Belize where to go?
Description Belize is a nation on the eastern coast of Central America, with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Offshore, the massive Belize Barrier Reef, dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes, hosts rich marine life. Belize’s jungle areas are home to Mayan ruins like Caracol, renowned for its towering pyramid; lagoon-side Lamanai; and Altun Ha, just outside Belize City. ― Google
There's great culture and food, incredible nature and wildlife, and vibrant villages, each with its own personality. And because of the country’s small size and ease of traversing it, there’s no need to decide between the beach and the rainforests, the reefs or the caves, the parties or the peace. In Belize, you can have it all.
Plan your visit to Belize with this list of the top places to go.
Belize's unmissable destination
Ambergris Caye is the top place to go for visitors to Belize, with the vibrant town of San Pedro the beating heart of this unique island. This colorful caye has hotels ranging from budget to luxe, and classic Caribbean activities like snorkeling and sailing. Many of Belize’s best restaurants can be found here, as well as shopping and nightlife.
Just about every kind of traveler comes to Ambergris Caye, including families, honeymooners, friends, and nature lovers. It’s a great hub from which to experience Belize’s water activities, and while you can make day trips to Maya ruins and the jungle, it’s more advisable to switch to an inland destination for those – otherwise, you will spend a lot of time traveling.
Must-see spots include driving a golf cart up to Secret Beach, eating fry jacks for breakfast at The Fry Jack House, and grabbing a glass of rum at Havana Cigars. As for things to do, snorkeling Hol Chan is one of the most popular activities in the country, but heading up north to Mexico Rocks can provide an equally fish-filled experience with fewer crowds.
Planning tip: There is a small airport that’s only a 15-minute flight from Belize’s international airport, and it’s easy to rent the island’s quintessential golf cart for transportation from there.
Best hub to begin outdoor adventures
Adventure abounds in San Ignacio, a large town on Belize’s western border that embodies Belize’s Central American side, trading beaches for waterfalls and snorkeling for cave exploration. Much of Belize’s jungles and land-based wildlife can be found around here, part of the attraction for many. There are also many Maya ruins nearby, like Xunantunich or Cahal Pech, as well as the famous ATM cave. San Ignacio makes for an excellent starting point for excursions, including to other spots down the coast.
While San Ignacio’s bar and restaurant scene is on the rise, there is still plenty to enjoy in the area. Head to Guava Limb Cafe for wood-fired pizza, and don’t miss the breakfast fry jacks at Pop’s Restaurant. The overall vibe of the town feels very local, with hotels the only spot where tourists stand out among the crowd, making the bars fun for anyone craving connection with Belizeans. Check out Soul Project below Old House Hostel on Wednesday and Friday nights to see local musicians and artists in action.
For those craving jungle immersion, book a stay at Chaa Creek to experience the luxurious side of nature, or go further into the wilderness at Black Rock Lodge, where birders feel right at home.
Planning tip: San Ignacio is the best starting point for travelers looking to cross the border into Guatemala to explore Tikal or continue their travels in Central America.
Best place for adventures away from the tourist crowds
Punta Gorda is the largest village near Belize’s southern border, a spot largely off the typical tourist track. It’s where the country’s densest jungles are found, as well as a concentrated Maya community. This is a popular spot for adventure travelers, those who have already been to other parts of Belize, and people who like to be away from crowds. Though it’s on the water, it’s not too beachy, so keep yourself busy with excursions out to nearby cayes or seeing some of the lesser-visited Maya ruins nearby.
The town of Punta Gorda has a few restaurants and bars – mostly local – as well as places to stay. Copal Tree Lodge is a favorite among visitors looking for a little luxury, with large rooms built into the hillside and an open restaurant area that’s often visited by howler monkeys in the morning. There’s also a rum distillery onsite – don’t miss a chance to see how Copalli Rum gets made.
Best place in Belize for beaches
The coast of Southern Belize feels like what Ambergris Caye was like before Belize became a major tourism destination, but today Placencia gets the honor of being one of the country’s top beach destinations. This former fishing village has transformed into an upscale retreat with beach bars, top restaurants, and high-end resorts. Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn is one of the most desirable spots to stay, with design, decor, and a wine selection straight from the filmmaker’s mind. Three Iguanas is an excellent affordable accommodation option that’s right in town.
Popular excursions include taking a boat ride out to the Silk Cayes or booking an inland trip with DTOURZ to explore the nearby Cockscomb Wildlife Basin – it even offers overnight trips to maximize the chances of seeing the nocturnal jaguar. In town, visitors enjoy shopping along the boardwalk, relaxing on the sandy beach, and cooling down with a scoop of gelato from the Italian-owned Tutti Frutti.
Best private island experience
There are hundreds of islands off Belize’s coasts to choose from, and Ray Caye is one of the best. The resort on the island is developed, has modern, clean lodging on shore, and an incredible restaurant. Visitors can either choose to stay overnight or visit for the day, though overnight guests will have access to the entire island while day guests are restricted to certain areas. It’s worth booking a few days at Ray Caye for travelers who want to get a sense of what it’s like to live on a Caribbean island, plus it ensures being closer to the reef than staying on shore.
It's very relaxed here, and you can happily hang around the island all day taking soothing soaks in the warm water. For travelers looking for an adventure, though, there are excursions and activities to choose from, including sailing trips and snorkeling on the island's reef.
Planning tip: Look out for yoga weekend getaways, when local yoga teacher Brice Dial takes over Ray Caye with a group for a few days of relaxation and mindfulness.
Best spot for nature lovers
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is an area in Cayo near San Ignacio with lots of options for those seeking experiences in nature. Though it doesn’t have the towering canopies of a rainforest, this unique ecosystem is still home to plenty of species of wildlife, including cougars, jaguars, acorn woodpeckers, eastern bluebirds and small critters of all kinds.
One of the best hotels in the area is Francis Ford Coppola’s other Belize property, Blancaneaux Lodge. This regal resort is perched above a river, though the onsite pool is a great place to cool off, too. The restaurant is highly-regarded, including by the British soldiers who do their jungle training nearby and stop by the hotel for a beer and a pizza.
Within the reserve, visitors can soak at Rio on Pools, cool off at Big Rock Falls, or book birdwatching trips and horseback riding tours. If you continue on to the edge of the border, you’ll find Caracol, a Maya ruin that remains the tallest artificial structure in Belize.
Planning tip: Though the main road has been paved to improve accessibility into the area, the volatile weather for which the tropics are known can still make renting a 4WD the ideal way to reach this spot.
Best route for road trippers
Belize’s most scenic road is the Hummingbird Highway, connecting the capital city of Belmopan with the southern villages. The drive takes you through the forested mountains, between orchards and Mennonite farms, with stops like scenic cenotes and the best tamales you’ve ever had along the way. Make time to stop at St Herman’s Blue Hole National Park to cool off, and pull over for Ms. Bertha’s Tamales for lunch – the red-and-white structure is located on the side of the highway in Middlesex. You can't miss it, and every local knows where it is – the multiple cars surrounding it at any time are a giveaway to its popularity.
Because the Hummingbird Highway is situated between some of Belize’s other top destinations, it can be an ideal spot for choosing a hotel – and the options are excellent. Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge immerses you in the rainforest, with an incredible view of the canopy and beyond. Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is a family-friendly option that helped create Belize as an eco-friendly adventure travel destination and remains one of the best hotels for helping guests plan excursions of a lifetime.
Planning tip: It’s not necessary to stay on the Hummingbird Highway to enjoy what it has to offer – just be sure to drive slowly and carefully to take in everything as you pass through. It’s a unique part of the country that makes any road trip worthwhile.
Best village for Garifuna culture
Belize is known for being diverse when it comes to culture, and one of the most unique groups in the country is the Garifuna people, who live predominantly in Hopkins, Dangriga, Placencia and areas nearby those villages.
Hopkins is a small, upbeat village with a long sandy beach that, while lacking in many modern trappings of life, is a unique spot to explore Garifuna culture. One of the most popular ways to get in touch with the culture is through attending a drumming lesson, which inevitably turns into a dance party. The Lodge at Jaguar Reef is a great place to stay in Hopkins, but there are budget options as well.
Best place for laid-back travelers
Caye Caulker is an island near Ambergris Caye, but with a very different personality. This is a laid-back place for backpackers, younger travelers, and those who like to go slow. One of the most popular spots on the island is The Split, a hurricane-created channel at the northern end. This is the perfect place to grab a drink, go for a swim, and enjoy Caye Caulker’s relaxed party atmosphere.
Planning tip: Head to Pasta per Caso, an Italian-owned restaurant with handmade pasta dishes, for a delicious meal.
An English-speaking country with a multicultural population, Belize is best known for its tropical beauty and outdoor adventures. The hundreds of cayes and coral islands are also among the best places to visit in Belize, with their stunning beaches and world-class diving sites.
Belize City is the largest city in Belize. It is located on a small peninsula at the mouth of the Haulover Creek. It was the capital city until flooding and other damage from a hurricane prompted the government to relocated to Belmopan in the 1970s. Most tourists use Belize City as a transportation hub and spend little time in the city. With that said, Belize City is still the cultural center of Belize and offers a relatively large number of cultural attractions.
The small village of Hopkins, south of Dangriga and stretching along a bay, is probably best-known as the cultural center of the Garifuna population in Belize. The Garifuna are the descendants of African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. The town hosts its own national holiday, Hopkins Day, and welcomes people for their celebration on Garifuna Independence Day as well, they do this with drum ceremonies that can last till early hours in the morning. Garífuna continues to be widely spoken here and the village is a great place to learn more about this unique culture.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as the Jaguar Reserve, is one of the biggest, protected destinations in Belize. Although roughly 60 of Belize’s 700 jaguars are believed to live in the sanctuary, the chances of seeing one are very slim.
However, it’s an ideal environment for plant-spotting, bird viewing or seeking out other wildlife, and the trail system is the best developed in any of Belize’s protected areas. For those who have the time, it’s also possible to take a four- or five-day hike and climb to the summit of 1120 meter (3670 foot) high Victoria Peak.
Tobacco Caye is a small island located at the northern end of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, approximately 16 km (10 miles) from Dangriga. Travelers to this island can choose from 6 different small and modest lodges in which to enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Because Tobacco Caye is located in a protected marine reserve, it is known for being an excellent spot for shore diving. Over the years, this cay has earned a devoted following among backpackers and snorkel and scuba enthusiasts.
Located about 35 km (22 miles) from Belmopan, San Ignacio is a friendly, relaxed town offering a pleasant climate, good food, inexpensive hotels and frequent bus connections. Surrounded by rivers and forested hills, it’s an ideal base from which to explore the Mayan ruins and nature reserves in the region.
San Ignacio is also an important transit town en route to or from Guatemala. The town is usually referred to as Cayo by locals, the same word that the Spanish used to describe the offshore islands.
The largest of Belize’s several hundred islands, Ambergris Caye is a dreamy, tropical place where shorts and flip-flops are the dress code, golf carts are the mode of transportation, and lazing away on sandy white beaches is the primary activity.
A short plane flight or ferry ride from Belize City, Ambergris Caye is one of the best places to visit in Belize because it presents the ultimate Caribbean getaway with classic beaches, world-class accommodations, fabulous dining and ultra relaxation.
A long, narrow peninsula of sandy white beaches hugging Belize’s Caribbean coastline, Placencia is a popular destination for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Placencia comprises the three villages of Maya Beach, Seine Bight and Placencia Village. The most popular attraction in Placencia Village is the paved pedestrian path known as “The Sidewalk,” a strip lined with shops and numerous bars and restaurants.
Most of the activities in Placencia are centered around the peninsula’s natural scenery. The Placencia Lagoon is a great place to kayak or canoe along the wetlands to spot wildlife like manatees, dolphins, crocodiles and birds.
Situated high on the Vaca Plateau, 500 meters (1650 feet) above sea level, Caracol is the largest Maya site in Belize. It was once one of the largest ancient Maya cities, with an estimated population of about 150,000, more than twice as many people as Belize City has today.
Its greatest period of construction occurred between 484 AD and 889 AD when over 40 monuments were built. The largest pyramid in Caracol is Canaa (Sky Place), at 43 meters (143 feet) it is still the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize.
Caye Caulker may not offer the beautiful beaches of Ambergris Caye, but it’s casual atmosphere, cheap prices and abundance of bars and restaurants draw numbers of backpackers and tourists who are looking for a break from traveling around Central America.
A small island accessed by small plane or water taxi from Belize City, Caye Caulker is not a place for sightseeing, but rather, a place to simply hang out and relax. The most popular activities on Caye Caulker are diving and snorkeling. The island’s closeness to Belize Barrier Reef offers some of the best diving spots in the Caribbean.
The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometer (190 miles) long section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is Belize’s top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of all its tourists.
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