Solace over Crowds in Southern Belize at South Water Caye

by Carolee Chanona
South_Water_Caye belize island Dangriga

Just a 35-minute boat ride from Dangriga, South Water Caye is an idyllic escape in Southern Belize. The 15-acre coral island is found within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR), Belize’s second-largest marine reserve at 117,875 acres. Additionally, the SWCMR is one-seventh of Belize’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Practically atop Belize’s barrier reef, South Water Caye has vast marine fauna, coral mounds, and vertical dive drops just minutes offshore. While its location makes it perfect for day trips from nearby coastal towns, South Water Caye’s quiet and peaceful atmosphere is best experienced for an overnight (or three).

South Water Caye Marine Reserve

South Water Caye belize island aerial

Aerial by Duarte Dellarole.

The South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR) along with Gladden Spit Silk Cayes MR, Laughing Bird Caye MR and Sapodilla Cayes MR, make up the Southern Barrier Reef Complex. Designated in 1996, the SWCMR protects a total of 185 square miles of islands and their surrounding waters. Importantly, SWCMR was first recognized for the integrity of its marine ecosystems and its importance locally, regionally, and internationally. As such, this complex is considered one of the areas with the highest biodiversity in the entire Mesoamerican Reef region. Besides being Belize’s second-largest marine reserve, SWCMR is just 10 miles from the coastal towns of Southern Belize—perfect for day trips from Dangriga, Hopkins, or Placencia. Also, South Water Caye is located in the middle of the reserve.

Where to Stay

South Water Caye. Photo by Duarte Dellarole

To truly experience the island, spend your days sunbathing in crystal-clear waters and lazying in colorful hammocks before welcoming the night stargazing. After all, peaceful panoramas and fuss-free accommodations are the beauty of staying at South Water Caye.

Pelican Beach Resort 

This charming island resort is located on 3 ½ acres of South Water Caye’s southern end. Described as “down-to-earth and unpretentious,” the family-owned Pelican Beach Resort has been serving genuine Belizean hospitality since the 1970s. With all the amenities for your comfort, this SWC location is a sister site to Pelican’s Dangriga property, which handles all the reservations. That way, island staff can focus all their efforts on service to guests, for instance.

Blue Marlin Beach Resort

The 5-acre, Belizean-owned retreat offers comfort and relaxation with any one of their 14 units. Named after the sportfish that can be caught in front of the island, Blue Marlin Beach Resort offers 180-views of the Belize Barrier Reef. That is, alongside a full-service PADI Dive Shop, island dining, relaxation, and top-notch services.

What to Do

Staying on South Water Caye puts you within a 10-minute commute to exceptional diving. Specifically, for scuba and snorkel spots to meet vibrant reef fish, graceful eagle rays, and curious turtles. Plus, both resorts offer dive trips out to the more remote sites east of the reserve, including Glover’s Reef Atoll. Alternatively, you can spend your day swaying in hammocks strung between palm trees onshore on the white-sandy beach. The benefit of an island getaway is the (welcomed) isolation. Not to mention, the Belize Barrier Reef is within an arm’s reach for all your snorkeling, swimming, or sunbathing needs. If you’re looking for a tropical solitude once travel re-opens, Belize’s laid-back South Water Caye will be waiting for you. Besides, this island is perfect for travelers seeking solace over crowds and relaxation over luxury.

Grid photos courtesy of Pelican Beach Resort – South Water Caye. Feature photo by Duarte Dellarole.

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