Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve

Ambergris Caye

At the northern tip of Ambergris Caye, Bacalar Chico is a Unesco World Heritage Site made up of 41 sq miles of protected land and sea, accessible only via an hour-long boat ride from San Pedro. Upon arrival, visitors check in at the San Juan ranger station, where there is a small museum showcasing Mayan artifacts and 11 miles of nature trails. Although sightings are infrequent, the area is home to crocodiles, white-tail deer, ocelots, pumas and jaguars.

Back on the water, tour boats make snorkeling stops and motor through an ancient channel that was dug by seafaring Maya about 1500 years ago. Today the narrow channel separates Ambergris Caye from the Mexican mainland.

The coral is extra colorful around the reserve, as there is significantly less damage from boats and tourists. Besides the bountiful fish, there's a chance of seeing manatees, as well as green and loggerhead turtles. If the waters are calm, some tour boats go to Rocky Point, notable as one of the only places in the world where land meets reef.

The return trip hugs the east side of the island, and some boats make a final snorkeling stop at Mexico Rocks. Not all tour operators run trips to Bacalar Chico, due to the long travel distance, but Seaduced by Belize and Searious Adventures are two reliable options.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ambergris Caye attractions

1. Mexico Rocks

14.05 MILES

This snorkeling site, 15 minutes from San Pedro and with a maximum depth of just 8ft, is a unique patch reef towards the northern end of the island…

2. Boca del Rio

18.07 MILES

The underwater terrain at Boca del Rio, a half-mile northeast of San Pedro, is a spur-and-groove system, featuring rolling coral hills and sandy channels…

3. Tres Cocos

18.49 MILES

The dive site is a bit deeper than most around San Pedro, with coral heads rising up to 50ft and a wall with spurs that spill out from 90ft to 120ft, but…

4. Esmeralda

18.83 MILES

Right in front of the town school, this 50ft to 75ft dive features a spectacular series of deep canyons covered with flourishing soft corals. There is an…

5. Catholic Church

18.91 MILES

San Pedro's modern Catholic church has a central location on the waterside and is a local landmark.

6. House of Culture

18.98 MILES

Find out more about the fascinating culture found in San Pedro at this cultural center near the football field. Frequently changing displays celebrate…

7. Tackle Box Canyons

19.29 MILES

About a mile offshore from downtown San Pedro, this great site offers big, steep coral grooves. There are swim-throughs in many places along the drop-off…

8. Tuffy Canyons

20.67 MILES

About 1.6 miles south of San Pedro, this dive site is marked by deep grooves and a long, narrow tunnel. This high-walled passage leads to an opening at…