The Belize Barrier Reef and Ambergris Caye Beaches
Stretching the length of Belize’s coastline is the Belize Barrier Reef. This 170+ miles is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. It is the largest reef in the Northern hemisphere. Vacations on Ambergris Caye are within easy access to spectacular snorkeling and diving. At it's furthest distance from Ambergris Caye, the reef is about a half-mile offshore. As you go north, the reef gets closer, and in the northern area of Rocky Point, the reef joins the island. The close location of the coral reef is in direct correlation to Ambergris Caye beaches.
How Does the Reef Affect the Beach?
A barrier reef grows very close to the surface and protects the shoreline from big waves. The reef acts as a natural breakwater. Waves from the open sea break over the reef and lose energy, instead of crashing into the shore. The result at our beach is calm, shallow water, with a deeper channel closer to the reef.
What is the Water Near the Beach Like?
The calm, shallow water near the shoreline is an important marine ecosystem. It acts as a nursery for juvenile marine creatures, who then stun as adults on the reef. The eye-candy of colorful fishes seen while snorkeling or diving relies on this area for their early life stages. Often present in patches in this shallow water is a marine plant called turtle grass. The flat grass-like leaves can grow up to two-feet tall, but the common length in our area is about 6-10 inches long. As the name suggests, it provides an essential food source to sea turtles. Other high-profile critters like manatees, conch, and lobsters also feed on turtle grass. Another important role that this plant plays is to hold the sand in place. Drifting sand can settle over the reef, which would block sunlight and damage the coral colonies. Many fish species also use the grass beds as nurseries, hiding among the protective leaves. This somewhat overlooked ecosystem is diverse and productive. With some patience and a keen eye, you can see quite a lot while snorkeling around it. Stingrays are also known to glide by and are easy to see from the docks.
Swimming at Ambergris Caye Beaches
Swimming is a popular activity on the island. What better way to beat the tropical heat than by swimming in the Caribbean Sea. The beaches of Ambergris Caye are swimmable, though many prefer to jump into deeper water. At Sandy Point Resorts, all our resorts have piers with stairs into the water. This provides easy access to deeper water for swimming. If you prefer a pool setting, we have that too! Each resort boasts gorgeous pools with sea views. Note that there are no lifeguards on duty at either the pools or on the beach, swim at your own risk.
The Beach at Sandy Point Resorts
As mentioned, the reef gets closer to the island as you go north. All our resorts are north of San Pedro Town. The resorts Belizean Cove Estates, Coco Beach Resort, and Belizean Shores Resort, are nearby each other. The water is shallow for quite a way out and is very calm. Each resort has its own sandy waterfront, as pictured below. Belizean Shores has a spacious dock with a hammock platform. X’tan Ha Resort has one of the best beaches on the island. A vacation here gives you access to an idyllic stretch of sandy beach complete with beach loungers and colorful umbrellas. The bar is on the dock, giving you the best views of the sea. All our resorts offer complimentary SUP boards and kayaks. This offers another way to explore the shoreline. Both Belizean Shores and X'tan Ha have over-the-water trampolines for kids of all ages.
There are other beaches on the island as well, one of the most popular is Secret Beach. Located on the lee side of the island, it is fast becoming a favorite beach hangout for locals and visitors. Click here to read more about, as well as some other island hot spots. Looking for info on the other beaches of Belize? Click here for the 5 Best Beaches in Belize. While we do not have a traditional walk-in beach, the Belize Barrier Reef offers unlimited adventure. Calm, shallow waters and magnificent views of turquoise waves on the reef set Ambergris Caye beaches apart. Come and experience it for yourself!