Lighthouse Reef is an incredible atoll (a coral island encircling a lagoon) in the Caribbean Sea that was made famous by legendary sea explorer Jacques Cousteau, who rightfully declared it one of the top 10 diving locations in the world. Follow in Cousteau's footsteps by diving into the Great Blue Hole, the underwater sinkhole in the center of the lagoon.
Interact with the fauna of the coral reef, including Caribbean reef sharks, blacktip sharks, barracudas, stingrays, turtles, and hundreds of different fish on a guided or independent dive. Visit Long Caye, where you can snorkel in the protected lagoons and see the bountiful wildlife, including rare birds, iguanas, and other tropical species. There’s also Half Moon Caye, the idyllic island that includes a national park and a bird sanctuary. Or, for a bird’s-eye view of the area, book a scenic helicopter tour and see the sights from above.
Things to Know Before You Go
- If you plan to snorkel or dive, invest in some high-quality water shoes, as walking on the coral reefs can be tricky and potentially painful.
- For extended visits, look into resorts on Big Northern Caye and other surrounding areas.
- The boat ride out to the reef can get very rough.
- Both experienced and novice scuba divers are able to explore the Blue Hole.
How to Get There
You can reach Lighthouse Reef by dive boat or water taxi from Belize City, as well as Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Many snorkeling or diving tours that include transportation have daily excursions to Lighthouse Reef, highlighting the Great Blue Hole. From Belize’s Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport to Belize City, it takes about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on traffic.
When to Get There
Lighthouse Reef offers year-round diving since Belize’s climate is generally sunny and warm, and the rainy and dry seasons aren’t an issue since the reef is far offshore of the mainland. During the summer, visibility can be reduced because of plankton and algae blooms. The water temperature is usually around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius); it might drop slightly in the winter months.
Scuba Diving in Belize
Belize is a popular scuba diving destination, boasting the longest unbroken barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The Great Blue Hole is probably the best-known dive site here, but other hot spots include Placencia to the south for whale shark encounters, Long Caye Wall to see coral and sponges, and the Turneffe Atoll for barracuda, cubera snapper, Atlantic spadefish, and shark species.