What to see and do in Belize
Located on Central America’s Caribbean Coast and bordered by the more frequently-visited tourist destinations of Mexico and Guatemala, Belize remains something of a hidden gem bursting with beaches, wildlife, and history. If you’re looking for the perfect example of big things coming in small packages, you’ve come to the right place; the diversity of Belize’s landscapes, from lush jungle covering nearly 70% of the country to sugar plantations, mountains, and coral reefs makes it a unique travel experience inasmuch as you feel like you’re visiting multiple countries in one. Add to this a collection of Mayan ruins spanning thousands of years, delicious Caribbean and Mexican-inspired cuisine, and welcoming local people, and you have all the ingredients for an unforgettable holiday with something for everyone.
Belize’s sheer number of attractions can be overwhelming for visitors organising their own tours and so anyone planning on visiting should benefit from the knowledge of an expert based on-the-ground. Planning a trip to Belize with one of Evaneos’ carefully-selected local travel agents will give you an insider’s perspective on the climate and the best time of the year to visit particular areas, giving you the most useful insights for planning your perfect Belize tour. Above all, they can be your on-the-ground support for everything, whether you need a translator, tips on the best beaches for snorkelling, or you’re experiencing a problem. With so much to see and do in Belize, from photographing leopards to leaping into a turquoise lagoon, a local agent is a sure-fire way to pinpoint what interests you most and to ensure that you don’t miss it.
Best things to see and do in Belize
What to see in Belize
Well, the good news for travellers with Belize on their radar is that much of this tiny country can easily be explored in one week, although if you’re lucky enough to have a little longer and are serious about exploring as much as possible, we recommend adding a few extra days of sightseeing. When planning any holiday to Belize, the first thing to consider is how many areas you want to see in the time you have there. To give you an idea of what type of sightseeing awaits you on this idyllic island, here’s a quick travel guide to the top highlights of Belize:
- Islands and atolls: Belize’s three unique ‘atolls’ (ring-shaped islands surrounding a lagoon) are located off the coast, southeast of Belize City. If you budget enough time, you can see all three during your trip, but the most popular choice for travellers is Lighthouse Reef Atoll, due to the fact that it’s the closest atoll to one of Belize’s top attractions: The Blue Hole. This iconic, UNESCO-listed sinkhole in the ocean endlessly features on postcards and boasts a huge variety of underwater species. The marine reserve of Glover’s Reef Atoll is perhaps better known for its mysterious shipwrecks scattered among drop-offs in the lagoon, and kayaking, paddle-boarding, angling, and boating are among the most popular activities that can be enjoyed above the water there. Last but not least, set your sights on Turneffe Atoll if photographing marine life is on your to-do list. You’ll have the chance to see and swim alongside dolphins, turtles, manatees, and over 500 species of colourful fish.
- Paradise beaches: Belize’s beaches are one of the most famous elements of this amazing country, and most travellers factor in at least a few days of relaxing on the coast or taking a tip in the crystal-clear waters during their trip. Boasting a collection of around 450 idyllic islands dotted with palm trees and sun-baked sand, Belize’s Cayes (islands) and bustling seaside resorts like San Pedro Town, Hopkins, or Placencia are the ideal stop-off points for those looking both to relax on coconut-fringed beaches and dive into an underwater world. While many of the major towns in Belize are traditional fishing communities, tourism has soared in recent years and you’ll find a range of beach-side hotels and restaurants that can cater to fussy eaters, making it a great place for families.
- Mayan ruins: Of all the tourist sites in Belize, if you only have the chance to see one thing, make sure that it’s one of the country’s amazing archaeological treasures. A popular day trip is to Lamanai, the ruins of an ancient Mayan city and ceremonial centre. The 24-mile site boasts an abundance of structures to admire as well as a museum with interesting exhibits about the Maya and their civilization. If you’re into your history and photography, don’t stop there; the remains of Belize’s biggest pyramid, Altun Ha, is located in a clearing in the rainforest and remains perhaps the most picturesque of Belize’s ancient Mayan sites. No trip to Belize would be complete without a visit to Xunantunich, where you can see ancient temples and pyramid-like structures made from stone, which you can climb for unbeatable views out over the surrounding area. For a more grizzly history, Actun Tunichil Muknal is home to an underground Mayan archaeological site complete with real human sacrificial remains. Finally, Caracol, in Belize’s Cayo District, holds the title as the country’s largest Mayan ruin.
- Wildlife: Belize is home to a huge array of wildlife and birdlife, from big cats to reptiles and amphibians. A guided jungle tour should give you a good introduction to the island’s native species, or opt for a trip to a nature reserve to watch conservation projects in motion. Alternatively, if you have an extra day spare after touching down in Belize City, take a trip to Belize Zoo, located around 30 miles from the city. Now, we know what you’re thinking but Belize Zoo isn’t your typical ‘animals in cages’ set-up. Think of it more as an education centre and wildlife sanctuary, home to over 150 well-loved endemic animals that have either been taken in either for rehabilitation purposes or are rescued orphans who wouldn’t have made it on their own in the wild. The reserve is set within acres of lush jungle scenery and travellers passing through the Belize City region have come to regard it as a must-do visit. Spider monkeys, toucans, tapirs, jaguars, and an array of colourful birdlife await you there.
- National parks: Belize’s national parks are varied and can be found more or less all around the island. Guanacaste National Park, not to be confused with the site of the same name in Costa Rica, is a popular choice thanks to its diversity of flora and fauna; rain trees, Brazilian fire trees, and Honduras mahogany trees. In contrast, the The Five Blues Lake National Park revolves around a handful of pristine lakes of differing shades of blue. Cave systems, karst limestone hills, and wildlife like howler monkeys and armadillos call the area home. Last but not least, bordered by thick forests, you can reach Shipstern Nature Reserve fairly easily by car or boat, and you’ll want to leave a whole day to discover the whopping 27,000 acre reserve bursting with birdlife, wildlife, and history. Walkers and trekkers, you can venture out on a hike along one of the reserve’s botanical trails. Wildlife enthusiasts, you’ll be pleased to know that all five species of native cats in Belize can be found in the reserve, along with a variety of amphibians, reptiles, deer, and insects. With a Butterfly Breeding Centre and over 200 bird species taking flight into the sky above the lagoon to top it all off, you’ve got yourself a day-long excursion offering something for every taste.
What to do in Belize
Belize is what you could easily describe as being an all-round holiday destination, as loved by honeymooners as it is by families and special interests groups. With such an abundance of adventure activities and cultural excursions on offer all across the island it can be hard to know where to start, so we’ll kick off with some of the most popular things to do in Belize, as requested by Evaneos’ travellers:
- Go snorkelling or diving: Fans of snorkelling or scuba diving will be in Heaven discovering the marine life around Belize’s glistening coastline. Ambergris Caye should be your first port of call, a world-famous dive spot known for its vibrant barrier reef and stunning beaches. The nearby Blue Hole has also become something of a mecca for scuba divers, with its diverse underwater landscape of reef types and population of 200 different species of tropical fish frequently awarding it the title of the world’s best diving spot. For less experienced divers, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and its Shark Alley is the best spot for beginners who want to give diving a go for the first time. Don't panic - you'll be swimming alongside nurse sharks and sting rays, not re-enacting a scene from Jaws. To get up close to even more marine life on your holiday in Belize, the coral island of Caye Caulker is another must-see spot for divers, known for its friendly wild manatees which swim right up to the beach.
- Try cave tubing or kayaking: lovers of the outdoors, you’ll find no shortage of adventure activities to tuck into in Belize. Tubing or kayaking through ancient limestone caves and zip-lining through the treetops in a tropical rainforest are two such examples of what’s on offer, so if you and your travel companions are planning on spending some extra time in the Belize City region, ask our local experts to add some adrenaline to your tour itinerary. A canoe adventure through the mysterious depths of Barton Creek Cave near San Ignacio is sure to be a winner, where ledges in the rock show evidence of the Mayan civilizations that called this place home.
- Take a rum tour: If you’ve ever felt yourself sympathising with the question “where has all the rum gone??” a rum factory tour might just float your boat. It’s not all about sampling vast quantities of the local produce; on a guided rum tour you’ll get to learn all about the history of Belize’s rum-making origins, as well as watching the distilling process in action at a local factory. If you’d rather opt for a child-friendly version, we’d recommend heading to a chocolate shop instead, to savour the authentic secrets of this millennia-old edible liquid treasure.
- Go birding: you might have already heard of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary just from its quirky name. Entering the 16,000+ acre protected area is like stepping back in time to a prehistoric era, not just because you’re bound to feel very small amid the vast creeks, swamps, wetlands, savannah, forests, and lagoons, but because the Maya themselves once inhabited the area thousands of years ago. The sanctuary is rightly hailed as Belize’s best birding site, providing a safe home for hundreds of species of bird and wildlife, including crocodiles, iguanas, the Central American River Turtle, the Jabiru Stork, the Mexican Black Howler Monkey, and the Peregrine, the world’s fastest falcon. Guanacaste National Park is also a firm favourite for birdwatching, home to more than 100 impressive species waiting to be discovered.
- Learn about Belize’s history: finally, if time allows, Old Belize Cultural and Historical Centre provides a nice day out for travellers of all ages. The centre is essentially a museum showcasing Belize’s rich Mayan and colonial history that has been taken to the next level, complete with a train ride highlighting some of the country’s geological and geographical features, a beach lagoon for little ones to splash around in, and on-site restaurants serving up delicious local food.
Best time to visit Belize
The best time to visit Belize is from late November to mid April, which is the cool and dry season. This is also peak season, however, meaning that prices are often higher and availability for the best accommodation is harder to come by. Since a lot of the country’s attractions close down for the off peak months, the crowds and slightly higher prices are worth tackling for good weather and a perfect temperature in Belize. December and January are by far most expensive, with December being flocked by tourists looking to escape winter back home. Try to visit at the beginning or end of peak season to avoid the masses. For diving, however, visit during the summer, when waters are clearer and calmer.
Travel tips and advice for travelling to Belize
Visa regulations for Belize
All European and US citizens can travel to Belize visa free, meaning that visiting this place couldn’t be easier. For more information about specific circumstances check out Belize’s visa policy online or for more useful information before your trip, visit the website of your local embassy.
Vaccinations for Belize
Before leaving for your trip you will need to ensure that all of your booster vaccinations are up to date as well as organising a few additional injections for Belize. The vaccinations that you will need are Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Rabies, Yellow Fever, MMR booster. You should also make sure that you are taking malaria medication as well as taking precautions (such as bug spray) against mosquitoes in general, since Zika virus is present in the area.