Unbiased Scuba Vacation Reviews

Belize

Belize has a large barrier reef off shore with many islands that offer good scuba diving. Islands range from very private and sleepy outer atolls to the much busier Ambergris Cay. Diving here is good year round with a higher risk of choppy weather during the winter months.

The better diving is on the less visited outer atolls.

Huracan Diving Belize November 2015

This was our 4th visit to Huracan Diving in Belize.  Obviously we like the place!   The diving is excellent, however, there is signs of distress this year on the reef.  A disease has hit some of the large sponges and it is killing the sponge.  Lighthouse reef still has lots of large groupers, sharks, spotted eagle rays and this year we were treated to a dive with 6 dolphins who swam back and forth for about 20 minutes.

I will keep this review short as there is plenty of info on Huracan on the other reviews.  As usual, the management and staff at Huracan did an excellent job.  Overtime we go there are a few new improvements.  The rooms now have a curtain divider between the bathroom and the bedroom.  The dive shop has moved back to the main building/hotel.  The food is still excellent and this is amazing considering how difficult it is to get food out to the island.

This year we had some more very hard rains at night.  Very little to no rain during the day.  Weather was good considering this was November/December which is known as being a time where the seas can be a bit rough.  The ride out was rough and the first 2 days had some strong winds and this stirred up the vis a bit.  The visibility varied from 30 feet to 80 feet depending on the day and the dive site.  Overall it was good considering this is probably the worst time to go.  Summer is hot and dry with no rain, excellent vis and you will have mosquitos.  November will have lots of rain and no mosquitos and some varied vis.  Remember this island uses rain water for showers and such so rain is good……

 

file clam with Huracan Diving Belize

file clam with Huracan Diving Belize

Gaudy Clown Crab with Huracan Diving Belize

Gaudy Clown Crab with Huracan Diving Belize

Goby on Coral with Huracan Diving in Belize

Goby on Coral with Huracan Diving in Belize

Arrow Goby with Huracan Diving Belize

Arrow Goby with Huracan Diving Belize

Reef Shark with Huracan Diving Belize

Reef Shark with Huracan Diving Belize

Blue Hole with Huracan Diving Belize

Blue Hole with Huracan Diving Belize

Top of Blue Hole with Huracan Diving Belize

Top of Blue Hole with Huracan Diving Belize

Hermit with Huracan Diving Belize

Hermit with Huracan Diving Belize

BEL_4883

Reef scene on Light House Reef with Huracan Diving

BEL_4856

Reef scene on Light House Reef with Huracan Diving

BEL_4834

Royal Gramma with Huracan Diving Belize

BEL_4833

Goby

BEL_4827

Goby on Coral Light House Reef Belize with Huracan Diving

BEL_4822

Very small Neck Crab / Decorator Crab on sponge Belize

BEL_4813

Adult neck crab on soft coral. Huracan Diving Belize

BEL_4809

Goby on Coral, Huracan Diving Belize

Hurracan Diving, Long Caye Belize December 2014

RAC_3536

Turtle at Half Moon Caye Belize

This is my third trip to Huracan Diving in 18 months.  This alone speaks volumes about how I feel about this scuba resort.  I rate this spot as one of the best if not the best locations in the Caribbean.  On the world scale it would rate a 5 or 6 out of 10, as the Caribbean is never as good as some of the top spots in Asia.

But I reside on the east coast of the USA and Belize is a very easy destination to get to.  If you want top notch diving in the Caribbean with very small groups and uncrowded dive sites, this is the place to go.

Huracan is not for every one.  This is a very remote island that has no other activities, no shopping no groomed beaches. Long Caye is in a very natural state. Don’t expect to see large pristine beaches lined with coconut trees and cabanas.  The island is mostly

RAC_3481

Buffet table at Huracan Diving

swamp and it is heavily forested.  It is very jungle like.  There are no restaurants and bars to go to. There are no stores.  There are a couple of small beach areas. These are not swimming beaches as the water is quite shallow.  There is a moon pool with steps off the main dock where swimming is possible.

The mosquitos can be terrible in the summer months.  In the fall there are no mosquitos, but the water is more choppy and the vis can suffer a bit.  If you go in the summer bring lots of insect repellant and it will be tolerable as most of your time will be on the boat and underwater.  If we go back again, and there is a high likely hood of this happening, I would go in late spring or summer to get better vis and a few mosquitos as the downside.

The island has no power.  Only solar.  If you expect air conditioning, hair driers, fancy restaurants and getting dressed up….go elsewhere.  On cloudy days they may need to run a generator.  Their water is rain water collected from the roof.  In the summer months there will be lots of electricity from solar, but they will be short on water.  In the fall, lots of water, and less electricity due to the clouds.  Remember, this is a remote eco resort.

The good news, the resort is tiny.  They have 4 rooms for a total occupancy of 8.  Small resort equals small scuba groups and no crowds underwater.  Long Caye is also located in the middle of very pristine reefs with lots of fish life including reef sharks, rays, eagle rays, hammer head sharks, whale sharks and much much more.  There is very little fishing pressure out here.  There are 2 small fishing boats that fish the waters.  Both are 20-25 foot long sail boats with 8 fishermen onboard.  We have seen no large commercial activities and there is very little recreational fishing out here.  The staff will fish or buy fish from the local fishermen for dinner.

The island has no cell phone coverage.  The closest signal is about 1 hour away by boat.  The resort does have limited internet available.  Their bandwidth is VERY limited and it is very easy to exceed it and then there is no useful internet for the rest of the day.

If you want a small eco resort with FANTASTIC diving and a very personable feeling…go to Huracan.

 

RAC_3478

Flood at Huracan Diving

RAC_3480

Flooded island Long Caye

December 1st is the first day of the dry season.  However, this year someone forgot to tell the rain this.  In the evenings, we had massive rains and flooding.  The rains only prevented us from making one morning dive.  However, the island was flooded.

 

This is not a common occurrence, but weather happens and lucky for us, it did not interfere with the diving.  The staff did its best to make the situation tolerable by ferrying us on the ATV’s if needed.  The water was not deep as it can not get much deeper than about 8 inches before it would roll off into the ocean.

 

The resort has recently changed ownership from Ruth to the new owner Bernard.  I have been there under Ruth’s management as well as both Ruth and Bernard and now just Bernard.  Basically it is the same place with new faces.  Bernard has made a strong effort to improve the food by hiring trained chefs.  He work has paid off.  The food is improved, but this is a hard environment for a chef to work in as it is 40 miles off shore from food suppliers and many things a chef would want are just too far away.    Considering this handicap, the food is excellent.

 

RAC_3888

Center area of Hurcan Diving

RAC_3886

Dining Area at Huracan Diving

The rooms and the building are the same as the previous posts so read those posts for more info on the rooms.

 

 

 

 

 

RAC_3482

Dining area during heavy rains in center area

One change some may notice is the dining tables in the center of the lodge, This was done one night due to heavy rains making the regular dining area a little moist.  Once again the staff did a fine job of making the rains a minor inconvenience.

 

 

 

 

 

The main reason to come to Huracan is the fantastic diving.

RAC_3772

Squid during night dive with Huracan Diving

RAC_3711

Decorator Crab during Night Dive

On this trip we saw Eagle Rays, lots of Turtles, lots of reef sharks (2 spent 30 minutes with us with lots of close encounters), cuttle fish, octopus, groupers, schools of fish, decorated neck crabs, a variety of flat worm I have never seen and much much more.

Dives were guided with most having a 50 minute bottom time.  Lucky for us that was a Carribbean 50 minutes and most were actually in the 60-70 minute range.  This could vary depending on depth and who you are diving with and their air consumption.  All dives were drift dives even though there is little to no current here.

 

All dives were done with aluminum 80’s on Air.  Nitrox is not currently available (remember this is a very remote site). They may have nitrox in the future.  All dives are done from the same boat that does the transfers to the mainland.  The boat makes this crossing on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  No diving is normally planned on these days, but on 2 of my trips we were able to get a dive in late Wednesday.

 

RAC_3640

Schools of fish with Huracan Diving

RAC_3681

Spotted Eagle ray at Half Moon Caye

Another pleasant surprise are the large schools of fish. Huge schools of creole wrasse and jacks were commonly seen on many dives.

You will also see  very large eagle rays that pass by very close. Typically the eagle rays are very shy and stay far from the divers.  The eagle rays here will approach the divers and glide by 5-15 feet away.

 

 

 

RAC_3820

Sharks at Half Moon Caye with Huracan Divers

RAC_3511

Sharks with Huracan Diving

The highlight was one of our last dives at Half Moon Caye.  On this dive 2 large reef sharks joined us for 30 minutes.  They made many passes and started getting closer and closer.  Towards the end they were within 5-10 feet of me for several minutes.  Then as fast as it started, they swam off and we continued on our way.  This was a great up close shark encounter that did not involve feeding

 

 

 

 

RAC_3621

Reef Scene with Huracan Diving

RAC_3539

Reef Scene with Huracan Diving

The coral is in pretty good shape.  Many locations in the Caribbean this is not the case

There are lots of wide angle reef scenes at light house reef atoll. Large healthy brain corals, large colorful sponges and even patches of recovering elk horn coral.

It is very refreshing to see a healthy reef over such a wide area.

I spent most of my dives with a wide angle lens, however, there are critters too.  Flat worms, odd crabs and odd shrimps for those who like to go slow and explore.

One of the highlight dives is the Blue Hole.  Hurracan is the closest resort to the blue hole and there arrive there first before the other divers arrive and muck up the vis.  For the best blue hole experience go to Huracan.  However, my personal opinion is the reef dives are much better due to the amount of sea life you will see.  The blue hole is fun and it is interesting….but the reefs are better

 

 

I also have a 20 minute high definition video posted on youtube.  The shark portion begins around 11 minutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNArve83eUM

 

In short, if you want great diving in the Caribbean.  Small Groups and a very native/natural island setting.  You don’t mind lack of some modern conveniences. Go to Huracan Diving.

RAC_3332

Underwater life with Huracan Diving

RAC_3360

Underwater life with Huracan Diving

RAC_3436

Underwater life with Huracan Diving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huracan Diving Long Caye, Belize 2013

_DSC7923

Scuba Diving with Huracan Diving Belize

eagle ray

Scuba Diving with Huracan Diving Belize

Update:  We enjoyed are trip to Huracan so much, we went back again in October of 2013.  I can not say this for any other resort.  We may revisit 4 years later, but not in the same year.  Huracan is a fantastic dive spot in the Caribbean.  I would rate it as one of the best.  It is a must go to dive center.  Hopefully the new owners do as good a job as Ruth!

We were the very first guests under the new owner.  Ruth was  still there for the transfer of knowledge  and not many changes were evident.  They hired a chef with the intent of improving the food.  The chef was new so the food during our stay was good but not an improvement.

The mosquitos were not a problem on this trip.  So be aware, they may be terrible, or not too bad.  Pot luck.   In October, the seas were much rougher.  The front dock was not usable for much of the trip.  During these seas, we used the  sunset dock which is a much longer walk, but they did provide transportation on the quads if desired.  We chose to walk.  The visibility was OK in October, but June was much better.

 

 

Original review of Hurcan Diving from June 2013

Huracan Diving was a very pleasant surprise.  It is very difficult to say anything bad about the experience on Long Caye except the mosquitos.

All of Huracan’s staff were excellent.  They really made the trip enjoyable.

The rooms at Huracan Diving were very clean and well maintained.

The diving around Long Caye, Belize is some of the best dives you will see in the Caribbean. I would rate the diving in the top 3 of the Caribbean.  Around Long Caye you will find  very healthy reefs and you will see sharks (we even saw a hammerhead!), rays, turtles and lots of macro critters and even a very healthy reef with lots of coral.  This is the closest land based operation to the best diving in the area including the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye.  This is as good as it gets in dive quality in the Caribbean.

Huracan Diving also gets a “A” for there honesty in their website.  The rooms and the resort all looked like the photos on the site.

Getting to Huracan Diving at Long Caye.

We flew to Belize City and took a 20 minute ($25) taxi ride to Princess Pier to board Huracan’s boat.

There are lots of horror stories on the internet about how bad Belize City is and how dangerous and dirty, run down ………. Belize City looks like an average city in the Caribbean.  It is a larger city, but far from big and there are few cities anywhere that are pretty.  It is not a run down shanty town with people ready to rob you on every corner. ….  On the other hand, I would not want to spend my vacation money staying in Belize City.  Long Caye is much nicer.

Please be aware Belize City does have its dark side.  There is significant gang on gang violence with the associated murders as many other cities do.  The main difference is Belize City has a small population and the number murder rate is the 6th highest in the world on a per capita basis.

The boat ride is in an approximately 32 foot boat and takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.  Our trip out was very smooth due to the seas being extremely calm.  However, I could see this being a rougher ride depending on the seas. Bring a jacket, you could get wet!

Once you arrive in Long Caye the staff will bring all of your luggage to the resort which is located about 100 yards from the dock.

The Island of Long Caye, Belize

swamp

Long Caye Swamps

trails

Long Caye, Huracan Diving

Long Caye is almost  a deserted island.  Long Caye is in a very native state.

Much of the Long Caye has been sold off to investors in the form of small lots.  However, almost none have built on it in the past 10-15 years.  There are only about 3 or 4 homes built on Long Caye and one is a tree house!

There are 3 resorts and a rental house on the island.  Itza resort is much larger with about 22 rooms and is located on the beach.  The dining area of Itza is not screened to protect you from the bugs, however, the beach area seems to be less buggy.  There is also a small Hotel called Calypso Beach next to Itza.  Both of these resorts were fairly deserted during our stay and I did not see the rooms.  If you stay at these resorts, the only diving is with Huracan.

Huracan Diving is located in what was built to be the island clinic/hospital and even still contains an old (non functioning) chamber.   Much of Long Caye is mangrove swamp.  Being a very rustic undeveloped island with swamps, there are mosquitos.  While we where there the Mosquitos were quite bad. The island does make an effort to fog 2 or more times per day to keep the mosquitos at bay.  This is a very necessary to keep these bugs at bay.  The island does their best to be environmentally friendly with their spraying to protect the reef and land crabs. You will smell bug spray a couple of times per day.  If this offends you go elsewhere and miss the great diving and great staff.  If this does not bother you bring Deet and lots of it and be prepared and your stay will be more pleasant.

no swimming

Long Caye, Huracan Diving

CIMG7503

Long Caye, Huracan Diving

There are lots of trails that are well marked that allow you to see Long Caye.

There are beaches on Long Caye, but swimming is not easy or even possible  as the water is very shallow and most areas are sea grass areas.  Swimming is possible off of the docks.  There are two docks, the main dock with a moon pool and the not often used sunset pier.

One of the best places to hang out on Long Caye is on the end of the main dock.  There are a couple of chairs and a shaded area with a “moon pool” in the center.  This is a great spot with a nice breeze (no mosquitos) and a wonderful view and you can take a dip if you want.

I wish we found out about how nice it is on the dock sooner during our stay.  The dock is very quite, you have shade or sun and a great breeze!

 

Huracan Diving

huracan

Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

common area

Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

Huracan Diving is a very small resort. It is located about 100 yards off the beach. They have 4 rooms which can hold 2 people each.  There are few ways to experience  the Caribbean in such a small and personal way. To me this is a major plus.  Personal service and small groups.  During our stay at Huracan the staff made us feel like family while at the same time pampered us.

All of the rooms at Huracan are off a main common area that is in the center of the building.  The Kitchen and a supply room are  also attached.  The dive equipment storage (tanks and compressors) is located behind the main building in a separate building.  You rarely hear the compressors running.  There is also a dive shop more towards the dock that has the rental equipment.

The building is made with very thick  hardwoods throughout.  Most area stained very dark which makes everything appear darker. Low wattage bulbs used to conserve the solar power makes things even darker.

Mosquitos were never a problem in the room so the staff has done a good job creating a barrier of mosquito coils around the perimeter.  There were mosquito coils in the room, but we never needed one during our 1 week stay.

There is no electricity on the Long Caye.  Huracan has solar panels which provide electricity for the building.  There is no A/C and the solar system can not handle high wattage items such as hair dryers.

The building is off in the dense jungle so there is very little airflow around the building so it can get a bit hot on days with little breeze.  The rooms all had ceiling fans and a floor fan.  The floor fan moves lots of air and made.  Bring lots of light clothing as it is warm.  You will not need shoes.  Wear flip flops or go barefoot for the week.  Shoes of some sort are recommended for the trips to Half Moon Caye.

The food was great.  They will do their best to make accommodations to dietary restrictions.  The meals were a blend of fish, shrimp, pork and chicken.  All of the meals were fresh and well prepared.

Rooms at Huracan Diving

bedroom

Rooms at Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

The rooms at Huracan Diving are small but very clean.  The bed was very comfortable. The mosquito netting around the bed is decorative.  During our stay we had zero mosquitos in the room.  The room had a private bathroom which is quite large.  Our room did not have a door separating the room from the bathroom which could be an issue for some.  It had a ceiling fan and a floor fan.  The outside wall is covered with a louvered window with screens to keep out the bugs.  The ceiling fan barely stirs the air, but the floor fan did a great job of circulating air around the room.

There are only 2 electrical outlets in the room (remember power is limited due to solar) and the outlets are 120 volt standard US style.

 

Bathroom

bathroom

bathroom Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

bathroom-2

Bathroom Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

The bathroom is quite large and very clean.  No mold or mildew that are common in many Caribbean locations.

The Toilet is a composting toilet which has the weird foot flush.  It is not a marine head that you pump.

Water is very limited on Long Caye and is collected rainwater so water needs to be conserved.  The room does have hot water which got very hot. The hot water is not really needed as the cold water is not very cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dive Operation

soft corals

scuba Diving with Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

CIMG7501

Dive Boat Huracan Diving Lodge, Belize

The boat that transfers you to the island and the dive boat is one and the same.  On transfer days (Wednesdays and Saturdays) there will be limited diving due to the boat being used to ferry customers and supplies.  Huracan Diving does their best to get dives in on those days, but the round trip takes over 4 hours.

The dive staff at Huracan are excellent.  They take care of your gear for the week, transporting it back each night, rinsing it and hanging it up. Huracan is a first class scuba operation.

Entries are back rolls and exits are via a easy to climb ladder on the back.  For those that can not climb a ladder with gear, they will pull your tank and BC out of the water for you.

Dives are very easy.  Most dive sites are 5-10 minutes from the dock.  Zero to very little currents around Long Caye during our stay.  Most dives are drift dives so you do not need to see the same area twice (no current drift dives).  Dive speed is very slow which is a welcome surprise.  Most dive guides go way too fast. Diving slower allows to you see more and be more relaxed.

Huracan has lots of rental gear so you can easily get what you need there.

The dive staff at Huracan were very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.

The Diving

CIMG7512

half Moon Caye

neck crab

Macro Life Huracan Diving Belize

Most dives are 60 minute low speed one way dives.  Surface intervals are on shore and are about 90 minutes or longer, typically at Huracan resort.  When diving at Half Moon Caye the surface intervals are on Half Moon Caye which is a bird sanctuary for the red footed bobbies. There is lots of shade, restrooms and picnic tables at Half Moon Caye.

Huracan Diving makes  a very enjoyable and relaxing scuba dive vacation.

Underwater there were lots of highly decorated neck crabs.  These crabs can be very hard to spot at first and a slow dive rate allows to to find them and spend time to see them.

The reef around Long Caye, Belize is very healthy.  There is lots of very large soft corals everywhere.  The hard corals are also healthy.  Many areas of the caribbean have been hit with various coral diseases which wiped out the staghorn corals and brain corals.  This IS NOT the case in Long Caye.  There were lots of very large brain corals in several species that showed no signs of disease.  I even saw stands of staghorn corals which are quite rare in the caribbean now.  It is refreshing to see a reef in the caribbean that is not damaged from bleaching and coral diseases.

brain coral

Reef Scene Huracan Diving Belize

goby and coral

Macro Life Huracan Diving Belize

Other noteworthy small critters are sea whip shrimps which were fairly common if you slowed down and looked.

seawhip shrimp

Macro Life Huracan Diving Belize

Of course there are cleaner shrimps, gobies, blennies and the mandatory octopus……  There is  lots to see from small macro critters to large groupers to sharks and rays.  We even saw a hammerhead shark!

 

 

 

What separates Long Caye diving from most caribbean diving are the big critters.  Lots of big groupers, hog fish, snappers, tarpons, jacks and other fish which have been over fished elsewhere. Overall, this maybe the best diving I have done in the Caribbean and I am picky.

_DSC7991

Big Sea Life Huracan Diving Belize

 

sponge and brittlestar

Macro Life Huracan Diving Belize

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of Eagle Rays.  One dive had 4 eagle rays that were sighted throughout the dive.  3 of the eagle rays swam as a group single file passing by us numerous times during the dive.

eagle ray

Spotted Eagle Ray Huracan Diving Belize

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of reef sharks

shark

Reef Sharks with Huracan Diving Belize

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of turtles

Turtle

Turtles with Huracan Diving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course the Blue Hole.

Blue Hole

Blue Hole at 150feet with Huracan

Blue Hole-2

Blue Hole at 150feet with Huracan

This site was made famous by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.  Many people come to Belize to dive the Blue Hole.  Huracan diving and Long Caye is the closest dive operation to the Blue Hole.  Travel time from Long Caye to the Blue Hole is about 15-20 minutes.  Huracan Diving is the first operator at the Blue Hole in the Morning.

In 1971, Cousteau brought his ship, the Calypso, to the hole to chart its depths. Investigations by this expedition confirmed the hole’s origin as typical  limestone formations, formed before rises in sea level in at least four stages, leaving ledges at depths of 21 m (69 ft), 49 m (161 ft), and 91 m (299 ft).

Some of the stalactites were also off-vertical by 5˚ in a consistent orientation, thus indicating that there was an earthquake which may have caused the ceiling to collapse

Initial measured depth of Great Blue Hole was 125 m (410 ft) which is the most often cited depth up to this day.

Huracan diving is the first boat to arrive at the blue hole which allows for better visibility and the opportunity to see the sharks.  Later in the day the blue hole will be crowded with divers who will scare off the sharks and will muck up the visibility.  Being first is best!

 

 

 

 

reef scene-2

Reef Huracan Diving Belize

lettuce sea slug

lettuce sea slug Huracan Diving

reef scene

reef Scene with Huracan

scene

Lots of fish with Huracan