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Atolls and Outer Cayes, Belize

Belize travel destination

A refugee from the world could not get farther away than the atolls and outer cayes of Belize. 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.

Glovers Reef Atoll

Glovers Reef Atool in Belize

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  Atoll in BelizeTurneffe 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
Tobacco Caye  in BelizeThis 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.