Belize is welcoming travelers again, with a Tourism Gold Standard program in place designed to keep you safe and recognized as one of the top in the world. See our Health & Safety page for up-to-date details related to COVID-19 vaccinations, testing requirements and everything else you need to know in order to have the Belize vacation of your dreams.
Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Sites
Hugging the coast of Belize, the Belize Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second-largest in the world. Part of the Mesoamerican Reef, it is also one of the best protected. Azure blue waters teeming with wildlife and vibrant coral attract visitors worldwide and inspire conservation of its precious ecosystems. Acclaimed English naturalist Charles Darwin called it “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.”
SEASCAPES & WILDLIFE
The reef itself has a breathtaking array of scenic seascapes and dazzlingly colorful flora and fauna, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling, swimming, diving, fishing, and exploring. In and around the reef system, over 400 sand and mangrove cayes (pronounced “keys”) are home to an impressive array of migratory and native birds, including several unique bird colonies. On land, enjoy postcard-perfect beaches and nature trails leading you into the protected coastal habitats home to elusive animals like jaguars, coatimundis, tapirs, and ocelots.
PROTECT & SUSTAIN
While each site is protected for the enjoyment of all, it is vital to be a responsible visitor when you enjoy the wonders of the Belize Barrier Reef. These protected areas are not just beautiful, but they are also fragile and well-balanced ecosystems. Many are home to endangered species, sensitive wildlife, and critical habitats that also act as natural barriers to the impacts of climate change. They all sustain Belize’s economy and protect its people. See our responsible visitation guidelines before visiting so you can do your part to protect the Belize Barrier Reef for future generations to enjoy.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE DESIGNATION
The Belize Barrier Reef was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 for its size, array of reef types, pristine environment, and outstanding universal value. There are seven marine protected areas within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site, including the world-famous Great Blue Hole. But, there is more to the World Heritage Site than just seascapes. It is also home to hundreds of varieties of animals and plants, including countless kinds of fish, dozens of types of coral, and many threatened species like the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle, the vulnerable West Indian Manatee, and the American Marine Crocodile. The system also conserves offshore atolls, several hundred sand cayes, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and estuaries. The protected areas also showcase prime examples of how corals have evolved and feature fringing, barrier, faro, patch, and atoll reef types. The reef is also central to Belize’s economy. It provides continuous protection to the country’s coastline from storms and other natural disasters.
Each of the seven marine protected areas within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site was individually selected for its biodiversity, thriving ecosystems, unique geological formations, and natural beauty. Wonders abound in each area: visitors can dive into ancient underwater caves, snorkel with schools of fish, spot sharks, and relax in nature, depending on their chosen destination.
Together, these seven sites not only encapsulate the beauty and singularity of Belize’s marine assets, but they also underscore the role the entire reef plays in supporting Belize’s thriving tourism and fishing industries. They also ensure this valuable resource is protected for future generations of Belizeans and visitors alike to enjoy.
Laughing Bird Caye
The picture of relaxation, the unspoiled Laughing Bird Caye National Park, is where many Belizeans go to unplug and enjoy…