Nestled between Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea lies the perfect place for your next getaway: Belize. With a variety of activities for every type of visitor and a mean annual temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s no wonder that Belize’s tourism industry is growing rapidly - now is the time to explore this beautiful country!
For the History Buff
The Mayans first settled in Belize in 1500 BC, and there are at least 900 remaining Mayan temple sites throughout the country. Some of the most popular sites include Xunantunich, which features a 130-foot pyramid; Cahal Pech, which was once inhabited by a royal Mayan family; and Caracol, which is the largest Mayan site in Belize and one of the largest Mayan sites in the world. For those who can’t get enough of the ruins, a short drive over the border to Guatemala will lead to Tikal, the ancient capital of one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms. In addition to the ruins on land, Belize is home to various caves that the Mayans used for communicating with their gods and performing rituals such as human sacrifices. The famed Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave allows visitors the opportunity to hike alongside Mayan ceramics, stoneware, and full skeletons while guides explain the rituals that took place inside the caves and the artifacts that have not been moved from their locations since discovery!
For the Nature Enthusiast
Approximately 25% of the country has been designated by the government for national parks, protected reefs, and wildlife reserves, which allows for endless exploring. Visitors can admire a vast array of landscapes within just a few hours, from Mountain Pine Ridge, a 300 square mile forest reserve that includes stunning waterfalls among evergreens, to Laughing Bird Caye National Park, an island that hosts various marine and coral habitats. Belize is home to the second longest barrier reef on the planet, the Belize Barrier Reef. There are an estimated 500 species of fish and 100 species of coral - and that’s only in the 10% of the reef that has been researched!
For the Animal Lover
In addition to the 500 species of fish living in the Barrier Reef, Belize is home to over 500 species of birds, making Belize a hotspot for birdwatching. There are various birdwatching tours throughout the country as well as snorkeling tours along the islands and within the Barrier Reef. Animal lovers will love swimming alongside nurse sharks and stingrays at Shark Ray Alley and seeing everything from eels to manatees to sea turtles at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, both located right off Ambergris Caye. Inland, visitors can go horseback riding to Mayan ruins, hold iguanas at the Green Iguana Conservation Project at San Ignacio Hotel, and visit the Belize Zoo, which hosts more than 175 animals of 48 species in their natural habitat.
For the Laid-Back Traveler
Belize has a lot to offer, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed- luckily, most of the aforementioned activities have a relaxing alternative. Love Mayan history but don’t love the idea of hiking through a cave all day? Try cave tubing! After a short trek through the jungle, sit in a tube while a guide pulls you through the water-filled cave, explaining ancient Mayan rituals and beliefs. There are numerous luxury and reasonably priced resorts inland that resemble a jungle oasis, with beautiful cabanas and pool areas that allow for relaxation in the midst of nature. Love the Caribbean blue water but don’t love the idea of jumping in? Forgo the snorkel and book a sailing tour! Stay on Ambergris Caye and head out to Secret Beach, a dreamy haven with warm and shallow water where you can wade out in waist-deep water for at least .25 miles. If the beaches of Ambergris Caye seem too crowded, there are about 450 other cayes to explore - and some islands are available for rent! Now that’s privacy.
For the Thrill Seeker
Belize is known for Mayan ruins, beautiful nature, diverse wildlife, breathtaking beaches, and, most of all, adventure. The best part about Belize is that most activities cater to various types of people; surveying Mayan temples, hiking to waterfalls, snorkeling with sharks, and exploring caves that were ancient Mayan ritual sites are all activities for the aforementioned travelers, but they are made for the thrill seeker. In addition to trekking through the jungle, there are mountain biking and zip-lining tours to provide a new perspective (and some guides will even offer you a termite to eat). If cave tubing and ATM caves aren’t enough, sign up for a Barton Creek Cave tour to canoe through a former Mayan burial cave, where bones are still visible. On the cayes, there are various beach activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing, and paragliding. Various diving or snorkeling day trips to the Great Blue Hole, one of the world’s most famous diving spots, are also available via boat and helicopter.
Thanks to the small size of the country (it’s a 2-hour drive between the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea and the western border of Guatemala), the incredibly kind people, and the convenience of having English as the official language, visitors are able to maximize their time doing all of the above activities without worrying about excessive travel or miscommunications. In Belize, you get the best of all worlds - if you don’t Belize me, go see for yourself!