Headed to Central America and excited for a Great Blue Hole tour in Belize?! I’m sharing everything you need to know about this exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime experience! I recently flew over the Blue Hole from Caye Caulker, and it was downright breathtaking.
Flying over the Blue Hole in Belize is easily one of the most spectacular and scenic things I’ve experienced in my entire life. Imagine flying over the Belize Barrier Reef, full of beautiful atolls and all the blue-hued colors you can imagine in the Caribbean Sea. And of course the Great Blue Hole!
It’s honestly hard to put into words what it feels like flying over the Belize Barrier Reef, which is actually the second largest reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia of course).
It’s hard to accurately describe the Great Blue Hole. It’s an awe-inspiring geological formation renowned for its natural beauty and mysterious dark depths. An enchanting underwater world full of marine life and ancient geological formations. A spectacular natural wonder with its vibrant coral reefs and tropical turquoise hues. And it’s absolutely astonishing.
I’ve been seeing photos of the Blue Hole pop up for quite some time – since my first visit to Belize over 10 years ago! So when I booked my recent trip to Caye Caulker, I knew it was finally time to cross flying over the Blue Hole off my (never-ending) bucket list. And what an exceptional experience it was!
If you like scenic beauty, flying over the Blue Hole from Caye Caulker (or San Pedro) is one of the best things to do in the Belizean islands. From an aerial perspective, the Great Blue Hole and surrounding atolls are absolutely breathtaking, and I swear, photos and videos just don’t do the Blue Hole and surrounding barrier reef justice. It’s just one of those experiences you need to experience to believe.
I mean, The Discovery Channel even put the Great Blue Hole of Belize at NUMBER ONE on its list of “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth”. Sounds about right – just look at these photos! So keep on reading – I’m sharing everything you need to know to see this majestic and mesmerizing natural phenomenon from above.
Important FAQs about the Blue Hole in Belize
What is the Great Blue Hole of Belize?
The Great Blue Hole is a natural wonder located off the coast of Belize, a deep, dark blue circle surrounded by a ring of colorful corals and the most stunning shade of turquoise waters. And it’s absolutely spectacular.
Technically speaking, the Blue Hole in Belize is a giant marine sinkhole, kinda like an underwater cave. It’s a whopping ~1000 feet in diameter and over 400 feet deep, making it the largest blue hole in the entire world. It’s so large it’s even visible from space – easily identified by its circular formation and deep, dark blue waters within the Belize Barrier Reef.
What makes the Blue Hole so special is the insane amount of rare animal and plant life found within it – over 500 species to be exact! Including a bunch of sharks (like bull sharks, black tip reef sharks, nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and the elusive hammerhead shark), midnight parrot fish, and a ton of other fish.
What makes it so intriguing is the fact that it’s almost perfectly round, and a deep, deep blue color, due to the massive depth of the cave. The fact that the water of the surrounding reefs is pretty shallow means that this vivid turquoise color really pops against the deep blue of the ocean and blue hole.
This unique contrast makes the Blue Hole such an incredible spot to check out, and when you see it from above, it’s absolutely unreal. I squealed in excitement when the plane circled around it for the first time.
Where is the Great Blue Hole in Belize and How to Get There
The Blue Hole is located in the country of Belize, in the greater Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The Great Blue Hole is situated off the coast of Belize, approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Belize City in the mainland.
More specifically, you’ll find the Blue Hole in the center of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the easternmost part of the Belize Barrier Reef (and easily one of the most beautiful atolls in the Caribbean). That’s why there’s so much beautiful tropical turquoise water surrounding it. There’s three atolls over here, the other two being Turneffe Atoll and Glover’s Reef, but the Lighthouse Reef is far superior in my opinion. It’s got the Great Blue Hole after all!
The Great Blue Hole is located deep in the ocean, meaning you need to plan in advance to get there due to its remote location. You’ve essentially got 2 options to see the Blue Hole in Belize – via scenic flight (what I did with Tropic Air!), or by boat (if you’ll be diving/snorkeling).
- Blue Hole By Plane: This is the quickest way to see the Blue Hole, as it’s located only 20 minutes from Caye Caulker and San Pedro, with the whole scenic flight lasting about an hour
- Blue Hole By Boat: You’ll need to dedicate an entire day to see the Blue Hole by boat, since it’s about a 3-hour/2.5-hour boat ride from Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, respectively.
If you want to see the true magic of the Blue Hole (the coral reef and stunning turquoise waters surrounding the dark blue circle), then yup, you need to fly over it! Way more info below!
History and How the Blue Hole was Created/Discovered
Kinda wild that the Blue Hole just kinda exists out in nature nowadays, but it wasn’t always that way!
Creation of the Blue Hole: The Blue Hole in Belize was created as a result of a natural geological process that took place over thousands of years. It was formed way back during the last Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago…), when sea levels were way lower than they are today.
At that time, the area where the Blue Hole is located was a limestone cave system that was actually above sea level. Rainwater and acidic groundwater slowly dissolved the limestone, eventually creating underground caverns and tunnels.
As the sea level rose over time, the caves and tunnels filled with water, forming a sinkhole. The sinkhole eventually collapsed, creating a “vertical cave” in the ocean – which is the Blue Hole that we see and know today. The deep blue color of the water is due to its depth and the absence of sunlight that penetrates to the bottom.
Discovery of the Blue Hole: While the Blue Hole was formed over 10,000 years ago, it was just discovered some 50 years ago in 1971! Crazy how long natural formations are just sitting there without anyone knowing! The Blue Hole was found by a team of explorers led by the famous French oceanographer, filmmaker, and inventor Jacques Cousteau who were on a research expedition in Belize.
They were exploring the waters around the country when they heard rumors of a mysterious underwater sinkhole known as the Blue Hole.
Naturally, the team was intrigued and decided to investigate. They went diving in the area and discovered the stunning natural wonder that we now know as the Blue Hole.
Can you imagine being one of the first people to discover such an incredible underwater formation? The team was likely awestruck by the deep blue waters, the intricate coral formations, and the amazing array of marine life that called the Blue Hole home.
Cousteau and his team conducted several dives in the Blue Hole, which were documented in a television special called “The Forgotten Mermaids.” This special helped to put the Blue Hole on the map as a popular destination for divers and ocean enthusiasts.
Booking a Flight Over the Blue Hole from Caye Caulker
Okay, enough about the history and discovery! Time to book your own scenic flight over the Blue Hole in Belize!
There’s currently two major local airlines providing scenic flights over the Blue Hole and reef – Tropic Air and Maya Air. Both are reputable companies and have been flying for plenty of years.
I chose to fly with Tropic Air – they’re a super reputable and safety-conscious airline that’s been operating in Belize for over 40 years. The company adheres to strict safety standards and regulations, and their pilots are highly experienced and trained. Safety first, always!
Tropic Air is the largest carrier serving the region, carrying almost 300,000 passengers a year on a whopping 200+ flights a day.
I can’t personally vouch for Maya Air since I’ve never flown with them, but I can promise you Tropic Air was top notch (and I wholeheartedly recommend them!).
Where and when do the Great Blue Hole Belize scenic tours depart?
Blue Hole tours in Belize depart from three destinations in Belize:
- Caye Caulker (where I flew from)
- San Pedro in Ambergris Caye (an island a bit north of Caye Caulker)
- Belize City Municipal Airport on the mainland (note that this is not the international airport, but a smaller airport closer to the city)
These destinations are the closest and most convenient to get to the Great Blue Hole.
Tropic Air and Maya Air operate on opposite flight schedules, meaning that no matter when you visit, they’ll always be a flight with potential availability.
Tropic Air: Operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays (from San Pedro and Caye Caulker at 11am, from Municipal Airport at 10am). There’s an additional flight departing from San Pedro and Caye Caulker on Sundays at 1pm.
Check the current schedule for Tropic Air here!
Maya Air: Operates on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (from Belize City at 10am, Caye Caulker at 10:15am, and San Pedro at 10:30am)
I love that flights depart at optimal times in order to ensure the best views (with minimal reflections) of the Blue Hole and Belize Barrier Reef. My photos turned out amazing without any annoying glares (which sometimes happens) – the company totally knows what they’re doing!
Psst – you can also charter a plane if the scheduled flights are sold out, or you wanna be a baller and have a plane for yourself and your friends/family.
Note that the same flight may pick up passengers from multiple airports, but they’re not separate flights. The order of departure depends on bookings and other factors, but let’s say the plane is scheduled to leave first from San Pedro with a few passengers. It may then stop at Caye Caulker to pick up some more passengers before heading to the Great Blue Hole.
This means that you might make stops at different airports before reaching your final destination, but it’s all part of the same flight experience and doesn’t negatively affect the length of the scenic tour at all.
How many people fly together?
Tropic Air operates two different aircrafts – either a 3 seater or a 12 seater plane. The plane that’s used depends on how many people sign up. I had an entirely full flight on the 12-seater!
I highly recommend booking earlier than later because flights do fill up and there’s only a few per week. Plus, with only 11 available seats per flight, you don’t wanna wait until it’s too late. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Belize after all, and understandably so. Just look at those views! Book your scenic flight as soon as you know the dates you’ll be in Belize.
Book your flight on Tropic Air here! The scenic tour is technically a “one-way flight” from Caye Caulker to “Blue Hole Tour”, and you’ll need to book this as so. Don’t worry, you’ll get dropped off where you got picked up!
Blue Hole Scenic Flight Costs
A Blue Hole scenic flight from Caye Caulker, San Pedro, or Belize City isn’t the cheapest experience in the islands, and is far from budget-friendly. However, if you have some extra cash to spend and want to treat yourself, it’s definitely worth it! Typically, the cost ranges from $250-300 USD per person, and if you want to book the co-pilot seat, it’ll cost a little more.
What to Expect on a Scenic Flight Over the Blue Hole
Check-in and Boarding Your Flight
It’s all very straight forward, and way less exhausting then flying on your typical passenger plane. You’ll need to be at the airport about 30 minutes beforehand and show some form of ID, and then you’re free to hang out in the spankin-new Tropic Air lounge. I was given a plastic boarding pass which was so pretty and a great way to reduce paper waste on the island (which I greatly appreciated).
It all seemed so, so informal, and I absolutely loved it! I was even able to walk to the airport from my hotel in Caye Caulker (Weezie’s Oceanfront) – how wild is that?!
When the plane lands on the runway (which is literally right in front of the lounge waiting area), you’ll be escorted and instructed to walk up the few steps onto the plane. There was only one seat left so I unfortunately was unable to choose my seat, but seats are not assigned so if you happen to get on earlier, you can pick where you want to sit.
Take-Off and Flying over the Blue Hole and Belize Barrier Reef
Take-off was super smooth, and just like that we were floating up in the air above the turquoise waters and scenic beauty.
During the flight we saw the Belize Barrier Reef (the longest in the Western Hemisphere and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Half Moon Caye, and Turneffe Atoll. We even saw an abandoned ocean freighter shipwreck in the middle of the reef – kinda wild that it’s been sitting there for years!
Keep your eyes peeled on the reef as you might even see some marine life down there, like sharks, rays and manatees. I unfortunately didn’t see any but fingers crossed you will (take a snorkeling trip from Caye Caulker to Hol Chan and you’ll see plenty!).
Of course the main attraction was the Great Blue Hole in Lighthouse Reef Atoll, which literally took my breath away. I had waited years and years to see this natural phenomenon and I couldn’t believe I was finally there!
The pilot loops around the Blue Hole approximately 4-5 times per side, ensuring everyone gets the absolute best view possible. This means that everyone on the plane will have multiple opportunities to admire the incredible scenery without the need to lean or look over the other side of the plane. No need to worry – your turn to see the Great Blue Hole will definitely come!
At the very end of the flight I even got to see The Split on Caye Caulker which I totally wasn’t expecting. You bet I whipped out my camera right away for that photo.
Honestly, while seeing the Blue Hole from above was all kinds of spectacular, I enjoyed the other parts of the reef just as much (if not more…). I stared at all the turquoise hues and corals the entire 60 minutes. To say I was in awe is a complete understatement. I’ve never taken more stunning aerial photographs than I did above the Caribbean Sea in Belize!
After about an hour or so, we arrived back at Caye Caulker. For such a tiny plane, I thankfully found landing to be super smooth. Thank you, Tropic Air, for providing an excellent flight experience!
Other FAQs about Flying Over the Blue Hole
Is flying in a tiny plane scary? I didn’t think so, but everyone’s comfort level is wildly different! If you’ve never flown on a tiny 3 or 12-seater plane before, it can feel a little nerve-wracking and daunting for sure! Just know that the pilots fly these tiny planes every day (they’re also used as your typical transport planes as well, not just scenic flights), so rest assured – the pilots know what they’re doing.
Flying in a 12-seater plane (or 3-seater!) may feel different from flying in a larger commercial aircraft, but it’s generally not considered any more or less safe. And trust me – you’ll be all wide-eyed and in awe looking out the window at the views, so any anxiety, panic, or nerves will quicky fade and subside.
Where to sit for the best aerial views: Thankfully, every single seat on the plane (no matter the size) is a window seat – no middle seats here. Meaning picture-perfect views for everyone; no reaching over anyone or annoying your husband, haha.
I ended up sitting directly underneath the wing, which in all honesty made it a bit more difficult to take wide-angle photos of the landscape since my lens was constrained to a smaller space. However, I still got amazing photos as you can see!
Is the scenic flight worth the price? Flying over the Blue Hole with Tropic Air (or any company) is definitely not a cheap experience, but hey, well worth it to do it once in your life! It was by far one of my favorite things I did on my trip to Belize, right up there with snorkeling in Caye Caulker.
If you’re a sucker for scenic views and love the reefs like I do, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s really a spectacular experience.
How long is the flight? The Great Blue Hole scenic flight lasts a total of 60 minutes, from plane up to plane down. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the Blue Hole, we circled around for about 15 minutes or so, and then 20 minutes to get back. But remember, you get views for days the entire flight!
Blue Hole Scenic Flight vs. Scuba Diving vs. Snorkeling
First of all, you gotta decide if you wanna see the Blue Hole from above, or actually get into it. If you wanna see the Great Blue Hole in all its glory, you 100% wanna see it from above. By diving/snorkeling, you won’t get that aerial view needed to actually appreciate what makes the blue hole so fascinating.
Naturally, I wanted the aerial view (…and I don’t dive), so I opted for the scenic flight over the reefs and Blue Hole.
But I completely understand others have different experiences on their bucket lists, so I’m sharing a bit of information on other Blue Hole options!
Scuba Diving in the Blue Hole
Scuba diving in the Blue Hole is easily a once-in-a-lifetime experience for divers, and definitely has its place on plenty of diving bucket lists.
Divers can swim along the walls 124 meters to the ground and explore the stalagmites.
When you scuba dive in the Blue Hole, you’ll descend to a depth of around 130 feet (40 meters) and enter a world unlike any other. However, it’s crazy dark down there, so unfortunately you probably won’t see as much sealife as you will in the corals surrounding the Blue Hole. Just keeping it real!
There is some truly impressive marine life down there though, including schools of reef sharks (which are a common sight), and you might also spot rays, barracuda, and even the occasional hammerhead shark! That’s a no thanks for me, haha.
That being said, scuba diving in the Blue Hole is not for the faint of heart. The dive is considered an advanced dive due to its depth and the potential for strong currents. You’ll want to be a confident and experienced diver to take on this challenge, and it’s always a good idea to dive with a reputable guide or tour company, like Frenchie’s Diving Services or Blue Wave Divers – two of the most popular dive companies on Caye Caulker.
Snorkeling in the Blue Hole
Can you snorkel in the blue hole? Yes, but there’s not really any point in doing so. Why? The marine life in the Great Blue Hole is found deep underwater, making it much more of a diving spot. Unfortunately, turtles, sharks, and even eagle rays are typically easier to spot in the deeper water. There honestly won’t be much to see at the surface.
Really have your heart set on snorkeling the Great Blue Hole? Make sure you’re experienced and confident in the open ocean, as the water in the Blue Hole is super deep – at almost 400 feet!
Hope this gives you some personal insight into my Belize Blue Hole scenic flight from Caye Caulker with Tropic Air. I highly recommend this experience to whoever’s wishing to see the reef and Blue Hole from above – it was absolutely mind blowing and I’d gladly fly again.
Special thanks to Tropic Air for such a spectacular morning flying above the greater Belize Barrier Reef and Blue Hole! All gasps and high-pitched squeals my own, haha.
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