Things to Do in The Cayes
Around 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) south of the shores of Ambergris Caye, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the most-visited snorkeling and diving area in Belize. Part of the Belize Barrier Reef, the reserve covers about 3 square miles (7.7 square kilometers) and is divided into zones according to marine habitat.
Ruled by the motto,go slow, Belize’s Caye Caulker is a relaxed Caribbean island famous for its turquoise waters and manatee population—a lack of cars adds to the sense of tranquility. Explore the surrounding coral reefs by snorkeling or scuba diving, or just sip rum cocktails on its sun-soaked docks.
Part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley is home to a multitude of 6-foot (1.8-meter) nurse sharks and stingrays with 4-foot (1.2-meter) wingspans. Over the years, fishers went to the site to clean out their catch—eventually, nurse sharks and stingrays started gathering in search of the boats and their daily treats.
San Pedro Town is Ambergris Caye's main and only town. This is where the bulk of the island’s eateries, shops, nightlife, and businesses are located. The beach here is a sandy sidewalk at best, but the water and views are still beautiful, and numerous docks dotting the shoreline provide ample swimming opportunities. It also serves as a popular departure spot for dive trips.
Recognized as one of the world’s top diving sites, and part of the Belize Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Site, this stunning, deep blue circular sinkhole is located on the Lighthouse Reef atoll. About 1,000 feet (305 meters) in diameter over 400 feet (122 meters) deep, the Great Blue Hole is a unique geographic phenomenon.
Located on the northernmost tip of Ambergris Caye, Bacalar Chico is said to be one of the most pristine reserves in Belize. In addition to being a protected marine reserve since 1996, the biodiverse park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s an ideal getaway for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike.
Coral Gardens is part of the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and is packed with unusual and colorful coral formations that can easily be explored thanks to the shallow depths of up to 13 feet (4 meters). Schools of fish such as angel fish, tree worms, and parrotfish can be seen here, adding to the overall beauty and uniqueness of the coral.
Caye Caulker is divided in two by a narrow channel of seawater known as the Split. Crystal-clear water makes this a great spot to swim, while open-air, waterfront bars fuel all-day hangouts. One of these, Lazy Lizard, is among Caye Caulker’s most famous places to party, complete with swim-up bar tables, games, and cabanas.
Manatees graze turtle-grass beds and mangroves in this marine reserve near Belize City, which was established in 2002 to protect the threatened mammals. While it’s illegal to swim with manatees in Belize, tours of Swallow Caye offer the chance to see the animals in their natural environment. Boat trips to Swallow Caye are strictly regulated to ensure they don’t disturb or hurt the manatees.
Rays and nurse sharks greet boats in Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, a natural haven comprising 61 square miles (158 square kilometers) of thriving sea life—including portions of the Belize Barrier Reef. Since the reserve is just off the coast of Caye Caulker island, it’s a budget-friendly alternative to the more distant (and more popular) Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
More Things to Do in The Cayes
This low-lying sliver of an island is an uninhabited and unspoiled paradise. The east side is strung with coconut palm-fringed beaches while the west end is covered by ziricote trees that serve as a nesting ground for a colony of rare red-footed boobies. Offshore reefs offer numerous snorkeling and diving opportunities.