From the moment you arrive in Belize—whether you’re an adventure traveler, a family vacationer, or visiting for a relaxing beach vacation—the country will welcome you with open arms. With seemingly boundless activities, vacation planning can be difficult. Use these tips to fully appreciate the extreme biodiversity, distinctive ecosystems, and vivacious culture while you’re in Belize.
Below you’ll find five things to do in Belize to take full advantage of your time.
1. Go on an adrenaline-fueled zip line tour
Experience Belize from a unique vantage point—with some heart pounding thrills on the side!—on a zip line tour. Book your favorite course with a guide (Action Boys Belize is one of our favorites), and soar amidst the trees and black howler monkeys at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. This particular trip begins slowly, but builds into the longest and fastest section at the end.
The Belizean wildlife and vegetation are unlike anywhere else on earth. On your tour, be sure to keep an eye out for breathtaking waterfalls and unexcavated Mayan ruins cloaked in fauna.
Interested in birding? See how many different species you can spot during your zip. While your tour takes place 70-80 feet above the forest floor, professional guides will be close by at all times to ensure your safety.
If you’re staying on Ambergris Caye, Amigos Jungle Tours will provide you with a memorable zip line experience. This tour is especially tailored to those interested in learning more about the ancient Maya, as well as Belizean culture, history, and geology.
You’ll arrive at a limestone cliff that serves as your launching pad for the 500-foot journey across the jungle’s canopy, with a view of a cavernous opening to a Mayan ceremonial cave.
Begin the tour by traversing the thick jungle where cohune palms stretch far into the atmosphere. You’ll arrive at a limestone cliff that serves as your launching pad for the 500-foot journey across the jungle’s canopy, with a view of a cavernous opening to a Mayan ceremonial cave.
These spectacular views are only the beginning! Your next voyage is 700 feet in length and provides views of the dense jungle, once home to the Maya. While in flight, your knowledgeable guides will point out plants with medicinal properties and offer their wisdom. Round out your tour with the bundled cave tubing or Xunantunich ruin experience!
2. Get up close and personal with the local wildlife
Belize is known for its seemingly endless snorkeling and diving opportunities. If you’re an experienced diver or snorkeler and are interested in coming face-to-face with some gigantic sea creatures, save some time to dive with the whale sharks.
For prime viewing, visit during the spring when the sharks travel to the Gladden Split, a reef located about 30 miles east of Placencia. This experience is unique to Belize, as the Gladden Split is the only place where you’re allowed to dive with these majestic creatures.
Even if the whale sharks are shy, you may still get to see dolphins and other shark species on the expedition. These alternative species might include:
- Caribbean reef sharks
- Bull sharks
One way to identify the species is by length. The Caribbean reef sharks can measure up to 9.8 feet, whereas the bull sharks only reach 7.9 feet. The longest of the bunch is the hammerhead, though easily identifiable by its shape, which can grow up to 19.7 feet in length. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter a pod of whales out there.
If you’re not a seasoned diver or snorkeler, there are plenty of other wildlife viewing opportunities. If primates pique your interest, join A Plus Adventures Belize on a tour of the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS). Through the combined efforts of seven different villages, the CBS is dedicated to protecting the Belizean population of black howler monkeys, as well as promoting economic development.
This 18-square-mile reserve contains hundreds of species of trees, vines, and flowers. Beyond the approximately 1,500 monkeys, the sanctuary also houses:
- Over 200 species of birds
Traverse the forest trails or travel by canoe while learning more about the jungle ecosystem, conservation efforts, and wildlife. To truly appreciate all of the local creatures, book a night tour—this is when the animals are the most active.
3. Learn more about the ancient Maya
Belize is a true melting pot, with traditions and customs representing more than eight cultures. To learn more about Maya culture, join Belize Maya Tours for a Shaman experience.
Shamans were a central piece of Mayan history, playing a variety of roles, from priest, to doctor, to spiritual healer, to community advisor. This individual spiritual adventure is exclusive to Belize. You’ll have an opportunity to discuss spiritualism, healing, and rituals with a descendant of Maya high priests and witness ancient rituals and ceremonies passed down through generations.
To learn more about the people of Belize, book a cultural tour with Roam Belize and visit a Maya village where the descendants of the ancient Maya still live today. The inhabitants of this traditional Q’eqchi’ Maya village gather all of their supplies from the jungle and lead a life similar to their ancestors. During the tour, you’ll have the chance to grind corn, craft a traditional chocolate beverage, and make tortillas.
After learning more about the Maya, continue on to the Garifuna Cultural Immersion tour. You’ll travel to Hopkins, the cultural center of the Garifuna population, where you’ll be immersed in the vibrant community descended from West Africans. Listen to the melodious sounds of drumming and live music, which is the basis of Belize’s Punta music. Try on traditional garb, and prepare a local dish, Hudut. A must-try item, this treasured fish stew is cooked in coconut but remains savory in nature.
4. Sample the local cuisine
A majority of tourists will try typical Belizean dishes like stewed chicken, rice and beans, and ceviche. But don’t be afraid to try a more unusual dish—some local favorites include cochinita pibil (traditional slow-roasted pork), escabeche (marinated fish), or a boil up.
Some of Belize’s more bizarre offerings include:
- Gibnut (or royal rat)
- Bokotora (or river turtle)
Don’t be surprised if you hear about bamboo chicken—it is actually green iguana that were once heavily hunted for their eggs and meat, but today they are protected by law.
For an extra kick in any dish, add a splash of some spicy local delights: Marie Sharp’s or Hot Mama’s hot sauces. Stop by Marie Sharp’s, located in Dangriga, for a tour to learn some secrets of the sauce. If you’re short on time, head to the shop for samples of their spicy selections. Choose amongst the juice squashes, habanero sauces, and tropical jams and jellies.
To conduct the ultimate taste test, take a tour a Hot Mama’s to compare. Ranging from mild to “Too Hot XXXX,” their habanero hot sauces are sure to tickle your tastebuds! Try their specialty sauces, manganero and barbecue, at Ham’s BBQ Restaurant next door.
Have a sweet tooth? Local markets offer an extraordinary variety of fruits: mango, guava, star fruit, soursop, passion fruit and much more! Don’t leave Belize without indulging in some artisan chocolates. Belize Chocolate Company, MOHO Chocolate, and Cotton Tree Chocolate all produce high quality chocolate, made from Belizean cacao beans. Visit their local stores for a tour or a delicious sweet treat.
5. Just relax!
Although there are so many things to do Belize, it can be easy to get caught up trying to cram in as many activities and tours as you can during your vacation and forget why you decided to go in the first place.
Save some time to soak up the sun, swing in a hammock, savor a good book, or dip your toes in the Caribbean. Ponder building in a buffer day when you first arrive to fight off the jet lag. Also, consider sprinkling in a few days off during the trip so you can better appreciate your busy days. Take a minute each day to breathe, relax, and enjoy the moment as though it will last forever.
Article written by Ali Carleton
Featured photo courtesy of Prayitno