Belize Information

The Best Snorkeling in Belize

By Belize Hotel Association Staff 3/29/2019 2 minutes

Belize is listed on PADI’s top 10 best diving and snorkeling destinations. Home to the world’s second largest living barrier reef, Belize offers an extraordinary diving experience for all snorkelers and divers. One of the most popular diving and snorkeling sites in Belize is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

What is Hol Chan Marine Reserve?

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is notably one of the top places to get the best snorkeling experience in Belize. It was established in 1987 and is a habitat to over 500 species of fishes, corals, and marine mammals such as sea turtles, nurse sharks and stingrays. “Hol Chan” is Mayan for "little channel."

In this pristinely-kept reserve, you can find reef channels, lagoon grass beds, mangrove habitats and the ever so popular Shark Ray Alley. The entire Hol Chan Marine Reserve is divided into 3 ecological zones with the addition of Shark Ray Alley due to its growing popularity.

Here are the 4 zones of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve:

Zone A: Hol Chan Cut

In this zone the waters are as shallow as 5 ft. Large schools of jacks, groupers, snappers and barracuda abound and along each side of the cut grow vigorous stands of corals and seagrass.

Zone B: Seagrass Beds

The Seagrass beds are huge feeding grounds and you are likely to come upon huge stingrays feeding on the bottom, schools of parrot fish and hogfish nibbling on epiphytes growing on the seagrass.

Zone C: Mangroves

The mangrove habitat is one of the most colorful and biologically diverse habitats for marine invertebrates. Be careful while snorkeling among the mangroves. Stay well back from the silt laden roots, or you will stir up remains, clouding the water.

Zone D: Shark Ray Alley

This recently discovered dive site has been selected as one of the seven best "animal dives" in the Caribbean SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE. Its name come from the abundance of tame nurse sharks and stingrays. This location was a frequent place for fishermen to clean their fish and throw the chum in the water, attracting many sharks and rays.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve - Photo Cred: Amigos Del Mar Dive Shop
Hol Chan Marine Reserve - Photo Cred: Amigos Del Mar Dive Shop

Where is Hol Chan Marine Reserve located?

Hol Chan is located approximately 4 miles southeast of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye.

How to get to Hol Chan Marine Reserve?

To get to Hol Chan, you must book a tour excursion to the reserve for either snorkeling or diving with a registered tour operator. It is only a 15-minute boat ride from San Pedro Town. What you can expect is colorful coral-lined walls, 5 feet long moray eels and huge lobsters, hidden in the coral crevices. Groups of angelfish, blue-striped grunts, trumpet fish, and many more wildlife species are there to greet you in the water.

How to get to Shark Ray Alley?

Shark Ray Alley is located within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It only takes about 5-10 minutes to get to this zone from the others. Here, nurse sharks and southern stingrays listen for the sound of boat motors for which they associate with food. As tour guides place fish scraps in the water, you can watch as the sharks and stingrays feed or you can jump in the water and feel the thrill and excitement of swimming with them.

What is the cost to snorkel at Hol Chan Marine Reserve?

The cost of a snorkel tour at Hol Chan Marine Reserve can range from $45-$125 USD a person depending on the tour company you book with and what the tour package includes. You can also find group rates for snorkel trips to Hol Chan.


Belize Hotel Association Staff