Holiday & Beaches
The Splendour and Beauty of Belize
Once a best-kept secret, the word is out on Belize. This tiny Central-American nation, formerly known as British Honduras, offers a vast array of choices for the discerning traveler. With seven distinct regions offering biodiversity, indigenous culture, Mayan ruins, extreme adventure and incredible beaches, it’s no wonder that tourism is on the rise.
Here are some of the can’t miss experiences to include in a visit to Belize:
Belize City is the largest city in the country. It is the historical but not the official Capitol. It is mostly known at the arrival point into the country and the jumping off point for the more touristic destinations. While not a tourist magnet in and of itself, there are some higher end hotels in the Ft. George area if you find yourself spending the night her.
San Ignacio in the Cayo District is the most popular area for visiting Belize’s jungles. Accommodations here run the gamut from camping to luxury eco lodges like Chaa Creek. It’s a haven for adventure seekers with options for cave tubing, zip-lining, rappelling, jungle canoeing and kayaking. The Orange Walk District in northwestern Belize is home to several excellent jungle lodges such as Chan Chich Lodge, Lamanai Outpost Lodge and La Milpa. Visitors can hike, horseback ride, enjoy birding and even take a night-time crocodile safari.
The Toledo District in southernmost Belize is the least explored by most tourists. If you are looking for something more off the beaten path, the Toledo District just might be for you. Here you will find deep jungle rainforest, jungle rivers and waterfalls, unexcavated Mayan ruins and villages that have hardly changed in the past 100 years.
Belize has no shortage of Mayan Ruins and they can be found scattered throughout the country. The most spectacular, not to be missed sites are Lamanai, Caracol, Xunantunich, Tikal (which is in Guatemala) and Altun Ha. Lamanai is the longest continually inhabited site in Belize. It sits on about 1,000 acres and has about 70 excavated structures. It can be reached from Belize City or the Orange Walk District. Caracol is one of the largest sites in the Mayan world and had a population density greater than that of Tikal in neighboring Guatemala. Lost to the jungle for over 1,000 years, it is still being restored. Xunantunich contains 25 temples and palaces and was a great ceremonial site.
Hardy visitors who reach the top of the El Castillo pyramid, the second tallest Mayan structure in Belize, can see all the way into Guatemala. Tikal, although located in Guatemala is easier to reach from Belize. Due to its massive scale, a couple of days is recommended for visiting this site. Altun Ha is the easiest to get to at only 34 miles from Belize City. The core structures have been extensively restored. Most day tours will include Altun Ha.
Placencia is the country’s most popular beach getaway. This peninsula of sun, sand and surf stretches across three villages. Here you will find a mix of tourists and locals, top-notch accommodations, excellent food and nightlife. Laughing Bird Caye and Silk Cayes are popular day hops from Placencia where you can spend the day with virtually no one else in sight. Half-moon Caye is an unspoilt paradise of sparkling Caribbean water, white sand and coconut palms. It is also a turtle nesting site and home a protected red-footed booby sanctuary. South Water Caye can be visited as a day trip from Dangriga or you can stay at Pelican Beach Resort on a perfect, powdery, white-sand beach.
The most popular dive site in Belize is, undoubtedly, The Blue Hole. A large, underwater sink hole, it’s over 300 metres across and 125 metres deep and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is another hugely popular dive/snorkeling site for visitors. Here you can swim side by side with nurse sharks and sting rays and see an abundance of fish in the protected areas. Divers at South Water Caye find company among eage rays, sharks and turtles, loggerhead turtles in the Silk Cayes, an abundance of marine life at Laughing Bird Caye and coral gardens at Glover’s Reef.
Whether you’re honeymooning or just enjoying a romantic getaway, Belize has plenty for couples to enjoy. Ambergris Caye has plenty of boutique hotels, restaurants, funky bars and nightlife. To escape the non-stop buzz of San Pedro, opt for a stay on the island’s quieter southern beaches or the rugged north coast. Caye Caulker, Ambergris’ little sister, is flip-flop heaven. Only five miles long, there are no paved roads and no cars here. South Water Caye boasts 180 degree water views and sits directly on top of the Barrier Reef. You can actually swim from shore to reef.
Whatever you choose to do during your stay in Belize, there is something for everyone. We’ve only touched on some of the myriad experiences you can have in this small Central-American paradise. Whether you want to hangout and be a beach bum on Caye Caulker, scale the pyramids of Mayan ruins or get your adrenaline pumping on a zipline through the jungle, Belize is a memorable travel destination.