Belize Travel Guide
The ‘happening new place’ for Caribbean diving, Belize is a humid, harmonious and beautiful blend of different cultures and languages, wildlife and rainforest. This slice of central American calm is foud At the base of the Yucatan Peninsula has more in common with the Caribbean islands than its Latin American neighbors, with visible remnants of colonial rule. Native Maya people live farther inland and in the north, you’ll mainly hear Spanish being spoken despite Belize being the only Latin American country with English as its official language!
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Scuba diving, snorkeling or fishing around the beautiful coral reef of the Cayes; hanging out with Black Howler monkeys at the Community Baboon Sanctuary, taking in the amazing structures and temple at the Maya ruins in Lamanai, lounging around on the beautiful beaches of Placencia, strolling round the crumbling ramshackle madness of Belize City, sinking a few glasses of the locally brewed One Barrel Rum.
What’s Not: Going out at night in Belize City and wondering if you’ll get back to your hotel in one piece, getting caught in one of the frequent hurricanes, eating rice and beans again, bumping into a bunch of touting Rastas, battling nightly with mosquitoes.
When to Go
Belize is hot and humid most of the time. The dry season (January to April) is undoubtedly the best time to go as the weather is hot and dry. The rainy season lasts the rest of the year, and it can be incessant with the heavy rain making for a very humid atmosphere. Hurricanes blow in during August and September, but only occassionally make it this far across the Caribbean sea.
Getting There & Away
You can fly into the international airport in Ladyville, situated northwest of Belize City. Flights arrive from the USA and Canada, so if you’re coming from farther afield you will have to transfer first. You can also arrive by road via Mexico or Guatemala. Once inside the country, getting around is straightforward as the public bus service is more than adequate, if a little ramshackle. There are also efficient and inexpensive internal flights between the major towns every day.
Health & Safety
Belize in general is very safe, although Belize City at night is not somewhere you want to be, especially on your own. Be sensible and keep your valuables out of sight. There are some troublesome people in the major towns, but in general you will meet nothing but kind and gentle people with no designs on your gear. Stick to the bottled water and pack plenty of sunscreen; it gets unbelievably hot. Malaria tablets are a good idea and watch out for hurricanes.
Food & Hospitality
The food here is usually spicy and built around the national dish of rice and beans, often served with chicken. Rice and beans aside, there is always a wide selection of delicious dishes on offer such as corn tamales and great bread. The proximity of the sea means that the seafood is fantastic and is often served in hearty stews. The fruit in Belize is absolutely amazing as well so take every opportunity to sample it. Belikin is the national beer and the lethal One Barrel Rum is the local head-ripper. There are loads of great restaurants in Belize, most notably in San Pedro.
There are loads of laid-back activities in Belize and a couple of weeks should be enough to see quite a few.
- Three days exploring the coral reef around the Cayes, the longest in the Western hemisphere, and the visibility and variety of aquatic life on show are astonishing.
- A day at the inspiring Maya ruins in Lamanai to see the amazing Temple of the Masks.
- Three days at Xunantunich archaeological site. Thought to have been abandoned around 900AD, it is full of interesting sights including El Castillo, the second-tallest building in Belize, which looms impressively over the jungle.
- Two days at Altun Ha, 50kms north of Belize City and home to an enormous jade-carved head of the sun god Ahau.
- Five days tanning yourself on one of Belize’s best beaches which can be found in Placencia, at the tip of the Placencia Peninsula in the south.
- Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is full of great views and beautiful waterfalls which you can easily spend a few days exploring.
- A daytrip to the Community Baboon Sanctuary.
- There’s not many attractions in Belize City but if you’ve got a day to spare, and stroll around its streets and soak up the atmosphere.
cayes: the coral reefs here are breathtakingly beautiful and unspoiled so get ready for some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world. Everything you need is on Ambergris Caye and in the great town of San Pedro.
lamanai: the ‘submerged crocodile’ is home to 60 major Maya structures and is very interesting. The boat trip from Orange Walk is great fun too.
xunantunich: this highly impressive site is an archaeological goldmine. El Castillo, the tallest structure, towers magnificently over the jungle. Strictly for the history buffs who ‘don’t dive’.
great-blue-hole: take a boat trip and diving gear to this amazing spot where a perfectly circular sinkhole lies with a depth of hundreds of feet.
mountain-pine-ridge-forest-reserve: share Belize’s passion for eco-tourism and see the stunning scenery and amazing wildlife in this massive reserve.
Scuba diving: diving is the number one tourist activity in Belize, and with thousands of great spots see, particularly around the Cayes, it’s easy to see why.
Hiking: get close to nature at one of the many wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and forest reserves. The scenery is consistently spectacular.
Fishing: head out with a guide into the beautiful waters around the coast and indulge in some of the best fishing around.
Kayaking: there are 20 major river systems in Belize and paddling along them is a fantastic way to take in the scenery and wildlife.
Digging Mayan History: The rich Maya history of Belize can be explored at many archaeological sites dotted around the country.
Festivals & Events
Belizeans love having an excuse to get down to some serious partying.
March: San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye holds a fabulous carnival in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday.
June: Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated across the country to commemorate the anniversary of the arrival of the first Garifuna to Belize in 1832
July: Caye Caulker’s annual Lobsterfest is an unforgettable cocktail of music, drinking, dancing, lobster and of course, Miss Lobsterfest.
July: San Pedro International Costa Maya Festival is celebrated by all five Mundo Maya countries (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) and is a riot of color and tradition.
August: Deer Dance Festival in San Antonio in southern Belize is fascinating; you can see an ancient deer hunt re-enactment and the week-long preparation of a greasy pole (should you wish).
September: Belize Independence Day on the 21st sees all sorts of merriment.