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Top 8 Highlights of Belize

With its perfect blend of adventure, culture, and natural wonders, Belize stands as a captivating destination that promises unforgettable experiences. It offers a diverse range of top highlights that make it a must visit destination.
Author: Donná Louw - Digital Content Executive at Explore
Date Published: 18 August 2023
Nestled in Central America, Belize is a captivating gem that lures travellers in with its wealth of natural wonders and cultural treasures. From the misty peaks of the Maya Mountains to the turquoise expanse of the Caribbean Sea, Belize is a paradise that seamlessly blends adventure, relaxation, and cultural exploration. 

Embark on a journey that reveals an intricate world of ancient Mayan ruins, pristine rainforests abundant with wildlife, and the mesmerising beauty of the world's second-largest barrier reef. Whether you're yearning for heart-pounding outdoor adventures, serene moments on sandy shores, or encounters with vibrant local traditions, Belize stands ready to offer an unforgettable and diverse array of experiences that cater to every type of explorer.

Here are our top 8 highlights to discovering Belize.

1. Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef

Ranked as the world's second-largest coral reef system and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef is a haven for exceptional snorkelling and scuba diving activities. Experience a kaleidoscope of colours in its coral reefs, where you'll get the chance to spot nurse sharks, manatees, sea turtles and even dolphins. 

On our Discover Belize trip you'll get to spend a day in Placencia, Belize's premier beach spot that forms part of the Belize barrier reef. Here you'll enjoy two guided snorkelling trips directly from the shores of this picture postcard uninhabited tropical island, as well as an included lunch. 

Snorkelling stands as an ideal family activity, and our Family Belize Wildlife Adventure trip includes a free day dedicated to exploring the Belize Barrier Reef. Witness the glow of excitement on your children's faces as you snorkel together in the Belize Barrier Reef, spotting incredible marine life and coral formations. 

2. Cast your eyes on Caye Caulker

Take a water taxi transfer to the idyllic Caye Caulker island, where you'll experience some of the best snorkelling in Central America, in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. This tiny but enchanting tropical island lies 34km northeast of Belize City and about 1.6km inside the greatest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Caye Caulker remains untouched and is absolute paradise. Majority of the restaurants and bars are run by the friendliest local people and are well priced. 

Both our Belize trip and Belize family trip offers a free day in Caye Caulker to explore this mesmerising island. There are plenty of optional activities available on the island however, we recommend a trip to Goff's Caye or Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley for a full day of the most unbelievable snorkelling or scuba diving. 

3. Visit Mayan archaeological sites

Discover the remains of ancient civilizations by exploring the Mayan ruins. From the towering pyramids of Altun Ha and the magnificent surroundings of Lamanai to the majestic Xunantunich and the impressive grandeur of Tikal in neighbouring Guatemala, these archaeological wonders stand as testaments to the cultural richness of the Mayan people. 

Embark on a boat journey upstream to reach the jungle ruins of Lamanai, a 2000-year-old site. Upon arrival, walk through dense rainforest before reaching the ruins adorned with intricate crocodile carvings.

Xunantunich ruins main plaza is a 40 metres pyramid, where from the top you'll have a spectacular view over the forests with the Maya mountains to the south and the lowlands of Guatemala to the west.

On our Discover Belize trip you'll get to explore these ruins ensuring that you return home with a profound appreciation for these extraordinary remains of the past.

4. Spot incredible wildlife

From the depths of its turquoise waters to the heart of its dense forest, Belize boasts magnificent wildlife. Belize is one of the world's leading ecotourism destinations, with large areas of untouched rainforest, prolific wildlife, mangrove coasts, and one of the most extensive coral reef in the western hemisphere. 

Hike through the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary on our Discover Belize trip, to a small waterfall whilst being on the lookout for jaguar. The reserve is home to five species of wild cats, wild pigs, dwarf brocket and white tailed deer as well as Belize's national mammal - the tapir. The sanctuary also has over 300 different bird species, including Keel-Billed Toucan, King Vulture, several hawk species and scarlet macaws. Ensure you have your binoculars ready to capture a detailed view of these remarkable birds up close.

Set against the serene backdrop of lagoons and marshes, the tropical forests Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary becomes a haven for over 250 bird species, crocodiles, howler monkeys and iguanas. On our Family Belize Wildlife Adventure trip, you and your family will get to spend two nights and enjoy the hospitality of our local hosts on the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoon. This is a perfect opportunity for your first close-up encounter with Belize's famed wildlife.

5. Take a refreshing dip in Blue Hole National Park

Stop at the inland Blue Hole for a refreshing dip, an inviting haven that mirrors a natural oasis. This collapsed limestone cavern is similar to the cenotes found in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and is located in yet another large protected tropical forest reserve - the Blue Hole National Park

During our Family Belize Wildlife Adventure trip, we visit the Blue Hole National Park operated and run by the Belize Audobon conservation society. Broad leaf semi deciduous rainforests cover the limestone cliffs with a network of cave complexes hidden amongst the rich vegetation. Subject to local conditions, you'll visit a large cave complex and swim in a crystal clear limestone sink hole surrounded by lush jungle.

6. Explore San Ignacio

San Ignacio is a traditional Belizean town situated along the Macal River. It serves as a cultural-economic hub for locals. A top attraction is the San Ignacio Farmer's market. 

Exploring San Ignacio's market unveils a vibrant blend of Belize's diverse cultures and traditions merging in a lively and colourful marketplace. This bustling hub offers an authentic snapshot of Belizean life, where farmers, traders, and vendors from all corners of the country come together to showcase their array of goods. 

San Ignacio is also home to a Green Iguana breeding programme, dedicated to re-releasing these magnificent reptiles back into their native habitat. On our Belize family trip, you'll get to interact with the iguanas and learn about the incubation, hatching, rearing and releasing process. 

7. Canoe along the Macal River

What was once an important method of transport for the Maya and European settlers, is now a place for many adventurous activities. The Macal River boasts sites such as the Belize Botanic Gardens and Mayan Town. This remarkable river cuts through mountainous landscapes, crossing gigantic limestone cliffs. Experience a unique opportunity to canoe down one of the most beautiful rivers through unspoilt jungle scenery whilst spotting colourful tropical birds and iguanas along the banks of the river. 

8. Enjoy fresh local seafood

With its long Caribbean coastline, it's no surprise that Belize is known for it's locally sourced seafood. A seafood lover's paradise where flavourful dishes include succulent lobster, lionfish, grouper, snapper, barracuda, conch, and shrimp. Throughout Belize, you'll spot local fishermen, ensuring a constant supply of fresh seafood. Their dedicated efforts provide seafood for both domestic and foreign markets, reflecting their hard work. Notably, lobster is a prime choice, especially during its season from June to February.

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