‘Good things come in small packages’ and Belize proves this saying right. Not larger than New Hampshire or Israel, Belize may be small but it is filled with adventure that matches the best in the world. With Mayan ruins peppered throughout the country, the second largest barrier reef in the world, wildlife reserves, cave adventures and picturesque beaches along the Caribbean Sea, it did amaze us when most of the people gave us clueless looks when we mentioned Belize to them! Well to those with no clue about Belize and for those who have been aching to go there, we recommend this place 100%! This Central American country should definitely be on your travel bucket list
Lamanai......mystical journey to times unknown
Lamanai, which means ‘submerged crocodile’ in Yucatan Mayan, is one of the biggest and best excavated Mayan sites in northern Belize. Lamanai features monumental architecture of temples and palaces which are dated back from the Classic and Pre-Classic Periods. Enshrouded by dense rain forests overlooking the New River Lagoon, the ruins of this ancient civilization in Lamanai will allow you take a glimpse through the fascinating Mayan culture. The ruins here are renowned both for their remarkable architecture and ethereal backdrop. One of the major attractions of this place is the well-preserved mask of a Maya ruler emerging from a crocodile headdress. You can also make a visit to a museum with ancient Mayan artefacts, remnants of two 16th century Spanish churches and a colonial sugar mill established in 1860.
Recommended tour: Lamanai and the new river safari
Xunantunich.......right out of the movie Apocalypto!
Anyone and everyone who has seen the Hollywood flick- Apocalypto, would get goosebumps on this site. Remember those scary sacrificial ceremonies they had in that movie?! Well all that blood and gore aside, Xunantunich is one of Belize’s most impressive and visited Mayan archaeological sites set on a leveled hilltop . Getting to this place is half the fun as you have to cross the beautiful Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry. Xunantunich that used to be a major ceremonial site built on a natural limestone ridge during the Classic Period is comprised of six major plazas with over 25 Maya temples and palaces. The spectacular birds-eye-view of the jungle canopy, the other ruins, and even past the Guatemalan border from the top of 40m high “El Castillo” will surely leave you spellbound.
Caracol ....the high and mighty
Once one of the dominant cities in the entire Mayan empire, Caracol now lies surrounded by thick Chiquibul Forest in the Cayo District. Sitting high on the Vaca Plateau, this is the largest Maya site in the country, having stretched over almost 70 sq miles at its peak around AD 650. Not only as the distinguished archaeological site but Caracol will also appeal to you for its alluring jungle setting and prolific bird life. Don’t miss the incredible 360-degree view of the surroundings from the main temple Canaã, standing at a height of 143ft.
Altun Ha........of ceremonies and history
Altun Ha, the archaeological site closest to Belize City, has over 500 historic structures to visit, mostly built during Maya Classic era. Consisting of two main plazas with around thirteen Mayan temples, the biggest attraction of Altun Ha is the famous head of Kinich Ahau: a 10lb and 6-inch piece of jade carved into the head of the Mayan sun god inside the Temple of Masonry Altar. Take a walk around to feel the mystical charm of this place that once served as a major ceremonial center.
Wild Life reserves of Belize
From history to our friends in the wild! In such a small area, Belize has so many wild life and natural reserves that we are wondering if it holds some sort of record on density of reserves and ecosystems! Each and every one of these reserves is incredibly beautiful and all of them afford opportunities for some skinny dipping! Yep we are all gung-ho about it!!
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest reserve........three spots packed in one!
In the heart of the highland area on the southern region of Western Belize, 200 sq miles of sub-montane, preserved pine forests forms the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Home to the largest waterfall throughout Belize and the region (Thousand Foot Falls) and Rio Frio Cave (a quarter mile long caving system) this place is a habitat to many animals and birds. A trek through the pine trees in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve will be an experience both serene and exhilarating. With so many spots within the precincts of this lush green forest, it is a place to do it all. Oh and we are giving you details on all those attractions in the coming sections.
Recommended tour: Mountain Pine Ridge forest reserve from San Ignacio
Hol Chan Marine Reserve.........with "friendly" sharks!
Extremely popular among snorkelers and underwater divers due to its spectacular coral formations and abundance and diversity of marine life, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is located four miles south from the shores of Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan is Mayan word that stands for 'Little Channel,' which refers to a natural break in the reef known as Hol Chan Cut. Don’t miss the opportunity to feed the friendly docile nurse sharks, silver and colorful fishes by taking a dive into the turquoise waters.
Recommended tour: Hol Chan marine reserve and Shark Ray Alley sailing and snorkeling tour. For a list of tours for Hol Chan click here.
Green Hills Butterfly Ranch.........exquisite and exotic
Grab the unique opportunity to see more than 50 species of colorful and exquisite butterflies in the flight area of this amazing Green Hills Butterfly Ranch. Besides butterflies you will spot a number of different plants and hundreds of species of birds. Whether you are a butterfly lover or not, keep a camera at hand for a walk through the butterfly house. Also expect hummingbirds to hover before your face as this ranch boasts of some 13 species of this cute, little bird. This ranch is a riot of color and an experience that will steal your heart!
Half Moon Caye Natural Monument........" Natural" what?!
Apart from providing nesting grounds for the rare red-footed booby birds and the frigate birds, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument has a lighthouse, magnificent beaches and spectacular submerged walls that teem with marine flora and fauna. Spot rare species of birds on this crescent shaped island that was classified as a natural monument and has since served as a bird sanctuary. Whether you are on the ground or wading through the crystal blue water, half moon Caye has natural wonders sprinkled everywhere!
Macal River.......because rivers are always happening!
Yes, over our travels, articles and travelers' feedback we have come to believe that rivers are always teeming with life and life on their banks is probably the one that is worth observing! Flowing through the heart of San Ignacio Town, the Macal River is one of the most diverse ecological areas in Belize. Canoe up this river and see exotic wildlife and small villages along the banks of this beautiful jungle river. Make a visit to Cahal Pech, an ancient Mayan city, the Belize Botanic Gardens and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. One river gives you so many opportunities that you would not like to miss for anything in the world!
Recommended tour: Macal river canoeing and rainforest medicinal trail
Talking beyond skinny dipping, we are fond of water adventures too. At least those of us who do not have underwater phobia are complete suckers for going scuba, exploring the unknown in the caves and all that! Coming sections are the best Belize has to offer.....so read on!
Caves Branch Outpost
Just an hour away from Belize City, Cave Branch Outpost has become the hot destination for adventure freaks. Perched on the Caves Branch River, you will be overwhelmed by the options the outpost has to offer. From cave tubing to kayaking to horseback riding to ziplining to rock climbing to rappelling, you can do a wide range of outdoor activities here. After you have done it all to death, just laze the day out on the rocks that surround this river cave system. Getting too hot....get into the water. Come out, relax and repeat! Trust us you can go on with it for days without getting bored of it!
Big Rock Falls
As promised while mentioning the Mountain ridge reserve, here we are discussing the inside attractions in detail. Deep in the Mountain ridge forest reserve, Big Rock Falls is a large waterfall perfect for swimming and cliff jumping. Getting down to the falls is a bit of an ordeal but once you reach there it will be worth every step you took. The view of water rushing down the 150ft rock formations and falling down into a perfect emerald pool will take your breath away. It is awesome fun to watch people jumping from the cliff and if you are one of them.....well what can we say..its EPIC!
Great Blue Hole in Lighthouse Reef
Blue Hole is a symbol of Belize and probably an attraction we should have started out with! But we like to keep the best for the end though we are not there quite yet! At the center of the Lighthouse Reef is the incredible Blue Hole Natural Monument, an unmatched natural wonder for that ultimate diving experience. An adrenaline rush is guaranteed when you dive into this deep blue hole which is touted as one of the top diving sites in the world. If you are into snorkeling then Blue Hole won’t disappoint you, as there's plenty to see around the shallow inner perimeter of the circular reef. This gorgeous aqua body is likely to give you a rush just at the sight of it....it is invitingly blue and as gorgeous as it gets!
Recommended tur: Blue hole and Turneffe islands helicopter tour
Caves of Belize
Adventure just doesn't seem to end when you are in Belize. From water adventures, reserves and ecosystems, we are onto some cave digging and exploration! Man aren't we already in love with Belize. It is a roller coaster ride you just don't want to end!
Actun Tunichil Muknal......creepy place with a shining surprise!
One of the most popular Mayan sacrificial sites in Western Belize, Actun Tunichil Muknal cave or locally known as ATM cave will surely give you the creeps. Access to the best parts of the cave involves crossing three rivers on foot, swimming through parts of the cave and even going up a narrow ladder to reach the deeper, darker chambers. Once you are there you will be rewarded with the sight of the “Crystal Maiden”--the skeleton of a young female which sparkles from aeons of crystal calcification, ceramics and stoneware left by the Mayans.
Recommended tour : Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour and picnic
Crystal Cave........again on the Mayan trails
Located inside the Blue Hole National Park near Belmopan, to get to Crystal cave you will have to hike through lush green rainforest and steep terrain then rappel 15 ft into the vast entrance of the cave. Walk in the footsteps of the Mayan ritual leaders and see remnants of sacred rituals such as ceremonial bowls, pots, and even skeletal remains from sacrificial victims inside the cave. The experience is surreal and somewhat akin to what you see in those Lara Croft movies sans the villains and weird happenings!
Recommended tour: Crystal cave and Bue Hole national park day trip from San Ignacio
Rio Frio Cave
If you are a first-time cave explorer, do not miss the Rio Frio Cave in the Mountain Pine Ridge area. Prepare to be awestruck by its grand 65 ft. entrance way which leads you into the cave. You will see enormous stalactites hanging from the huge cathedral-like vault which was part of a cave system that served as burial ground for the Maya. Sitting inside the cave gives you a peek into the amazingly green forests outside which is quite a breathtaking experience!
Recommended tour: Rio on pool, Rio Frio cave and Caracol Maya ruin tour
Barton Creek Cave
The largest river cave in Belize, Barton Creek Cave can be explored only by a canoe. Once a Maya ceremonial and burial cave, expect to find bones and a child’s skull inside this cave. What makes Barton Creek Cave a place worth visiting is its amazing rock formations and spectacular domed chambers. When it gets all quiet, you may even hear a scream or two! Yep we are kidding, but this place is a must visit over the serene waters and quiet surroundings.
Turneffe Atoll...the treasure trough
Largest and the most biologically diverse atoll in the entire America, Turneffe Atoll is the newest protected marine area of Belize. 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, Turneffe Atoll is alive with coral, fish and large eagle rays that make it a popular destination for diving, snorkeling and catch-and-release sport fishing. Although best known for the elbow which is the best diving spot here, you will also find shallow sea gardens and bright sand flats inside the reef. You can spend a whole day here and even a whole week. There are various resorts and lodges to choose from!
Recommended tour: Blue Hole and Turneffe islands helicopter tour
By now probably you have realized, despite being pocket sized why Belize is the perfect destination for both nature lovers and thrill-seeking adventurers.
How To Reach
Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) in Ladyville is the Airport you fly to, to get to Belize City. The Airport has regular flights from North America. However, flying to Cancun and taking a bus from there to Belize is also a good and cheaper option. But you should have time in hand as one way ride into Belize takes about 6 hours.
Where to Stay at Belize
Here are our top picks to stay at Belize:
Belize has a lot of options to suit every budget. To look at all the options, simply type Belize in the nice little search box on the right.For a more comprehensive choice, you can head straight to our Hotel Search page
This was tiny but absolutely gorgeous Belize with its natural treasures that are amongst the best in the world. When we started, we did not know that Belize would turn out to be such an amazing country being so tiny. But isn't that the best thing!? It is small so everything is just about round the corner. So you get to explore more in less time and pick the best spot to spend and laze about! If you have been to Belize let us know and if this piece inspired you to take that next trip to Belize, then check out these awesome tours you must take when you visit this splendid country!