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10 Best Things to Do in Ambergris Caye

This Belize island is a paradise for traveling scuba divers.
By Terry Ward | Updated On July 1, 2019
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10 Best Things to Do in Ambergris Caye

Belize map illustration

This 25-mile-long island—Belize’s largest—offers easy access to the ­second-largest barrier-reef system in the world.

Stuart Hill

1. Pescador Canyons

Swim across the top of a vibrant ­coral reef before finning through a long, tunnellike structure where spider crabs and spiny lobsters are often seen peeking from hidey-holes. The highlight ­often comes on your safety stop, where the reef drops off into the blue and cubera snappers rise from the depths to hunt.

2. Esmeralda Canyons

One of the most spectacular dive sites on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which runs along the eastern length of Ambergris Caye, this gorgeous underwater canyon is full of hard-coral ridges topped with soft corals and cut through with canyons. Loggerhead turtles, reef and nurse sharks, and black grouper are commonly seen, and there’s a resident moray to look out for too.

3. Snorkel Shark Ray Alley

Some underwater experiences are worth ditching your BC. While you can dive at this sandy site 10 minutes from Ambergris Caye, it’s just as fun to snorkel alongside nurse sharks, stingrays and the occasional sea turtle in the shallows.

4. Love Tunnels

Romantic divers (hey, there must be a few) shouldn’t miss this dive site, home to a coral cavern dubbed the Chapel, where underwater weddings have been staged. There’s a sandy drop-off too, where sea fans wave hypnotically and schooling horse-eye jacks gather.

5. Party in a Palapa

In business for over half a ­century, Fido’s Courtyard is an island ­institution with nightly live music, dancing and a ­truly tropical ambience—all within a ­giant palapa on the beach.

6. Cypress Garden

For something mellow but far from dull, hit this spur-and-groove reef with narrow canyons and beautiful sea fans and pillar corals. Schools of French grunts and yellowtail snapper are among the reef regulars. Peer under ledges to spot sea turtles and nurse sharks.

7. Great Blue Hole

It’s a 2.5-hour boat ride (yes, one way) from San Pedro to reach this holy grail of Caribbean dives, a sinkhole almost entirely rimmed with coral that stretches around 1,000 feet across and drops to depths of roughly 400 feet. Blacktip reef sharks and grouper patrol the periphery. The highlight for advanced divers comes in the chance to see the ­giant ­stalactites made famous by Jacques Cousteau—proof that the sinkhole was once above water—100-plus feet down.

Read More: Interesting Facts about Belize’s Great Blue Hole

8. Hit a Shipping-Container Food Park

Are you in Portland or San Pedro? It’s the latter, where American expats have opened a shipping-container food park dishing up margs, southeast Asian street food and more in a lively outdoor setting.

9. Tuffy Canyons

You can bring along the ­snorkelers in your entourage to this site, known for excellent visibility and abundant fish life, right in front of the channel into San ­Pedro. Nurse sharks, barracuda and parrotfish are par for the course. On lucky dive days, eagles rays and dolphins might swim by.

10. Go on a Croc Expedition

Rescued crocodiles are ­rehabilitated at the nonprofit American ­Crocodile ­Education Sanctuary, which takes guests on nighttime research expeditions through the mangroves of Isla Bonita to search for and tag American saltwater ­crocodiles in their native waters.


Divers Guide

Average Water Temp: 82 degrees F
What to Wear: 3 mm
Average Viz: From 80 to 100-plus feet
When to go: Year-round
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