Jungle adventures, ancient ruins and a submarine paradise
Belize is the epitome of a tropical daydream. Hammock-strewn palms sway over warm white sands while turtles and colourful fish dart around a network of coral that is UNESCO recognised and second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The adventurous are spoilt for choice, with opportunities to hike, zip-line, kayak, birdwatch, fish, ride and explore hundreds of caves. Birdwatchers can train their binoculars on some 570 avian species and wildlife lovers should keep their eyes peeled for howler and spider monkeys, tapirs, iguanas or the ever-elusive jaguar. The jungle also shelters fascinating relics from the bygone age of the Maya.
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The top three things to do in Belize
There are countless wonderful experiences to be had in this tropical country. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top three things to do in Belize.
Take 7 marine reserves, 400 cayes, 500 varieties of fish, 100 different types of coral and one Big Blue Hole and you’ve got yourself a world class dive destination. Lying a few kilometres offshore, Belize’s barrier reef is the second largest on the planet, home to a stunning underwater garden of eden. In the centre of the Lighthouse Reef you’ll find a marine sinkhole over 400 ft deep and 300 ft wide, known around the world as the Blue Hole. See remarkable stalactites and rock formations in this 10,000 year old collapsed cave.
Explore ancient Maya ruins
Over 3,000 years ago, Mayan civilisation was thriving in Central America, and the numerous archaeological sites scattered across Belize bear testament to their ingenuity. If you were to choose only two to visit, the most extensive ruins can be found at Caracol, and arguably the most impressive are those at Xunantunich. Caracol sits high on the Vaca Plateau and has the tallest man-made structure in Belize, and Xunantunich is decorated with spectacular friezes.
Settle in for some hammock time
After all the hiking, wildlife spotting, snorkelling, caving and ruin exploration, what could be better than relaxing on a tropical beach lapped by the Caribbean sea? Parents can watch their children play in the surf and race along the sands, days can be broken with the occasional swim or kayak adventure and when the sun goes down, retreat to one of the local restaurants to sample the truly fresh and delicious Belizean cuisine.
Lesser-known highlights in Belize
While there are many well-known things to do in Belize, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative adventure.
Look for Jaguars
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary protects 400 square kilometres of forest, making it a fantastic refuge for many species, and it’s especially known for its jaguar population, which stands at around 200 cats. Jaguars are notoriously elusive, but while you are looking for them you can enjoy the diverse roll-call of birds, as well as a host of other animals including deer, otter, coatimundi and peccary. There are a selection of trails to choose from, each revealing a different aspect of the park.
A mystical subterranean cave system known as Actun Tunichil Muknal is a magnet for adventurers, archeologists and those interested in ancient Mayan culture. After a 45 minute hike through the jungle, your cave experience will begin with a short swim to enter the cave itself. Following the main passage you will encounter impressive formations created over millennia of water flowing and seeping into the cave. The underworld caverns also hold relics of Mayan rituals such as the skeletons of sacrificial offerings.
Get to know Punta Gorda
There’s so much to do in and around Punta Gorda, with a fascinating local culture to discover on top of all the outdoor pursuits. Head into the surrounding countryside to explore numerous reserves and beauty spots such as Big Falls and the Golden Stream Corridor Reserve. The Port Honduras Marine Reserve is the protected area offshore, offering excellent snorkelling and scuba diving.
When is the best time to go to Belize?
The best time to go to Belize is generally from late December until May as this is the dry season. In areas like the Cayo District and on the Cayes you can expect warm, dry, sunny days though if you are heading towards the Toledo District and Placencia you should expect some rain as these are beautifully lush, tropical areas. The rainy season begins in June but you can still travel until early August (just be prepared for afternoon tropical showers). This is a great time to go to Belize if you would like to avoid the peak tourist season. From mid-August until the end of December travel becomes more of a challenge as it tends to be very wet with the occasional threat of hurricanes.
Interesting facts about Belize
Belize is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
The Great Blue Hole is a unique dive site which is frequently listed among the top sites in the world for its incredible location at the heart of a coral atoll.
English is the official language of Belize
At almost 300 kilometres long, the Belize Barrier Reef is the world’s second longest.
The call of the Black Howler Monkey is so piercing it can be heard three kilometres away, making it one of the 10 loudest creatures on the planet.
There are around 900 Mayan sites dotted around Belize, and more than 400 cayes (pronounced keys) along the coast.
What to read before you go to Belize
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Belize, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico' by Ronald Wright
As he journeys among the lands of the Mayan civilization, the author paints a captivating picture of the past magnificence of the architecture and culture that was advanced for the time, interweaving historic narrative with his own modern experiences.
'Jaguar: One Man's Struggle to Establish the World's First Jaguar Preserve' by Alan Rabinowitz
Thrilling account of Rabinowitz’s jungle adventures in search of the elusive jaguar, packed with insight and excitement as he tries to research these amazing big cats and get to know the Mayan people who share the environment.
'Our Man in Belize: A Memoir' by Richard Timothy Conroy
Bringing to life the people of Belize in a charming and humorous manner, this vivid memoir of life as a diplomat is packed with amusing anecdotes about the culture clash the author experienced as he settled into his life in Belize.
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