Nestled in Central America just south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, with an idyllic Caribbean coastline, Belize boasts the world's second largest barrier reef -- making it a prime spot for Scuba divers and snorkelers -- as well as thick interior jungles and Mayan ruins to explore. While it's a quick flight from the United States, Belize offers plenty in the way of exotic tropical attractions, outdoor adventure, and Mayan culture both old and new. A Belize tour will get you far beyond the beaches so you can discover the heart and soul of this beautiful and increasingly popular destination.
A Jungle Paradise
Belize boasts an idyllic locale in Central America, perched between Yucatan Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. Despite it's small size, the country packs a punch when it comes to adventure and cultural offerings. The long stretch of Caribbean coastline provides countless sandy cayes and beaches, many uninhabited for an island-hopping dream come true. The world's second longest barrier reef just offshore (home to the stunning Blue Hole) draws scuba divers and snorkelers worldwide.
The interior of Belize is a tangle of jungle, with all of the adventure activities and wildlife viewing opportunities such a rich tropical forest entails. In fact, 60% of the country is covered in forest and more than 36% of the country is under some form of protected status. Eco-travel is possible and encouraged, from the UNESCO World Heritage reef on the coast to surprisingly luxurious eco-lodges in the rainforest.
Aside from the varied microclimates and topography, Belize is also a melting pot of people and languages. Soak up Latin American culture and history alongside laid-back Caribbean hospitality, with a touch of post-colonial influence from the UK (Belize was a British territory until 1981). The blend is intoxicating. English is the official language, but Belizean Creole, Garifuna, and Maya dialects are also widely spoken. The cuisine is a similar jumble of influence, brought to life with fresh seafood, salsas, rum, cacao, and tropical fruits.
The backbone of any trip to Belize is the extraordinary Mayan history of the area, once the epicenter of the ancient Maya civilization. Mayan influence courses throughout the country and is essential to its core. The captivating, crumbling ruin complexes spread throughout the interior are well worth a day trip - some of these mysterious cities and temples are said to be inspiration for the Indiana Jones films.
Belize is a multifaceted destination that offers something for everyone, from archeological splendors to cacao plantations. That aforementioned small size comes in handy - this compact country is easy to navigate, meaning a staggering variety experiences can be had in a relatively short amount of time.
Belize Scuba Diving & Diving Packages
Belize is a balmy island on the Caribbean with miles of white sand beaches, friendly weather, and over 400 tropical islands. Its calm, clear waters, and possession of an 185-mile long barrier reef also make it a prime scuba diving location. Here is our list of the top 4 places to dive in Belize:
4 Best Diving Spots in Belize
- The Blue Hole
The most famous underwater of feature of Belize, the Blue Hole is 400 feet deep and has a diameter of 1000 feet. Inside, you can see strange geological formations from when the Hole wasn’t underwater, and have the chance to see a wide variety of sharks.
- The Belize Barrier Reef
Competing with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for size and variety, the Belize Barrier Reef hosts a huge range of pristine dive sites. Dive between the colorful coral for a close look at sea turtles, over 500 species of Caribbean fish, reef sharks, and octopi.
- Gladden Spit
The Gladden Spit is one of the world’s best locations if you’re hoping to dive with whale sharks. Either snorkel or dive with these gentle giants in their haunt near Palencia.
- Shark Ray Alley
Originally an area of the sea where the fisherman cleaned and gutted their haul, these shallows continue to attract many nurse sharks and rays that aren’t shy around humans.
The Best Belize Group Tour Excursions
On your group tour of Central America, or just of Belize, you are sure to run into some self-directed time. Here are some suggestions of what to do during these free periods.
- Tour the Mayan Ruins
There are over 25 documented Mayan ruins in Belize, and you should definitely take the opportunity to go see at least one archaeological site while in Belize. Whether you visit the stone altars of Altun Ha, the tall stone pyramid of Xunantunich, or the grisly human sacrificial skulls at Actun Tunchil Muknal, you are sure to be in awed by the impressive remains of one our antiquity’s most impressive peoples.
For those with a sense of adventure, try taking a trip into the darkness and go caving. Belize has a vast and impressive system of caves in the jungle which are commonly known as the Mayan Underworld; the caves were used by the Mayan as early as 300 A.D. Depending on which cave you visit, you can either climb down, or consider rafting through it on an underwater river.
- Baboon Sanctuary Tour
A short trip from Belize City, the Community Baboon Center is a great trip for families who may have some free time on their small group tour. It is home to over 3,500 howler monkeys, and hundreds of species of birds. The monkeys are used to humans and accustomed to being fed, which means you won’t have any problems getting a close look
- A Day in Belize City
Many tour trips to Belize fly in and out of the country’s old capital, Belize City. Therefore, it’s likely that you will have some free time in this area before, after your tour, and in between other stops. Although this is one of the very few urban areas in the city, it is not usually a top attraction. If you’re looking for an excursion in the city, we recommend trying some authentic Belizean food in one of the top restaurants, and getting some historical perspective with a visit to the Museum of Belize.
Other Countries to Consider if you enjoy Belize
Already been to Belize or it doesn't sound as exciting for your next trip? Though the Central American region countries all share spectacular beaches, sunshine, jungle, and enough varied wildlife to please nature lovers everywhere, they all have distinct cultures, cuisines, and languages. Here are two other Central America destinations to consider that are similar to Belize:
Despite being about the size of Kentucky, there is tons to do in Guatemala. Known for the extensive Mayan ruins of Tikal (famously used as a filming location for Star Wars: Episode IV), Guatemala is a great place to travel for history buffs.
Guatemala has a bit of a reputation for uneasy political conditions and safety concerns have caused many tourists to turn to more traditionally safe Central American countries. Guided tours of Guatemala are a great way to experience the culture and history without needing to worry about traveling alone and figuring out where to go.
On the opposite coast and south to Belize, Costa Rica is known as one of the adventure travel capitals of the world. But there is so much more to this exciting country than just ziplines through the canopy. The best vacation packages to Costa Rica incorporate adventure as well as ample wildlife viewing to see hundreds of rare and beautiful birds and other nature wonders who live in the many distinct rainforests of Costa Rica.