At the heart of a marine reserve since 1987, this spot is (of all the easily accessible ones) among the finest in Belize. In and around the pass, moray eels, green turtles, nurse sharks and stingrays glide their way through hundreds of horse-eye jacks and elkhorn coral in perfect condition. If you stay in San Pedro or Caye Caulker, don’t leave without a visit to the spot, which is almost always combined with a visit to Shark Ray Alley.

How to get there?

Hol Chan Cut can only be visited during organized excursions accompanied by a guide. Most excursions (2 hours 30 minutes) generally include a stop at Shark Ray Alley and leave from San Pedro (Ambergris Caye). It takes 5 to 10 minutes to get there by boat and costs $45 per person (including a $10 entrance fee for the reserve). A dozen tour organizers and diving clubs share the market and organize morning and afternoon departures every day. Some tour organizers in Caye Caulker also include this excursion in their package deal (20 minutes by boat). It is easy to reach San Pedro or Caye Caulker from Belize City: several watertaxi companies run 10 to 20 trips a day in each direction.

School of horse-eye jacks at Hol Chan Cut

Water entrance

You enter the water directly from the boat. The spot is permanently supervised by reserve guards and your tour organizer will go with you and guide you in the water. Follow his instructions.

Hol Chan Cut snorkeling map, Belize

Exploration

This spot is made up of a relatively deep pass (↕20-25ft/6-8m), carved out in a coastal bench with a lower water level (↕3-10ft/1-3m). The area around the pass is the most spectacular. The coral overlooks a sandy seabed where stingray and nurse sharks swim. Along the reef drop-off, it is not unusual to come across fine specimens of green moray eels, which are used to being fed by divers. Horse-eyed jacks, forming shoals of several hundred fish, take up their home in the waters. If you free dive, you can ask your guide to show you the small rocky arch (↕12ft/4m), which is easy to pass through, and where dozens of big grunts hide out.

Green moray eel at Hol Chan Cut

Around the pass, the water is less deep and the coral is denser. In places, the seabed is covered with impressive elkhorn coral beds, touching the surface of the water. The coral here (known as “reef builders”) is vital to life in the reefs and is fragile and strictly protected, so you mustn’t touch it. Among the most colorful fish you should come across at the spot are, among dozens of other species, blue tang, Spanish hogfish and the elegant French angelfish.

Elkhorn coral at Hol Chan Cut

At some periods of the year, green turtles visit the seagrass beds around the boat mooring area (↕6-10ft/2-3m). This is also the place where you will have the best chance of seeing a southern stingray or a spotted eagle ray.

Since this is a guided visit, follow the instructions of your guide about the areas to avoid (the passes, opening onto the ocean, are often swept by strong currents). The spot is very popular with divers and snorkelers, so keep an eye out for other swimmers all the time.

Restaurants & accommodation

The snorkeling spot is on a barrier reef, facing Ambergris Caye, some 1 mile from shore. Most excursions included water and pieces of fruit as refreshments.



Species you may spot while snorkeling Hol Chan Cut
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum  
Southern stingray Dasyatis americana  
Spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari  
Green moray Gymnothorax funebris  
French angelfish Pomacanthus paru  
Great barracuda Sphyraena barracuda  
Yellowtail blue snapper Paracaesio xanthura  
Schoolmaster snapper Lutjanus apodus  
Horse-eye jack Caranx latus  
Spanish hogfish Bodianus rufus  
Hogfish Lachnolaimus maximus  
Bluestriped grunt Haemulon sciurus  
Queen triggerfish Balistes vetula  
Snubnose pompano Trachinotus blochii  
Spot-fin porcupinefish Diodon hystrix  
Sergeant major Abudefduf saxatilis  
Bermuda chub Kyphosus sectatrix  
Elkhorn coral Acropora palmata  
Bluehead wrasse Thalassoma bifasciatum  
Rainbow parrotfish Scarus guacamaia  

 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaHol Chan Marine Reserve
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m on the reef, 25ft/7.5m in the channel
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • Potential DangersUsual precautions
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsMarine reserve entrance fee ($10 pp.) + snorkeling tour price (approx. $35 pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.