Best Snorkeling Central America: Where to Go and What to See

best snorkeling central america
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Exploring the world, country by country, allows you to experience new cultures and stunning landscapes that you might not see at home. 

The underwater world can be just as diverse and breathtaking with new species and environments to discover in each new place you visit.

If you’re thinking about visiting Central America, then you may be wondering where the best snorkeling Central America spots are. 

You’re in luck since Central America is a mecca for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts alike, with many different places that are well worth a visit.

Best Snorkeling Central America

Central America is bordered by Mexico to the west and Columbia to the east and consists of seven different countries. 

These countries offer access to the Caribbean Sea on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west and south coasts. 

This gives visitors plenty of variety when it comes to snorkeling experiences, including a massive variation in the water temperature!

Our favorite snorkeling spots, in no particular order, are in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica, and if you have the time, you can easily visit them all in one trip.

Central America is home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef, after Australia, which runs along 600 miles of coastline in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. 

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that these countries are hugely popular snorkeling locations with an estimated 500 species of fish to discover. 

It’s not uncommon to see sharks, rays, turtles, and manatees, and this reef is also home to over 30 different species of soft coral and around 70 hard coral species.

1. Belize

The coast itself isn’t that suited for snorkeling, so we recommend you take a boat out to the Ambergris Caye area.

Our favorite places to snorkel in Belize include Hol Chan Cut, Shark Ray Alley, which are easily accessible by a day trip from Caye Caulker. 

If you don’t mind a few hours sailing in open water, then the more distant Lighthouse Reef, home to the famous Blue Hole National Park, is a jaw-dropping location.

What You Can Expect to See

The coral is denser in some parts than others, but you’ll be impressed by a large amount of elkhorn coral covering the seabed. 

It is, of course, strictly forbidden to touch the coral, so often, you’ll have to swim around it as it touches the surface of the water.

There are a large number of brightly colored fish species to find here, including the Spanish Hogfish, French angelfish, and blue tang. 

The sandy seabed is where the stingrays and harmless nurse sharks swim, and along the drop-off, you’ll see moray eels and Horse-eyed jacks.

2. Honduras

When you visit Honduras, we recommend that you head over to Roatan for our favorite snorkeling spot, West Bay. 

If you’re not staying on this beach, then it’s not easy to park or find access to the beach since resorts mostly own it.

It’s simpler to take a taxi boat from West End. 

Once you’re there, walk to the west end of the beach, which is to the left as you’re looking at the ocean. 

This is where the reef is better, and it’s a shorter swim to the drop-off.

If you need fins to get you there faster, then you can check out our list of some of the best travel fins.

What You Can Expect to See

Sergeant major fish and sea chubs will greet you almost as soon as you step into the water as they often get fed here.

Parrotfish, sturgeon fish, and butterflyfish can be found living in the coral around ten meters from shore. 

Carry on out to discover the fantastic drop off which is covered with fans and visibility is excellent thanks to the complete lack of waves. 

Spot the butterflyfish and parrotfish that parade around in pairs, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also see barred hamlet and a royal gramma.

The French and grey angelfish, as well as the stunning queen angelfish, can be spotted here. 

The small black rock cliff signals the far end of the beach, and it is here that you have the best chance of spotting sea turtles.

3. Costa Rica

Costa Rica allows access to two entirely different ecosystems made up of the coral reefs in the Caribean and the rocky Pacific coast. 

Our favorite snorkeling spot in Costa Rica is on the Pacific Coast, although the ocean on this side can be a lot more temperamental and popular with surfers.

Playa Manuel Antonio, near Quepos, while an idyllically calm bay for swimming, can have very poor visibility sometimes, especially after rain. 

It is famous for sport fishing but if you prefer to look at the fish instead of catching and eating them then it's still well worth a visit. 

Head to the right-hand side of the beach, as you’re looking at the ocean, and swim out to the rocks.

What You Can Expect to See

Massive schools of surgeonfish can be spotted here, which is a really great experience to be surrounded by so many fish. 

You'll also see two butterflyfish species: the black nosed and the colorful three-banded butterflyfish, as well as two angelfish species: the Cortez and king angelfish.

You’ll also see Cortez rainbow wrasse which is one of the ocean's most colorful fish. 

Blowfish can also be spotted hiding away every time you make a sudden movement.

Between December and May, you might also be lucky enough to spot a manta ray or two. 

Other times of the year bring turtles and reef sharks too.

Two Oceans in One Trip

The best snorkeling Central America has to offer is, for us, in Honduras. 

It’s also a bit more affordable than Belize and Costa Rica, which means you’ll be able to go on more boat trips on your visit. 

If you’re fortunate, then you’ll be in Honduras at the right time to snorkel with whale sharks!

The main season runs from March to April and October to November, although you can also spot them in groups from June to September. 

If whale sharks are high on your bucket list, then we suggest you plan a trip during those months to join the migration of whale shark spotters.

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