The Most Beautiful Belize Islands
Belize may be a small country, but it is blessed by an incredibly diverse landscape, including hundreds of offshore islands that spread out across the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Long a British colony, Belize has been independent since 1981, a stable and prosperous democracy with an eclectic mix of different cultures that each contribute to the cuisine, music, and laid-back Caribbean lifestyle that draws in so many visitors each year.
Belize has hundreds of offshore islands, only some of which are inhabited. This guide will explore 10 of the most popular island destinations in Belize.
Note: Islands are known locally as cayes (pronounced "keys") in Belize.
The most famous island in Belize, Ambergris Caye was originally joined to the mainland but was separated when the ancient Maya dug a channel to increase their fishing and trade network. Today, Ambergris Caye is a top tourist destination, its small capital San Pedro immortalized in the 1986 Madonna hit "La Isla Bonita". Known for its seafood restaurants, bars, luxury resorts, and festivals, Ambergris Caye measures 36 miles from north to south. The principle form of transportation on the island is by golf cart, and the northern part of the island is a protected natural area.
Located just a few miles from Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker is almost a mirror opposite of an island, famous for its affordable lodgings and hangout spots for backpackers and adventure travelers. Close to the mainland, Caye Caulker is perhaps most famous for being a launchpad for diving expeditions to top spots like the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the Belize Blue Hole. On the island itself, don't miss the narrow canal called The Split that is ideal for picnicking, enjoying an unforgettable few, or taking a quick, refreshing dip on a hot day.
Far to the south of the country, the Silk Cayes are part of a nature reserve that includes other islands and the surrounding waters. Known sometimes as the Queen Cayes, the Silk Cayes are some of the most iconic islands in Belize, often photographed for use in advertisements and tourist promotions. Rated by Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine as one of the top 15 ultimate beaches in the region, the Silk Cayes are remarkable for their crystal clear waters that make them ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling.
One of the three atolls located outside of the Pacific Island, Glover's Reef is a long stretch of coral that contains five different islands and a long, elliptical reef. Glover's Reef is located far from the mainland adjacent to the Cayman Trench, one of the deepest parts of the world's oceans. Named for an infamous pirate who once used the atoll to stage predatory raids on Spanish shipping, Glover's Reef is popular today for its deep sea fishing and diving opportunities, including interacting with migrating whale sharks during the spring.
South Water Caye
One of Belize's smallest islands, South Water Caye is only half a mile long. Just 14 miles from the coast of Dangriga in southeastern Belize, South Water Caye is a postcard perfect island ringed with white sand beaches and gorgeous views of the surrounding Caribbean. The island lies in the center of the large South Water Caye Marine Reserve, the country's biggest protected marine area, making it the perfect place to snorkel and scuba dive. Even better, the reef is just a short swim away, making it the perfect place to spend a day relaxing in a tropical paradise.
Another small island, this one measuring 1.2 acres in total size, Goff's Caye is a great introduction to the beauty and wonder of island life in Belize as it is just a 30-minute boat ride from Belize City. Many cruise ships dock at Goff's Caye, so the island has lots of excellent restaurants and bars. Often used as a stopping off point to islands further out, Goff's Caye has plenty of excellent snorkeling and scuba diving to be had right in its own waters.
St. George's Caye
This relatively small island is located just 8 miles off the coast of Belize City. Known to locals as the site of a historic battle in 1798 that saw the British triumph over the Spanish navy, the island today is home to boutique resorts that include lovely thatched roof bungalows perched on stilts. Popular with honeymooners and couples enjoying a romantic getaway vacation, the resort on the island does not permit children under 15. The island also briefly served as the first capital of Belize and contains a few colonial-era buildings from that period of the country's history.
It may have a strange name, but Tobacco Caye is one of the most photographed islands in all of Belize. The island measures just three acres in size, but its position close to both Dangriga (10 miles away) and inside the South Water Caye Marine Reserve makes it a popular destination. There are only a handful of modest lodges on the island itself, but Tobacco Caye is a popular destination for both backpackers and scuba divers who can dive right into the crystal clear Caribbean waters directly from the shoreline.
Laughing Bird Caye
Named for the laughing gulls that once were the island's only residents, Laughing Bird Caye is just 11 miles off the coast of Placencia in southeastern Belize. The island is part of a small atoll that includes a faro, a unique ringed reef that encircles a lagoon. Overnight stays on the island are prohibited in order to protect the birds and other species inhabiting the area. Laughing Bird Caye is part of a national park, and its lagoon and surrounding waters are ideal for sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Half Moon Caye
Known for being the site of Belize's first marine conservation area, Half Moon Caye is where bird watchers can spot more than 90 different avian species, including ocean birds like frigates and red-footed boobies. Half Moon Caye is a wildlife paradise where exotic creatures like the Leaf-Toed Gecko roam. The shallow waters of the island's lagoon are ideal for spotting hundreds of different fish species. More experienced divers can head out to the nearby Lighthouse Reef, home to the Great Blue Hole, rated by legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 diving spots on the planet.
Among the many opportunities to travel in and around the gorgeous jewel of Belize, visiting the island is a Must- Do and we are happy to create a unique and unforgettable vacation experience to any of these tiny gems strung along our barrier reef.