The Barrier Reef & Northern Islands

by McNab Editorial Team


Belize has many wonders, but one in particular is our national treasure, our Great Barrier Reef, which spans 180 miles, protecting our coast line. It is the largest coral reef in this hemisphere; Australia being the other.

Small populations and careful management has preserved this treasure. Here you can find more than 400 species of fish, and a myriad of marine environments.

The Northern Islands are the most frequented and populated islands in the country. Caye Caulker and San Pedro are not just water sport havens but also bustling towns where socializing is a favorite pastime. Enjoy the island life on the main cayes or caye hop and explore the dozens of white sand beaches like Goff’s Caye, Sargent’s Caye and other smaller most often unpopulated islands.

Whether you are a scuba diver, free-diver, or a casual snorkeler, you will be amazed.

San Pedro

The town of Ambergis Caye is known as San Pedro. Ambergris Caye, stretching 24 miles, is roughly 35 miles northeast from Belize City. Easily accessible by boat it has the largest concentration of visitors as it lures visitors in due to its tropical nature and proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef.  The Barrier reef is a few hundred yards from shore, allowing for easy access to many beautiful dive and snorkel sites. 

The best way to explore this island is by golf cart. A few years ago you were able to walk from place to place, now there are many resorts, restaurants, and new developments popping up, too far to walk to. 

One of the biggest decisions you will have to make while on the island is where to stay and where eat. The north side of the island, has now been developed, offering plenty other accommodation, dining and entertainment options to enjoy. Taxis and golf carts are available to take you places. San Pedro, being the most developed caye in Belize, has the most active night scenes, as compared to other cayes. Whether looking to enjoy the sunshine, dive the Belize Barrier Reef, party or just relax, there is something for everyone on this island.

Island hopping between these two cayes is easy as they are just 30 minute ferry ride from one another.

Want to know how to spend a day in San Pedro! Read more on our blog.

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker,  located  20 miles north-northeast of Belize City, is one of the most  popular and easily accessible islands in Belize, only a hour away by boat from Belize City or a short 15 minute flight. It is a small island with a laid back atmosphere, attracting many budget to moderate travelers. The island is roughly 5 miles long, and is divided by the ‘Split’.

The South area of the island is most populated, with colorful wooden homes, sandy streets, beach bars, restaurants,  local craft stores and street food stalls. While the North side of the island is mostly mangroves, but is now being developed. With a popular bar on that side being ‘Koko King” where travelers flock to for a day of drinking and relaxing in the sunshine.

Getting around the island is easy. You either bike or walk most places. The island is comprised of three streets which are the Avenida Hicaco (Front Street) , Avenida Langosta ( Middle Street)  and Avenida Mangle (Back street).  Getting lost is not really a thing on this island, as it is so small.  When looking for places to stay, there are over 40 accommodation options to stay at when on the island. Mostly small bed and breakfasts with a few rooms.  Spend your time on the island going slow. Enjoy beautiful beach walks, sunset cruises, fishing, snorkeling, diving, and other marine sports activities.

Want to know how to spend a day in Caye Caulker! Read more on our blog.

Top dive and snorkel sites when in Belize

  • Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley, and Mexico Rocks
  • The Blue Hole
  • Glover’s Reef Atoll
  • Lighthouse Reef
  • South Water Caye Marine Reserve
  • Turneffe Atoll
  • Gladden Split
  • Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve

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