Quick Overview of Belize
Belize is a rewarding, authentic destination for travelers in search of unique, intimate experiences in a Caribbean/Central American getaway. A Belize vacation will stir your soul, expand your mind and change your life.
Serenely situated in one of the last unspoiled places on earth, you can easily tour Belize’s rain forests, dive the Western Hemisphere’s largest barrier reef or explore mystical Maya temple cities – all during the same adventure.
The multitude of experiences offered by this compact paradise refreshes travelers of all kinds. A single day can take you cross-country through temple tours to marina-side martinis overlooking turquoise water.
Belize is renowned for both its preserved ancient treasures as well as its welcoming residents – often referred to as the country’s greatest natural resource. An enduring commitment to preservation of Belizean lands and waters inspires a genuine and intimate connection with Belize.
Wherever you come from, you are welcome to take part in extraordinary escapades without ever feeling like a stranger. Every journey promises opportunities to capture every moment and let the senses come alive.
For generations, the English-speaking people of Belize have demonstrated a cultural commitment to preserve the country’s one-of-a-kind charms. Through a convergence of natural wonder, delightful people, savory food and rare adventures, you can truly be one with Belize.
Learn about Belize, from beaches, food and one-of-a-kind destinations throughout our site. When you are ready to become one with Belize, visit the Belize Vacation Planner to start mapping out the most memorable vacation you will ever take.
Belize, previously British Honduras, lies on the East coast of Central America and in the heart of the Caribbean Basin. It is bordered by Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the West and South, and the Caribbean Sea to the East. Geographically Belize is located between 15° 52′ 9″ and 18° 29′ 55″ North Latitude, and 87° 28″ and 89° 13′ 67″ West Longitude with an area of 8,866 sq. miles including 266 sq. miles of islands.
The cayes or islands, the offshore atolls, and the barrier reef are the main attractions to Belize. The barrier reef, which is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, is 185 miles long. The cayes and atolls provide great opportunity for SCUBA diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, sailing, and kayaking, and also serve as a habitat for both nesting birds and turtles. In the central part of Belize the land is higher. It is between 1,500 and 3,680 feet above sea level in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area and the Maya Mountains. Breathtaking waterfalls, historic Mayan cities and majestic mountains are but a few of the attractions that can be enjoyed in this area.
The climate is subtropical, with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The country has an annual mean temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is nicely tempered by the Sea breezes. The variation in weather further emphasizes the interesting difference in elevation, geology, plant and animal life. Summer high temperatures, are normally around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter lows have rarely gone below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night.
Normally, the rainy season is usually between June and November and the dry season is between February and May. Usually, the weather becomes cooler at the end of October and this lasts up until February. Average humidity is 85 percent. Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to 170 inches in the South.
The population of approximately 250,000 people consists of a mixture of Creoles, Garifunas, Mestizos, Mayas, Caucasians, Mennonites, Lebanese, Chinese, and East Indians. Belize has gained a widespread reputation for its friendly people.
English is the official language of Belize, Spanish is the second language and Creole is the commonly used dialect you will hear spoken throughout the country.
The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed rate of exchange of BZ$2 to US$1. Most hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will accept U.S. currency, traveler’s checks, or credit cards.
Time observed year round is GMT-6, which is the same as United States Central Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time is not observed in Belize.
Location And Geography of Belize
Where is Belize Located?
Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. Belize has a long coastline on the Caribbean Sea, and is on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula. The latitude and longitude of Belize is 17° 15′ North and 88° 45′ West and is situated on the narrow isthmus of land that connects North America and South America.
To the north of Belize is the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, sharing a border with the Mexican town of Chetumal City. To the west of Belize is the northernmost department (state) of El Peten in Guatemala. The southern tip of Belize shares a border with the Guatemalan department (state) of Izabal.
By air, travelers in the United States can reach Belize from Miami, Florida, Houston, Texas, or Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas in about two hours. Flights from Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia average about three and a half hours.
From a starting point in Central America, it takes a full day to drive from Guatemala City to reach most points in Belize. Passenger boats departing from the city of Puerto Barrios in the Izabal Department (state) in northern Guatemala can reach Belize in approximately 30 minutes. By air, Belize is connected to the cities of Merida and Cancun in Mexico, San Salvador in El Salvador, Flores Pdten (near the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal) in Guatemala, and the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras.
Belize has a long coastline stretching for 386 kilometers (240 miles) facing the Caribbean Sea. Just offshore of Belize is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second biggest coral reef in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize has an area of 22,960 square kilometers (8,867 square miles), slightly bigger than either the nation of El Salvador or the state of Massachusetts, or twice as big as Jamaica. With numerous lagoons and lakes, the total land surface of Belize is actually 21,400 square kilometers (8,300 square miles).
Belize is shaped approximately like a rectangle, stretching 280 km (170 miles) north to south, but just 100 kilometers (62 miles) from east to west, with a combined frontier measuring 516 kilometers (321 miles). Inside Belize are two major rivers, the Sarstoon River and the Hondo River, which define the northern and southern boundaries. The western border of Belize with Guatemala is an artificial line drawn straight north and south, a legacy of the colonial era when the region was under British administration. The western border with Guatemala is known as the “Adjacency Line”, and is officially administered by the Organization of American States (OAS).
Inside Belize, the northern part of the country consists of a combination of flat wetlands merging towards coastal plains, with abundant forests found throughout. The south of Belize forms the lower slopes of the Maya Mountain range. The highest point in Belize is known as Doyle’s Delight, and has an altitude of 1,124 meters (3,688 feet).
Abundant coral reefs form much of the coastline of Belize, along with approximately 450 small islands known locally known as “cayes”. Pronounced “keys”, the cayes total about 690 square kilometers (270 square miles) of surface, and abut the Belize Barrier Reef, which measures 320 kilometers (200 miles) from north to south. Three out of four coral atolls located in the Western Hemisphere are found off the waters of Belize. One special unique feature, the Great Blue Hole, is also found off the coast of Belize.
Belize location on the World Map
Common Myths about Belize
Belize is an Island
Belize is not an island; however there are over 200 islands or cayes along its coast. Belize is part of the isthmus that connects North and South America and thus it is part of the Central American mainland.
Belize is Located in the Caribbean
Belize is located in Central America but it is also considered part of the Caribbean. In fact, Belize has a long and beautiful coastline on the Caribbean Sea.
Belize is in South America
Many people, the world over, believe that Belize is in South America. In reality, Belize is not in South America. Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala.
Belize is part of Honduras
No, Belize is not part of Honduras. In fact, the country doesn’t even share a border with Honduras. However it is important to note that Belize was once called British Honduras and in 1973 it changed its name to Belize.
How many different ways can you spell Belize?
There are many misspellings on Belize. Many travelers have misspelled the country’s name as Belieze, or Beleez, or Balize. So far, we have seen the following misspellings: baliz, balize, beleeze, beleize, beleze, beliese, beliez, belise, bellize.
Where did the name Belize come from?
There are many theories about where the name Belize came from. According to some Belizean historians, the origin is unclear but there is a possibility that it is derived from a Maya word, “belix” which means “muddy water”. Others have suggested that it is derived from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, which was applied to an early settlement along the Belize River and to the river itself. Belize has a sizeable proportion of Africans from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, who could have brought the name with them, as there is a Belize in Angola as well.
Belize on the World Map
Formerly British Honduras, Belize is located on the eastern coast of Central America. Bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the easy by the Caribbean Sea, Belize’s mainland is about 180 miles long and 68 miles wide.
With 22,800 square kilometres of land and a population of 368,310, Belize has the lowest population density in Central America.
The country’s population growth rate of 1.87% per year and is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize Location in relation to Central America
Map of Belize
In Northern Belize, you find Corozal and Orange Walk Districts
In Western Belize, you find Cayo District
The Belize District consists of Belize City and the islands of Belize ( Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye)
In Southern Belize you will find Stann Creek ( Placencia, Hopkins, Dangriga) and Toledo Districts
The following are maps of Belize that highlight the top attractions and destinations in the country.
Belize Culture and History
Belize has a very unique history, being the only country in Central America where English is the official language.
Approximately 3000 years ago, the original Maya culture began moving into the area now known as Belize, establishing an extensive trading network that would flourish until approximately the year 1200 A.D., building the enormous stone cities of Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Altun Ha.
Initially passed over by European conquerors due to a lack of gold and other precious mineral resources, the first European settlement was founded in 1638 by English sailors who survived a shipwreck. Thriving in the mild climate of Belize, more English settlers began arriving in the area, and the country became a base for English privateers and pirates who would sally forth to harvest the rich plunder of Spanish galleons.
Although sporadic Spanish settlements attempted to take root in Belize, the country fell under complete British domination in 1798 after a British fleet won a decisive naval battle against the Spanish in the waters off of St. George’s Caye. In 1840, the British government formally seized control of the country, naming it the Colony of British Honduras. Taking advantage of the American Civil War, the British annexed Belize in 1862, making it a crown colony. In the latter half of the 19th century, many Mayan tribes, Mestizos and Mennonite people emigrated to Belize to escape unrest in neighboring Mexico.
In 1931, a combination of fallout from the Great Depression in the United States and a devastating hurricane strike that completely demolished the capital of Belize City drastically altered the political landscape in Belize, with British overseers taking the opportunity to vastly increase their control of the colony. This prompted many native Belizeans to begin organizing politically, forcing Britain to recognize that Belize wanted full independence in 1961.
Due to a long-standing border dispute with neighboring Guatemala, it took another 12 years before Belize was assured of sovereignty, formally changing their name to Belize from the long-standing colonial name of “British Honduras”. However, it was not until 1981 that Belize became fully independent.
Religion, Language, and Food
Today, most Belizeans are Roman Catholic, but because of the long influence of the British Empire, there are many Protestants and Anglicans found in the country. Due to their unique history, many Maya and Garifuna peoples practice a unique blend of Christianity with traditional spiritual practices.
By law, the official language in Belize is English, used nationwide for all government business and in schools. However, the main language spoken by most Belizeans is a Creole variant of English with heavy borrowings from Spanish and Mayan tongues. In the north and west of Belize, many communities speak Spanish, while other population groups continue to speak their native languages of Arabic, German, or Chinese. Many Mayan communities still speak dialects of the original Maya tongue.
Belizean cuisine has a strong Caribbean influence, with many spicy Creole staples like rice and beans blending harmoniously with native Maya delicacies like fried paca (jungle rat). Not to be outdone, traditional English favorites like corned beef and beans on toast still have their place, appearing on menus alongside Mexican classics such as tamales, escabeche (onion soup), and empanadas. Small “pancakes” made from fried dough known as “fry jacks” are commonly eaten for breakfast, while lunch might consist of meat pies or rice and beans. Dinner might be sere (fried fish with either coconut or banana) or tamales, polished off with local rum or the national brew, Beliken Beer.
While food and drink varies from region to region, tropical staples such as coconut, banana, and spicy hot peppers are popular nationwide, with chicken or pork being the preferred meat of most Belizeans.
People of Belize
Belize is the true definition of a melting pot, a land where many different cultures have blended together to form the special laid-back identity of a Belizean. With an open-minded attitude towards interracial unions, several distinct cultures still exist in Belize today, a mix of Creoles, European Mennonites, East Indians, Chinese, Garifuna, Maya, and Mestizo peoples. Despite their very unique origins, today these traditions and cultures have blended together in Belize to create a harmonious society.
Today, the Creole population makes up approximately 2/5ths of Belize’s population, forming one of the largest ethnic group in the nation. Completely different than the Creoles of Louisiana or elsewhere, Belizean Creoles are descendants of African slaves imported during the colonial era and Europeans.
The highest density of Creoles today center around Belize City in the center of the country, although they also live in the other five districts of the country. Most people in Belize speak Creole, a unique local variant of English, although standard English is the official language. Famous for their love of rice and beans dishes, Creole cooking has become a staple of Belize cuisine throughout the country.
The Mestizos, named for a Spanish word meaning “mixed”, are the other dominant population group found in Belize today. Descended from a mix of Spanish and ethnic Mayans who fled southern Mexico about 100 years ago, Mestizos today are predominant in the north of Belize, including Corozal, Orange Walk, and Cayo Districts. Most Mestizos speak Spanish at home, but are able to converse in Belizean Creole/English when interacting with outsiders.
The Mestizos peoples added their own unique contribution to Belizean cuisine in the form of tamales, garnaches, escabeches, and panades.
Descended from the ancient Mayan imperialists who once ruled the land now known as Belize, approximately 10% of the country today consider themselves ethnic Maya. Found especially in the northern districts of Orange Walk and Corozal, the Maya today are proud of their rich heritage. A sub-group of Maya, known as the Mopan Maya, emigrated to the country in the 1880s, especially around the area of San Antonio Village in Toledo. In the south of Belize, another sub-group of Maya, known as the Kekchi Maya, emigrated from Guatemala in the 1870s, and today are found in the southern districts of Toledo and Stann Hope Creek in Belize.
With approximately 8% of the population, the Garifuna have a unique history. The Garifanu culture was first developed on the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where the descendants of African slaves intermarried with indigenous people. In 1832, the British government forced them to leave en masse, which is when they fled by canoe overseas to the coast of Belize. Every year on November 19, the Garifuna people commemorate their arrival in Belize with the festival of Garifuna Settlement Day.
The Garifuna have also added their own imprint on Belizean cuisine, bringing the dishes sere, hudut, and cassava bread with them, now staples nationwide in the country.
Belizeans from East India were first introduced to the country during the colonial era, brought from India to work on the sugar plantations. Found today primarily in Toledo District, they added a rich patois of Indian dishes and culture to Belize.
Also found in Belize are Arab peoples, predominantly from Lebanon, with others originally from Palestine and Syria. First arriving about 100 years ago to form mercantile enterprises, they remain a distinct feature in both Belize and Cayo Districts.
Although relatively few in number, another distinct segment of Belizean society consists of immigrants from China, who first began arriving over a century ago to engage in trade, and today many local businesses in Belize are owned and operated by people of Chinese origin, especially concentrated in and around Belize City.
The German Mennonites form a very unique pocket of distinct culture, having first come to Belize about 70 years ago when they fled ongoing unrest in neighboring Mexico. Still speaking their own archaic dialect of German, this religious community is centered around villages in Toledo, Cayo, and Orange Walk Districts. Similar to the Amish, they preserve the old ways of dress and custom, and are today still mostly engaged in farming and traditional crafts like furniture making.
The smallest, but fastest growing, distinct community in Belize are the number of expats, mostly retired people from the United States and Canada. Drawn to the warm weather, use of English as the official language, and accommodating immigration laws, they add their own unique contributions to Belizean society. Found mostly in and around Belize City, a growing expat community is also beginning to form in the north of the country near the border with Mexico.
Time in Belize
Because Belize does not change its clock seasonally to adjust for Daylight Savings Time, it can be difficult to calculate the current time in Belize off the top of your head.
Officially, Belize is in the Central American Time Zone. During the summer months when the most of the United States is on Daylight Savings Time, the time in Belize mirrors that of the Mountain Time Zone. In other words, the time in Belize is the same time as in Denver.
During the winter months, however, when most of the United States is on standard time, the time in Belize mirrors that of the Central Time zone. In other words, the time in Belize is the same time as in Chicago.
Daylight Savings Time runs from approximately March to the end of October or beginning of November. Therefore, from March-November, the time in Belize is the same time as in Denver. And from November-March, the time in Belize is the same time as in Chicago.
If you’re familiar with Greenwich Mean Time, sometimes known as UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), Belize is permanently six hours behind GMT. Therefore, when it is 6:00 PM in GMT, it is noon in Belize.
To easily find out the current time in Belize, visit your favorite search engine and type “Time in Belize”.
The economy of Belize continues to revolve around a number of key sectors, and GDP growth in the country is affected significantly by output in these areas, most notably agriculture. This makes the country’s economic performance particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in world commodity markets. Tourism, crude oil exports and International Business are also major contributors to the Belize economy, with tourists coming to Belize being the country’s main foreign exchange earner.
The immediate economic forecasts for Belize are relatively healthy, with growth for 2018 estimated at 2.1%. with agricultural output expected to rise alongside a growth in inbound tourism.
It is estimated that agriculture accounts for just under 10% of Belize’s GDP, and the country has a number of significant exports. Sugar and timber have always been staples, but the agriculture sector has undergone diversification and now bananas, citrus fruits and fish products are also important export products.
Agricultural exports do, however, tend to be subject to fluctuations in global commodity markets, a problem that Belize has been subject to even before independence and as far back as the 18th century (when it was still known as British Honduras) when the mahogany trade was already one of Belize’s primary exports. Forestry continues to this day to be a strong economic performer, although predominantly in the realm of preserving the country’s many forest reserves as eco-tourism destinations.
Since 1990 and the enactment of the International Business Companies Act, Belize has become a center for international financial transactions and offshore investment and banking. A Belize International Business Company is able to be organised in a more flexible way than is permitted in most other jurisdictions, and provides more privacy for shareholders and directors, who cannot be identified from public records. In addition, offshore companies registered in Belize are exempt from paying income tax.
Another way in which Belize has carved out a niche for itself in the global economy is in the e-gaming licensing industry (visit top5casinosites.co.uk to see major online casinos that are operating under a Belize e-gaming license). The Computer Wagering Licensing Act (1995), which was introduced in May 1996, enables gambling companies licensed in Belize to provide casino games and sports betting services for players who are based outside of the country. A number of major international gambling brands are therefore licensed to operate from Belize and this function continues to make an important contribution to the services economy.
Online gambling regulation has, however, become a much more competitive industry, particularly as a number of major countries, most notably the UK, have now introduced their own online gambling licensing and regulatory authorities. Nevertheless, the industry is still strong on Belize and there is potential for it to diversify and remain a key player by becoming a licensing authority for crypto-currency casino and sports betting based on blockchain technology.
Crude oils sales also play a role in the economy of Belize and, although prices are subject to great worldwide volatility, it has been an area in which there has been recent growth, with exports up $1.9 million in January 2018 compared with the same time in 2017, despite no change in production levels.
However, the exploration and development of oil fields is not straightforward in Belize, and so there would need to be a significant uptick in the price of crude for it to be worthwhile for oil companies to make further major investments in the country in the immediate future.
Tourism currently makes a direct contribution of just under 20% to Belize’s GDP, while the total contribution is over 45%. Around 13% of the country’s population is directly employed in the tourism industry and so its importance cannot be overstated. It is also shown that tourism has a positive effect on a number of other key economic sectors, notably the agricultural, international business and construction industries.
Ecotourism in particular is a growing sector, with the authorities increasing the number and range of protected natural and historical attractions in a bid to capture an ever-greater share of this burgeoning international market.
Places like the Great Blue Hole, Thousand Foot Falls, Caye Caulker, the Belize Barrier Reef and countless other natural and archaeological sites attract visitors from around the world, and numbers are only likely to increase as the economy becomes more tourism driven and the government and authorities become more proactive in promoting this specific sector of the tourist industry.
Is Belize Safe for Tourists?
A Comprehensive Belize Safety Guide
Generally, Belize is a very safe and peaceful country where tens of thousands of tourists visit every year without incident. But as in all countries, it’s always a good idea to use common sense and take normal precautions so that you too can experience a safe and enjoyable vacation.
Belize is largely a very rural country, but its formal capital and largest municipality, Belize City, has a few urban issues found in cities all across the world. Tourists should stick to public areas, avoiding low-income neighborhoods. At nighttime, lighting can be inadequate in some areas, so traveling by taxi is always recommended even for short distances in urban areas. Some areas of Belize City have experienced gang activity, but these are far away from popular tourist attractions like the historic downtown district, the Fort George Tourism Village, and the Baron Bliss Lighthouse.
Many tourists experience problems due to excessive drunkenness, which can exacerbate tensions and invite trouble. Likewise, flashing large amounts of cash is not recommended. Should an incident occur, tourists should never attempt to use violence, remembering that material items can always be replaced. Cash is widely accepted in Belize, but all major hotels, restaurants, resorts, and lodges accept credit cards, particularly Visa but also MasterCard, Discover, and American Express to a lesser extent.
All legal and licensed taxis in Belize bear a green license plate. Never accept a ride from someone with a vehicle without this distinctive license plate. Registered taxis will also display a sticker listing the co-op to which they belong, something you should note down in case you accidentally forget your belongings in a taxi.
It is generally recommended that visitors not travel on the roads of Belize at nighttime. Inadequate lighting, animals in the roadway, pedestrians, and poor road conditions make traveling at night hazardous. If you are renting a vehicle, make sure you park it in a secured location overnight. During the day, park it in a well-lit public area and lock up any valuables in the trunk.
The climate in Belize is quite warm, so visitors are strongly urged to stay hydrated. Although the tap water is safe to drink, bottled water is sold everywhere across the country. Visitors with sensitive skin are strongly urged to use hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to prevent getting sunburned.
If you do encounter a problem, immediately contact the police or the manager of your hotel. The emergency number in Belize is 911, just as in the United States.
Marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and other narcotics are illegal in Belize. Visitors in possession of these substances can face serious jail time. Prostitution and other paid sexual services are also illegal. Public consumption of alcohol in a glass bottle is prohibited, but plastic cups and aluminum cans are permitted.
Any cash or financial instruments that have a total value in excess of $10,000 must be declared to a customs agent upon entering the country. Failure to do so will result in steep fines.
There are no mandatory vaccines that are required to visit Belize, but you should always check the Center for Disease Control for detailed recommendations if you are pregnant, suffer from a compromised immune system, or have an ongoing medical issue.
Statistics about incidences like armed robberies and murder can be a little misleading when it comes to Belize. Belize is a largely rural country and almost all incidences of violent crime are restricted to Belize City, the nation’s largest municipality. Almost all of these crimes involve local gang feuds and tourists are very rarely targeted. .
Due to historical disputes stemming from the colonial era, the occasional flare-up of violence on the border between Belize and Guatemala has been documented. These incidents usually involve the confrontations between governmental forces and rarely involve tourists or civilians. Visitors crossing from Belize into Guatemala are advised to stick to common transportation routes and travel in the daytime only.
With hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists entering the country every year, there is always a small chance that a visitor may become the victim of a minor crime like pickpocketing, purse snatching or burglary. Visitors are advised to never confront or resist a criminal and to immediately report all such incidences to the police.
As a tropical country, Belize is more prone to contagious diseases. Mosquito-born illnesses like dengue fever occasionally experience sporadic outbreaks. Visitors to Belize are advised to use insect repellant when outdoors and to stay in facilities protected with mosquito screens and nets at night. There have been only a few isolated cases of the Zika virus in Belize, an illness primarily transmitted by mosquitos.
Due to poor infrastructure, road accidents can pose a risk to anyone traveling in Belize, especially on rural roads. Public buses and some taxis are often in poor condition and may lack critical safety equipment. Visitors are advised to travel with modern vehicles only. By law, all registered taxis in Belize have to display a green license plate.
Some water taxis are poorly maintained and do not have sufficient safety equipment. Some boat captains may sail in bad weather or with too many passengers on board. Visitors are advised to sail only in calm weather aboard modern vessels containing a full range of safety gear. All boat captains and dive tour operators are required to be licensed by the government of Belize. Visitors are encouraged to verify licenses, references and equipment before boarding any boat.
Belize Roads and Highways
Belize has a vast network of roadways, thoroughfares, and streets that measure over 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) long. Currently, only approximately 350 miles (570 kilometers) are paved, but several gravel and dirt roadways are currently being upgraded.
Even the biggest “highways” in Belize are two-lane roadways. Principle arteries include:
The Philip Goldson Highway, commonly known as the Northern Highway, connects Belize City to points north, including Corozal Town and the Mexican border at Chetumal. This highway measures 95 miles (153 km) long and is completely paved.
The George Price Highway, commonly known as the Western Highway, connects Belize City to points west, including Belmopan, San Ignacio, and the Guatemalan border at Benque Viejo del Carmen/Melchor de Mencos. This highway measures 81 miles (130 km) long and is completely paved.
The Hummingbird Highway connects Belmopan in central Belize to Dangriga on the southeastern coast. This highway measures 55 miles (89 km) long and is completely paved.
The Southern Highway begins at the southern terminus of the Hummingbird Highway in Dangriga and connects to points south, including Punta Gorda and ancient Maya sites like Nim Li Punit and Lubantuun. The Southern Highway measures 97 miles (156 km) long and is completely paved.
The Coastal Highway, sometimes known as the Manatee Highway, is currently a deeply rutted, gravel roadway that is almost impossible to traverse even in good weather without a four-wheel drive vehicle. Measuring just 30 miles long (48 km), the Coastal Highway connects an area west of Belize City to just north of Dangriga. The Coastal Highway is scheduled to be upgraded and paved in the next few years.
Driving in Belize
Almost all other roadways in Belize, with the exception of downtown Belize City, are usually unpaved and can be very difficult to traverse without a four-wheel drive vehicle. Many secondary roads and bridges can become impassable following inclement weather.
Driving is on the right side of the road with speed limits of 55 miles per hour (90 km/hour) outside residential areas and no more than 40 miles per hour (65 km/h) within towns and villages. All signs are in English, and all distances are displayed in miles.
Getting to Belize
Belize’s location at the north of Central America makes it an easy destination to get to from anywhere in the world.
For North Americans, the main carriers are Delta, SouthWest, TACA, United and American Airlines. Unless you live in Houston, Miami, New York or Atlanta, expect to have to transfer at one of these major cities. Occasionally you may be able to catch a connection in either Los Angeles or Chicago.
Unfortunately, because of how large North America is, the time to your destination varies greatly depending on where you’re located. While a direct flight out of Miami is only 2.5 hours, Toronto travelers can expect a four to five hour trip with WestJet which operates seasonally from November to April every year. Even so, no matter where you depart from or who you depart with, you’ll always end up at the Phillip Goldson International Airport in Belize City.
Should you want a cheaper way to travel that takes a bit longer, nothing beats going by land. Try Mexico’s ADO bus line, taking visitors to Belize City from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. There are also the Guatemalan Linea Dorada buses that travel from Flores, Peten and Guatemala City to Melchor de Menchos, a small Guatemalan town on the border of Belize.
Travel within Belize is a Breeze!
If you’ve ever been to a foreign country and had a tough time getting around after you arrive, Belize requests the pleasure of your company. In-country travel is so easy and effortless, we call it breezy. Approximately the same size as the state of Vermont, Belize is small enough to make sure you see everything you wish to see, because instead of traveling to and from attractions and sites, you can spend all of your time “being there.” The following ground and air options should cover all of your in-country needs, and unlike other Caribbean destinations, you can travel seamlessly from place to place by bus without ever having to share the ride with noisy crowds and squawking chickens!
Travel by car
Come and go when you please by renting a car while you’re in Belize; especially if you are skilled at map reading and have a good sense of direction. That said, frequent Belize visitors rarely take this option because they know that their resort hosts specialize in getting guests where they want to go, so you can avoid car rental fees and driving strange roads. That stated, if you are the independent sort and require a car, choose between two recommended resources: Untame Belize www.untamebelize.com (phone: 011-501-630-7870) and Barefoot Rentals and Services http://barefootservicesbelize.com/ (011-501- 629-9602) to get the best rates during your stay. Use BELIZEHUB coupon to get a discount.
Travel by air
Whether you’re in a rush to get from place to place or love flying, two Belize airliners service a limited number of cities and offer convenience and time savings. There are plenty of north-south routes ready to deliver you to these small airports expeditiously: Ambergris Caye, Belize International, Belize Municipal, Big Creek, Caye Caulker, Caye Chapel, Corozal, Dangriga, Placencia and Punta Gorda. Down the line, things will get even easier once Ambergris Caye’s little runway turns into an international airport. Service from Belize is fairly inexpensive at around $68 USD one way. Your in-country carrier options are Maya-Island Air www.mayaregional.com (Belize: 011-501-223-1140; USA: 1-800-225-6732) and Tropic Air www.tropicair.com; (Belize: 011-501-226-2012; USA: 1-800-422-3435).
Travel by bus
Belize bus fares and schedules change frequently to service busy routes, but what never changes is the fact that you won’t find a more affordable way to get around! This is the primary transportation method for people throughout the nation, and at any given time, eight bus lines service residents and tourists alike. Your resort host will be a font of information if you need bus service to get where you’re going, but http://www.guidetobelize.info/en/travel/belize-bus-timetable-route-guide.shtml, is a terrific resource for getting information on bus times, locations and fares.
Travel by cab
As you can imagine, taxis are easy to find in this thriving tourist mecca, so if you prefer not to go by bus and don’t mind paying more, taxis could become your favorite form of travel while you’re in Belize. Drivers eager to help offer helpful information in hopes their tips increase, but if you’re already paying a premium price to travel long distances (Belize City to San Ignacio, for example, could set you back $125 USD!), you can probably afford to tip generously. While the government posts rates at Belize City’s international airport, taxi companies often use that day’s gas prices as their rate-setting guide. Look for green license plates and once you flag one down, ask how much your driver charges to transport you to your destination before you get in to show him how Belize-savvy you happen to be!
Belize Entry Requirements
To enter Belize, all most visitors need is a valid passport that won’t expire for at least 90 days. Cruise ship passengers are exempt from these requirements.
Except for cruise ship passengers, all visitors entering Belize must show that they have a return ticket. Visitors may also be required to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to cover the costs of their time in Belize.
Anyone who is an American, Canadian, EU, or CARICOM citizen can enter Belize for up to 30 days. Likewise, anyone with a valid U.S. residency permit (“green card”) or a Schengen Zone visa in their passport can also enter Belize for up to 30 days.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need a visa to enter Belize, you can contact the Belizean Embassy in your country. In the United States, the Embassy of Belize is located at 2535 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. Their phone number is (202) 332-6741. If there is not a Belizean embassy in your country, you can route your queries through the nearest British Embassy.
Staying Longer in Belize
After 30 days, if you wish to remain in Belize, you must apply for a visa extension from the Immigration and Nationality Department. This extension is valid for 30 days and can be renewed every month for up to a year. After a year, you can apply for permanent residency.
The main office of the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department is in Belmopan. Their phone number is (501) 822-2662. There are also satellite offices in Dangriga, Belize City, Corozal, and Orange Walk.
Motor Vehicles and Boats
If you’re driving or boating into Belize from Guatemala or Mexico, you must purchase a temporary import permit at the border. This permit is valid for 30 days and can be renewed at the Immigration and Nationality Department.
Although there are no fees or costs (for individual people) to enter Belize, all foreign visitors must pay an exit tax when leaving the country.
In some cases, this exit tax may be included in the price of your airfare or cruise. If not, the exit fee ranges from $20 to $57.50, the price depending on whether you fly out of Belize or leave via a land/maritime border.
Tourists are welcome in Belize without a visa if they are citizens of:
- The European Union, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway
- The United States (and its territories)
- British Commonwealth nations (with some exceptions – see below)
- CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries
- Costa Rica
- South Africa
Citizens of Commonwealth of Nations (British Commonwealth) countries generally do not need a visa to enter Belize, with the following exceptions:
- Sierra Leone
For the latest information and more details, contact the Belizean or British embassy in your country.
To extend your stay or to apply for a visa, contact either the Belizean or British embassy in your country.
To apply for a Belize Visa, visit http://www.belizehighcommission.com/visas.htm
Best Times to Visit Belize
The best time to visit Belize is from mid-November to April. This peak tourist season boasts plenty of sunshine making it an ideal time for exploring rainforests, scuba diving and lounging on the white sandy beaches.
There is no clear answer to the question when is the best time to visit Belize? because there is always something exciting to do and see in the country. The drier, warm months are more popular with tourists, but the off-season rainier months can be a great opportunity to partake in fishing, snorkeling, or diving. With plenty of colorful and lively festivals occurring throughout the year, visitors to Belize are sure to find plenty of excitement no matter when they arrive.
The Two Seasons of Belize
The weather in Belize is divided into two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season. Both seasons are approximately equal in terms of temperature, although the rainy season is slightly cooler. Because more tourists come to Belize during the drier months, this is known locally as the “high season”, with correspondingly higher rates for accommodation and entertainment venues. The “low season” is when fewer visitors come to Belize, and lodging costs are roughly a third to half as much as during the high season.
Generally speaking, the best time for visitors to experience Belize is between late November and early April, which falls during the country’s dry season. Thousands of tourists come to Belize during this time of the year, drawn to the delightfully warm temperatures, sunny skies, and many local festivals and celebrations.
Less popular for tourists is the period between late April and the month of May, as humidity levels rise to truly tropical levels, and daytime highs top out in the low 100s Fahrenheit. The period from June to early November is the rainy season, with regular precipitation and tropical storms and strong winds. Less popular with tourists, but still a good time to visit, is the period between September and October, when rains tamper off somewhat.
High Season in Belize – November to April
The height of the dry season, the skies remain clear and sunny, and temperatures average about 80 Fahrenheit. Starting in late December, strong winds come bearing down from the north, known locally as “northers”, which will continue off and on through February. Starting in March, the weather becomes more calm, and temperatures become much more pleasant. March and April are prime months for scuba diving and snorkeling, as the waters off the coast become more tranquil and calm. Local hotels usually offer off-season rates during March and April.
Low Season in Belize – June to November
The green season in Belize, which can sometimes see hurricanes and other strong tropical storms. The height of the rainy season are the months of August, September, and October, which feature near-daily rain showers. Daytime temperatures range from the mid 70s to mid 80s Fahrenheit. Fewer tourists come to Belize during this period, but intrepid visitors can take advantage of off-season rates.
Festivals in Belize
The local people of Belize love to celebrate, with regular festivals and holidays spread throughout the year where people can dance, drink, and have a good time. With some of the most lively festivals in all of Central America, Belize is a great place for visitors to see the colorful side of life.
The most popular tourist events in Belize are the numerous Lobster Festivals. After the lobster season opens in mid-June, different localities in Belize each hold their own lobster festival, including in Caye Caulker, Placencia, and San Pedro, each dedicated to fresh seafood, dancing, and music.
Another popular party in Belize is the International Costa Maya Festival. Held in the city of San Pedro in mid-August, visitors from around the world can revel in a this week-long celebration of heritage with beauty pageants, parades, and parties. Also held in August is the Deer Dance Festival, where indigenous locals strut their best steps to the beat of the drum.
The month of September is jam-packed with festivals, as locals celebrate Independence Day, the big party of Carnival, as well as St. George’s Caye Day. Other popular celebrations held throughout the year include the Battle of the Drums, the delicious Toledo Cacao Festival, the world-renowned La Ruta Maya River Challenge, and Garifuna Settlement Day. October is a great time to visit, as the World Indigenous Music Festival features hundreds of musicians celebrating their rich cultural heritage.
When To Go To Belize
Belize Weather By Month
When the cold winter winds blow, dumping snow and ice on North America, the best place to be in January is Belize. With clear skies, and lovely balmy temperatures, you can swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean or simply sun yourself on one of the sugar sand beaches. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, you can explore the tropical rain forests, cruise up jungle rivers to spot birds, or go snorkeling off the biggest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize is also a great place to ring in the New Year, giving your soul, mind, and body a chance to rejuvenate and start off fresh.
Belize Weather in January: Generally mild temperatures, with intermittent rainfall. The end of the month marks the beginning of the dry season, so January is a very popular month for visitors to come experience Belize. Daytime highs average around 80°F (27°C) with nights around 70°F (21°C).
February is one of the best months to visit Belize. With delightfully warm tropical weather and endless sunny skies, February is a great time to escape the snow and cold up north and come relax on a beach or splash in the warm waters of the Caribbean.
Belize Weather in February: Very little rainfall and cool breezes make for very pleasant weather in February. Daytime highs average around 80°F (27°C) and nights rarely drop below 70°F (21°C), making this winter month still warm enough for T-shirts and sandals.
With fantastic weather, Belize in March is at the top of tourist season, with countless opportunities to fish, dive, snorkel, sail, and explore the lush landscape of tropical rainforests, mountain peaks, and rich fertile plains. March is also when many high-energy festivals and celebrations occur throughout the country, making it the perfect time to visit the tropical paradise of Belize.
Belize Weather in March: Almost no rainfall, so the weather is extremely pleasant for visitors celebrating Easter in Belize. Temperatures during the day are around 83F (28°C), while nights stay breezy but warm at around 74F (23°C). One of the balmiest and most enjoyable times for visitors to experience Belize.
April is the best month to visit Belize, preferred by many visitors because the large crowds of Easter and Spring Break have begun to taper off. With plenty of warm sunny weather and fewer crowds, April is a fantastic time to visit Belize. Whether you’re interested in exploring Maya ruins, swimming with whale sharks, tubing down a river through a series of caves or simply enjoying a lovely holiday in a tropical paradise, there’s plenty on offer in Belize in the month of April.
Belize Weather in April: Warmer temperatures mark the onset of the “Iguana Rains”, short, refreshing rain showers that keep temperatures pleasantly warm and excess humidity at bay. Days can get up to around 85°F (29°C) while nights stay comfortably warm at around 76°F (24°C).
May is a great month to visit Belize because numerous resorts, hotels, and tour companies offer huge discounts on accommodations, tours, and all inclusive vacation packages making it affordable for travelers to enjoy an exquisite and amazing Belize vacation.
The weather is also fantastic in May and there are endless activities that you can partake in such as scuba diving with whale sharks, exploring the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, bird watching in the rainforest, and taking a dip at Belize’s top waterfalls like Big Rock and Rio on Pools in the Mountain Pine Ridge.
Another big reason to visit Belize in May is that there are fewer tourists in the country and thus you can enjoy all of the top attractions thoroughly and without rushing.
Belize Weather in May: One of the warmer months, daytime temps are generally around 87°F (31°C), while it’s easy to enjoy the nightlife with temps falling to only around 79°F (26°C). Some light showers occur in the morning, while some nights see the occasional thunderstorm.
Slightly cooler and with better breezes than the months of April and May, June in Belize is a wonderful time to visit. Probably the best attraction for seafood lovers is all of the festivals throughout Belize that celebrate the beginning of the lobster season. The islands of Ambergris Caye and Caulker Caye, and the peninsula of Placencia, each hold their own special festival dedicated to all things lobster.
June is also a great time to visit Belize as airfare from the United States is more affordable than ever. Major airlines like Delta, American Airlines and Southwest all run specials, and Belize is only 3-5 hours’ flying time from several major American cities.
Belize Weather in June: Warming temperatures are moderated by plenty of fresh Caribbean breezes, with an average daytime high of 84°F (29°C), with warm nights as well at around 80°F (27°C). Expect to see a short rain shower on most afternoons that will quickly transition to sunny skies once again. One of the most enjoyable times for visitors to experience Belize.
July is one of the best months to enjoy a vacation in Belize. With fewer crowds and most resorts and hotels offering deep discounts, July is a wonderful time to visit. Air carriers in the United States offer affordable rates on direct flights from several major American cities, and there is plenty to do and see in Belize.
Belize Weather in July: The heart of the summer, July daytime highs average around 86°F (30°C), while nights stay pleasantly warm with an average of 79°F (26°C). Expect to see plentiful rain showers in the early morning, and fairly frequent thunderstorms during the night. Fishing, diving and snorkeling opportunities are fantastic during this month.
Unlike the scorching temperatures found in most of the United States, August in Belize is filled with balmy weather and lots of sunshine. With fewer crowds and lots of advantageous discounts on tours and lodging, August is a great month to come and visit this gem of a country located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea immediately south of Mexico.
Belize Weather in August: As the rainy season takes a break, August is known locally as the “Little Dry” month. The weather in Belize in August stays nice and warm, with daytime highs of about 86°F (30°C), while nights stay balmy at 78°F (26°C), making it perfect beach and swimming weather.
September is an outstanding time to visit Belize as airlines offer competitive rates, resorts and lodges offer discounts, and tours and popular spots are less crowded. With great weather and plenty of sunshine, September is when Belizeans come home from abroad to participate in a month-long celebration of their national heritage and history.
Belize Weather in September: Expect to see a brief resumption of regular rains during this month, especially early in the morning and during the night, but most days stay sunny and clear. Daytime temps average about 81°F (27°C), while nights stay pleasant with a low of 77°F (25°C).
The leaves might be turning and the weather getting chilly in North America during the month of October, but there’s plenty of sunshine, warmth, and adventures to be had in Belize during October. The weather does actually cool down in Belize during October, but that’s a good thing! The weather will be perfect for sailing, snorkeling, swimming, or enjoying one of the many festivals and fun events that take place in October.
Belize Weather in October: The rainy season begins in earnest, with more regular bouts of heavier rainfall. Occasionally, stronger rain storms known as “Northers” will bring plenty of precipitation, especially in the region of the Maya Mountains, which can see heavy rain for days at a stretch.
Daytime highs are slightly cooler, with a high of about 79°F (26°C), and lows reaching around 75°F (24°C).
November may mean cold winds and wintry weather in North America, but balmy temperatures and sunny skies in Belize make it the perfect time to visit. With the big crowds arriving later for Christmas and New Years, November is the ideal time to enjoy fabulous weather with plenty of affordable deals on tours, transportation, and lodging at some of the top resorts and lodges in the country.
Belize Weather in November: The coolest month in this tropical nation, daytime highs average about 76°F (24°C), with nights dipping down to around 73°F (23°C). Although these temperatures seem warm to visitors from America and Canada, this marks the beginning of winter for locals.
December might herald cold winds and snow across North America, but it’s a month of long, sunny days and warm temperatures perfect for snorkeling, swimming, sailing, and hiking in Belize.
With all of the top airlines, including Delta, United, American, and Southwest, offering non-stop service from the United States, it’s now easier and more affordable than ever to enjoy an exotic getaway vacation in Belize. Whether you’re an adventure traveler, want to celebrate your honeymoon, or simply looking for a fun family vacation, Belize has something for everyone.
Belize Weather in December: This month usually starts with plenty of rain, but the end of the year heralds the start of the dry season. The last month of the year sees daytime highs at a pleasant average of 80°F (27°C), while nights average around 75°F (24°C), making Belize the perfect place to enjoy a balmy Christmas on the beach.
Best Places To Visit in Belize
One location. Countless quests.
At the north of Central America sits Belize, a spectacular country full of cultural and ecological diversity seen nowhere else in the world. Hike the ancient Mayan ruins, lost for centuries to the dense jungles. Swim with the creatures that make up the second largest barrier reef in the world. Explore the beauty of the underground through the caves carved by the country’s rivers.
Visit untouched swathes of jungle, home to the elusive jaguar. Relax along 386 kilometers of coastline staring out over the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean or on one of its over 400 tropical island paradises. Salivate over the locally caught fresh seafood. Dive the world-famous Great Blue Hole and scale Big Rock Falls.
The country’s combination of Garifuna, Mennonite, Chinese, Arab, Creole, Mayan and Mestizo influences has led to a distinct nation full of unique traditions just waiting to welcome you to Belize.
Where to go in Belize
Ambergris Caye is the largest and most popular island in the northern waters of Belize and measures 25 miles long and 5 miles across. It is located just 35 miles northeast of Belize City and can be reached on a 10-minute plane ride or an hour and half boat ride. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/ambergris-caye-belize/
Belmopan, Capital of Belize
Belmopan, the current capital of Belize, holds a number of distinctions. Belmopan is the smallest national capital in the region with just 17,000 residents and was built as a brand-new city in 1970 after the long-time colonial capital of Belize City suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/belmopan
Some of the most popular attractions in Belize City include the historic Baron Bliss Lighthouse, the country’s Supreme Court, the beautiful St. John’s Cathedral, and the House of Culture. Another popular local attraction is the Museum of Belize. First built in 1857, the structure served as a prison until 2002, when it was transformed into a museum dedicated to showcasing the country’s heritage. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/belize-city/
Belize Islands and Atolls
The waters off the coast of Belize are dotted with more than 450 beautiful small islands, known locally as cayes (“keys”), as well as tiny atolls that rise up from the floor of the Caribbean Sea. Some of these tiny islands and atolls are uninhabited, but visitors are increasingly being drawn to the rich abundance of marine life and gorgeous coral reefs that can be seen in the waters offshore. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/belize-islands-and-atolls/
If “off the beaten track” is the only type of vacation you enjoy, you owe it to yourself to spend time on Caye Caulker, the Belize getaway island that’s geologically nothing more than a sand bar over limestone that forms ancient caves atop the ocean floor. This island is so laid back and mellow, nervous business types find it downright irritating, as Caye Caulker is something of a magnet for backpacking, bohemian souls who think nothing of bringing two changes of clothing for a long visit. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/caye-caulker/
The northernmost district (state) in the country, Corozal has long been overlooked by most tourists, although that is beginning to change.
Near the district’s capital of Corozal Town can be found the Maya ruins of Santa Rita and Cerros. The ruins now known as Santa Rita once controlled vital trade routes between present-day Mexico and Guatemala. After the Caste War ended in 1901 in neighboring Mexico, thousands of ethnic Mestizos emigrated to Corozal to become farmers. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/corozal-district/
How did a sleepy little fishing village on the coast of the Stann Creek District in Belize gain a reputation for being the nation’s #1 cultural destination? A little luck. A rich heritage. And proximity to some of the most remarkable sights, sounds and experiences Belize has to offer—so many, you’ll understand how Hopkins gained so notable a reputation despite its small size. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/hopkins-belize/
Orange Walk Town is the fourth largest town in Belize and is located 53 miles north of Belize City. The town is known for its diversity and visitors come to explore Mayan sites like Cuello and Lamanai (pictured above) and a variety of other natural parks. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/orange-walk-belize/
Veteran travelers have been known to joke about vacations they’ve taken that sent them to a different area of one or more countries daily. “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Orange Walk!” we overheard a woman say as she tried to match the day with her itinerary. Of course, seeing lots of places when going abroad is fun, but nothing surpasses an immersion, which is why we recommend targeting one area of Belize: Placencia. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/placencia-belize/
No visitor departs Belize without leaving a piece of their heart behind, and this is particularly true of travelers who have found their own version of paradise in San Ignacio, a glorious, friendly destination that’s so close to Guatemala, you can get a second stamp on your passport if you insist on leaving Belize. But, why bother? There’s so much to see, do, taste and learn in the district known simply as “Cayo,” your time and energy are much better spent in this intriguing area of Belize. Need to plan your trip so you don’t waste a minute of time? Start with our suggestions and you’ll be ready to fly. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/cayo-district-belize/
Stann Creek District
Located on the coast of southeastern Belize, the Stann Creek District is home to the popular tourist destinations of Placencia Village, the peninsula of Placencia, and the Garifuna village of Hopkins.
With approximately 34,000 residents, the Stann Creek District is home to a wide variety of indigenous and local peoples, including the Mestizos, the Creole community, the Garifuna, and descendants of the Maya. Without any large metropolitan areas, visitors are drawn to the Stann Creek District because it is a unique opportunity to explore the authentic slow-paced Central American lifestyle of Belize. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/stann-creek-district/
Every inch of Belize could be described as lush, but if you are interested in seeing a primeval world that’s as natural as it gets, a trip to the Toledo District will prove to be an eye-opener. There are approximately 1,700 square miles of rain forests, rivers, offshore islands, jungle and even mountains, making it the least-developed of Belize’s districts—but perhaps the most fascinating. Read more: https://www.belizehub.com/about-us/belize/toledo-district/
Things to do in Belize
The wisest move you can make when planning your Belize trip is to fill your itinerary with variety. Sure, you want beach time, hammock time and your fill of fabulous restaurants, and if you read more than one guide book, you’ll spot commonalities despite different editor picks. But why bother to read guides when our list of Top 10 things to do in Belize includes all of the hot spots? After all, we want you to spend that extra time shopping for flip-flops and bathing suits!
1. Go beachcombing. No Belize beach is identical, and since the country’s coastline runs an impressive 175 mile stretch along the Caribbean Sea, prioritize the most highly-recommended: Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, the Placencia Peninsula and the southernmost beaches in Hopkins. Kill two birds with one stone near the Belize Barrier Reef, because you can swim to your heart’s content without worrying about undercurrents. If you long for privacy, 200 little cayes along the coast–a majority of which are deserted–should do it for you.
|2. Talk to the animals at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary—if they come out! As the only jaguar reserve on the planet, this property is vast and filled with jungle hiking trails, so whether you come for a day or stay at a rental cabin onsite (book in advance), explore this area to your heart’s content and learn about U.S. research scientist Alan Rabinowitz, whose persistence and energy morphed this reserve from great idea to popular destination. Bring hiking boots. There are over 128,000 acres of lush jungle edged by the Cockscomb Mountain Range, and you wouldn’t want sore feet to keep you from seeing it all.
3. If the only cat you care to see is the one you left home, tour Belize’s Cultural Capitals, Dangriga and Hopkins Village, both homes of Punta Rock, the lively pairing of traditional and contemporary music that’s the signature sound of Belize. Love a good party? Stick around Dangriga Town, the capital of the Stann Creek District, where festivals and celebrations are frequent and ongoing. Some are traditional affairs showcasing the Garifuna people who settled in Belize a century ago. Take drumming lessons or spot an impromptu dance party. In this area of Belize, nobody needs an excuse to express their joy.
4. You’ll have plenty of Mayan ruins to choose from in Belize, but if you don’t get your fill, it’s just a short drive to Tikal in Guatemala. Will you need to cross that border when so many ballparks, palaces, stele and temples built by former residents exist? No way. Maya centers like Xunantunich, Caracol, Altun Ha and Lubaantun showcase both buildings and objects d’art, carvings, paintings, jade, pottery, vessels, ritual objects and enough folklore to keep you happy as you (and your imagination) wander places that time seems to have forgotten.
5. If you can only see one Mayan site during your visit, make it Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM), a cave that requires stamina to reach it. After being driven to the ATM Cave, you must hike through the jungle and slog through water to access chamber after chamber of limestone caverns (lit only by beacons affixed to hard hats). Your walk ends at the biggest surprise of all, The Cathedral. This ceremonial chamber is filled with remnants of rituals performed here: a crystal-encrusted skeleton, human bones, altars, pottery and artifacts. You must be accompanied by a licensed guide since this fragile cave is protected by laws, rules and regulations. Even cameras are prohibited.
6. There’s no sign that reads “Welcome to Hiker Heaven” at Belize’s international airport, but there should be. Giving in to your inner trekker not only gets you up close and personal with the plants, creatures, jungles, flowers and forests of Belize, but you’ll get a lesson in ecological responsibility as well. Whether your taste runs to guided walks, mountain trails or you’re up for wandering on your own with map in hand, trails and paths are marked, so rest assured, you won’t get too lost. Don’t want to hike? Get yourself some wheels. If your lodging doesn’t loan bikes to guests, there’s likely a rental resource nearby, so you’ve no excuse to skip exercising when you visit.
7. Go up a creek with a paddle, down a river or do both courtesy of Belize’s network of rivers that connect so efficiently, Belize commerce once relied completely on these waterways. The largest among them are the Mopan and Macal Rivers that flow into the Belize River; you can canoe, sail or kayak these waters so ask your resort host to fix you up. Alternately, take a fishing cruise on the New River, Sarstoon or Temash. Adventure-seekers will find whitewater challenges in some places while those seeking a slow and easy cruise won’t miss a photo opportunity along these jungle-edged waters.
8. The Museum of Belize is headquartered in Belize City at the junction of Gabourel and Hutson Streets. It’s a nostalgic remnant of Colonial British architecture with a fascinating history. Built originally to house prisoners in the 1800s, the museum was fully-functional as late as 1993, at which point, it was restored and turned into a museum. You’ll still see cells, graffiti, chains and balls, but they’re used as decoration to enhance permanent exhibits that include romantic aspects of Belize’s history: Maya artifacts, treasures left behind by buccaneers and pirates and a history of Belize’s labour movement.
9. Commune with the animals housed at the Belize Zoo; they’re all treated like honoured guests rather than caged specimens clinging to iron bars. Designed to emulate natural habitats, the zoo is is home to a jungle of native plants, trees and flowers so more than 150 animals indigenous to Belize feel right at home here. This special population is composed of rehabilitated and orphaned animals in addition to those born here at the zoo. Located west of Belize City, the Zoo is across the road from the Tropical Education Center. It’s worth the drive to visit both.
10. Go big or go home! Far be it from us to remind you that life awaits back home, but you can’t leave Belize until you see the stars in the nation’s constellation: Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and the Placencia Peninsula, known as the Big Three. Each area has a flavour and vibe that distinguishes it from the others. You will want for nothing when you divide your time between them, because merchants and residents alike adore tourists. Expect gourmet dining, ethnic eateries, attractions and a collection of lodgings that is so extensive, if you can’t find the accommodation you crave at each location, it might not exist.