Belize, which is south of Mexico and east of Guatemala, is the only country in Central America in which English is the official language. It has a tropical climate with dry and rainy seasons; hurricane season runs from June to November. In terms of weather, winter is the best time to visit Belize.
Belize is famous for its many ecosystems that include mangrove swamps, jungles, mountains, and hills. Well-known terrestrial animals native to Belize include jaguars, tapirs, and toucans. Belize also boasts Central America’s largest cave system. The Maya settled in Belize around 1500 BC which left Belize with several Mayan ruins that visitors may explore.
Main Tourist Attractions in Belize
1. Scuba Diving in the Blue Hole Natural Monument
Arguably the most famous attraction in Belize, the Blue Hole is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It sits at the center of the Lighthouse Reef. With a diameter of over 1000 feet, the Blue Hole appears to be a perfect and deep blue circle surrounded by an aquamarine ring.
The Blue Hole is around 450 feet deep with lots of caverns and small caves all the way down. It boasts both fascinating marine life and geologic formations like columns and gigantic stalactites. Inhabitants include giant groupers and several species of shark like the blacktip shark and Caribbean reef shark.
2. Exploring the Ruins of Caracol
Caracol is the largest and most important Mayan site in the Cayo District of Belize. It is located in the jungle about 1650 feet above sea level on the Vaca Plateau. At its peak in around 650 AD, Caracol may have covered over 70 square miles and had a population of perhaps 150,000 – twice that of present-day Belize City.
Caracol has about 40 miles of roads linking neighborhoods within the city to each other. Caracol’s citizens had dug artificial reservoirs and planted crops on terraces, for the city did not have a natural source of water. The downtown contained palaces, temples, markets and craft workshops. Caracol is also known for its many and diverse birds.
3. Visiting Turneffe Atoll
Belize’s newest marine reserve, Turneffe Atoll was declared a protected area in 2012. At 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, it is the biggest atoll in the Americas.
It has many mangrove islands that serve as nurseries for many marine creatures. The reef has many shallow sea gardens inside it that are safe and easy enough for novice divers to explore. Turneffe Atoll boasts a diverse population of fish, coral and large rays that make it popular with snorkelers, scuba divers, and catch-and-release fishermen.
4. Seeing the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
Established in 1983 outside of Belize City, the Belize Zoo began life as an animal rescue that gave shelter to animals used in documentary films. Upon discovering how little native Belizeans knew about animals that lived within their own country, the rescue’s founders decided to start educating visitors about their charges – and the rescue gradually became a zoo.
It now occupies 29 acres and displays 170 animals that belong to 45 species, all native to Belize. Many of the animals are rescues, while others were donated by other zoos. The Belize Zoo also prides itself on being the first nature destination in Belize that is accessible to the disabled; all of the pathways can be used by people with walkers and wheelchairs.
5. Having Fun in Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of Belize and the most popular tourist destination in the country. It is only a mile from the Belize Barrier Reef, and it is therefore popular with divers. Visitors may go swimming, sailing, jet-skiing or windsurfing. People who wish to remain on the land have their choice of bird-watching, nature hikes, bicycling or even visiting some Mayan ruins.
The town, San Pedro Town, is only a mile long and a few blocks wide, so all the restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes are within easy walking distance. San Pedro Town also hosts several yearly festivals; the biggest is the Costa Maya Festival which lasts six days and celebrates different countries in Central America.
6. Exploring the Belize Barrier Reef
At 185 miles long, the Belize Barrier Reef is the second –longest barrier reef in the world and the longest in the Western Hemisphere. It offers many dive sites that range widely in challenge level; some are safe enough for novices, while others are for experienced divers seeking adventure.
The barrier reef boasts over 100 coral species that have formed different types of coral reefs: fringing reefs, ringed reefs, atolls and patch reefs. Over 500 species of fish, 350 species of mollusks and many other creatures live in these coral reefs. The Belize Barrier Reef is home to several threatened species including the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, the loggerhead turtle, the hawksbill turtle and the green turtle.
7. Spelunking in the Actun Tunichil Muknal
The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is a cave near San Ignacio. The name means “Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre,” and it is indeed a Mayan burial site. There are four skeletons in the cave, including that of a teenage girl. The cave’s natural processes have completely calcified her bones so they sparkle. She is therefore sometimes called “The Crystal Maiden.”
The cave also contains Mayan stoneware and pottery, some of which were used in ceremonies. Visitors should note, however, that the tour is physically demanding; they will have to hike some distance to reach the cave, and they will also have to wade and/or swim at some points. The tour companies, therefore, impose age limits.
8. Explore another Maya Site in Cahal Pech
The Cahal Pech is located near San Ignacio town in the Cayo District of Belize. It is one of the country’s ancient Maya sites, although relatively smaller than the others. It also houses some important artifacts and temples of the ancient civilization.
9. Tour around Placencia
Placencia is one of Belize’s best destinations for water activities. Snorkeling, scuba diving with the whale sharks, kayaking, and cayes hopping are just among the many things you can do in Placencia.
10. Visit San Pedro
San Pedro is yet another town in Belize that can offer you an experience of a lifetime. You can spend a day basking under the sun in one of the many San Pedro beach resorts, go snorkeling, whale watching, food tasting, and even rent golf carts.
11. Eco-trip at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in southern Belize, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the first Jaguar reserve in the world. Although the chances of encountering one during your trip is not a guarantee, there is still more to see in this reserve. The biodiversity in the area is so impressive, every turn will be an entirely different experience.
12. Mopan River Tubing
If you happen to visit San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize, a guided river tubing adventure in the Mopan River is the ultimate thrilling experience you need to try. Enjoy riding the rapids while learning more about the surrounding flora and fauna found alongside the river.
13. Kayaking and Rafting in Subun River
The Sibun River is one of the country’s major river systems and plays an important part in their history. Its name is derived from “Xibun” which refers to the actual Xibun Mayans that had once inhabited the area. The river source is located within the Maya Mountains which also holds some of the country’s most remote and protected areas.
Rafting is a common activity in the river. However, the waters here are relatively calmer compared to the other rafting sites in the country which makes it ideal for kayaking as well. Either way, a journey through the river will open your eyes to some of the most breathtaking sceneries in the country.
14. Travel to Caye Caulker
Belize has several beautiful cayes scattered in the Caribbean Sea and Caye Caulker is just one of them. This coral island is home to a marine and jungle reserve where tourists can enjoy many exciting excursions.
Snorkeling and diving at the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve will get you the chance to see some angel fish, parrot fish, start coral and so much more. The months between April and September is a great time to try your luck to swim with turtles and even manatees.
The Caye Caulker Forest Reserve, on the other hand, covers 100 acres of the entire island. It is home to different types of wading birds and rare species like the black catbird, rufus-necked rail, and white-crowned pigeon. Other animals in the reserve include iguanas, boa constrictors, crocodiles, and many others.
Belize City Tourist Attractions
1. Museum of Belize City
The museum is one of the top tourist destinations in Belize City. What was once known as the Her Majesty’s Prison is now filled with evidence of ancient Maya civilization. There are only a few artifacts displayed in the Maya Treasures section but they are some of the finest ones in the country. There are also informative displays for those who want to learn more about the Maya sites all over Belize.
2. Belize Zoo
The Belize Zoo is a 29-acre land that houses more than 48 species of animals from the wild–all native to the country. Some of the animals you can expect to see in the area are barn owls, white-tailed deer, brown pelicans, spider monkeys and some big cats like the jaguar and puma. Unlike other typical zoos, visitors can take a nocturnal tour around the zoo to see the nocturnal animals live in action.
3. Image Factory
For the art lovers, the Image Factory in Belize City is a must-see. The gallery has been around for almost 20 years and almost every month, it holds an exhibit that promotes local talents and the country’s culture. Poetry sessions are also common in the gallery.
4. BTL Park
Belize Telemedia Limited Park (BTL) is a waterside recreation area in Belize City. Some of the features of the park include food stalls that are selling both local and international cuisines, a playground for the children, and a stage meant for cultural events, concerts, and movie nights.
5. Baron Bliss Tomb
Baron Bliss or Henry Edward Ernest Victor de Barreto was the country’s greatest benefactor. Through a trust fund, he left the citizens of Belize a huge sum from his fortune amounting to more than one million Belize dollars. Beside the tomb is the prominent Fort George Lighthouse that stands along the shore of the Caribbean sea.
6. St. John’s Cathedral
St. John’s Cathedral is the primary cathedral of the city and the oldest Anglican Church in Central America. The building has an interesting backstory; it is built by slave labor which automatically emphasizes its value for the people of Belize. Tourist can also marvel at the Baymen-era tombstones as well as the ancient pipe organ inside the church.
7. Government House
The Government House is presently referred to as the Belizean House of Culture. It features both historical exhibits of artifacts and a creative art show of modern Belizean talents. The house is very symbolic for the people of Belize since it is where the Belizean flag was first raised to mark the beginning of the country’s independence.
8. Swing Bridge
The Swing Bridge is a popular landmark in the country that connects the northern and southern Belize City. The original bridge was constructed in Liverpool before it was brought to Belize. Today, it is considered as the oldest swing bridge in all of Central America and of the few manual bridges of its kind that is still operational.
While Belize is a small country, it has a lot to offer. It has a history that goes back thousands of years, so there are many archaeological sites to explore. Belize offers a wide range of activities from snorkeling to spelunking to simply longing on a beach, and the warm, tropical weather means visitors can enjoy many outdoor activities. Belize also has a very diverse wildlife both on land and in the water.
Images from pixabay.com.