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Trying to decide whether to go to Belize, what to do or see? Travel writers share some of their favorite Belize activities and destinations.
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Belize’s proximity to the United States and Canada makes it a perfect getaway destination (or even one to consider moving to!). Between the easily interchangeable currency (the 2-1 Belizean dollar to US dollar exchange means the US dollar is easily acceptable) and as the only Central American nation where English is widely spoken, Belize is a great nation to visit. With many direct flights from both the US and Canada, getting to Belize is the easy part. Deciding what to see in Belize is a bit harder since there are so many wonderful destinations – from laid back towns to adventure to historical sites. You’re sure to find some great ideas in this article!
Top 10 Best Things to Do in Belize:
Recommended by Annick of The Common Traveler
Feel like having an Indiana Jones adventure? Add visiting the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave to your itinerary. Located inland near the small town of San Ignacio, getting there is part of the adventure. This Mayan archaeological wonder brings visitors up close to some incredible sights – skeletons, ceramic pottery, and stoneware. Unlike other archaeological sites, visitors get up close and personal with these historical wonders.
The ATM Cave can only be visited when accompanied by a tour guide and groups are limited to eight people each. Visitors need to wear a helmet and those who are not good swimmers can ask to wear a life jacket. Your trek begins with a 45-minute hike where you’ll cross three creeks. As you approach the cave, you’ll have to swim a few feet before hitting land. Once inside, you’ll have to crawl through tight spaces and have to climb up rocks and even a ladder.
The reward for all this trouble? You’ll be close enough to calcified skeletons, Mayan pottery, and stalagmites and stalactites unlike any you’d see elsewhere. You can read more about my experience visiting the ATM Cave and figure out whether it is the right side trip for you.
Belize Chocolate Festival
Recommended by Max of Dame Cacao
Belize has grown cacao— the raw material for chocolate— for centuries. In fact, it was considered a sacred food to the ancient Mayans, and continues to be an important crop in the region. Held every May, the Belize Chocolate Festival is a free 3-day event celebrating all things cacao and chocolate. The festival is held in the southern town of Punta Gorda, with the first evening of the event dedicated to a wine and chocolate welcome party, open to the public for a $30 fee.
On days 2 and 3 of the festival, everyone is able to walk down the streets of the small town, sampling chocolates and listening to live music from local bands. There are restaurants selling typical Belizean dishes, kids’ craft areas, cacao cooperatives, and stands for nearby NGOs. Belizean chocolate makers typically in attendance include Cotton Tree Chocolate, Che’il, MOHO, and Ix Cacao.
To get to Punta Gorda town, you can take a very long but direct bus from Belize City.
Recommended by Karen of Postcards from Nana
Do you like relaxation? Snorkeling on one of the most beautiful reefs in the world? A great oceanside bar? Peace and quiet? If so, then Caye Caulker in Belize is for you! Caye Caulker is a small island just offshore the mainland of Belize and only about a half-mile from the Belize Barrier reef. It is the best “jumping off” point for a variety of snorkeling and SCUBA diving trips. You can actually see the barrier reef from the island so you can imagine how many options you might have for half or full-day trips out on and under the water.
However, Caye Caulker is not just a place for water sports. It is also a perfect place to relax. In fact, the motto of the island is “go slow.” This little Caye is only about 4 miles long by 1 mile wide and has no cars. You can take a taxi in the form of a golf cart or you can walk, but the preferred way to get around is on a bicycle! Just watch out for sleeping dogs in the middle of the road. The people of the Caye fully embrace the idea of going slow and you will find yourself breathing more deeply as the cares of your life at home float away.
Caye Caulker has a reputation as a party island, but it’s really up to you. There is a great oceanside bar at The Split where you can while away the hours with a drink in hand. However, you don’t have to be a partier to enjoy your visit. After you have had your fill of underwater life there is still plenty to do. Ride your bike around this picturesque island stopping often to enjoy another amazing view or street scene. Do a little fishing off of one of the many long piers. Eat some great street food – you really need to try a Fry Jack and follow that up with an icy cold fresh-squeezed fruit drink. Don’t miss watching either the sunrise or set over the ocean
Caye Caulker is the perfect antidote to a busy hurried life.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Recommended by Audrey of Gumnuts Abroad
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect destination for nature lovers and travelers who want to skip the crowds. It’s a protected preserve that provides a safe home for howler monkeys, turtles, delicate butterflies, and hundreds of different species of birds. In fact, it’s the birdlife that Crooked Tree is most famous for, and people visit from all over the world hoping to see the notoriously rare Jabiru stork.
One of the best ways to explore the sanctuary is on a guided boat tour. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, and their sharp eyes spot wildlife you would otherwise never know was there. The only downside is that you need to get up at the crack of dawn! Walking tours are also available and it’s possible to explore the sanctuary on your own.
The best time to visit is from February to May when the waterways are at their lowest. Visitors can choose to stay in private lodges on the edge of the sanctuary or homestays in the local village. Crooked Tree is located about 50 kilometers from Belize City a public bus leaves for the village once a day but it’s best to hire a car.
Great Blue Hole
Recommended by Annick at The Common Traveler
While Belize may be a new destination for many people, it has been a well-known destination for scuba divers. This giant sinkhole located about 43 miles off the coast of Belize serves as a real-life aquarium. First explored by Jacques Cousteau in 1971, the Great Blue Hole was recently explored again in 2018 by Richard Branson and a team of explorers.
Boat tours take divers and snorkelers out to the Great Blue Hole. The ride from Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) takes about three hours. Tours leave early in the morning and won’t return until late afternoon, as they usually include stops at two other diving spots. One word of warning though, snorkelers will not have as great an experience as divers since most of the fish are found in the deeper waters.
But one of the best ways to see the Blue Hole is to fly over it. The view from above is amazing since you can see the entire shape and the contrast with the beautiful waters. Another alternative is to tandem skydive into the Blue Hole.
If you’re looking for something amazing to do in Belize, consider adding the Great Blue Hole to your itinerary.
Recommended by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
Located south of Belize City near the city of Dandriga, Hopkins Village is a tiny village best known for being home to one of Central America’s most unique cultures. Most of the Garinagu people (whose language and culture is called Garifuna) descend from Afro-Caribbeans whose ancestry can be traced back to West African tribes such as the Ashanti, Ibo, and Yoruba. After escaping slavery in the eastern Caribbean and making their way to what is now Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, they mixed with Arawak and Carib Amerindians, and were known by the British as “Black Caribs.”
Hopkins Village is now a great destination for experiencing the Garifuna culture, whose clothing, dance, food, and music is a rich and unique tapestry of African, Amerindian, and Spanish influences. You can take an hour-long lesson at the Lebeha Drumming Center, and several local restaurants offer live jams during the week where anyone is welcome to join. It’s also a great place for kicking back in a hammock on the beautiful beach or taking a tour to snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef, which lies just offshore.
Recommended by Michael Turtle at Time Travel Turtle
Lubaantun is about an hour’s drive from Punta Gorda and is the best Maya site in the south of Belize. This ancient city was used for about two centuries between 700 and 900 AD before it was abandoned but, during that time, the Maya population built large pyramids and temples on the site.
Visiting Lubaantun today, you can see the ruins of these grand edifices and climb to the top of some of them. You can walk through other sections of the city, which would have been the residences of the elite, and see the ball court where games would’ve been played.
Although it’s a popular tourist landmark, Lubaantun is never particularly busy. As you explore, there’s a good chance you’ll often find yourself alone with just the sounds of the jungle around you. It would be worth taking a guide with you to explain the details because, although there is a decent small museum at the entrance, there is no much signage on the site.
If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get to Lubaantun is with a guided tour or driver, which you can arrange with an agency in Punta Gorda. But there are occasional public buses that pass near the entrance from Punta Gorda to San Miguel. Entry costs BZ$10.
Secret Beach, Ambergris Caye
Recommended by Stephanie Craig at History Fangirl
Secret Beach is a well-known spot on Belize’s Ambergris Caye. However, its name dates back to a time before every single person visiting the island became aware of this wonderful beach. However, because it’s relatively far away from San Pedro and the rest of the island’s center, it still feels like a secret.
Of course, when you get there, you’ll find palapas, taco trucks, beach bars, wifi, and public bathrooms, so you’re not exactly swimming in the middle of nowhere! The water is great for swimming, especially for families, since there aren’t any real waves on this side of the island.
To get here, you’ll either need to have access to a car, taxi, or a golf cart. We rented a golf cart to get around, but taxis would also work. There’s no cost associated with visiting the beach, but bring cash to visit the bars and for anything, you’d like to buy while you’re there. Other than that, add in the price of whichever transportation method you choose.
Snorkeling the Barrier Reef
Recommended by Meg at Fox in the Forest
Belize is home to one of the biggest and most beautiful barrier reefs on the planet. As one of the best things to do on Caye Caulker, taking a snorkel tour right off the coast of this tiny, relaxed island is a must-do. You can opt for a full or half-day tour stopping at several sites along the way.
The full-day tour stops at three spots along the reef including the deeper trenches, a healthy coral garden, and shark alley (don’t worry, the sharks are harmless). Two additional stops include a chance to spot manatees as well as snorkel around a shipwreck. There are a wide variety of fish and corals to see. You may even see a giant moray eel! Daring snorkelers can swim through an underwater cave, while less-experienced swimmers can utilize life jackets to stay afloat.
You can access the reef from a variety of island locations (Caye Caulker is by far the closest) and trips generally cost between $65 to $90 per day. However, please do your research and go with a tour operator that promotes sustainable tourism. Coral reefs are under threat with climate change, so it’s important to support companies that don’t bait animals, practice unsafe boating, or harass wildlife. As always, don’t forget to pack your reef-safe sunscreen for your snorkeling adventure.
Best Things to Do in Belize: Visit Xunantunich
Recommended by Sean Lau at LivingOutLau
Belize, the only country in Central America with English as its official language, is a place filled with wonders.
Most travelers know Belize just for its beautiful places next to the Caribbean Sea such as Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. While those places are amazing and feature some of the best beaches and seafood in the world, there is a whole different side many travelers are missing.
Located inland in the rain forest region of Belize are some of the most magnificent Mayan ruins ever. That area was once where some of the most powerful Mayan cities used to be. Xunantunich is a perfect example of that. Xunantunich is the oldest continuously excavated site in the country, meaning that there are parts of the ruins that have not been discovered yet. Climb the “El Castillo” or “The Castle” to get one of the best panoramic views in the region. The best part of Xunantunich? It is extremely cheap and easily reachable without a guide, making it one of the best things to do in San Ignacio. Take a bus in the town center of San Ignacio headed towards Xunantunich for $2 BZD then pay $10BZD for entrance!
Conclusion on the Best Things to Do in Belize:
Are you into adventure or relaxation? Wish to learn about ancient cultures? Or just want a country where you don’t have to learn a new language and don’t have to worry about currency exchange? Check out our adventure and relaxation itinerary! We hope that we’ve convinced you that Belize is worth the visit! It truly is unBelizeable!
Annick, The Common Traveler