While not an island, Belize does have over 400 cayes for travelers to choose from. Here, the postcards aren’t far-flung paradisiacal places reserved only for the rich and famous – but available IRL to those willing to board a mere two-hour flight to the Caribbean. From kidney-shaped and large palm-studded ones to small spits of sand and clusters, every island is worth visiting in Belize. But with so many options, choosing which ones are worthy of exploring on a first-time visit to Belize can quickly become challenging.
Luckily, Splash Dive Center, Placencia’s premier diving center, can help you pick an island suited to your needs and preferences. Below, we’ve listed two of the best islands in Belize that are ideal for snorkeling and beach bumming. Read on to see which one is meant for you.
Laughing Bird Caye
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This national park sits just around 11 miles off the coast of Placencia and holds an abundance of coral and marine life. Named after the Laughing Gull that used to breed on the island, Laughing Bird Caye is a small islet with palm trees housing the Brown Pelican, Green Heron, and Melodius Blackbird.
How to get there: Arrange a day tour with Splash Dive Center in Placencia and hop on one of their boats with knowledgeable guides. They will provide any fins, masks, and life vests you may need.
What the island is like: Stunningly picturesque, Laughing Bird Caye only has one small structure on-site and a few picnic tables for eating lunch. Looming palm trees decorate the islet as well as scattered coastal mangroves. You can spend some time touring the island, snapping photos, and trying to befriend the many hermit crabs scampering through the sand.
Things to do: If you’re looking for a variety of snorkeling spots, Laughing Bird Caye is for you. Splash Dive offers three different areas for snorkeling and scuba diving including the Laughing Bird Drop-off, Laughing Bird North, and Laughing Bird South. All of these areas are great for beginner divers, making it easy to assimilate and learn how to navigate the waters. You’ll come across coral wall slopes, queen conches, wire and leaf corals, and even sting rays and nurse sharks.
South Water Caye
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South Water Caye is part of a marine reserve and is located on the outer reef of the world’s second-largest barrier reef. It’s a bit further away being 24 miles northeast of Placencia and is a popular site for both snorkelers and divers.
How to get there: Splash Dive offers this tour where the boat ride to South Water takes about 1.5 hours. It’s advised to do South Water Caye as early as possible because of its distance from Placencia and can also be done as a three-tank dive which includes the famous Shark Hole dive site.
What the island is like: Larger than Laughing Bird, South Water Caye measures about 15 acres as is the ideal image of a Caribbean island you see splattered on postcards. The entire island is peppered with palm trees and has a very laid-back vibe and is perfect for a detox vacation. Your guide with Splash Dive begins the tour on the shore (where you can clearly see bonefish swimming near the shores) and then leads you to the best snorkeling spot near the shore. What’s so great about Splash Dive’s guides is that they turn the snorkeling lesson into an ecological one, sharing information on each critter you come across and why it’s important to protect them.
Things to do: Apart from snorkeling and diving, travelers can also extend their South Water Caye trip by staying at the Blue Marlin Beach Resort on the island. You can spend the rest of your afternoon lounging on a hammock beneath the palm trees or try your hand at paddleboarding near the shore.