This iconic UNESCO site sits about 60 miles off the coast of San Pedro and is stunning to see. However, depending on your desires, you may want to skip it.
So, I’m not a diver. Although I enjoy snorkeling, I don’t dive and am not certified to do so. As amazing as the Blue Hole is to see, there isn’t a vast diversity of marine life here. Sure, the water is crystal clear and you’ll be able to see all kinds of fish. However, don’t expect to see sharks, rays, etc. If you want to see that, you’ll be better off going to another site that is more catered to snorkelers.
On my trip, we went to 3 different sites: the Blue Hole, Half Moon Bay Caye, and the Lighthouse reef. All were great and I enjoyed myself immensely. However, I know some of the snorkelers were disappointed in not seeing a larger diversity.
Divers on the other hand were over the moon about diving the Blue Hole and although there was some rumblings about not having as much clarity in the water, most of the divers were thrilled calling it a lifetime experience.
The pricing is drastically different from snorkelers and diviers. You can easily go to some great snorkeling spots on a ½ day boat (choose either AM or PM departure) and see a lot. The half day tours were about $75 USD while the full day Blue Hole tour was around $275 USD (about $235 for the tour and then $40 paid in cash to the park rangers at the blue hole which is NOT included in the price).
I don’t know how much it cost for the divers but they had 3 different dive spots with each dive lasting around 15-30 mins or so. Obviously divers would go to deeper portions of the bay but the water is still shallow enough that I don’t know how much of a different it really makes (outside from the Blue Hole dive).
Getting to the site
Know that you’ll be on an open top boat and it’s about 2.5 hours there and back (5 hours total) and the bulk of that time is on open water. Basically, if you get motion sickness, you wont enjoy the trip out at all. The trip starts with check in and a briefing along with a light breakfast of fruit and some sort of bread with juice and coffee.
You won’t be permitted to use the restroom or do much walking around when you’re on the open water. However, about halfway through, you’ll enter an area where the water will be calm enough to move around.
It’s safe to say that the Blue Hole tour is mainly catering to divers. Again, I kinda expected that so I wasn’t too surprised. However, a couple of people who were snorkelers felts “slighted” for being relegated as second fiddle to the divers. So just know that going in.
The trip starts with the highlight. The Blue Hole is somewhat difficult to see from water level since it blends in with the rest of the coral. If you’re looking for that iconic blue circle, you’ll need to take a flight over the site.
The view from the water though is still amazing. When we got there, there was just 1 other boat (which was a park ranger boat) to keep an eye on the number of visitors and to make sure nothing was being done to damage the coral. It’s refreshing to see the Belize government take such an active role in preserving the reef especially when so much money could be made off the site.
The entire time we were there (which was about an hour from start to finish) we were the only boat there. I don’t know if that was by timing or just luck since I was there during shoulder season.
Next we went to Half Moon Caye and Lighthouse Reef. I’m not sure if those are 2 distinct sites since after we went to Half Moon Caye, we had lunch on the island and then moved on toward Lighthouse reef which was just a few minutes off the island.
Half Moon Caye
The marine life was certainly much better at the latter 2 sites. Half Moon Caye is this secluded island that is STUNNINGLY picturesque. I wish we had more time to explore the island and walk around but by the time we had lunch, we had about 30 mins to walk around which wasn’t enough time.
Part of the beach is blocked off as a turtle breeding ground so that would be amazing if you could somehow be there to witness that. The island itself is very basic with a small visitor’s center and bathrooms. Outside of that, it’s a very scenic island and for me a welcome site to just be off the rocking boat even for a bit.
Overall, it’s a cool experience and something I’m glad I did. It’s always great for me to visit UNESCO sites and this was certainly worth the time and money to go. It actually made me wish I were a certified diver so that I could really appreciate the Blue Hole.
If you go, you’ll have to understand why you want to go from the beginning. Is it to say you’ve been to the Blue Hole and go swimming in an amazing natural wonder? Or is it to see a vast diversity of marine life? If it’s the latter, you’ll be better off going on a half day tour and saving your money.
There are so many cheaper and half day tours you can take as a snorkeler and diver that if your only wish is to see marine life, you’ll be better off taking one of those tours. Half day tours easily go to Hol Chan or Turneffe which are very popular that getting on a boat is very simple. But if you want to say you’ve been to the Blue Hole, there really is no alternative.
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