Discover three beachfront lodges with prime snorkeling reefs
The small Central American nation of Belize has a big attraction. Stretching the entire length of the country’s Caribbean coast is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This wall of living coral is home to an incredible variety of marine life, and you don’t need to be an undersea explorer to discover these underwater treasures. A select number of beach resorts and island lodges put snorkelers within easy swimming distance of some of the best waters in the Caribbean. Here are three of our favorites.
Blackbird Caye Resort
This private island lodge is located 25 miles off the coast of Belize on Turneffe Atoll, which is one of the Caribbean’s only true coral atolls. Blackbird Caye Resort is a collection of 18 oceanfront cabanas all set along a two-mile private beach. Though rustic in design, with thatch roofs and local architecture, these cabanas offer a full range of comforts including air conditioning and screened balconies with hammocks and chairs. Guests can arrive by boat, or fly direct to the resort’s private airstrip. The palapa-style waterfront restaurant focuses on chef-prepared island cuisines, and socializing takes place at The High Tide Bar. Nearby are the infinity-edge pool and a water sports center offering kayaks and paddleboards.
Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most biologically diverse of the four atolls found in the Caribbean and offers some of the best snorkeling in the world. The clear, shallow reefs around Blackbird Caye Resort provide easy access for snorkeling and are an excellent environment for beginners and experts alike. Blackbird Caye’s fully equipped dive center runs dive and snorkel boats, offering both morning and afternoon snorkeling excursions to area coral reefs. Snorkelers can also sign up for the full-day trip to Half Moon Caye to snorkel in Belize’s famous Blue Hole. This trip also includes a stop at the Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, where snorkelers can encounter everything from nurse sharks and tropical fish to turtles, spotted eagle rays and moray eels. The dive center also offers snorkeling lessons, equipment rental and private snorkel guides and boats. https://www.blackbirdresort.com/
Blue Marlin Resort
Blue Marlin Resort delivers world-class adventures, combined with home-style cooking, personalized guest services, and barefoot island living. This remote dive and adventure resort is set in Southern Belize, on the island of South Water Caye. Surrounding the island is the country’s second-largest marine reserve, and a 90-mile-long barrier reef. This setting provides guests with easy access to pristine snorkel and dive sites that are just minutes from their room. The property includes 15 individually designed guest accommodations, ranging from standard rooms to private cabanas and island-view cabins. Groves of coconut palms shade the resort’s manicured grounds, with hammocks and beach lounges for relaxation.
Swimmers and snorkelers can enter the water from the resort’s private dock, and beach snorkeling is accessible directly off the southern tip of the island. Guests can access snorkeling sites by kayak, and the resort staff can also provide shuttle boat service to nearby reefs. Snorkeling is just one of the many activities offered at Blue Marlin. There is a dive shop and angling center offering flats, reef and deep-sea fishing trips. The resort staff can organize bird watching trips to the Sanctuary on Man-of-War Caye, manatee sightseeing in the Tobacco Range, beachcombing excursions, mangrove explorations and tours to the Smithsonian Marine Research Station on Carrie Bow Caye. https://www.bluemarlinbeachresort.com/
Sunbreeze Hotel and Sunbreeze Suites
The Sunbreeze Hotel https://www.sunbreeze.net/ takes full advantage of its beachfront setting. Broad verandahs and balconies take in the Caribbean Sea across a palm-shaded sand courtyard. The resort’s signature restaurant, the Blue Water Grill, serves up memorable water views and ocean breezes, and the upper deck at the 360 Degree Bar provides panoramic vistas of island and ocean. This compact, 43-room property is conveniently located next to the airport, near the ferry landing, and within easy walking distance of the shops and cafes of downtown San Pedro. As an alternative to hotel rooms, the affiliated SunBreeze Suites https://www.sunbreezesuites.com/ offers 20 one-bedroom compact suites, with kitchens, living and dining rooms and private balconies.
Snorkeling adventures at SunBreeze can begin right off the beach, with acres of shallow grass beds and coral heads to explore closer to shore, and a mile-long barrier reef within swimming distance. Just a few steps away from the pool is the headquarters for Ambergris Divers, which offers daily snorkel excursions to nearby reefs, and to the famous Shark Ray Alley, where swimmers can mix with southern stingrays and harmless nurse sharks in shallow water. More adventurous snorkelers can also join divers on all-day trips to more distant Turneffe Atoll and the Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef. After drying off, guests can claim a hammock spread between palm trees, nap in lounges set on the pool deck, or book a session at the hotel’s on- site spa.