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The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

December 2020

mesoamerican barrier reef

Island Life Mexico is your #1 resource for all things Mexican Caribbean! Our guides are loaded with informative articles by locals and our unique tours and experiences are top-rated in the area.

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About The Reef

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, also known as The Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef, is the most extensive barrier reef system in the Western Hemisphere. Running more than 700 miles along the eastern coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, the reef has been an adventurers’ paradise for centuries. Some of the islands perched on the reef include Isla Contoy, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel in Mexico, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye in Belize and the Bay Islands of Honduras (including Utila and Roatan).

Beyond simply being a sub-oceanic reef, the broader M.A.R., as many refer to it, boasts lagoons, mangrove forests, sand dunes, coastal wetlands and more. The reef system also includes various protected wildlife areas and parks, including the Belize Barrier Reef (Belize), Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park (Mexico), Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (Mexico), Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park (Honduras).

As far as sea life goes, visitors to the reef are in for a treat! Over 500 species of fish live here, 60 diverse coral species, four types of sea turtles, saltwater crocodiles, the largest number of whale sharks in the world and the largest number of manatees in the western Caribbean. As could be expected, this makes for one of the most popular snorkeling and diving locations in the world.

Aside from just being beautiful, the M.A.R. is a life source for many people who live and work along its shores. Tourism and the fishing industry (wild, deep-sea, or local fisheries) provide an incomparable income source for many locals. Thus, making the sustainability of healthy ecosystems an absolute must. Thankfully those who depend on the reef are working hard to teach visitors about the effects of climate change and bringing awareness to the importance of eco-friendly practices.

A note from Team Island Life Mexico: Please do your part to protect the oceans and the reefs. Please don’t use sunscreen in the water, don’t litter into the ocean, don’t take living things from the sea, don’t buy shells or other souvenirs harvested from the ocean and most importantly of all, don’t touch the wildlife or the coral. Thank you!

The Blue Hole, Belize
The Blue Hole, Belize
Sailing in Honduras
Sailing in Honduras
Diving in Cozumel, Mexico
Diving in Cozumel, Mexico

     Yucatan Highlights Map

This map shows many of our Mexican Caribbean highlights. To open the table of contents, click on the icon in the top left corner of the map. This will allow you to sort through the different types of highlights! Click on the points of interest or the icons on the map itself to access additional info.  You can open the map in its own window to make it larger if you’d like.

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