The Central American country of Belize has become a prominent travel destination in recent years, and for good reason. Besides the fact that it’s fun to say “Belize,” this country boasts some magnetic culture, breathtaking scenery and many activities for the true tourist to the club-hopper and social butterfly to the outdoor enthusiast and the historical adventurer. No matter what your taste, this hidden gem is not so hidden but it has what you need to sate your appetite.
If hitting Belize is your idea of an exotic vacation, here are 10 places and activities to consider while you are there – because we’d hate to see anyone have any regrets of something they missed! Consider yourself informed.
1. Blue Hole. This is a world-renown diving and snorkeling site located in Lighthouse Reef and is about 1,000 feet long and more than 400 feet deep. This area got its 15 minutes of fame more than 40 years ago when Jacques Cousteau brought it to TV viewers on his popular marine exploration show. Some Belize resorts are actually located near the coral reef barrier, you might want to pick these!
2. Xunantunich. A very popular Mayan ruin which was known as a major ceremonial site for the Maya people. El Castillo Pyramid is located here, which is among the country’s tallest buildings at about 130 feet.
3. Altun Ha Ruins. This Mayan “city” located less than an hour from Belize’s international airport is one of the most popular due to its proximity. This city at one point housed 10,000 people and had as many as 500 different structures. The largest jade object found in Mayan ruins was located in a tomb here.
4. Belize Zoo. Started as a home for animals used in documentaries, it grew into an educational site when many natives knew little about the animals in their country (which makes sense, since most of the 125 native animals at the zoo are nocturnal creatures). This site is about half an hour from Belize City and near Xunantunich, so you could make a full day of two activities on this list.
5. Caracol Ruins. The largest Maya ruin, this one houses the largest building in the country, the pyramid known as Ca’ana, which rises 140 feet into the air and allows for stunning views above the jungle surrounding the site. And yes, you can climb to the top of Ca’ana.
6. Caves Branch River. You can either take a short tubing trip or ride a raft or kayak through a river that spends a good amount of its path underground! It begins in a cave and flows through several limestone hills amidst a dense forest for about 25 miles. A great all-day tour!
7. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. This is something for bird enthusiasts to enjoy, and also those who wish to see species that have been globally endangered, such as the Mexican black howler monkey, American river turtle and Morelet’s crocodile, among others.
8. Dangriga-Hopkins. If you have interest in really seeing Belizean life and culture, head to this urban landscape and small village. This is known as the world’s largest settlement for the Garifuna – a people of West African and Caribbean Indian heritage.
9. Glover’s Reef Atoll. A very remote group of islands 70 miles away from the coastal Belize City, this is one of the world’s best diving and snorkeling areas because of the reefs, pristine water and great preserve of more than 100 species of marine life. It’s so remote, charter boats only make trips twice a week, so expect to spend a couple nights on one of the islands.
10. Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. Located in the Roaring Creek Valley, this 3-mile-long cave has a stream that runs through it continually and it features a large chamber that contains intact human remains – including those of what is called the Crystal Maiden, an intact skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but no matter when you go, you should always make a point to put these 10 activities or place