Belize is a not too large country with about 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide but it owns many interesting destinations with dense forests, many wildlife reserves, beautiful islands scattered in the Caribbean, especially famous for the second largest coral reef in the world called The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System – a diving paradise. Therefore, this is a top destination for those who love ecotourism and adventure tourism. Not only that, Belize also attracts visitors because this is also one of the great centres of the Maya civilization. There are many ancient Maya architectural works that will satisfy your passion for discovering about the legendary Maya Empire. So, what to do and how to plan a budget perfect trip to Belize for the first-time? Let’s check out our Belize travel blog (Belize blog) with the fullest Belize travel guide (Belize guide, Belize tourist guide) from how to get, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
Belize is one of the smallest countries worth visiting in the world with an area of 22,966 km² and a population of about 405,000 people, formerly British Honduras (which is the colony of the United Kingdom). This explains why although it is located in Central America, the official language of this country is English. It can be said that Belize is the perfect departure point for the journey to explore Central America.
Traveling to Belize, you will discover mysterious tropical forests with many rare plants and animals, poetic waterfalls and beautiful coral reefs with more than 100 different types of corals and about 500 species of tropical fish, many beautiful beaches, rich and diverse fauna and flora. It is also one of the great centers of the most mysterious, ancient Maya civilization with its stone temples, ancient tombs have been excavated with intricate hieroglyphs.
Belize travel guide: Overview of Belize
Known as a sea and island paradise in the Caribbean, Belize has always been voted one of the most attractive destinations in the world. Belize is a country located in Central America bordering Mexico, Guatemala and the Gulf of Honduras. The Spanish invaded in the 16th century but did not conquer it completely. Subsequently, Great Britain gained control of the region and in 1862, it officially became a colony of British Honduras. In 1981, Belize gained independence.
The Mayans were the first ancient people to live here from 1500 BC and flourished until the 10th century and declined thereafter. This is one of the most flourishing ethnic groups in ancient times, having lived in Central and South America, leaving many ruins with temples, special step pyramids still exist and keep intact until now. From the 16th century the island was a colony of Spain and was occupied by Britain in the 17th century until 1981 when Belize become an independent nation, showing strong cultural impacts on the people living here.
Tourism is also one of the industries that bring great benefits to Belize thanks to special types of services such as exploring tropical forests, swimming, diving, snorkeling and watching coral, kayaking and fishing. In addition, discovering, admiring and learning about Maya history through the remaining wonders of the ancient Maya civilization which were voted one of the 10 most great wonders in the world also is great activities.
Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, so traveling here is easier than to many other American countries. In the center there are large and modern streets, the suburbs have romantic villages and wild natural landscapes along with many daily flights connecting many countries around the world with Belize, bringing visitors to many famous attractions such as the Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. You can drive from one end of the country to the other in just two hours.
Belize travel guide: When to visit?
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, from late November to mid-April. At this time, warm temperatures and clear blue skies are perfect for outdoor tourist activities. However, due to this is the peak tourist season, so if you travel to Belize at this time, you will experience crowding, room rates, prices of services are higher. You should consider to coming here from mid-June to mid-November, because this is the time of storms and strong winds.
Belize travel guide: Transportation
Most flights to Belize land at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) in Belize City. To getting around Belize, you can travel by domestic plane, motorbike, bus, water taxi, boat, car or even kayak. The bus system in Belize operating relatively well, both cheap and reliable, and this is a great way to immerse yourself in Belize culture. Taxi is also a cheap mean and negotiable.
Although car rental is expensive in Belize from $56 – $82, it doesn’t seem too high to look at when you consider alternatives, especially if there are three or four people are traveling with you to share the cost.
Bicycles are available to rent in many major tourist places for around 20 BZD (~$10) per day. You usually don’t have to deposit. A used bicycle can be purchased from one of these rental companies for long-term use if you plan to stay in Belize for a long time.
Belize travel guide: What to do and where to go?
The city of the same name Belize is located on a peninsula jutting into the Caribbean Sea and is a transit point for trips to other parts of the country of Belize. Visitors are often attracted to the caves in the Cayo district, the Maya archaeological sites along the Macal and Belize rivers, the special Swing Bridge located in downtown Belize City or the oldest cathedrals in Central America.
The Great Blue Hole
The world-famous Great Blue Hole is located off the coast of Belize, it is considered as the the most recognizable icon of Belize. Since 1996, this huge blue hole has been recognized and protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The depth of Blue Hole reaches 120 m while its diameter is more than 300 m. The Great Blue Hole is like a sinkhole of a submarine, looking from above you will see a beautiful deep blue water surrounded by shallow turquoise waters.
According to scientists, there was a large limestone cave that existed in this place during The Ice Ages (2.4 million years ago). At that time, the water level in the Atlantic was much lower. Over time, the cave flooded and its arch collapsed and this is also the reason why the Great Blue Hole appeared. Scuba diving lovers will be amazed at the diverse and rich marine life and flora at the Great Blue Hole, including coral reef sharks, other giant fish and many unique colorful fish.
Moreover, you can sit in a helicopter to admire the view from above or scuba dive to the bottom to explore. If take a helicopter, you can reach the Turneffe Atoll island cluster after flying boredly. If you want to diving here, you must have a permit, go in the dry months from April to June.
This is one of 7 protected reserves belong to the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System recognized by UNESCO, the best place for you to experience snorkelling. From San Pedro, you can take a boat ride to the reserve, relax in the warm water and snorkel to see the colorful world on the ocean floor. Southern rays, sea turtles and many other fish are hidden behind beautiful coral reefs.
Coming to the famous Shark Ray Alley in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, you will have the opportunity to swim with sharks and stingrays. Sharks are 4 to 5 feet long, are bottom-tier predators and are usually harmless to humans, as long as you don’t intrude on them.
Before it became the popular tourist destination as we see today, the area was just a fishing ground for local fishermen. Now, if you take a boat out here, just hearing the sounds of paddle, sharks and rays will flock to be fed. Note that if you want to snorkeling or swimming with sharks here, you must be registered with a licensed travel agent.
Address: 2 Barrier Reef Dr, San Pedro, Belize
Area: 18 km²
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
This cave is often referred to as the ATM cave, where people believe that this is the road leading down to the underworld. ATM has a narrow space that creates a solitary and mysterious look. If you are the type of person who likes to explore, this will be the first choice when traveling to Belize. The Mayans used to reside here in the past. The Mayans believed that the sun and moon were both born from this cave. However, please note that you will not allow to bring your camcorder or camera when entering here.
Address: Cayo, Belize
Explore the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is located in the heart of the Cayo district, established in 1944 with an area of 430 km² to preserve the pine forests of Belize. Adventure lovers will find a wide variety of activities to experience here. For example, explore the Rio Frio cave – where the entrance is nearly 20 meters high with a clear river flowing through the center. Following the path along the river, you can see the unique rock slides and rocky walls, then stop at the sand at the other end for a picnic lunch.
Address: Cayo District, Belize
Jaguar spotting at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Belize has the largest number of jaguars in the world, so the government has created an area of up to 250,000 acres for them to be inhabited and protected, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in the district of Stann Creek, Belize. It also includes 128,000 acres of rainforest on the Maya mountain range.
You can join a guided tour in the evening to see these jaguars and many other wildlife. If you come during the day, you can watch bright red macaws, hornbills (national bird and symbol), vultures and hawks. Take note, bring insect repellent and a spirit of being willing to explore, through the jungle without fear.
Address: Mile 12 Southern Hwy, Dangriga, Belize
Bird watching on Half Moon Caye Island
You can combine a tour to the Great Blue Hole with a stop at Half Moon Caye Island – located at the southwestern corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. This World Heritage site is a beloved place by bird lovers. Here there are rare lesser coucal birds and many other beautiful little birds nesting in the bushes. You can hear their chirping and chirping as you approach them.
Come to this place from December to March each year is the season of the lesser coucal bird (Centropus bengalensis), very crowded. This place is also known for its crystal clear blue waters, making the dream of snorkelling of sea lovers come true.
Explore the Black Hole Drop
If Caracol is the mother of all Maya ruins, then the Black Hole Drop in the west leads the list of caves in Belize. This is a cave located at the edge of Actun Loch Tunich, a large sinkhole in the Maya Mountains. The diving experience to the bottom of the sinkhole is not for the faint of heart, but if you are adventurous lover, professional guides will take you down using the rope system. You will have a feeling of extreme excitement when surfing through the lush green forest canopy. Some Belize tours will offer a cheap outdoor lunch, which you can book in advance to experience.
“Chill” on Caye Caulker Island
Caye Caulker is one of the most charming islands in Belize. You can come here to stay for a few days in budget hotels, enjoy local cuisine at a very cheap cost and enjoy shopping for a few days.
On the island there is Split – which was created as a result of Hurricane Hattie in 1961, splitting Caye Caulker island into two-part. Today, Split is a small beach, a great place for you to immerse yourself in the warm water, enjoy delicious seafood dishes and snorkel to the ocean floor. Or more simply, you can rest on the benches, drink a beverage and watch the beautiful scenery at sunset.
Belize country is home to many groups of people with different backgrounds such as native Maya, Spanish immigrants from centuries ago, the British, ethnic minorities like Creole, East Indian, Garifuna, Maya, Mestizo … You have just experienced many different cultural forms, but also can try local specialties and other types of activities.
Mayan culture is one of the oldest cultures here. If you are interested in learning about diverse cultures around the world, you should definitely come to Belize once. Belize is one of the largest centers of Mayan culture with many archaeological sites are scattered throughout the country. Among them the most impressive Mayan ruins are found in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve in western Belize.
The ancient Mayan architecture still exists intact today and is one of the physical cultural heritages of mankind recognized by UNESCO. Coming to Belize, you will also have the opportunity to visit, learn about the mysterious culture of this tribe and get closer to the cultural features of this tribe before they disappear. Don’t miss the famous Maya Archaeological sites with stunning temples, spectacular step pyramids like in Lamanai, Xunantunich, Cerros, Lamanai, Altun Ha or Caracol.
To the west of Belize is the district of Cayo, where the Mayan remains of Pre-Columbian era are left. You can walk to visit Xunantunich and Caracol – The 2 tallest Mayan ruins structures in the country.
Xunantunich is located near the border of Guatemala, with a step pyramid of El Castillo more than 38 meters high, located on a mountain slope overlooking the Mopan River. This place was once the ritual center of the ancient Mayans and remains of temples and plazas still remain. If you climb to the top of the pyramid, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding jungle.
Caracol is located at the foot of Maya mountains in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve was discovered in 1937 by loggers. At its peak, it had an area of more than 112 square kilometers and had about 120,000 inhabitants, more than the current population of Belize City. Caracol does not have any water source, people live on rainwater and cultivation.
Ambergris Caye is one of the most beautiful islands that you should visit when traveling to Belize. It is not only famous for its attractive beaches, but also for its beautiful coral reefs, limestone caves and tropical forests. In particular, Ambergris Caye also has a traditional fishing village for visitors to have the opportunity to explore the customs and traditional culture of the local people. In addition to Ambergris Caye, you can also visit other islands like South Water Caye or Tobacco Caye.
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize, where you can sunbathe, relax on the beach, fishing, boating or joining a foodtour to discover local cuisine.
Coming to the central town of San Pedro, you can sit on golf carts, cross each narrow street to admire the view. There are also many beautiful coastal resorts here, suitable for those who want an impressive vacation.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
With a length of up to 965km, Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second largest coral reef in the world, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Here, you can enjoy relaxing moments by the warm white sand beach, immerse yourself in the cool water or snorkeling to admire the beauty of the coral reefs.
Scuba diving to watch the coral
The waters in Belize have coral reefs up to 290 km long with many different types of corals, creating an extremely large, diverse and lively population. Coming to Belize, you will learn how to dive in shallow sea waters to see coral, or if you already have a diving certificate, you can also dive by yourself to deeper sea areas to admire the underwater landscape.
Belize has a lot of wildlife, so visiting wildlife sanctuaries or nature reserves is a better choice. Belize Zoo, which is known as the “miniature zoo of the world” is the perfect destination. Unlike other zoos, it only rescues animals native to Belize.
If you don’t have enough time to get to the sanctuaries on the edge of the country, you can head to the Belize Zoo. Located along the George Prince Mile 25 Highway, this 29-acre zoo is home to and protects many native animals. The zoo began operations in 1983, becoming a home for animals and used as a backdrop in rainforest documentaries.
Here without iron bars, you will see animals roaming freely in the barns, close to their natural habitat. Currently there are about 175 animal species representing 45 species that live in the zoo. The Belize Zoo also operating as a rehabilitation center for injured and rescued animals.
Address: Mile 29 Western Hwy, La Democracia, Belize
Area: 12 ha
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 9AM–4PM
Crooked Tree Village
Belize is home to more than 500 species of birds and you don’t have to go deep into the forest to see them. Crooked Tree Village is one of the ideal destinations for you to immerse yourself in nature and watch the birds fly.
Explore the tropical forests of Belize
Belize owns tropical forests with many rare animals preserved to this day. When visiting the allowed tropical forests, visitors will have the opportunity to admire the strange animals only available in Belize such as the keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), Tapirs, jaguars … Especially Belize is also country owns the first American jaguar santuary in the world, helping this animal to limit the current extinction threat.
Belize travel guide: What to eat?
Belize cuisine is a blend of diverse cuisines of all ethnic groups living in the country. Even a dish originating thousands of years ago still exists as Tamales cake using cornflour. Don’t miss out Cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork dish), pork is marinated in strongly acidic citrus juice, adding annatto seed which imparts a vivid burnt orange color, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaf or seeking familiarity with British-influenced bread, beer and cheese.
Enjoy chocolate in the Mayan way
Belize is known as the cradle of chocolates, proofs show that the Mayan Indians love to drink chocolate every day. The Toledo district in southern Belize is the hub for most chocolate production today. You can combine a trip to Lubaantun relic exploration with learning about the role chocolate plays in Mayan culture. Or visit a cocoa farm to witness firsthand the process of making chocolate.
Belize travel blog: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Macaw Bank Jungle Lodge, a top rated lodge with room rates from $120/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Colinda Cabanas, a top rated hotel with room rates from $78/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Maya Beach Hotel, a top rated hotel with room rates from $161/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Lodge Hidden Valley Inn & Reserve, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $201/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Grand Caribe Belize Resort and Condominiums, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $304/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Belize travel blog: Before you go
- However, recently Belize has often emerged that the problems of looting, theft, murder and robbery are very dangerous and is one of the reasons why tourists are concerned when coming here. Currently, the government has implemented strict security measures to completely limit this situation, but this still causes a great haunt for tourists before traveling in this country.
- When planning a trip to Belize, it is important to take care of your personal possessions carefully, not going to remote areas without security measures. Do not go with strangers as well as get acquainted with people who have not clear background in this place. These precautions will help to ensure that possible dangers are avoided not only in Belize but also in other tourist destinations.
- Known as one of the most famous destinations in the world for its romantic sea scenery, Belize tourism will bring you great experiences for your upcoming vacation. You can choose to book tours or self-traveling to have the opportunity to experience all the great services in this country as well as its splendid islands. Happy travelling!
Belize blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Belize you can refer to
- From Belize City: Zip Lining and Cave Tubing Adventure
- Belize: Belize City to/from Placencia/Hopkins Transfer
- Belize City: 5-Hour Cave Kayaking Tour
- San Ignacio: Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave Full-Day Tour
- San Ignacio: Cave Tubing with Lunch & Optional Zipline
- San Ignacio: Caracol Maya Ruins & Waterfall Tour with Lunch
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