The cayes (pronounced "keys") are series of small islands strung along the length of the Belize Barrier Reef, set amidst waters that are at once crystal clear and brilliantly turquoise. Seen firsthand, there's something truly mesmerizing and almost unbelievable about the clarity and color of this water. But as they say around here: "You betta Belize it."
With the reef providing protection from the open ocean, the cayes are literally islands of tranquillity in a calm blue sea. Aside from sunbathing and slow strolling, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing are the main attractions in the cayes. They are all world class. From the bustling miniresorts of Ambergris Caye to the funky Rastafarian charm of tiny Caye Caulker to the deserted-isle feel of the Turneffe Islands and Lighthouse Reef atolls, it's the idyllic combination of sun and sea, as well as adventure and relaxation, that attract and captivate most visitors to Belize. Most of the cayes are small enough to walk from one end to the other in under 20 minutes. On others, it won't take you nearly as long.
Jacques Cousteau put Belize on the diving map back in 1971, with his explorations of the Blue Hole. The country has almost 322km (200 miles) of continuous barrier reefs and visibility of up to 61m (200 ft.) on some days. It's hard to open a diving magazine without finding an article on diving in Belize. For those sticking a little closer to the surface, the snorkeling is just as rewarding, with Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark-Ray Alley considered two of the best snorkeling experiences on the planet.
On the plentiful flats found inside the reefs and up in nearby estuaries, anglers find action with tarpon, snook, permit, and feisty bonefish. There's more tarpon as well as giant snapper and grouper found along the reefs, while out on the open ocean the tackle and game get bigger, with marlin, sailfish, tuna, and wahoo as the principal prey.