Where to Go Kayaking and Canoeing in Belize

Belize sea kayaking in Glovers Reef
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Belize is a beautiful nature-based destination to go kayaking and canoeing. In the mainland, canoe trips reign supreme as most of the rivers meander gently through the Belizean jungle, allowing for seclusion in nature with plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities on the river banks.

As you move east to the Caribbean Sea, the best way to explore the coast is by kayak, allowing for easy maneuvering around the many Belizean cayes and atolls. Cradled by the Belize Barrier Reef, these islands are surrounded by calm waters, allowing for sea kayaking to be accessible to people of all ages.

Best Kayaking and Canoeing in Belize

Whether you choose to explore Belize by canoe or kayak, I suggest you seek out the 8 destinations listed below. I’ve included a mix of offshore atolls that are primarily sought out for off-the-beaten-path adventures and popular tourist spots that are easily accessible by most visitors.

1. Glover’s Reef Atoll

kayaking in belize

Glover’s Reef is the quintessential destination for kayaking in Belize. Comprised of five cayes and home to the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, the atoll is known for its stunning natural beauty and biodiversity. Sitting right next to the barrier reef, 27 miles off the coast of Southern Belize, outfitters such as Island Expeditions offer kayaking expeditions to eco-tourists looking for a remote adventure filled with watersport activities.

2. Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Half Moon Caye is a part of Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Located about 50 miles off the coast of Central Belize, Lighthouse Reef is another ideal destination for kayaking enthusiasts. Primarily known as the home of the famous Great Blue Hole, the atoll boasts six cayes, vibrant coral reefs, and crystal clear waters with diverse marine life. Due to its remote distance, most people visit Lighthouse Reef for diving and snorkeling day tours, however, similar to Glover’s Reef, travelers can seek out kayaking trips to stay overnight.

3. Turneffe Atoll

Aerial view of Turneffe Flats Resort at Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Just 20 miles off the coast of Central Belize lies Turneffe Atoll, the largest of Belize’s three atolls. Offering pristine cayes, coral gardens and an intricate network of mangrove channels and lagoons, it promises endless exploration opportunities kayakers. And unlike its siblings, accommodations aren’t as rugged there since it’s the most developed atoll in Belize. You can find top high-end fishing and diving resorts that offer free kayak rentals or guided tours to explore the area.

4. Ambergris Caye

Rainbow after rain. The Palapa Bar in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is Belize’s most popular destination, in particular, its main settlement: San Pedro Town. It is known for luxury resorts, excellent restaurants, and a nightlife scene that is unmatched elsewhere in Belize. The barrier reef is less than a mile away and most tourists venture out on diving and snorkeling tours, however, kayaks are a great way to explore the beautiful crystal-clear waters that surround the island. Kayaking from the shore to the reef and back or within the San Pedro Lagoon are popular options.

5. Caye Caulker

Colinda Cabanas in Caye Caulker, Belize

Just 30 minutes south of Ambergris Caye lies Caye Caulker, a destination known for its hip, laid-back vibe. The nearby reef remains the main draw to the small island, with the added bonus of having more affordable things to do, including cheaper accommodations. Popular kayaking options include exploring the calm waters that surround the island and going to the reef and back. Be careful as to not go past the reef where you can experience strong currents and waves.

6. San Ignacio

Macal River canoeing in San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize

Serving as a hub for eco-tourism in western Belize, San Ignacio is a great base for canoeing adventures. Canoe trips include exploring the Macal and Mopan Rivers, where nature lovers can immerse themselves in a peaceful jungle experience. Additionally, there is cave canoeing at Barton Creek, which allows visitors to travel by canoe into a sacred cave to witness remarkable cave formations, ancient Maya pottery, and human sacrificial remains.

7. Hopkins

Aerial view of Hopkins

Known for its laid-back vibe and vibrant Garifuna culture, the seaside village of Hopkins in Southern Belize provides a mix of sea kayaking and canoeing experiences. Popular options include sea kayaking off the shore and canoeing the nearby Sittee River, which is slow flowing and teeming with wildlife. However, another option includes venturing to the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, known for its rich biodiversity.

8. Placencia

Beach area in front of Tipsy Tuna Bar in Placencia

Just south of Hopkins lies Placencia, another popular coastal destination in Southern Belize. It is known for beautiful beaches, luxury resorts and amazing diving and snorkeling tours to explore the nearby southern reef and cayes. Kayaks can also be used to explore the reef and cayes but since it’s further out, it is easier to kayak around Placencia or the Placencia Lagoon, which is filled with mangroves and wildlife spotting opportunities.


What do you think of the places mentioned above? And let me know if I missed any of your favourites since I plan to add more places with time.

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