Belize is one of Central America's most attractive destinations. The country offers countless treasures to discover during your leisure time. Nature lovers can hike in the mountains or jungle, tube on the river, explore a cave, climb a temple, and snorkel or scuba dive on the second largest barrier reef in the world. You can also lounge around in the sand with a beer or rum drink if you prefer.
Moreover, Belizeans are well known for their hospitality. It will not be difficult to mingle with them in order to better understand the country's cultural and historical heritage that they are almost always excited to share.
History and culture
Belize was central to the Mayan Empire. You can admire the ruins of the ancient sites covered with dense forest in Altun Ha, Lamanai, and Xunantunich to start. Xunantunich once served as a ceremonial center, consisting of some twenty ancient temples and a royal palace. Smaller sites in the south, such as Lubantuun and Nim Li Punit offer special insights and treasures, like the mysterious (but presumably faked) Crystal Skull. They also have the exciting feeling of still being uncovered because excavation is always going whenever there is funding.
You can head to one of the caves, like ATM, which the Mayans believed were entrances to the underworld of the gods. It is thought that the more serious ceremonies took place, not at the temples, but in the caves. When you see the way firelight sparkles on the stalactites and stalagmites, you will understand why. You will find objects such as carved stones, bones and handmade pottery.
More recently, Belize is home to a variety of cultures and cultural offerings. Current Mayan residents still make traditional foods in very traditional ways, including hand crafted chocolate. They also still make crafts and pottery in traditional fashion. The Kriol and Garifuna people also offer traditional food, crafts, and music that combine African, Spanish, British, and indigenous Caribbean traditions.
Nature in Belize
If you prefer eco-tourism, you will be delighted. You will find many mountains, forests, jungles, rivers and caves in almost the whole countryside. In fact, 26% of terrestrial Belize is protected land, and 79% is forest. There are large waterfalls and natural pools, like the Hidden Valley Falls, St Herman’s Blue Hole, and Five sisters Falls.
If you wish to go hiking, you are likely to discover different tropical plant species, such as ferns and orchids and endemic animal species like the howler monkeys, parrots, toucans, crocodiles, and tapirs. If you are lucky, you may even see an ocelot or jaguar. For a better chance of seeing interesting animals, try visiting Monkey River, the Community Baboon Sanctuary, or Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The country is also known for its wide variety of birds. However, some forests are so dense they may be inaccessible. Make sure to hire an experienced tour guide before setting out.
Belize also has many marine reserves and coral reefs. Scuba diving aficionados will enjoy the beautiful Caribbean Coral Reef that spans nearly the entire length of the country. Of course there's also the Blue Hole, noted by Jacques Cousteau as one of the most amazing diving spots in the world. You can contemplate a huge variety of corals, colorful fishes and explore underwater caves all along the coast.
Ambergris Caye is the region's largest and most heavily touristed island. You will find most Western amenities there. The country's most beautiful beaches are located on Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Hopkins, Placencia, and many of the smaller islands off the coast of southern Belize. Between Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye stands the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which consists of coral reefs, seaweed beds, and a large cave filled with various underwater species of marine flora and fauna. You can also swim with sharks and rays.
You can also visit the Half Moon Caye which is a bird sanctuary hosting hundreds of animal species. It often welcomes turtles which come there to lay their eggs. To see manatee, try Gales Point or take a tour from Placencia. From March to June or July you can also swim with the the whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world, as they come migrating through southern Belize.
When all else fails, a hammock or lounge chair on the sand will often suffice. Listen to the waves, the birds, and the music and have a Belikin beer or some of Belize’s famous rum.