Sea Kayaking In Belize

Kayak southern Belize
Sea kayaks at Belizean beach.

Tropical sea kayaking in Belize is an experience you won’t want to miss – whether you are new to the sport and have always wanted to try it, or a seasoned paddler with many miles under your belt. The protection of the Belize Barrier Reef and Atolls along with relatively shallow inshore waters provides one of the best places in the world for sea kayaking.  This recreational sport has seen and increase with the rise of the Belize Ruta Maya Canoe Race. Belize offers crystal clear waters, thousands of coral reefs, abundant and varied marine life, camping on remote tropical cayes, and balmy evenings under the stars. Water temperatures range from 78F – 82F year-round.

In Belize, sea kayaking is much more than paddling – when the trade winds blow, your kayak is light, responsive, and great fun under sail. Also, you can snorkel from your kayaks, exploring a fantastic underwater world rich with color and life. Sea kayaking also acts as a cultural bridge with the conch and lobster divers who live from the sea, many of whom still ply their trade in small sailboats and dugouts. Of recent Placencia Village has become the unofficial headquarters of Belize kayaking. Almost every hotel and resort in the peninsula has kayaks available for their guests.

The Belize Barrier Reef – Extending north to south for 180 miles, the Barrier Reef offshore of the Belize mainland is considered the most diverse section of the entire Mesoamerican Reef system. It is unmatched for snorkeling, sea kayaking and diving, with an incredible diversity of corals and an abundance of tropical fish.  Sheltered behind this living reef, small cayes (islands) of coral-sand form, and mangroves thrive in the sheltered lagoons. The mangrove’s submerged roots trap sediments, which create important habitat for juvenile fish, countless marine invertebrates and a rich array of seabirds.

Diving at the Belize Barrier Reef.
Diving at the Belize Barrier Reef.

Glover’s Reef Atoll  – Glover’s Reef Atoll is one of the richest marine environment in the entire Caribbean Sea.  It was named after 17th century pirate John Glover, who used the area as a base from which to raid Spanish merchant ships laden with riches plundered from the New World. One of only three atolls off the coast of Belize, today this protected marine reserve is renowned for their profusion of marine life and its remarkably clear turquoise waters.  Glover’s Reef is located almost 40 miles offshore of the Belize mainland, an elliptical shaped reef measuring 20 miles long by 7 miles wide.  Within Glover’s Reef is a shallow lagoon with over 700 patch reef.  The reef wall drops precipitously 2600 feet to the sea floor just a mile from the eastern edge of the atoll. The interaction between the open waters of the Caribbean Sea and the sheltered lagoon of the atoll results in a diversity and abundance of marine life which is unsurpassed for sea kayaking, snorkeling, and diving.

Glover's Reef Atoll in Belize.
Glover’s Reef Atoll in Belize.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll – Lighthouse Reef, the most remote of all the atolls in Belize remains wild and unspoiled. The atoll is 55 miles offshore of the mainland, runs 28 miles from north to south and varies in width from 2 to 6 miles. The coral reefs contained within the atoll’s lagoon, harbor a remarkable 200 species of fish in a magical setting of changing reef types; including shallow reefs, ledges, shelves and drop offs. The Marine Reserve covers 10,000 acres and 15 square miles of surrounding sea.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize aerial view.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize aerial view.

Lighthouse Reef is home to 6 cayes (islands), an underwater marine trail, and two marine parks. At the center of the Reserve is Half Moon Caye – 45 acres of coconut palm, beaches and rare littoral forest which shelters a large nesting colony of red-footed boobies. The Half Moon Caye Protected area was the first-ever protected Marine Reserve established in the Caribbean, and is now the site of Island Expeditions’ sea kayaking and snorkeling Base camp.

Lighthouse Atoll has over 20 world-renowned dive and snorkel sites, including the Half Moon Wall and the Aquarium. The legendary Great Belize Blue Hole, made famous by explorer Jacques Cousteau, is just 8 miles north of Half Moon Caye. It is almost a perfectly circular hole, with a cave 1,000 feet in diameter and 400 feet deep.

Active learning paddling vacations are available in Southwater Caye Marine Reserve (Belize Barrier Reef), as well as Adventure Base camps on Southwest Caye (Glover’s Reef) and Half Moon Caye (Lighthouse Reef).   Several specialist tour operators run trips into the area which are suitable for all ability levels. They can also arrange self-guided trips for more experienced paddlers.