Deciding where to stay in Belize is harder than it seems. The most popular Atolls, like Lighthouse Reef and the Turneffe Islands and divespots (The Great Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye) can be visited from multiple locations. So it all depends on your budget and personal interests on where to stay.
Roughly speaking you could choose one of the Northern Cayes (Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker), one of the coastal towns south of Belize City (Dangriga and Planencia) or a more remote and relaxed destination in the far South, such as Punta Gorda. Overall there are more divespots on in the Northern area than in the South.
We will try to give an overview of what to expect in these areas:
- Ambergris Caye: by far the most popular diving/tourist destination. This island is part of the Northern Cayes and is home to Belize’s most visited dive and snorkel site: the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It’s a good base for day-trips to Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef where you can find The Great Blue Hole.
- Caye Caulker: Just south of Ambergris Caye and also part of the Northern Cayes, this is also a popular destination. This used to be a backpacker’s destination and although developing rapidly, today it’s still a laid-back and budget friendly destination. Like Ambergris Caye, this is also a great base for visiting Hol Chan Marine Reserve, The Turneffe Islands and Lighthouse Reef.
- Dangriga: the main town of the south-central region in front of Southwater Caye and Tobacco Caye. It is also a jumping-off point for the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Placencia: the Placencia peninsula has some of the best beaches in the country and is a great destination if you want to combine diving with other, mainland (outdoor) activities. Placencia is a base for Gladden Spit, one of the most popular divespots in Belize where you can have close encounters with Whale Sharks from March to June.
Apart from these locations, there are also great, less developed Cayes, such as St. George’s Caye, Goff’s Caye, English Cayes and Tobacco Caye. These locations are a bit more remote and less visited. You can also use Belize City as a dive base.
Punta Gorda in the far south is great when you’re looking for mountains and rainforest. There are great divespots just off the coast. The Belize Barrier Reef is at a larger distance compared to the North (at least an hour boat ride), but it is much quieter and undiscovered compared to the major tourist destinations.