The only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize offers a tropical climate, white-sand beaches, and abundant wildlife ­– both above and beneath the ocean’s surface.

Above all, Belize is known for its incredible marine life encounters along the Belize Barrier Reef, which lies as close as 980 feet offshore. Below is a brief overview of one of the most impressive ecosystems in the world.

About the Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef is a 190-mile-long section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which stretches from Mexico in the north to Honduras in the south spanning a total of 700 miles. This reef is home to the world’s largest coral reef system – Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is now considered second due to coral bleaching.

The reef is a major income source for Belize, due to both its draw as a tourist attraction and its critical role in the fishing industry. This coral reef is also important because they provide a buffer between the ocean and land, protecting the country from waves, storms, and flooding.

Marine Life

More than 260,000 tourists head to Belize annually to see the Belize Barrier Reef – and specially its marine life. This small country is a diver’s paradise, as it has a high concentration of marine life in a small, well-protected area.

Whale sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, West Indian manatees, and lionfish are just a few of the incredible creatures that swim along Belize’s crystalline shores.

How to See the Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef offers one of the best snorkelling experiences on the planet. You’ll see brightly colored coral and tons of marine life just inches from the water’s surface.

If you’re a certified diver, you can go even deeper. Whale sharks visit Belize’s shores in April, May, and June every year, and are most active around the full moon, when many species of fish gather to spawn. Belize tour operators offer many dive trips to swim with these gentle giants each spring.

Responsible Tourism

Here are a few tips for a fun, safe, and environmentally responsible visit to the Belize Barrier Reef:

  • Use only non-toxic sunscreen – many ingredients cause coral bleaching
  • Use a lycra or neoprene suit to protect from the sun
  • Keep your distance from marine life (including corals)
  • Bring plastic-free snacks and drinks (including water) on your trip

Belize uses the Belize dollar, and its currency exchange rate is usually about two to one to the U.S. dollar. But currency online at Xchange of America to ensure the best rates, quick turnaround time, and efficient door-to-door service.