With its mild weather, spectacular beaches and rich history, Belize is one of the most popular places to visit or live. With so many great things to do in Belize, no wonder it was selected by international publications such as U.S. News and World Report, AARP and the Boston Herald as a top retirement location. With the beautiful swaying palm trees, and amazing sunsets and remote islands with white sand beaches, you will surely not want to leave once you are here. Listed below are just a few of the wonderful things to see and do in Belize.
Awesome things to do in Belize
1. Explore Mayan Ruins
There are many Maya ruins in Belize, and unlike the ruins in most other countries, many of these can still be climbed and explored by foot. The Maya people were known for the elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture that are so amazing to see. Caracol, in Western Belize, is the largest of these sites in Belize. Although not as well excavated today as many other ruins, it is noted for the size it was when it was populated. In AD 650, it was larger that modern day Belize City, which is the largest city in the country today.
Xunantunich is also in Western Belize. It is very well-excavated and has an amazing main pyramid. It is near the village of San José Succotz across the Mopan River, which you can cross in your car via a tiny hand-cranked car ferry, which is a fun experience in itself. Also in Western Belize is El Pilar. It is near the Guatemala border and sits on a 100 acre site. There are over 25 plazas to walk through on this site. Altun Ha and Lamanai are both located in Norther Belize.
Altun Ha is the easiest to access from Belize City. It has mid-size pyramids and two large central plazas, while Lamanai has three large pyramids. It also has stelae, residential areas, plazas, a unique ball court, which makes it extremely interesting to explore. Main Pyramid, also know as “Sky Palace”, is definitely the tallest Mayan structure in the country and is an awesome sight. Any one, or all, of these sites are spectacular to see and explore. It is amazing to see what the ancient peoples built, using just the wheel, metal tools or beasts of burden, and how they lived. You can explore some of these with Viva Belize!
2. Tube and explore some caves
Cave Exploration is another popular thing to do in Belize. The Cayo District is a series of caves created under limestone hills. The underground rivers, sinkholes and caves are simply amazing! There are underground waterfalls and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites in these caves. These caves were sacred to the Mayan people which is why there is so much artifact still to be found here.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Caves are not a Maya structure, but is an amazing cave that holds skeletons, stoneware and ceramics from the Mayan culture. It is one of the most famous Belize attractions that you will not want to miss. Be aware though, it is illegal, and dangerous, to explore caves without a guide. Luckily these are easy to find – just ask the locals or anyone at the place you are staying and they will get you hooked up.
3. Visit the zoo
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is another great Belize attraction. Started in 1983 it now covers 29 acres and has over 45 species that are all native to Belize. It is an educational center to teach people about the animals, flora and fauna that are native to the country and show them why it is important to protect it all. It also houses animals that were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated animals, or sent to The Belize Zoo as donations from other zoological institutions.
Many of the popular attractions include birthday parties for Fuego the Tapir, Junior Buddy the Jaguar, and Panama the Harpy Eagle. The zoo is also completely accommodating for disabled visitors, and with so many animals and such an amazing landscape, this is one of the best ways to spend the day. The actor Harrison Ford agrees, and has visited the zoo soon after its 1983 opening during the filming of Mosquito Coast. His photo is at the entrance of the zoo still today.
4. Check out Old Belize
Visiting old Belize is an awesome thing to do in Belize. It is a cultural and historical center that is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. The Old Belize Exhibit is an amazing display of authentic relics representing various periods of Belize’s history. There are items from the Mayan culture, the Belize City of Colonial days as well as the 18th century logging camps, and much more. Here you will also find Cucumber Beach, which is the only beach in Belize City, and the Old Belize Marina. While this is a smaller, lesser-known are of the country, it is well worth the time to explore.
5. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve in the south central portion of Belize. It covers over 150 sq. miles on the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains. Founded in 1990 as a reserve for the Jaguar and to protect the watershed, flora and fauna of the area, it has become a spectacular example of preservation. It is world renowned for it work in preserving the Jaguar. The sanctuary is divided into to adjacent geographic basins, the East and West Basins. The West Basin is much more difficult to access so is still relatively unexplored. Therefore many species, Mayan ruins and other details have not been mapped.
However, the East Basin has many trails through the jungle that can be hiked and explored where you will discover many amazing plants and animals unique to the country. This, along with all of the tropical forests or jungles of Belize, are full of amazing animals such as the jaguar, puma, ocelot, armadillo, tapir, crocodile. There are some amazing bird species that can only be found here as well, including Belize’s national bird the fruit-loop keel-billed toucan. You will love taking a full day exploring this area and seeing the amazing quartzite and sandstone rock formations and beautiful scenery and wildlife.
6. Go scuba diving
Another amazing thing to do in Belize is to enjoy some of the world-class scuba diving and snorkeling. There are so many places for diving in Belize that you would have to spend a lot of time here to take advantage of them all. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the second largest reef system in the world. It is one of the most pristine reefs you will see, and has many varieties of coral, as well as many threatened marine species such as the West Indian manatee, The hawksbill and green and loggerhead turtles and the American crocodile. Everything you find here makes this one of the most spectacular places to dive!
Another popular place to dive in Belize is Placencia, especially during the full moons of May and June when the annual congregation of whale sharks occurs. These amazing giants migrate back to the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve every year and are a one of a kind sight to behold. Ambergris Caye is a small island just off the coast of the mainland that is a beautiful place to enjoy the warm, sunny beaches and do some snorkeling and diving, or any other water sport you care to indulge in.
There is also Caye Caulker, Glover’s Reef, Tobacco Caye, South Water Caye, Lighthouse Reef Atoll that are famous cayes that tourists and locals alike love to visit and enjoy the natural beauty they have to offer. If you ask the locals, or hire a guide, you can find so many more out-of-the-way places to dive in Belize that are less crowded and may be more to your liking. Whatever you are looking for when it comes to diving, snorkeling or any water sport, there is no better place to find it than in Belize.
If you are really interested in the scuba diving in Belize, you should join me on a 8 day diving expedition ot the best sites around Belize. We will be diving the Blue hole, Silk cays and many other awesome locations that I picked out on my last trip. If you want more information about this trip in September, click here! Hope to see you there!