Belize is a hot, humid land of mountain forests and coastal mangrove swamps. It is the most densely populated country in Central America. Most of its people live along the coast and are descendants of African slaves, Mayan people, European settlers, or a mixture of these groups. Belize relies on agriculture for much of its revenue. Sugarcane is grown on plantations, and small farms produce corn, beans, fruit and vegetables.
The timber industry has stripped large areas of forest. However, Belize has now set up national parks, old temple ruins, diving sites, and conservation projects to preserve its land, culture, marine attractions, and wildlife.
These are the top ten not-to-be-missed places in Belize.
Achtun Tunichil Muknal
For this important tourist spot, it is imperative to go through a tour operator; you can find an agency that organizes an expedition inside the caves of the Achtun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) anywhere in San Ignacio. The caves are accessible after about an hour of driving — after which you still need to walk for more than an hour along paths that will cross rivers and wind through the jungle. All tours include lunch and depending on the time of arrival at the entrance of the cave you must eat before going inside.
Then begin the expedition between 2- 2:30 pm and proceed to the immersion in the mountain cave. Yes, immersion — you start by getting into the water because this is the only access available.
You will need to swim or walk in the several feet of water (varying from ankle- to waist-deep.) Inside, you must also wade through the water and swim in the deeper places. Periodically, the guides will lead you through some climbing over slippery rocks — all in complete darkness, brightened only by the forehead lamp on the helmet they will provide.
The full tour takes about 3-4 hours, during which you are treated to a huge cave that is full of enormous stalagmites and stalactites, and even artifacts from the Mayan era: ancient pottery, tools, even skeletons of the human sacrifices of the Maya. This remains one of the best excursions to do when in the Cayo Region in Belize.
This ancient temple ruin is located a couple miles from San Ignacio and a visit here will take at least two hours. You will begin by taking a barge to cross a river that divides the main road from the archaeological site. The panorama presented is full of charm even on days when the site is enveloped by dew and fog. There is an interesting small museum at the entrance, which prepares visitors for a better understanding of the
. There are usually very few people and the beautiful archaeological site is well preserved. The panorama from the top of the main temple is sublime: a 360 ° view of Belize — and Guatemala, since the border is really close.
Black Howler monkeys will likely accompany you on your tour, and this is a special experience because they are quickly becoming extinct due to loss of forest habitats. You can also see several varieties of toucans, colorful dragonflies, and butterflies. The place is calm and soothing, and as an historical site offers a glimpse of an old empire, its businesses, and its political and religious culture which is very interesting. There is no entrance fee and climbing the tower (a height of over 100 feet) is permitted. It is physically challenging to reach the top because of the location of the site and its enormous magnitude, yet it is the kind of a place that you can visit several times and always enjoy. It has a special magical atmosphere that you will feel throughout your exploration of the temples and majestic stone carvings. This ancient Mayan site is a must-see attraction in Belize.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a National Park that includes the reefs located south of the Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize. These reefs are incredibly beautiful and there is an immense diversity of species. In addition to smaller reef fish there is a wide selection of marine life in its clear and shallow water areas. There is an entrance fee for the Nature Park and the reef is located far away from the mainland coast — but you will appreciate the discovery of the underwater kingdom. You can go up to 32 feet deep, and have the chance to swim with turtles, nurse sharks, eagle rays, stingrays, groupers, lionfish, and schools of other tropical fishes which are endemic to the waters of Belize.
The absence of corals makes it less colorful, but the huge number of fish is a fair tradeoff. Inside this marine preserve you will see first hand the wonderful turtles and even have the chance to pet a moray eel safely. It is a unique snorkeling and diving experience that will leave you impressed and enchanted by the magical charm of the underwater world. The reserve and Marine Park is a few miles from San Pedro and is one of the best diving destinations in Belize. A guided tour is a must.
is full of exotic animals in gigantic cages and some animals that are free to move anywhere in the park. The zoo, which is an hour’s drive from Belize City toward Guatemala is loaded with interesting features: the Jungle Trek and the Night Shining Moon is a favorite. It is fantastic to feel the mysterious twilight of the jungle as you walk through an elusive jungle path with flashlight in hand — listening to the enigmatic sounds of the forest at night. Some animals are not actually in cages and they have their own large grounds.
And then do not forget that animals in the jungle live at night and on hot days they sleep. In a whisper, the guide talks about the inhabitants and highlights each animal with a flashlight. Some paths are transformed into suspension bridges, so that you can observe the life of the jungle above the tree heights. This is a private zoo, so all income from entrance tickets and additional purchases goes directly to the care and maintenance of the facility and the animals under its care. It is useful to have a guide who can explain the features of the wild animals — and if you have time, caress the tapirs!
For a small extra fee you will have the opportunity to see up close the big cats in the park, which is a unique experience. Try the Zip Line and Cave Tubing adventures too, you will not be disappointed!
The island of Caye Caulker is very small and in two hours you can learn just about everything. People are very polite and helpful. The beach is simply beautiful and a good place to relax. It is worth staying a couple of days to enjoy the entire site — not to mention the possibility of diving the Blue Hole which is another unforgettable spot and famous among divers. It is also pretty easy to find good snorkeling and have a peek into the rich and diverse marine life around this Caye. Ask to arrange one of the many excursions (4-5 hours), which are offered through the local tourism office. For example, you can feed manatees or swim with the stingrays. Get to the nearby islands by water taxi.
There are also a lot of souvenir shops and it is just 45 minutes away from Belize City. This is a typical Caribbean town with houses in bright colors, a variety of restaurants, and great sea. The colored and wooden frame houses are reminders of the time when this country was a colony of Great Britain. You will absolutely like being there, there is a reggae atmosphere, the people are cool, the island is wilder, simpler, smaller and the lack of any road offers a change of scenery and pace. But Caye Caulker is a dynamic island, especially on weekends. If you like quiet, do not choose a guest house on Front Street!
The Iguana Conservation Project (San Ignacio)
The visit to the Iguana Rescue Program and the in-house Medicine Trail through the jungle are among the most beautiful and instructive experiences you will have when you visit the town of San Ignacio. The tour guide infuses the tour with a lot of humor and fun throughout the trail — while at the same time discussing all the species and the origins of the many native plants that are part of this project.
The amiable guides will also answer all your questions with pleasure. You can take pictures to your heart’s content and get up close with some of the younger Iguanas, touching them or putting them on your arm. All in all, it is an immensely instructive trip, and easy to understand. It is ideal for children; they will really have a better idea of the importance of the Iguanas. Part of the entrance fee goes to funding the upkeep and maintenance of this meaningful
Iguana Conservation Project
This project was initiated through the efforts of a private company that also runs the San Ignacio Hotel (in the town of the same name). The tour is interesting because you will be given the chance to interact with the iguanas there. There are 5 iguanas living in the place and they are used to visitors. Gomez is the name of the alpha male in the group; he is a huge iguana with a strikingly beautiful orange color. The rest of the iguanas are kept in cages with the main goal of repopulating their species in this area.
Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins and Museum
The Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins and Museum is a very interesting old temple and different from other Mayan sites attractions you will see in Belize. Its architecture is different and there are places where you have to walk very carefully because it is dangerous — but that is what makes it more exciting. It is easy to find as it is in San Ignacio and you do not need to do a tour or hire a guide. It highlights the amazing Mayan history, architecture, and science.
Although the park is small, you can appreciate the majesty of the Mayan culture. It is a beautiful site with an imposing temple worth visiting and being climbed. The view of the valley and surrounding hills is truly idyllic. Access to the site is pretty amazing since you need not cross the river on a bridge but rather on board a sort of manual ferry or barge. A local person is always around to organize the passage of vehicles from one side to the other.
Blue Hole National Park
Blue Hole National Park
is a good place to walk and swim and is near Belmopan, the capital city of Belize. It has good facilities to access and spend the day, and there are caves in the park where some Mayan artifacts have been found. It is a charming place that helps make Belize truly unique, a special place with natural beauty and interesting culture.
It is a must for those looking to enjoy the best outdoor spots of this country that is full of beaches, rivers, waterfalls, islets, islands, Mayan ruins, good food and a great atmosphere. A visit to this place is not complete without taking a swim in its glorious and clean waters.
Experience a great cave tubing adventure in Belize at the
. This is best done by availing yourself of a tour package. The tour begins with a 30-minute walk during which you will pass interesting rock formations. Your knowledgeable guide will delight you with all sorts of explanations made in the most entertaining way, making the trek less strenuous.
The water here shimmers blue-green and is really beautiful, and the tubing is a lot of fun. The snacks and the refreshments are of course welcome and there are plenty of facilities before starting the cave trip. If there are no crowds the big cave can be enjoyed in peace and quiet — and it might be quite dark in a few places. You can see various stalactite and stalagmite formations and plays of light in the water. This tour can be included on the way to or from the Belize airport. A zip line can be added to this experience.
Silk Caye (Placencia)
is a magical and superb diving site that is full of tropical fish, turtles, rays, stingrays, eels and a huge amount of the other marine life that is so abundant here. The island is small but has a charming sandy beach where the snorkeling and diving adventures are great. It takes a good hour to do the snorkeling tour and not even 10 minutes to walk around.
The Silky Cay is an ideal place for lunch in the shade of palm trees on an island paradise. This place completes the memorable tour of Belize — which is a wonderful destination, full of things to do, with lots of excursions to explore on land and water.