Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef
You won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef. Consider diving or snorkeling in San Pedro, Belize. Our Belize Barrier Reef system is a part of the second largest reef in the world! On parts of the island you can easily reach it by swimming, taking a kayak, or a short boat trip.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS) is also known as the Great Maya Reef. It is a marine region that stretches over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi). From Isla Contoy at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico down through Belize to the Bay Islands of Honduras you will still be in the MBRS. The Belize Barrier Reef is a part of this system.
The Belize Barrier Reef is less than one mile from the beach in San Pedro Town, making it an optimal place to snorkel and dive from. Just take a 10-15 minute boat ride and jump in the water! Kayaking to the reef is also an option with how short of a distance it is to shore. From other locations on mainland Belize, it is a much longer boat trip.
If you are just starting to research your trip to San Pedro – check out our article on What To Expect in San Pedro. There may be more for you to learn!
This map below shows the best dives and snorkel places in Ambergris Caye which are located 15 to 20 minutes away from town.
San Pedro’s prime location makes it a tourism hub for thousands of people to visit every year. Check out our snorkel and adventure tours here.
Hol-Chan Marine Reserve
This maps illustrates the location of the Hol-Chan Marine Reserve in San Pedro, Belize Barrier Reef’s main attraction. It is only around 30 feet deep and makes for a terrific half day on the water.
The Hol-Chan Marine Reserve covers approximately 18 km² of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests. Hol-Chan is Mayan for “little channel”. The top areas to snorkel are Zone A and D. Once a place where fishermen would clean their daily catches, this 1,280-acre protected region has evolved into a top snorkeling location.
Many guests boast of the nurse sharks, eagle rays, and corals they see on their trips to the Hol-Chan Marine Reserve. There is no fishing or touching of the corals and marine life. Since this area is protected, the amount of sea life swimming around is abundant.
The Hol-Chan Cut
When you leave San Pedro for a tour, have your camera ready! The view of the island from pulling off the dock to is gorgeous and the drive is short. At the Reserve, each person pays $10 US to be there regardless if they will enter the water or not. Your captain or guide will put a Hol-Chan bracelet on your wrists, fit you for snorkel gear and provide a quick lesson in the water on how to snorkel. The water is shallow where you get out, so it is perfect for getting a feel for the water.
Everyone must stay with the guide the entire time and refrain from touching anything to preserve the reef system. Tours will last around 30 minutes swimming out to the reef and back. A guide explains the different corals and animals you encounter along the way, always ready for questions.
Shark Ray Alley
Shark Ray Alley is located just one mile south of the Hol-Chan cut and is listed as “Zone D” of the Hol-Chan Marine Reserve. Once your boat pulls up to Shark Ray Alley, expect a school of nurse sharks to come rushing to your boat! Don’t be afraid now, these sharks are used to swimming with humans and are safe. Your boat captain and tour guides will direct you to put on your snorkel and jump in quick. No fins needed since you won’t swim far from the boat. You can swim with them (from a little bit of a distance) and watch them be fed small fish by the guides.
Mexico Rocks is a shallow patch reef complex located north of San Pedro Town and is about a 15 min boat ride. It lies halfway between the Belize Barrier Reef and the shore line. The site consists of approximately 100 Holocene patch reefs clustered. The reserve is on a Pleistocene ridge of limestone and is composed predominantly of boulder star corals. It’s a beautiful spot to spend half day snorkeling.
Guests rave about seeing sea turtles around Mexico Rocks!
Bacalar Chico is national park and marine reserve located in the northern tip of Ambergris Caye. It is a 30 minute boat ride from town. The Reserve is a 23-square mile (60-sq km) consisting of sinkholes, meandering creeks, inter-island lagoons, coastal mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reef. Visitors be on the lookout for manatees, sea turtles and beautiful corals. This site can often be done on a full-day tour stopping at other sites like Rocky Point, Mexico Tunnels and Mexico Rocks.
All these snorkeling spots are a part of marine reserves on Ambergris Caye. We want our tourists to respect and experience the best of what San Pedro and Belize have to offer!
Related link: What to Expect in San Pedro