Blue holes or cenotes are underground cavities occurring in carbonate rocks that are open to the surface.
One of Belize’s most famous attractions, and an example of these, is the Great Blue Hole. Located in the lighthouse reef atoll approximately 62 miles from Belize City, it is an almost perfect circular chasm of deep blue in an azure sea. 1000 feet in diameter and more than 400 feet deep, it is the only Blue Hole on earth that is visible from space, and it’s a diver’s paradise.
Most visitors to Belize are probably unaware that in mainland Belize close to Belmopan, Belize’s capital city, and just off the Hummingbird Highway lies another of these craters, known as The Inland Blue Hole. Unlike its marine counterpart, this Blue Hole is a fresh-water cenote, located within the St Hermans Blue Hole National Park, a 575 acre forest teeming with wildlife. It is significantly smaller than the Great Blue Hole with a diameter of 300 feet and a depth of 100 feet. It’s a great spot for a refreshing dip while taking a Belizean road trip.
Belize’s third Blue Hole is still something of a secret. Located in the rainforest area on the border between the Orange Walk and Cayo districts between the Valley of Peace and San Jose, Cara Blanca is just one of a series of 25 cenotes. If you look it up on google earth the pools can be clearly seen. Cara Blanca is approximately 330 in diameter and 230 feet deep. In recent years archaeological diving expeditions have discovered pre-historic bones of huge mammals, along with Maya artifacts. The latter demonstrating how Cenotes and caves played an important part in ancient Maya culture as they were thought to be the opening to Xibalba or the underworld. The presence of a small plaza with sacrificial pots and other relics here, is thought to be evidence of this worship.
It is rumored that other Blue Holes exist in Belize. There are definitely underwater caverns behind Caye Caulker and deep blue cenotes in both southern and northern Ambergris.
Let us know if you know of any, elsewhere in the country. We’d love to hear from you.
It is a new year and you are looking at your bucket list wondering what it is lacking. It is time for adventure! It is time exploration and conquering new horizons! New destinations, new experiences, awesome memories and loads of fun… it is time for Belize.
Here are 10 awesome things to do and reasons why you should have Belize as your next destination. We should also mention that none of them involve dealing with snow or sub zero temps ;).
The world famous Great Blue Hole is a giant submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, an atoll 43 miles (70km) from Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 984 feet (300 m) across and 354 feet (108 m) deep. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site. This site was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.
See it the way it was meant to be seen … from the air. Fly to Lighthouse Reef Atoll, and make several fly-bys of this natural wonder of the world. On the way, see the Belize Barrier Reef, and Turneffe Atoll. Be sure to keep watch on the water below for Manatees, Rays, Sharks, Dolphins, and other wildlife. So, before you dive it, see it. There are scheduled tours and charters available from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.
This cave adventure is one of the most popular attractions in Belize. Featured in National Geographic, A.T.M. cave is several kilometers long and is an ancient burial site containing four skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware left by the Maya. The most famous skeleton is that of a young girl, the bones of which have been completely covered by the natural processes of the cave, leaving them with a sparkling appearance. Once inside the cave you will spend several hours swimming, climbing, and exploring the Maya underworld. The culmination of the tour is the Crystal Maiden, a young virgin sacrifice, and “The Cathedral”, with its stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Take the guided tour. If you are staying on the mainland, ask your resort for your tour options. If you are in the cayes, there are daily tours available from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.
At the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is the Maya name for ‘little channel.” This sanctuary on the Barrier Reef was officially established in 1987, and since then the return of all species of fish has been quite dramatic. It is perfect area for snorkelers and scuba divers, and for those learning to do both. It is the single most popular day trip from San Pedro.
Take a tour boat from San Pedro or Caye Caulker. Trips usually run once in the morning and again in the afternoon. You can also do it from the mainland using Tropic Air flights to either island.
The ancient Maya site of Lamanai sits on the edge of the spectacular New River Lagoon in the Orange Walk District, and is known for being the longest continually-occupied site in Mesoamerica. Wildlife is abundant, and you can see and hear howler monkeys. Jaguars also roam nearby. This is reflected in the stories of the locals as well as the architecture.
The temples themselves rise from the jungle floor to a spectacular view above the jungle canopy. They have many carvings into them of the jaguars and crocodiles, and you have the chance to climb to the top of the main pyramid. There is a rope and very narrow, tall, steep steps leading to the view high over the lagoon.
Take a river tour boat from the Tower Hill Bridge (near Orange Walk town). Trips usually run about 7 hours in length. It can also be done from some of the islands (like San Pedro or Caye Caulker). There are scheduled tours from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.
Caye Caulker is the epitome of the laid-back island lifestyle. With the Barrier Reef just off its eastern shore, fresh seafood, quaint bars and restaurants, sandy streets and tropical music, Caye Caulker is the perfect place to spend one day, a few days or even a few weeks.
Take a water taxi from a neighboring island or fly with Tropic Air from Belize City, San Ignacio, Orange Walk or San Pedro.
Xunantunich or “Maiden of the Rock” is situated on the Western Highway across the river from the village of San Jose Succotz in the Cayo District. This major Maya ceremonial center can be reached by ferry daily across the Mopan River. This Classic Period site provides an impressive view of the entire river valley. It occupies only 300 square meters but the periphery covers several square kilometers. The main temple of El Castillo rises 120ft (40m) above plaza level, making it one of the tallest buildings in Belize.
It is a very accessible and easy site to enjoy, so take a guided tour from one of the nearby resorts. You can also do it on your own. Tropic Air flies several times a day to San Ignacio’s exclusive Maya Flats Airstrip which is very close to the site.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is Belize’s premier destination for birders, and contains a mosaic of wetland and land habitats. With 16,400 acres of lagoons, creeks, logwood swamps, broadleaf forest and pine savanna, you will be sure to see a wide array of wildlife. The Sanctuary protects globally endangered species including the Central American River Turtle, Mexican Black Howler Monkey, and Yellow-headed Parrot. The village in the lagoon is also home to the very unique Cashew festival every year.
Take a guided tour from one of the nearby resorts or from your tour operator.
Placencia is a peninsula in southern Belize with almost 16 miles (25km) of sandy beaches. The Caribbean is on the eastern side, while the lagoon that looks towards the Maya Mountains on the mainland, is to its west. From March to June, dive with Whale Sharks at Gladden Spit (a cut in the reef east of Placencia village). It is also easy to get to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve, home of a large Jaguar population.
Fly to Placencia on Tropic Air. Flights are available from several destinations throughout the country. Since it is not an island, you can also drive there.
Over the years, cave tubing at Nohoch Che’en Caves (sometimes known as Jaguar Paw) has become extremely popular, especially on hot days. Float down the Cave’s Branch River on inner tubes through underground caves once used by the Maya. You can also zip-line and ride ATVs though the rainforest in this area, located about 40 miles (64km) from Belize City.
Fly to Belize City or Belmopan and take a tour from there. There are scheduled tours and available from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.
No matter where you stay on the Belizean coast, there is great fishing. The flats offer one of the best chances in the world to complete a grand slam (Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish in one day). The rivers teem with Snook, Snapper and Tarpon while offshore, Sailfish and other species abound. It is also a great place for kids to learn to fish, as hotel piers and reef proximity provide great opportunities for them to practice catching snapper, grunt and barracuda.
How to arrange it
Ask your resort to arrange a half-day or full day fishing trip.
Throughout the world, Blue Holes have always been surrounded in mystery and superstition. Tales of bottomless pits, sea monsters and ship wrecks abound. The Great Blue Hole of Belize is no exception. In fact, a recent movie Posiedon Rex even has dinosaurs erupting from its depths.
Located in the lighthouse reef atoll approximately 62 miles from Belize City, Belize’s Blue Hole is legendary around the world and is on many a scuba divers bucket list. An almost perfect circular chasm of deep blue in an azure sea, 1000 feet in diameter and more than 400 feet deep, it is the only Blue Hole on earth that is visible from space. It is also spectacular from the air.
It was originally made famous in the 1970s when the French explorer and diver, Jacques Cousteau and his team of divers, undertook its exploration in his famous boat The Calypso. In his documentary, he embarks on the treacherous 7mile trip from Lighthouse, through uncharted territory of shallow waters resplendent with dangerous coral heads, and eventually arrives unscathed at the Blue Hole. From here he and his team undertake its exploration. See the video below:
Cousteau and his team realized the importance of the Blue Hole in providing knowledge of Earth’s history. Discovery of stalactites deep within the sinkhole provided the evidence that it was in fact a land based cavern as stalactites only form on land. One such stalactite was removed for further scientific investigation. Over many thousands of years as sea levels rose this cave was flooded at a least four stages as demonstrated by the formation of ledges. There is also evidence of earths shift as some of the stalactites are at a slight angle. Cousteau declared this one of the top diving sites in the world and he is attributed with making it popular as a tourist destination following his discoveries.
In 1990, The Blue Hole was given the name The Great Blue Hole by British diver Ned Middleton. It forms a part of the Belize barrier Reef reserve system and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Some 35 years after her grandfather’s exploration of the Blue Hole, Alexandra Cousteau , who works closely with Oceana as a senior advisor, visited Belize for the first time and was thrilled to observe that in those years, this national living monument seemed to have changed very little from what she had seen in “The Sunken Caves” documentary. Alexandra’s love affair with Belize was sparked and has continued to blossom over the years. She taught her husband to dive in our waters and her daughter got her first taste of the ocean here at age 2 months. Last year she visited Belize again as a speaker for Oceana for The Energy of Nature vs. the Nature of Energy conference and it was then that she saw The Blue Hole from the air for the very first time.
You too can experience The Blue Hole from the air with Tropic Air’s stunning Blue Hole aerial tour. Don’t forget to bring your cameras as this is a photo opportunity you don’t want to miss.