks -This is located next to the popular dive spot Tackle Box Canyons, just south of Tres Cocos, almost straight out from San Pedro. Tuffy Rocks has some great snorkeling, and is very good for checking out a variety of fish.
Mata Cut - This is a cut in the reef that is located by a quick boat ride from San Pedro. Snorkeling here can be a mixed bag. The attraction is a shipwreck inside the reef in about 8 feet of water. The wreck is covered in corals and is often teeming with fish. The downside to snorkeling here is that the wreck is very close to the cut in the reef and it is often rough with low visibility.
Basil Jones - To snorkel this spot you normally have to persuade a boat company to take you. It is pretty far north and makes for a full day trip. But the lagoon behind the sandy beach here offers some good snorkeling and the backside of the reef close to the beach offers some completely unique coral formations. And because it is so far north, there tends to be more fish life.
Bacalar Chico - As far north as you can go, Bacalar Chico is a relatively new reserve with some excellent snorkeling opportunities (although have not been able to catch a boat ride to it). The reef is reportedly pristine, with a large conch population, and also manatee sightings. There is a shallow area with a sandy bottom and big coral patches. There are deeper areas with huge coral heads and schools of barracudas. And closer to the reef there is a wall of coral with super clear water and hundreds of fish. Bacalar Chico is an excellent place to spot Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles. If you can we highly recommend you do it.
In addition to those Ambergris Caye snorkel spots, you can also take longer boat rides to the offshore atolls. These are typically all day trips, starting early in the morning, and not returning until the evening. Most of these trips are combined diving/snorkel trips. We have yet to find a company running snorkel only trips to the atolls.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll - This atoll is over 50 miles offshore, and it is the home of the famous Blue Hole. You will want to read our information about doing this trip carefully before you decide to do it.
Turneffe Atoll - This is the closest of the three atolls to Ambergris. Unfortunately we have little experience snorkeling this atoll. But there is supposed to be some good area on Turneffe.
With all of these Ambergris Caye snorkeling spots you will want sign up with your snorkel boat company choice at least the day before, if not several. During the busiest season trips do book up, so you may even want to reserve your seats before you arrive in Belize. Most of the time that is not necessary. In fact, if you are not visiting during the busy season, you may have the opposite problem, the boat companies won't run the trips because of not enough people.
If you have a group of four to six people, you can also find a local boat that you can charter just for your group, and have them take you to a handful of lesser known locations that are not as busy. You may need your own equipment for this option though.