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Atolls and Outer Cayes Travel Guide

Belize City is home to the second largest Barrier Reef of the world, this why there are several atolls and cays scattered across the Belizean coast.  These 450 precious gem islands, set in a sea of shimmering aquamarine, range from mere specks of coral awash a high tide, to exotic resorts.

The Outer Cayes or islands along the Belize Barrier Reef are too numerous to name. They include three of the four coral atolls in the Caribbean: Lighthouse Reef (location of the famous diving site the Great Blue Hole), Turneffe Island and Glover's Reef.

Attractions and Activities

Discovering the Atolls and Outer Cayes

Glovers Reef Atoll
Seventeenth-century English pirate John Glover used these islands to raid Spanish merchant ships and hide the treasures. Today Glovers Reef Atoll is the treasure – a marine reserve since 1987, enjoyed by boaters, divers, anglers, kayakers, campers, and researchers. Its pristine lagoon harbors 750 coral patches, while outside the ring of islands, 50 miles of sheer drop-offs from 40 to 2,600 feet, plus numerous shipwrecks, wait to entertain divers. Glovers Reef Atoll can take five hours to reach by boat. Fast boats from Dangriga make the trip in just over one hour.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll
The most eastern of the atolls, it lays 50 miles southeast of Belize City and the only atoll with an airstrip. The Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the atoll nearest to the Blue Hole, the country’s most celebrated and unusual underwater feature.

The Blue Hole is part of the Lighthouse Reef System. At approximately 62 miles (100 km) from Belize City it's the entrance to a former Ice Age cave – and today it is one of the world's most popular dive sites.

Turneffe Islands Atoll
Turneffe Islands is Belize’s largest Atoll with 30 miles long and 10 miles wide and encircling myriad shallows and lagoons. Only a few hundred yards from the reef, Turneffe Islands Atoll offers world-class fishing (both flats and offshore), diving and snorkeling. Although the atoll is best known for wall diving, many shallow sea gardens inside the reef are excellent for snorkeling and diving.

South Water Caye
Thirty minutes from Dangriga sits the idyllic South Water Caye, an amazing 15-acre coral island atop the barrier reef. Divers can practically swim to the drop-offs from shore. South Water Caye Reserve, the largest marine reserve with 185 square miles, includes all the surrounding waters and islands.

Tobacco Caye
This is an attractive five-acre palm fringed island with excellent beaches and surrounded by dazzling, turquoise waters due to the shallow reef along the island's eastern and southern shore. Some of the best diving await visitors only five minutes from the pristine five-acre Tobacco Caye, on the reef 10 miles east of Dangriga.


Scuba Diving
Divers from around the globe visit the Atolls and Cayes of Belize to enjoy some of the best diving of the world. You will get an experience you can’t get any where else, specially because Belize is home to the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere. The reef stretches 185 miles along coastline and features a mixture of dive sites, excellent to both beginners and dive masters. Warm and clear waters extend hundreds of feet making the dive comfortable and with great underwater visibility. If you can’t dive Belize is the place to learn.

Watching the marine life is a must in Belize, but maybe diving is not your thing, or you do not have your open water certificate, then snorkeling is for you. Even if you never snorkeled before, one of the qualified guides will help you learn and explore the corals, sponges and the many species of fish found tin the Belize Barrier Reef.

Contact our Belize Vacation experts today by visiting our Belize Trip Planner!

Location and Map

The Atolls and Cays are located all along the coast of Belize, between 30 and 60 minutes from the mainland and the islands.

Atolls and Outer Cayes

Caribean Sea
The Great Blue Hole