Recently I had the opportunity to go on a Belize holiday, adventure style. It was the perfect winter escape filled with sunshine, palm trees, and natural wonders that inspire adventure. Warm breezes, crystal clear oceanscapes and wild jungles mix together to make an impeccably well rounded Belize itinerary and consequently, a Belize Holiday for the masses. If you’re interested in exploring a country with a warm culture, delicious food, breath taking landscapes and adventurous excursions, a vacation in Belize might just be what you need.
There are tons of things to do in Belize. Whether you are on a family trip, interested in luxuriously relaxing in the sun, or a traveler seeking adventure; there is no doubt these expectations can be fulfilled in Belize. There is so much to do in Belize. There is definitely something for everyone! This paradisaical country is an absolute gem. If you will give me a moment of your time, I will show you why, how to get there, what to expect in Belize, where to go, where to stay in Belize, including the itinerary I used.
Thank you to the Belize Tourism Board for inviting me on this trip to explore the many adventures Belize has to offer
Table of Contents
- Where is Belize?
- How to get to Belize?
- Important things to know BEFORE you go to Belize
- What’s a Belize Holiday like?
- When’s the best time to visit Belize?
- Why choose Belize? What’s it famous for?
- Important cities to base your trip from in Belize
- Where to stay in Belize?
- Belize Travel Itinerary
Where is Belize
Belize is a small country (22,970 sq km) located on the Caribbean coast of Central America. It is bordered by Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the West and South, and the Caribbean Sea to the East. With a population of only 441,471, Belize is the least populated country in Central America.
Getting to Belize
The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) is the main international airport in Belize. It’s located just outside of Belize City. To get to Belize, we took a 4 hour direct flight from Toronto via West Jet. The Belize airport does service most major airlines. To get from Belize City to Placencia, we transferred to a Tropic Air flight and flew via small plane (15 seats). Tropic Air is a domestic airline in Belize, and this was a great addition to our itinerary as we were able to fly over the coastline and catch a great view of the turquoise waters and the Mesoamerican reef that make Belize famous.
*To note* Belize is fairly small, you can get almost anywhere from the Belize City Airport.
Important Things you Should Know About Belize Before you go on your Belize Holiday
Quick history of Belize
The first people in Belize were the Maya around 1500 B.C.E. They established a number of settlements across the country, so you can expect to visit some unique Mayan temples while vacationing in Belize. The first European contact was in 1502 when Christopher Columbus reached the coast. Starting in1638, the British began to settle in the country. In 1840, Belize became the Colony of British Honduras and by 1862, it became a crown colony. As such, the official language of Belize is English. In 1973, the name was changed from British Honduras to Belize and on September 21, 1981, Belize became independent. Like Canada, the Queen of England is present on Belizean Currency.
what language do they speak in belize
The official language of Belize is English. They are the only English speaking country in Central America. However there are a number of different languages prevalent in the country as well including the native Kekchi-Maya and Mopan Maya languages. Kriol, Garifuna, and Spanish are also widely spoken. Most Belizeans speak Kriol
what currency do they use in belize
The Belize Dollar is fixed to the USD at $2 Belize = $1 USD. Most tourism based businesses list prices in USD, while shopping and restaurants are listed in $BZ. Almost all businesses accept USD, but will give you change in $BZ. ATM’s are available across the country for those that need them.
What is a Belize Holiday like?
Located on Central America’s Caribbean coast, Belize is known for its many pristine beaches, turquoise waters and brilliant sea life. This, complimented by the lush wild jungles of the Maya Mountains intertwined with ancient Mayan temples and wildlife filled rainforest, is why Belize is like no other country in the Caribbean. In Belize you can be “Jacques Cousteau in the morning, diving in the blue hole, and Indiana Jones in the afternoon, exploring a Maya Cave in the jungle”. Belize is a diverse country, rich with natural beauty and a fascinating history.
When is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Belize
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, which is from January through May. In the tropics, rain can occur at any time, but the rainy season in Belize technically spans from June through to December. Belize is a tropical country with a hot and humid climate year-round, so packing for the climate really maximizes your experience. This Belize packing list has everything you need to have a fabulous time while exploring Belize. In my opinion, the best time of the year to visit Belize is all year.
December is the busiest month for travel in Belize. Many visitors flee the frost and snow at home to enjoy a tropical Belize Holiday. You can expect tourism to peak in Belize over the holidays in December, and then again in April surrounding Easter.
The early months of May and June, when rainfall is just about to get underway is a great time to be in Belize as hotel rates tend to be lower. You can escape the tourist rush and the rainfall isn’t too intrusive. If escaping tourists is your thing, September and October are the slowest months for tourism in Belize. These are also rainy months, so while hotel rates may be lower, keep in mind that some establishments may shut down during the off season.
We visited Belize in December and had only one day of rain out of 7, which is pretty good considering it was during the rainy season. We did enjoy our fair share of sunshine during our trip.
Why Choose a Belize Holiday? What is it Famous for?
Pristine Beaches in Belize
Belize is known for its stunning, pristine, paradisaical beaches with clear blue water and brilliant diving opportunities. Over 200 islands, known as Cayes, are scattered along Belize’s already incredible coastline boasting miles and miles of soft white sandy beaches. For those looking for adventure, one can embrace Belize diving through a shore dive from many of these pristine beaches. If one is looking for romance, a Belize honeymoon on these stunning beaches makes for an ideal setting. When one thinks about Belize, the first thing that comes to mind, are beautiful Caribbean beaches. Check out my itinerary for some examples of beautiful beaches I visited while in Belize.
Scuba Diving in Belize
Belize is home to one of the world’s most famous natural phenomenons, the Great Blue Hole. The blue hole is a giant marine sink hole 318m across and 124m deep and is an iconic spot for Belize scuba diving. Belize shares part of the 900km Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the second largest reef in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, with Honduras and Mexico. You can see why Belize diving has few rival locations. There is an abundance of marine life, which when coupled with brightly coloured reef and calm waters, makes Belize a top choice for a scuba diving trip. No PADI license? No problem! Belize snorkeling is also top of the line. You can enjoy snorkeling opportunities right from Hopkins Belize, Placencia Belize, and San Pedro Belize on your Belize holiday.
Here are a few epic places to enjoy Belize diving that should be on an itinerary in Belize: Shark Ray Alley, How Chan Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Turneffe Reel Atoll, Gladded Spits.
Mayan Temples in Belize
The Mayan civilization once dominated Mesoamerica and remains an important part of history and our understanding of the world around us. There are a number of archaeological sites in Belize which are as close as you can get to traveling back in time. It would be a crime to not visit one of the many Mayan Temples accessible in Belize. Sacred temples, ceremonial pyramids, and ancient water reservoirs are just a few examples of archaeological sites you can visit. These sites are not yet crowded nor restricted and you often have the opportunity to walk amongst them and on top of them. Intertwined with the Belize jungle and the ritual ATM cave system, these are of the best places to visit in Belize. We visited the Xunantunich ruins on our trip. You can read about it in more detail in this itinerary.
Here are a few Mayan Ruins you can add to your Belize Itinerary: Xunantunich, Caracol, Lamanai, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Lubaantun, El Pilar
Caving in Belize
The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, known as the ATM cave, is an archaeological site where the Mayan people performed ritual ceremonies. Yes, we are talking about human sacrifice. Ranked as one of the top 10 caves in the world by the National Geographic Society, this world class adventure tour is an educational opportunity unique to visitors of Belize. The cave houses artifacts such as ceramics, altars, and of course the remains of skeletons. The ATM Cave tour takes you through a sacred location and is one of the best things to do in Belize. You will enter the unlit cave via canoe, or by foot, and journey approximately one mile under the mountain, seeing grand cathedral rooms as well as passages with ceilings so low you need to lay back in your canoe to navigate them. Limestone stalactites and stalagmites line the cave, forming columns and bridges. It truly is one of Belize’s most unique adventures. We took a canoeing experience through the ATM Caves, which you can read about in as part of my itinerary.
Islands and Cayes in Belize
Over 200 islands, or Cayes, dot Belize’s coastline, and they are little tropical Caribbean paradises. These small islands are home to a variety of boutique hotels, resorts, rentals, and hostels. From these islands you can visit parts of the reef and enjoy world class snorkeling and diving, and maybe even some Belize fishing opportunities. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are two of the most popular islands for a Belize holiday. We enjoyed an island hopping tour in Placencia.
Explore Jungles in Belize
More than 50% of Belize consists of subtropical jungle or rainforest, so visiting the Belize Jungle is an itinerary must. Home to an incredible variety of wildlife, you can keep your eyes open for some of the iconic animals in Belize including tapirs, crocodiles, howler monkeys, armadillos, keel-billed toucans, parrots, coatis, macaws, and maybe even jaguars. Belize is also home to the only Jaguar Preserve in the world. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is just 25km southwest of Hopkins Belize and is definitely a top jungle destination.
Beyond the animals of Belize, plant enthusiasts will be happy to know that there are over 4000 tropical flower species thriving in the Belize jungle including 250 varieties of orchids. The black orchid which is Belize’s national flower can be found growing wild in the jungle.
Chocolate Making in Belize
Arguably the best chocolate in the world originates in Belize. The Maya were one of the first civilizations to turn the cacao plant into chocolate. They drank chocolate during rituals and utilized it as medicine. There is some evidence suggesting that eventually they ate it with every meal. These days, although Belize only produces 150 tons of chocolate per year, what they do produce is award winning chocolate. Belizean chocolate continues to win awards in international competitions. In fact, Belizean chocolate is so good it’s recognized by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, and so without a doubt this is something you need to do on your Belize holiday. Eat chocolate! We took the chocolate tour at Che’il (the same one Prince William and Kate took). You can find more info on the experience and read my review in the itinerary.
Important Cities in Belize you Should Base your Itinerary From
Placencia is a go-to beach destination on the Southern Coast of Belize. Located on the picturesque Placencia Peninsula in the Stann Creek Region, this destination is known for exclusive luxury Placencia Belize resorts, access to the barrier reef, and for its lively town full of world class restaurants and nightlife. Lined with palm trees, luxury hotels, restaurants and quaint beach bars, Placencia’s expansive beach runs 16 miles long. The beauty of Placencia is one of the reasons Belize Honeymoons are so iconic. The water is clear. It is picturesque and the sunrises are impeccable. It truly is a romantic destination.
Foodies rejoice! In Placencia Village you will find restaurants serving up fresh fish and conch, caught daily. Rumfish Y Vino is a restaurant we visited which served me the best lion fish meal I have ever had. Placencia village is lively, so if you are interested in enjoying a bustling town, this is a great spot for your Belize holiday. The world’s narrowest main street is in Placencia Village measuring 4 feet wide and 4071 feet long. It is lined with bars and shops providing a great spot for the social traveler. There are plenty of things to do in Placencia, Belize. It is a well rounded destination that easily accommodates the many personalities, budgets, and activity styles of any traveler.
Hopkins Village Belize
Located in the Stann Creek Region, Hopkins, Belize is an eco-cultural destination known as the ‘friendliest place in Belize”. Hopkins Village is a quiet Garifuna town on the southern coast of the country and is considered by many Belizeans to be the cultural centre of the Garifuna population. Based on location, visitors often choose between staying in the bustling ocean side party town of Placencia, Belize or in the quiet coastal town of Hopkins. So if you are looking for beautiful beaches and easy access to the Southern Barrier Reef with a relaxed vibe, Hopkins Village, Belize is for you.
The location of Hopkins Village allows for easy access to the Barrier Reef as well as to jungle attractions like Bocawina National Park and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, so it really is the best of both worlds. Hopkins Village is always great choice for activities like snorkeling and diving, but it also might just be the best place to try some Belize fishing! Beyond all, the village has retained its coastal charm and with a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere, is warm, welcoming and safe.
San Pedro/Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye and its main town, San Pedro is a travellers haven. Access to the Belize Barrier Reef and subsequently, the Great Blue Hole, makes this one of the most popular destinations in the country. If your goals are to snorkel and dive in Belize, this is where you should spend your Belize holiday. As a result of its popularity, Ambergris Caye accommodates all types of travellers. You can find luxury beach resorts here as well as a number of backpacker hostels. There are plenty of restaurants and the islands nightlife scene is unmatched anywhere in Belize. The island itself is 25 miles long, and 1 mile across, but don’t let its size fool you, San Pedro has an airport. Ambergris Caye is the most visited destination in Belize, but the laid-back, Caribbean vibe remains intact.
San Ignacio Belize
San Ignacio is considered the gateway to adventure in Belize. Located in the west, this jungle surrounded town is an excellent base for exploring Mayan Temples and the ATM Cave system in Belize. An Adventurers paradise; think hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, jungle, waterfalls and all the best animals in Belize. San Ignacio is the largest town in the Cayo District and is your go-to starting point for jungle adventures. A number of unique jungle lodges surround San Ignacio including Hidden Valley Inn, where we stayed. You can learn more about this property below.
Where to Stay in Belize
Naïa Resort and Spa in Placencia
Nestled within a private 200-acre reserve on the Placencia Peninsula, Naïa Resort and Spa is where we stayed for the first half of our trip. Naïa Resort is known for its private beach houses which are located right in front of the ocean. It was such a treat to wake up to an uninterrupted view of the ocean. Never once did I miss watching the sunrise from my private front porch patio.
With the ocean and palm trees as a scenic backdrop, the Naïa Resort’s outdoor pool is absolutely divine. The Spa feels as if you’ve stepped right into Bali, and the fitness centre is downright impressive. There are plenty of dining options that can satisfy any guest, but what we enjoyed most was having breakfast served on our private patios each morning. Talk about making you feel special! The Naïa Resort would be the perfect choice for a Belize Honeymoon.
My one bedroom suite at Naïa Resort and Spa was stunning. Not only did I have my own plunge pool and extended patio with reclining beach chairs, I also had a living room and kitchen that touted fresh coffee beans I could grind every morning. That’s right, I made fresh brewed coffee every morning on my Belize holiday. My bedroom was air-conditioned and was attached to a brilliant spa bathroom. After a long day of exploring Belize, it was such a treat to slip into a spa bathtub with complimentary bath salts to match the vibe.
The defining feature supporting your future stay at Naïa Resort and Spa should be in their commitment to sustainability and your commitment to responsible travel. Naïa Resort and Spa is Belizean owned and staffed with 100% Belizean employees. This means that money earned circulates in the immediate community having a positive impact on the local economy. The resort uses locally sourced construction materials and artwork and has been recognized by the World Wildlife Fund for its innovative efforts in creating an alternative to concrete seawalls. They use mangroves instead to reduce the effects of erosion. Investing in your stay at Naïa is consequently an investment in Belize and as such I will be back.
Hidden Valley Inn San Ignacio
The Hidden Valley Inn is a luxury resort inside a private reserve and is where we spent the second half of our Belize holiday. Located in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of the Cayo District, it took about 3 hours for us to arrive here via car from Placencia Village. A natural sanctuary, prepare to wake up to sounds of howler monkeys and toucans in the distance. This Inn is surrounded by dense jungle, containing many different bird and animal species as well as unique plants including varieties of wild orchids; a horticulturist’s dream.
The Hidden Valley Inn is an intimate resort that includes just 12 cottages. With a plushy duvet and fire place in each room, the cottages are appointed with all the comforts one could dream of, including a luxury coffee service! The multiple lounges in the main building come with comfortable couches and arm chairs, stone hearths with cozy fires, and a mahogany bar and decor that makes this place rustic luxury.
The restaurant included a menu which changed everyday and a chef that would bend to your every whim. The service is impeccable, it felt like being on a luxury yacht in the middle of the jungle. Not a single employee ever forgot one of our names. It is the service these accommodations offer that make you feel incredibly important, and that is pretty special.
The pool area and landscaping are well appointed and maintained. We enjoyed slipping into the hot tub on a nightly basis to relax after participating in some local adventure style tours. As the Hidden valley Inn is located on a private reserve, there are a number of actives available in the area including nature hikes to waterfalls, horseback riding, and bird watching! The Hidden Valley Inn is a great home base for those looking to explore the Belize Jungle. Located just outside of San Ignacio, the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins, the ATM caves, Rio on Pools are all adventurous excursions accessible to Hidden Valley.
The resort undertakes a variety of sustainable tourism programs that won the property a sustainable tourism award. These programs include the use of recycled materials and the provision of water from fresh springs to guests. The Hidden Valley Inn also facilitates natural research and ecological projects and provides accommodations to researchers in need.
At the end of every day, I started a fire in my room’s hearth and fell asleep to crackling coziness in my private cottage at Hidden Valley Inn. It is amenities like this which make an accommodation memorable.
Belize Holiday Travel Guide Itinerary
Now that you have learned everything you need to plan your Belize holiday, you can check out my Belize Itinerary which has all of the iconic activities you should include in your personal itinerary including the tour companies we used! Everything in my itinerary can be done inside of 7 days, though if you have the chance to spend more than a week in this tropical paradise, I couldn’t encourage it more! If you are ready to get packing for your trip to Belize, make sure you bring these 13 essential items with you to maximize your trip experience!
Belize simply inspires adventure and I hope this travel guide has inspired you! This paradisiacal Caribbean country is everything, everywhere, all at once. You will find luxury and beauty on the beach, adventure and history in the jungle, a marine wonder of the world in its waters and a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere that brings along immaculate vibes.
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