Sandwiched between Mexico and Guatemala is Belize, one of Central America’s biggest tourist destinations and one of my favorite countries in the region for its beautiful coast and laid back atmosphere. Belize’s barrier reef draws in scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts from around the world, and many of the country’s national parks are a birdwatcher’s paradise. Those with an interest in archaeology will find the Mayan sites of Altun Ha, Lamani, and Caracol also fascinating (I did). The locals are very friendly, the weather pleasant, and the food tasty and delicious. Belize may not be the cheapest Central American destination but it’s one of the easiest and more relaxing places to travel in the region. I’ve put the best tips into this travel guide for you!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Belize
1. Altun Ha
2. The Cayes
3. Belize Zoo
5. Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Other Things to See and Do
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1. See the wildlife
Much of Central America is a wildlife observer’s paradise, and this country is no exception. Birdwatchers will enjoy Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary with its world-class spotting opportunities, while those interested in big cats flock to the country’s most famous protected area Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary for its jaguars (you definitely want to hike around here. The landscape is lush and beautiful!).
2. Bacab Adventure & Eco Park
On more than 500 acres of jungle, you will find hiking trails, waterways, Howler Monkeys, a giant swimming pool with a waterfall, a Butterfly house, and crocodiles, among many other things to keep the whole family busy. Visitors can camp overnight for 10 BZD per person, and tents are provided.
Caracol is the largest Mayan site and was once one of the most powerful cities in Mayan times. Unlike Altun Ha, the ruins in Caracol are less restored and are in a jungle setting, which adds to the ancient feeling of the site (which made them my favorite because I felt like Indy). The site is full of reservoirs, stellae, walls, and tombs, with the best attraction being the Sky Place, a 141 feet tall building. Admission is 30 BZD. Hours are from 8am-4pm.
4. Actun Tunichil Muknal
One of the most exhilarating, if not spooky, things to do is the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour. The cave is home to the remains of victims of Mayan sacrifices and after a brief hike and trek, you’ll come face to face with their skeletons. The site was discovered in 1989 and has been a popular tour ever since then. Expect to pay around 150 BZD for an organized tour. It was one of my favorite activities in the country. Because it is so popular tours have become a lot more restrictive on where you can walk and when you can go!
5. The Barrier Reef
The second longest barrier reef in the world, the vibrant coral, and magnificent marine life makes up the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Divers and snorkelers can enjoy the reef within one of the many islands in the marine park or take a boat tour out to the area itself. In 1996, the reef was designated as a World Heritage Site.
6. Nature walks
Whether you go early in the morning or in the middle of the night, going out with a naturalist through the jungle is an awesome adventure. The morning is the best time to check out birds, while the night is host to new insects and wildlife.
7. St. John’s Cathedral
This cathedral is the oldest Anglican Church in South America. Built from red bricks that were brought aboard English sailing ships in the 1800s, this is an awesome piece of history to check out.
8. Visit Orange Walk
The Orange Walk area of Belize has a diverse range of locals from Creoles to Mennonites. The town of Orange Walk is an ideal location for exploring the Altun Ha and Lamanai and a variety of nature parks and is often used as a stop on the way to Mexico. However, honestly, there’s not much in town, and I wouldn’t suggest spending more than a few days here before moving on.
8. Explore Placencia
Placencia is the ideal location for divers, snorkelers, and those who wish to explore the Mayan ruins in the south of the country. The town still has a laid back Caribbean attitude, and life here centers around the three-foot wide main street where you will find most bars and restaurants. I loved my stay here and ended up staying an extra week.