Belize is one of Central America’s biggest tourist destinations, and I was lucky enough to have stayed here for two months!
This very small country, of only 397,628 inhabitants, has a lot to offer. A dense rainforest that overgrows ancient Maya temples inland, a ton of Caribbean-like islands out at sea. Reefs full of the most colorful fish, turtles, sharks and vibrant coral. The primary language is English which makes it very easy to get around in Belize. Nonetheless, there is a wide variety of cultures and languages because of Belize’s open mindedness toward cultural disparities. Depending on where you go you might run into groups of Chinese, Creole, Garífuna, Maya, East Indians, Mennonites and Mestizo.
For more information about Belizean currency, when to visit, transport, budget travel read our blogpost: Tips and Tricks Belize.
Most likely you’ll fly into Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City. The city is mostly used as a hub for tourists to take a Caribbean Cruise, a ferry to one of the islands, or a private boat to one of the many private islands resorts. For this Belize City itself mostly skipped and is known as one of the more dangerous places to visit. Nonetheless, I have never felt unsafe in this City! Especially the North of Belize City or as it is called ‘Old Belize’ is a safe and interesting place to visit whenever you would like to spend some time in Belize City.
San Pedro/Ambergis Caye
Belize is known for it’s many small islands in the middle of coral reefs surrounded by amazing turquoise colors. San Pedro is located on the south side of ‘La Isla Bonita‘ or Ambergis Caye. Beautiful white sandy beaches, plenty of beach bars and hotels this rather touristy Island has it all;
- Rent a golf cart
- Drive around the island and explore the many beaches, go search for the best seafood restaurants or just have a blast while cruising along in the great Belizean weather!
- Dive the Great Blue Hole
- If you ever saw a documentary of Belize the first things they will mention is the Great Blue Hole! It was once called one of the best diving sites in the world, and it remains true still. It’s part of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, accessible by boat, this giant submarine sinkhole provides experienced divers unparalleled views of a collapsed cave’s massive stalagmites and stalactites and the creatures that inhabit it. Expect to find at least a few species of sharks here, from hammerheads to bull sharks. You can arrange for a dive or snorkel tour from your resort or a dive shop right in San Pedro. Some dive shops even offer night dives.
- Swim with sharks at Shark Ray Alley
- Ever wanted to snorkel and swim with nurse sharks and stingrays? At Shark Ray Alley provides this unique experience in warm Caribbean waters. Don’t be afraid, nurse sharks are fairly harmless to humans and use their small mouths to suck in small fish, shrimp and squid.
- Snorkel Hol Chan Marine Reserve
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve is located about 6 kilometers from San Pedro gets its name from a coral-filled little gap in the protective reef near Ambergris Caye. The reserve, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, can be reached only by boat. It is a very popular snorkel and dive area and easily reachable from your hotel!
- Sail to the next Island Caye Caulker
Similar to Ambergis Caye is Caye Caulker. Although Caye Caulker has got a different vibe to it. Not many big waterfront hotels here but smaller hostels and guest houses. No motorized vehicles except for golf carts, not many exploited beach bars but small local cuisine restaurants with just some plastic chairs near the waterfront. Reggae and Caribbean music from the moment you set foot on this island and for this makes this island the ultimate place for a laid back holiday vacation for backpackers.
You can easily get here from Belize City by water taxi/ferry or even by plane (which isn’t as expensive as it sounds).
A 100 km drive inland you can find an ancient Maya archeological site called Xunantunich. Very close to the Guatemalan border and on top of the ‘famous’ Mopan River. Served as a Maya civic ceremonial center in the Late and Terminal Classic periods to the Belize Valley region.
From the top of ‘El Castillo’ you have a 360 degree panoramic view on Belize’s rainforest. Walk around all the beautiful Ruins and feel as if you got transported back to 600-700 AD! You can either do this by yourself or hire a guide that can explain you everything from A to Z.
Belmopan is the capital city of Belize, and it is the tenth smallest capital city in the world! Most people backpacking skip the capital. In fact most people think Belize City is the capital of Belize! Nonetheless, Belmopan became the capital of Belize in August 1970 . Visit the Floral Park Road and the Belize University for example. For a local experience go buy veggies and spices at the Belmopan Market and have a look at the National Football stadium.
It’s obviously a small city, so only one day would already be enough for a well worth visit.
One of my top highlights was my stay in San Ignacio. A small town close to the Guatemalan border with a vibrant vibe. Small coffee places, Caribbean music playing on the streets, a mixed culture (garifuna, creole, maya…) San Ignacio has it all. Walk along the river and have a look at the graffiti wall which represents a rich history of this small town. Also here there is a daily market with all different kind of food, as colorful as it can get.
San Ignacio is also the starting place of many other trips such as Xunantunich, Belmopan River Kayak, Caves Branch Kayak, Caves Branch repelling and ziplining and several more jungle activities. Check out Caves Branch’s website for all their activities as well as their beautiful jungle lodges.
There are a few hostels in the area for backpackers on a budget with great ratings as well.
Hummungbird Highway is one of the four main highways in Belize connecting Belmopan with Dangriga. It is known as one of the most scenic highways in Central America. You will drive by a lot of citrus and orange farms, take a 15 minute stop at the Blue Hole National Park and have a visit at the famous Marie Sharp’s Factory (Marie Sharp is the best hot sauce in the world in my opinion!).
A Garifuna city with reggae music, beach bars and the best and cheapest rice and beans take away. Dangriga also has a small airport from which you can take a plain back to Belize city or go on towards Placencia. Dangriga is widely known as the cultural capital of Belize due to its rich blend of indigenous culture, food and music. With just over 9,000 inhabitants, Dangriga is one of the friendliest towns in the country and is the jumping off point for the southern area of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems in the world.
If you’re looking for beach bars to party, a fresh coconut on the beach all together with a great Carribbean vibe Placencia is your place to be. It is one of the most relaxing and ambient villages in southern Belize.
Take of your shoes and dance at the Barefoot Beach Bar or J-Byrds. Go snorkel with whale sharks, one of the biggest sea creatures in the world. Make your way to the beautiful private islands nested in the Atoll reefs by catamaran. Or just enjoy a lovely beach holiday with the best food restaurants right there next to you.
Last but not least, the numerous private islands along the Belizean coast. Some just a few minutes away, others a three hour boat ride in the middle of the Carribbean Sea. It is one of the more expensive options, but if you ever want to experience the picturesque Robinson Crusoe feeling of being on a deserted island than it will be your best shot.
I stayed at Slickrock Belize Adventures because of their wide variety of activities on the Island. From snorkeling to wave kayaking and even kite surfing they represent themselves as the ultimate adventure island and furthermore is fully ecologic! I must say that this trip was probably the most memorable trip ever in my life. Living on a deserted island in the middle of gorgeous reefs and the opportunity to be on and in the water every day was a dream coming true. So what is it holding you back?