An aerial view of a boat in the centre of Belize's Great Blue Hole

Visiting Belize's Great Blue Hole

One of Belize's best natural wonders only found fame in the 1970s. Forty miles off the coast of Belize is the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Inside the reef lies a massive and mysterious indigo abyss: the Great Blue Hole.

There were many stories about the hole... some said it was bottomless, some believed it was home to sea monsters and others were convinced that boats would be sucked down if they dared to travel over its waters. When Jacques Cousteau took his boat the Calypso to examine the hole in 1971 (supplemented by a more recent trip), these warnings were finally addressed.

The Great Big Hole has a bottom, but it stretches far below the surface - the hole is over 300 metres across and 125 metres deep. With the capacity to easily fit two Boeing 747s, the sheer size and unreachable depths add to the mystery of this deep, dark marine sinkhole.

Inside is a large network of underwater caves with impressive stalactites, stalagmites, dripstone sheets, and columns. Scientists believe these spectacular formations developed in the caves long before the area was submerged.

Jacques Cousteau named the Great Blue Hole one of the world's best diving sites and it has been captivating visitors ever since.

Looking down at Belize's Great Blue Hole

Is the Great Blue Hole really worth the effort?

Well, that really depends on you.

The Great Blue Hole is over 100 kilometres from Belize City, so getting there can be a touch arduous as well as expensive. However, if you're staying in Caye Caulker, you'll find the trip easily accessible with several tours available.

If you're interested in the sheer majesty of the Great Blue Hole, seeing it from a plane is best. This way you can gaze at the optical perfection of the Blue Hole, as well as the iconic atolls, and the intricate reef systems of the Belize Barrier Reef.

Divers may find the boat trip to the Great Blue Hole of more interest. It is known as one of the top diving sites in the world after all - but it’s only really worth it for Advanced divers with over 30 dives under their belt.

The mystery, wonder and uniqueness of the Great Blue Hole make it one of the best dives on the planet, but a short scenic flight is also a wonderful way to see the wonder from above.

So, if you're an advanced diver, do both and regret nothing!

An aerial view of Belize's Great Blue Hole

What’s it like inside the Great Blue Hole?

It is essentially a collapsed sea cave - there are the usual culprits in the shallows like groupers, reef fish and shrimp, but you can’t really make out the overall shape of the Blue Hole from the water level.

There’s no large marine life (like there would be on a reef wall or open water) as it’s surrounded by shallow corals, but you might spot a variety of sharks that have strayed into the hole during high tide.

The conditions inside are a few degrees cooler than the surrounding waters and you will need a dive torch to see the cave walls. There are great stalactites and swim-throughs but note that these are well below the 18-metre dive limit for open water divers. Reaching these depths comes with added dangers that shouldn’t be taken on by inexperienced divers. The hole can disorientate even seasoned divers, and dive plans must be adhered to.

In short, open water divers and snorkellers would only really be visiting for the bragging rights! You won’t see any of the natural structures that make this dive interesting, so if it’s a choice between the boat and the flight, the latter will definitely give you more bang for your buck.

The changing colours of the sea surrounding the Great Blue Hole in Belize

Getting there from Caye Caulker

There are two ways to see the Blue Hole from Caye Caulker, one of the most popular places to stay in Belize: by sea or by air.

Tsunami Adventures offers a short 45-minute scenic flight for US$225 a person. The views are out of this world and it truly feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, particularly for anyone with a love of photography.

Boat trips from Caye Caulker to the Blue Hole take 2.5 to 3 hours and cost around US$300, and snorkellers can hop on the trips for a slightly lower cost too. Trips can be found from almost anywhere on the island but take care in choosing a reputable company that has sustainable practices.

Frenchie's Diving Services are one of the biggest operators on the island with modern equipment, experienced divemasters and a green ethos. The smaller dive shop Scuba Sensation also has great reviews.

A diver above the Lighthouse Reef near the Blue Hole in Belize

Is there anything else included in the dive tour?

While there isn’t much to see in the way of life inside the Blue Hole itself, boat trips from Caye Caulker will include two other shallow dives on the larger Barrier Reef Reserve System - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The second and third dives are pure coral dives at Lighthouse Reef and Half Moon Caye, which are probably some of the best dive sites in Belize to see a diversity of marine life.

When you take the extra dives, the provided food, and a knowledgeable guide into account, the Blue Hole boat trips are definitely worth the time and cost.

Planning a trip to Belize? Read our Belize travel tips.

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 28 April 2024

A small islet in the Carribean Sea in Belize


Belize is a Central American country known for its diverse culture, rich history and stunning natural scenery