Things to do in Belize

Belize is an under-the-radar travel destination growing in popularity, with more and more tourists drawn to this exotic locale. Sandwiched between the steaming jungles of the Amazon and the sparkling coastline of the Pacific, there is plenty in Belize to tempt travellers.

The country is home to a number of ancient ruins from the Mayan civilisation. One of the most popular sites is the satisfyingly named Xunantunich, an impressive 7th century construction on a hilltop, reached by hand-cranked cable ferry. Lamanai (which translates as 'submerged crocodile') is known both for its impressive architecture and its dense rainforest setting. Caracol, near the Guatemalan border, was once one of the most powerful cities in the ancient Mayan world.

The coast of Belize sparkles with beaches and the world's second-longest barrier reef. Glover's Reef, named after an 18th century pirate, is a collection of small cays with white sand, palm trees and low-key resorts. Lighthouse Reef houses the unique dive site, Blue Hole. Ambergris Caye is the champion of the tourist industry, a typical paradise of sunbathing, cocktails, snorkeling and scuba diving. Caye Caulker is laid back and cheaper, its easy-going attitude complemented by the reggae beats of the Creole culture.

Belize is also home to some unique wildlife. The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary hosts flocks of migrating birds from November to April, Mayflower Bocawina National Park has great hiking trails and is home to troops of black howler monkeys, and Belize Zoo hosts a fascinating collection of obscure creatures such as tapirs, gibnuts, coatimundi, white-lipped peccaries and many more.

September is the month for festivals and parties. Two weeks of celebrations take place from National Day to Independence Day, and the Belize Carnival reveals exotic costumes and infectious Caribbean music.

Ambergris Caye photo

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of Belize. The 25-mile-wide (40km) island is long and slender, averaging only one mile (1.6km) in width. The most popular attract…

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of Belize. The 25-mile-wide (40km) island is long and slender, averaging only one mile (1.6km) in width. The most popular attraction in Ambergris Caye is its lovely beaches, drawing visitors for activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, and sailing. The island is conveniently situated for those wanting to dive at the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the longest reef in the Western Hemisphere. Ambergris Caye has a lovely, laid back feel with a notable absence of high-rise resorts. The largest settlement on Ambergris Caye is San Pedro Town, a jumble of small hotels, dive companies and souvenir ships, with a few bars and restaurants as well.

Mayflower Bocawina National Park photo

Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Mayflower Bocawina is a small, beautiful park near the village of Hopkins, a great base from which to explore. The jungle and mountains reveal walking trails, swimming holes and so…

Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Mayflower Bocawina is a small, beautiful park near the village of Hopkins, a great base from which to explore. The jungle and mountains reveal walking trails, swimming holes and some interesting Mayan sites such as the pyramids of Mayflower Maya, and the unexcavated Maintzunun temple mound. There are some spectacular hiking trails, far less busy than the more popular Cockscomb National Park. Visitors can see plenty of bird life, troops of black howler monkeys, and enjoy stunning views from the top of Antelope Falls.

Caye Caulker photo

Caye Caulker

Located within easy distance of Ambergris Caye, the small island of Caye Caulker is only five miles (8km) long and less than one mile (1.6km) wide. Getting around on Caye Caulker c…

Caye Caulker

Located within easy distance of Ambergris Caye, the small island of Caye Caulker is only five miles (8km) long and less than one mile (1.6km) wide. Getting around on Caye Caulker couldn't be easier; everything is within walking distance, and there are bicycles and golf carts available for hire. More laid-back than its larger neighbour, Caye Caulker is only beginning to be developed for tourism, and is still more popular with backpackers and budget travellers for its cheaper prices. Fishing, kayaking, sailboating, kite surfing, scuba diving, and snorkelling are the main activities here, and adventurers can spot sting rays, nurse sharks, and manatees in the water.


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Mayan Ruins photo

Mayan Ruins

Travellers to the central lowlands of Belize can visit the fascinating ruins of ancient Mayan cities, which date back more than 2,000 years. The region's lush, steamy tropical jung…

Mayan Ruins

Travellers to the central lowlands of Belize can visit the fascinating ruins of ancient Mayan cities, which date back more than 2,000 years. The region's lush, steamy tropical jungle is an other-worldly setting in which to view the Ruins, which themselves offer astonishing insights into one of the most revered of all ancient cultures. Modern-day Belize contains (among others) the sites of Caracol, Cerros, and Cahal Pech. The ruins at Altun Ha are popular due to their easy distance from Belize City. Lamanai, located in Northern Belize, is the site of some especially picturesque and interesting pyramids, as well as an ancient ball court and other structures. Other popular sites include Tikal, El Pilar, and Xunantunich.


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Glover's Reef Atoll photo

Glover's Reef Atoll

Glover's Reef Atoll is one of only four atolls (ring-shaped reefs made of coral) in the western hemisphere, and a truly mesmerising place to visit. The partially submerged coral is…

Glover's Reef Atoll

Glover's Reef Atoll is one of only four atolls (ring-shaped reefs made of coral) in the western hemisphere, and a truly mesmerising place to visit. The partially submerged coral island, which is also a marine reserve, is 20 miles (about 32km) long, and is home to the richest variety of sea life in the Caribbean. The atoll is ringed with white sand beaches, dotted with coconut trees, and its interior lagoon boasts more than 800 coral patches, with pinnacles rising above the water's surface. While Middle Caye and North Caye are uninhabited, there are luxury resorts along Southwest, Northwest, and Long Cayes. Active types can spend all day diving, swimming, snorkelling, and fishing in the turquoise-blue water.

Website www.glovers.com.bz

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary photo

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

One of Belize's largest protected areas, Cockscomb is home to the world's first jaguar sanctuary, dating back to 1984. The park also has a large diversity of fauna and flora, and h…

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

One of Belize's largest protected areas, Cockscomb is home to the world's first jaguar sanctuary, dating back to 1984. The park also has a large diversity of fauna and flora, and hosts around 50 jaguars. These are famously shy cats, but the visitors' book at the entrance to the park suggests they are occasionally seen. The park is also has pumas, tapirs, anteaters, and armadillos, the jaguar's favourite food. Visitors may see, but will certainly hear, the family of black howler monkeys that live near the visitors centre.

Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole photo

Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole

Situated fifty miles off the coast of Belize, the Lighthouse Reef Atoll is an ideal island getaway, with spectacular beaches and some of the best dive sites in the world. An icon o…

Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole

Situated fifty miles off the coast of Belize, the Lighthouse Reef Atoll is an ideal island getaway, with spectacular beaches and some of the best dive sites in the world. An icon of Belize tourism, the Blue Hole is a perfectly circular, deep-blue sinkhole that is surrounded by the lighter shades of the reef. Explored in 1970 by Jacques Costeau, who declared it one of the best dive sites in the world, divers from all over the world now flock here for a chance to experience the exhilarating descent into its azure depths. Tourists can stay on Half Moon Caye and Long Caye; the other islands are uninhabited.

Belize Zoo photo

Belize Zoo

Belize Zoo has an interesting history. It was the scene of a wildlife documentary that was filmed in the 1980s. On finishing the filming it was discovered that the animals were par…

Belize Zoo

Belize Zoo has an interesting history. It was the scene of a wildlife documentary that was filmed in the 1980s. On finishing the filming it was discovered that the animals were party tame, so the zoo was started on site. The bizarre occupants include tapirs, gibnuts, coatimundi, scarlet macaws, white-lipped peccaries, pumas and many more. Nighttime visits are advised, as many of the animals are nocturnal. Most of the animals are rescue cases and attempts are made to return them to the wild if possible. The zoo is unique in that animals from the surrounding forest can and do visit their friends on the inside.