Guide to Turneffe Atoll

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Aerial view of Turneffe Flats Resort at Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Belize’s largest and northernmost atoll, Turneffe is known as a premier diving and fishing destination. As a part of the Belize Barrier Reef, it is near many top dive sites and the diverse ecosystem offers fly fishermen the unique opportunity of a “grand slam”.

On this page
About Turneffe Atoll
Things to Do
Where to Stay
Best Time to Visit
Getting Here & Around

About Turneffe

Map of Belize's three atolls

Located 20 miles (32 km) off the coast of Belize City, Turneffe Atoll is the largest coral atoll in Belize measuring approx 30 miles long (48.3 km) by 10 miles wide (16.1 km). It’s a popular destination for marine-based activities – its proximity to colorful reefs in clear water, world-class dive sites, and incredible sportfishing draws visitors from around the world.

The atoll is a part of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, which was established in November 2012 by the Government of Belize. The reserve includes the atoll and surrounding open sea, totalling a protected area of approximately 131,690 hectares (325,412 acres), making Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve the largest marine reserve in Belize.

Things to Do in Turneffe

fishing at turneffe atoll

Turneffe Atoll is often sought out by divers on day trips from Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. Its shallow, clear waters provide sheltered snorkeling opportunities, whilst the deeper reef walls attract divers from around the world. The Elbow, for example, has stunning drop-offs and dramatic reef formations.

However, some travelers prefer staying at Turneffe to have quick access to its attractions, along with being near Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Turneffe is also a saltwater fly fishing destination, offering fishermen the opportunity for a “Grand Slam” – catching bonefish, permit and tarpon in a single day. Birders are also in for a treat! Over 60 different species of birds have been identified in Turneffe Atoll, many of which can only be spotted there.

Top Things to Do in Turneffe Atoll

  1. Dive or snorkel at Turneffe Atoll
  2. Visit nearby Lighthouse Reef Atoll
  3. Test your fly-fishing skills by going after a “Grand Slam
  4. Go on a multi-island birding adventure across the atoll
  5. Spend your days relaxing on hammocks and staring at starry night skies in the evenings

Where to Stay in Turneffe

Belize Dive Haven Resort at Turneffe Atoll

For travelers that wish to have a luxurious stay on Turneffe Atoll, there is good news. Unlike the other secluded atolls of Glover’s Reef and Lighthouse Reef, the accommodations aren’t as rugged at Turneffe since it is the most developed atoll in Belize. Top high-end diving and fishing resorts include the Belize Dive Haven Resort, Turneffe Island Resort, and Turneffe Flats.

Best Time to Visit Turneffe

Turneffe Island Resort

The best time to stay at Turneffe Atoll is from January to April, which is during Belize’s dry season. At this time, you can expect sunny days and clear blue skies.

If you choose to visit the atoll after January to April, it’s best to go between May to August. Anytime after that, there’s a chance that your vacation can be ruined by a cold front or tropical storm, which occur during Belize’s wet season.

Vacationing in Belize during the rainy season is fine but since Turneffe is remote and secluded, I advise against staying there. If you get caught there during a week of rain you’ll likely have to remain indoors for the entire time.

Getting to Turneffe

Since Turneffe is a remote and sparsely populated atoll off the coast of mainland Belize, the only way to get there is by a chartered boat or plane/ helicopter. From Belize City, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to get to Turneffe by boat and about 20 minutes by plane or helicopter.

It is important to note that transportation to Turneffe is usually provided by the hotel that you are staying at or by your tour operator if you’re on a diving/snorkeling day trip.

To get around, you can walk, kayak or take a chartered boat.

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