22 Best Things to Do in Belize

The Freeze on El Castillo at the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich

Alexander Nesbitt / Getty Images

When it comes to choosing a place for your next Caribbean vacation, Belize is an amazing holiday spot, especially if you enjoy stunning settings and having a variety of activities to keep you busy. The country’s eastern side provides the beautiful azure blue waters that make the Caribbean such an in-demand destination, and is home to the second largest coral reef system in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef. On Belize's western side, you’ll find lush rainforests, historic Maya ruins, and many species of exotic wildlife. With tourism on the rise over the last few years, the secret is out about this fabulous vacation spot. Here's what you should do there.

01 of 22

Get up Close to Wildlife at Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize

Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

Address
2 Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro, Belize

Reachable by boat or day trip tour from Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye—a number of half-day snorkeling tours are also available from Belize City via travel websites like Viator and GetYourGuide—the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one spot that definitely deserves to be on your itinerary.

With crystal-clear waters, this 1,280-acre protected marine park an amazing place to spend the day snorkeling or diving. For a real treat, plan to also visit Shark Ray Alley, or Zone D of the Reserve, where you can swim alongside nurse sharks and stingrays in their natural environment, for a unique experience you won't soon forget.

02 of 22

Visit Ancient Ruins at the Lamanai Archaeology Reserve

Lamanai archaeological reserve mayan Mast Temple in Belize jungle

Gummybone / Getty Images

Address
Q87X+M4J, Water Bank, Belize
Phone +501 668-4889

Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, located about a 2.5-hour drive from Belize City, is said to have been settled as far back as 1,500 B.C.—and was still occupied nearly 3,000 years later when the Spanish missionaries first arrived in the area in 1544. Translating to "submerged crocodile" in early Indigenous languages, the site's people were later converted to Christianity and two churches were built over a portion of the ruins.

In 1641, the Maya fought back and destroyed the churches, returning to their former religion and way of life at least until the start of the 18th century. Today, you can visit the Mask Temple, which dates back to between 400 B.C. and 200 A.D., the High Temple, built between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C., and the Jaguar Temple, built between 500 and 600 A.D.

03 of 22

Chill Out in Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye

Caye Caulker in Belize

Helge Jäkel / EyeEm / Getty Images

Address
Caye Caulker, Belize

If you're looking for a relaxing vacation by the beach, head to Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, two of the most popular parts of the country—and for good reason. Known for its slow island pace, Caye Caulker is located about 21 miles east of Belize City and provides a quiet spot for visitors who are into snorkeling, diving, and fishing to chill by the beach on a budget, with the Belize Barrier Reef about a mile from the island and the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve nearby.

Ambergris Caye is Belize's largest island and once served as a Maya trading post, a pirate hangout, and a center of whaling and eventually fishing in the region. Visitors can stay in San Pedro Town, the only inhabited section of the island, and get to know the "Sanpedranos" who call it home. Most travelers come here for its access to the Belize Barrier Reef—the island is just a quarter mile away, after all—to check out the wildlife, or simply, to relax on the beach for a few days.

04 of 22

Give Cave Tubing a Try

Cave tubing in Belize

Michele Westmorland / Getty Images

Address
Caves Branch, Belize

About an hour's drive from Belize City, Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is a popular spot for those who enjoy exploring limestone caves, whether by tubing or zip-line. A number of tours are available, with a full-day option including time tubing within the impressive cave system, a zip-line experience through the jungle, and a trip to the nearby Xunantunich Maya ruins (more on that later). During the cave tubing portion, you'll be able to spot ancient paintings on the cave's ceiling, as well as stalactites and other notable rock formations.

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05 of 22

Marvel at Altun Ha

Altun Ha Ruins in Belize

Mlenny / Getty Images

Address
QM73+R33, Rock Stone Pond, Belize
Phone +501 625-6976

Altun Ha is the closest Maya archaeological site to Belize City—its position about an hour's drive northwest made it a popular trading post between the ancient civilization's thriving villages along the coast and those within the area's interior regions.

To date, 13 temples and two main plazas have been found here. Perhaps most notably, it's where the largest jade artifact—a piece known as the Jade Head, carved in the image and likeness of the Maya sun god, measuring six inches high and nearly 10 pounds—was excavated in 1968.

06 of 22

Swim in Blue Hole Natural Monument

The Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef, Belize

Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images

Address
Blue Hole, Belize

If you have a scuba diving license, you would be remiss not to visit Belize’s most spectacular attraction, the “Blue Hole.” True to its name, this stunning natural wonder is the result of a depression that was created when the roof of an underground cave collapsed. Over time, the hole eventually filled with water and became a part of what is known as Blue Hole Natural Monument. Marine explorer Jacques Cousteau conducted several excursions to the area and helped uncover the history of this fascinating sea formation.

07 of 22

Live Like Royalty

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Address
18 Buena Vista Street, San Ignacio, Belize
Phone +501 824-2034

This will especially appeal to fans of the Netflix series, "The Crown:" During her 1994 visit to Belize, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, were guests of honor at a luncheon hosted at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. You too can dine like the Royals at the hotel’s award-winning Running W Restaurant, with a menu that features local pork, grass-fed beef, seafood, and vegetarian options.

While the queen also rested at the hotel during her visit in one of the aptly-named Regal Rooms, if you really want to feel like royalty, stay in the two-bedroom royal suite and luxuriate in its private outdoor jacuzzi.

08 of 22

Support a Conservation Project

San Ignacio Resort Hotel in Belize

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Address
18 Buena Vista Street, San Ignacio, Belize
Phone +501 824-2034

The San Ignacio Resort Hotel's grounds are also home to the vitally important Green Iguana Conservation Project, which collects and hatches iguana eggs, then raises the reptiles until they are past their most vulnerable age. Depending on the health of the iguanas, most are released into the wild, while the injured or sick ones have a permanent home within the preservation area.

You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to book a guided tour of the center and adjacent medicinal jungle—by doing so, you'll get the opportunity to handle the curious creatures and learn about their habits and life cycle.

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09 of 22

Snorkel at a Caye

Amberbris Caye, Belize

TripSavvy / Marina K. Villatoro

Address
South Water Caye, Belize

Most hotels and resorts on the eastern edge of Belize offer full day tours of the islands that lie just off the coast. Whether you choose to visit South Water Caye, Ranguana Caye, or the “crown jewel,” Ambergris Caye, you’ll find white sandy beaches, hammocks for relaxing, and crystal clear waters perfect for stand up paddle boarding, swimming, and snorkeling.

10 of 22

Visit the Ruins of Xunantunich

View of west facing frieze of Mayan temple in Belize.

Henry Georgi / Getty Images

Address
3VR5+292, Xunantunich Access Rd, San Jose Succotz, Belize
Phone +501 822-3302

With so many Maya sites and ruins in Belize, it can be difficult to choose one to tour. The Xunantunich Maya Ruins, located about a 2.5-hour drive from Belize City—or a two-hour drive from Flores next door in Guatemala—are appropriate for kids and adults of all ages, given it is the most accessible and one of the most impressive Maya archaeological sites in the country. If you feel up for the challenge, climbing to the top is a great workout and offers incredible views of the area below. Don't leave without checking out "El Castillo," its impressive 130-foot castle.

11 of 22

Rappel Down the Black Hole Drop

Actun Loch Tunich

Bernard DUPONT / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Address
4485+XRV, Seven Miles El Progresso, Belize
Phone +501 668-4889

In western Belize, the Actun Loch Tunich Cave is a massive sinkhole that begins high above the rainforest. While daily tours are given within the “Black Hole Drop” from a variety of local guides, be aware that this excursion is not for the faint of heart. Tours typically begin with an intense hike into the foothills of the Maya Mountains, then, you'll need to prepare yourself, as you’ll be descending more than 200 feet until you reach the canopy of the forest below. After that, you'll have another 100 feet to go before reaching land safely. 

12 of 22

Taste a Favorite Local Snack, Fry Jacks

Fry Jacks

TripSavvy / Gina Zammit

Address
PXVG+M4M, Avenida Langosta, Caye Caulker, Belize

There are plenty of Belizean delights for you to taste during your trip, but other than the incredibly fresh fruit, fry jacks—delightful little bread clouds—are a favorite local treat you can have for breakfast. Typically eaten with jam, honey, or savory refried beans, fry jacks are the way to go, whether you prefer a sweet or salty breakfast. Just make sure you do some hiking afterwards, as they're very high in calories, but oh, so delicious.

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13 of 22

Pamper Yourself With a Spa Treatment

Naia Resort

TripSavvy / Gina Zammit

Address
Mile 17.5 Placencia Peninsula, Placencia, Belize
Phone +501 523-4600

No vacation is complete without a little pampering. If a spa treatment is what you seek, unwind at the luxurious Naia Resort and Spa in Placencia. The spa is located away from the rest of the resort and uses private treatment bungalows for every service, so you'll be nice and secluded.

While all the spa treatments offer a deluxe escape, the spa's signature Sun Quenched Clay Treatment tops them all, with deeply detoxifying and revitalizing golden clay collected from Belize's Toledo District. The clay is rich in nutrients and feels smooth on your skin, while also acting as a gentle exfoliant. After washing it off, the treatment ends with a tension relieving and hydrating massage.

14 of 22

Learn About Local Chocolate

Mayan chocolate

 Alpha / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Address
43 Burns Avenue, San Ignacio, Belize
Phone +501 637-6521

Add a little sweetness to your stay with a real Maya chocolate experience. During a tour, offered by a variety of outlets, you'll be able to sample the food of the gods by drinking a 4,000-year-old beverage that's still consumed by the Maya's descendants today. You'll also learn about the process chocolate goes through to get from bean to bar, walk through a chocolate farm, and try your hand at gently mashing cocoa beans on an authentic stone grinder. 

15 of 22

Kayak Through a Cave

A group of adventure tourists traversing four caves by raft and kayak on Caves Branch River in Central Belize.

Henry Georgi / Getty Images

Address
Seven Miles El Progresso, Belize
Phone +501 663-0561

A great outdoor activity for adventurous types is checking out Barton Creek Cave Reserve, a stunning Maya ceremonial cave, by canoe. Paddling here does not command a high level of physical fitness, and the cave, despite being a bit snug, is a great one to visit, especially for those who aren't fans of tight spaces or those who suffer from claustrophobia. Other than the occasional bat and low-hanging stalactites, your safety is nearly guaranteed. Be aware that there are still human remains located throughout the cave system, left behind as human sacrifices to the gods during ceremonies that once took place here.

16 of 22

Zip Line Through the Rainforest

Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve

Travel Belize

Address
37 Miles George Price Highway, Frank's Eddy Village Cayo District, Belize Belmopan City, Belize City, Belize
Phone +501 600-2631

Venture as high as 190 feet above the Belizean rainforest and across a river via a zip line at the Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve, a well-developed system of limestone caves north of Belize's capital city, Belmopan. You can also add the option to view Maya caves from an inner tube as you learn about the area's impressive fauna and flora. The fun takes place about an hour's drive from Belize City. Don't forget to pack some insect repellent, sunscreen, and a camera. Kids are also welcome to join, as long as they are at least 40 inches tall.

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17 of 22

Experience the Museum of Belize

Museum of Belize

Museum of Belize (NICH)

Address
5 Eve St, Belize City, Belize

If you are spending time in Belize City, stop by the Museum of Belize to learn more about its history and culture through exhibits featuring Maya artifacts, the various ethnic groups who call the country home, and colonial life under the British. The building also has a curious history as the former site of "Her Majesty’s Prison," completed in 1857. The Museum of Belize officially opened in 2002 after receiving financial assistance from Mexico and Taiwan to refurbish the building.

18 of 22

Check Out Crocodiles Up Close

American Crocodile Education Sanctuary

Ken Mayer / Flickr / CC BY-2.0 

Address
Ambergris Caye, Belize

For most people, the chance to see crocodiles up close is rare, but thanks to the ACES Wildlife Rescue, visitors can view and learn about crocodiles and other threatened and vulnerable creatures on a tour of its Ambergris Caye facility. While the tours, which you must book ahead of time, are free, donations are accepted and the proceeds go toward helping the nonprofit organization continue crocodile rescues, rehabilitation, community outreach, and conservation efforts all throughout the country.

19 of 22

Enjoy Garifuna Drumming and Dancing

Traditional garifuna dancing

TripSavvy / Julie Magnussen

Address
New Road, St Vincent Garinagu Estate, Punta Gorda, Belize
Phone +501 632-7701

Everyone in the family will have fun learning about local culture while watching a two-hour drum and dance performance by some of Belize's Indigenous Garifuna people from the southern part of the country. Festivities take place at the Warasa Garifuna Drum School in Punta Gorda and typically include dinner under the shade of a palapa (an open-sided, thatched-roof dwelling) and the chance to try out some of the traditional dances yourself.

20 of 22

Greet a Jaguar at the Belize Zoo

Bairds Tapir at Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center

Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA 3.0

Address
Mile 29 Western Hwy, La Democracia, Belize
Phone +501 613-4966

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center, located about halfway between Belmopan and Belize City, calls itself "the best little zoo in the world." Started in 1983, it now cares for over 175 animals, representing more than 45 native species ranging from macaws and spider monkeys to white-tailed deer and jaguars. The animals you'll see here were either orphaned, rescued, rehabilitated, born at the zoo, or sent from other zoological institutions. Special animal encounters are available if you'd like a closer look and the chance to give a jaguar a high five. The Belize Zoo also holds the unique distinction of being the first nature destination in the country accessible to visitors with physical disabilities.

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21 of 22

See Baron Bliss Lighthouse

Baron Bliss Lighthouse in Belize

Leonid Andronov / Getty Images

Address
4 Fort St, Belize City, Belize
Phone +501 628-9932

Established in 1885, the white and red Baron Bliss Lighthouse on Fort Street in Belize City is a popular tourist destination with an interesting background. The landmark is named after one of the country's most impressive benefactors, Baron Bliss, who was born in England. While the sailor unfortunately died on his yacht and never made it to the mainland that was British Honduras at the time, he was so fond of the warmth of its people that he willed almost $2 million Belize dollars to its citizens. He was later was buried in Bliss Park in Belize City.

22 of 22

Eat at a Shipping Container Food Park

ambergris caye

TripSavvy / Marina K. Villatoro

Address
1 Mile North, San Pedro, Belize
Phone +501 226-3663

Those looking for unique afternoon and evening activities—and some beer—should visit The Truck Stop. Located about a mile north of San Pedro in Ambergris Caye, this destination features shipping containers that have been creatively turned into eateries featuring global flavors of food and ice cream. You can also enjoy also live music, a swimming pool, ping pong, and events such as movie nights and farmers markets, among other entertaining activities.

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22 Best Things to Do in Belize