A good place to start when you arrive in Belize is to sit back and relax on one of the many breathtaking beaches and plan your itinerary. Ahead of you, rainforest treks, underwater adventure, great food and the warm hospitality of the people are all waiting to be enjoyed.
Those who love life beneath the waves will relish exploring the Barrier Reef that protects the Belize coastline. The reef is abundant with an incredible array of marine life and living corals of all sizes and colours illuminate the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System’s luminous barrel sponges and coral heads are home to emerald moray eels, butterfly angelfishes. It’s also haven for sharks, spotted rays and turtles.
The more skilled and adventurous can discover Belize’s Great Blue Hole, which formed after the collapse of a cave centuries ago. Belize’s most famous diving site is at a depth of 400ft and is visible from outer space. Impressive stalactites await those who dive down, along with tropical fish, Caribbean reef sharks, hammerheads and giant groupers. The Great Blue Hole is also great for snorkelling as it’s ringed by spectacular coral formations.
Hiking in Belize is a spectacular way to experience the country’s ancient rainforests. Although it’s not just lush green jungle you’ll find – this was once the land of one of the world’s most ancient civilisations. Cayo was the heart of the Belizean Mayan world and today you can explore its temples on horseback or on a hand-cranked ferry.
Climbing the steps of the temples reveals panoramic views of the surrounding forests, winding rivers and verdant hillsides. Cayo is renowned for its thundering waterfalls, many of which are in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. The reserve is a pocket of ecological importance and offers a treat for nature lovers. Along the many trails you’re sure to hear choruses of howling monkeys and you may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the national bird – the incredible toucan.
Belize is also home to vast cave systems, such as Actun Tunichil Muknal. Each cave is an awe-inspiring network of stalagmites and also shows signs of human settlement, with pottery shards and other remains.
River tubing is popular in Belize with spectacular rides taking you through rich rainforest and often into vast caves.
Food plays a big part in Belizean culture and you can be sure to enjoy the best finger-licking barbeques, rice and beans and other delicacies throughout its many excellent restaurants and cafés. There are also bustling markets where fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available.
Travel southeast to Stann Creek, which stretches along the Hummingbird and Southern Highway and you’ll encounter dramatic limestone hills draped with dark green trees, small villages and citrus groves. Stann Creek is home to the world’s only jaguar reserve – the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The dense tropical rainforest has well-maintained trails for visitors to explore. As well as jaguars, the wildlife includes, howler monkeys, gibnuts and over 300 bird species.
A visit to Dangriga is essential to understand more about Belize. The cultural capital and the spiritual home of the Garifuna people, Dangriga has a vibrant coastal vibe and is famous for its fish cooked in coconut milk, with a side of mashed plantain.
Barefoot elegance is the order of the day at the glorious sandy beaches of Hopkins and Placencia, where great food is enjoyed as the last rays of sunlight disappear over the horizon. Snorkelling, water sports, diving and fishing are some of the must-do activities in this region. Head further south and discover Toledo, considered the mecca of the Maya and Garifuna.
The surrounding islands or ‘cayes’ provide one of the highlights of a trip to Belize. Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are the two most popular. Those looking for laid-back coastal vibe should look no further than Caye Caulker, with bicycles and golf carts the chosen modes of transport. Ambergis Caye offers fine-dining and nightlife – with the Belize Barrier Reef System in close proximity, snorkelling and diving spots are just a boat ride away.
A visit to the north of Belize is the perfect way to round off your journey of discovery. Known as Sugar City (the country’s sugar cane production is based here) Orange Walk Town is home to the Mestizo culture and their many traditions abound the region.
The city is not only famous for its Mayan temples but also for the best tacos you’ll ever taste. Corn tortillas bursting with flavour, which like so much in Belize, will have you coming back for more.