The list of things to do in Belize is endless.
Seriously, this small Central American nation is incredible. It’s beautiful. It’s diverse. It’s exhilarating. It’s relaxing.
Basically, when it comes to a warm weather vacation, Belize has it all. Jungles, thrilling adventures, delicious food, laid-back beach towns, turquoise water and over 200 postcard-perfect islands dotting the coastline ready to make you feel a million miles away from real life.
It’s impossible to fit it all in over the course of a one-week vacation, but you can certainly try. To help, here are just a few of the best things to do in Belize that I was able to squeeze into a seven-day trip. In addition to tons of photos, you’ll find information and bonus tips scattered throughout. Enjoy!
Visit Caye Caulker
The photo above is likely enough to convince you to visit Caye Caulker — but I’ll give you a little more info.
At just five miles long and well under one mile wide, Caye (pronounced Key) Caulker may look like a remote paradise, but it’s actually pretty easy to get to.
Tropic Air offers short flights from Belize City International Airport to Caye Caulker’s barely there landing strip. High speed water taxis from Belize City or San Pedro on nearby Ambergris Caye are also available.
But the most memorable way to get there, especially if you’re only going for the day, is to charter your own private catamaran (with captain), or take a group Caye Caulker Sail and Snorkel trip from San Pedro. SEAduced by Belize can hook you up with both — they’re who I used and they’re great.
Live out your island fantasy here
This is Caye Caulker’s Sea Dreams Hotel, a small, family-run property located on the northern end of the island. As far as rooms go, there’s only a few — some set around a courtyard and a massive tree, and two bungalow rooms with hammocks on their font decks. Although I didn’t overnight on Caye Caulker, I found this hotel to be the most memorable by a long shot (and staying here will definitely be on my “things to do” list when I make it back to Belize).
With its history as a backpackers’ paradise, Caye Caulker isn’t short on rustic hostels and affordable hotels. Just know that while there are comfortable and clean places to sleep, there are no luxury properties. That is, however, part Caye Caulker’s charm. It’s not fancy. It is what it is. And it is great. Embrace it!
BONUS TIP: Spend your days drinking, swaying to island tunes and swimming at the Lazy Lizard, an outdoor bar located right on the water and 45 seconds by foot from the Sea Dreams Hotel.
Visit Shark Ray Alley
Located approximately halfway between San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, and part Belize’s famed barrier reef (it’s the second largest in the world), is Shark Ray Alley.
Most tours to Shark Ray Alley also include a stop for snorkeling at another nearby location. And while the snorkeling is amazing, Shark Ray Alley is where the action is at — as in a swarm of nurse sharks you can get in the water and swim with. Also present: stingrays.
BONUS TIP: Get an underwater camera or a waterproof Catalyst Case for your iPhone to take photos (like I did).
Sail on a catamaran (while drinking rum punch)
You can’t visit Belize and not get out on the water, preferably via catamaran — the dual-hull sailboats with the hammock-like net for lounging over the water at the front. It would be an even bigger shame if you didn’t drink rum punch while doing said sailing and lounging.
Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that you can check several things off this “things to do in Belize” list by taking SEAduced by Belize’s Caye Caulker Sail & Snorkel trip. Sailing on a catamaran (and drinking rum punch, which is provided for your trip) — check! Snorkeling and swimming at Shark Ray Alley — check! And visiting Caye Caulker — check!
Explore San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye has long been Belize’s most popular destination.
In the Caye’s main town, the charmingly shabby San Pedro, the narrow streets are lined with beach bars, restaurants and shops, and filled with golf carts (the main form of transportation for locals and visitors alike). For travelers looking for slightly higher energy and a little nightlife after staying in one of Belize’s more secluded destinations, spend a night or two in San Pedro. You can use it as your home base to explore the reef, go fishing or visit Caye Caulker. Two nice hotels that are conveniently located right in town are The Pheonix and Ramon’s Village.
BONUS TIP: For dinner, ride your golf cart north and just outside of town to The Truck Stop – a collection of shipping containers turned into a bar and three food stalls. The grub is delicious and the atmosphere is even better. Rather stay in town? Head to El Fogon for some authentic Belizean cuisine.
Fly inland to San Ignacio (preferably during sunset)
After exploring the northern coastline and its islands, make you way back to Belize City International Airport and hop a Tropic Air flight inland to San Ignacio — the gateway to many of the the country’s jungle experiences, jungle hotels and Mayan archeological sites.
The flight alone is an experience worth having, especially if you can time it so you’re flying west into the sunset.
First, the tiny six seater plane will make you feel like you’re on a serious adventure (you kind of are). Then there are the views over the lush green countryside and dense jungles (which are simply amazing). But best of all is the joy of arriving at the San Ignacio Airport, which is set in a field outside of town and comprised of one landing strip and a one-room building. Couple the setting sun with the peace and quiet, and an automatic sense of calm will wash over you the second you step off the plane.
Stay at a jungle hotel
Not far from the border of Guatemala, the jungles nar San Ignacio hold a small selection of higher end end hotels, like Chaa Creek (where I stayed — that’s my cottages’s deck above), Ka’ann and Blancaneaux (which is owned by director, Francis Ford Coppola).
Chaa Creek is the granddaddy of Belizian jungle resorts. It opened on a private reserve in 1981 and has been serving ecotourists ever since. While they offer higher end rooms, they also offer a collection of budget friendly Camp Casitas, which cost just $65 per person per night.
All three hotels mentioned above will put you within close enough proximity to the next two items on the list.
Bonus Tip: Belize might be more widely known for its beaches, but don’t pass up a few days in the jungle. If you’re going for a week, spend at least two nights in the jungle.
Visit Xunantunich, an ancient Mayan archeological site
There are several well preserved Mayan sites throughout Belize – but it’s hard to top Xunantunich, both in terms of height (it’s the second tallest ruin in the country) and impressiveness (it’s remarkably preserved and well maintained).
After crossing a river on a hand-cranked cable ferry, you’ll enter the site which some say was occupied as early as 1000 BC. Xunantunich’s main structure, the 130-feet tall El Castillo (pictured), is estimated to have been built around 700 AD. Climb the steep steps to the top of the temple and you’ll have a 360 degree view for as far as the eye can see.
Definitely, I repeat, definitely visit Actun Tunichil Mukna (a.k.a “ATM”)
Easily the most worthy of telling your friends about when you get home, is a trip inside Actun Tunichil Muknal (better known as ATM).
After a long ride down a bumpy dirt road, followed by wading across two rivers and walking a path through the forest, you’ll reach the cave entrance. The blue water spilling from the cave’s mouth and the vines and boulders hanging overhead make it look like the entrance to a ride at Disney World — but this is real.
Lead by a trained guide (several government-approved tour providers can access the cave, but if you’re staying at one of the hotels mentioned above they’ll be able to organize a tour for you with their preferred guide), you’ll swim, wade, squeeze and climb your way about 0.65 miles into the cave. Deep inside, you’ll find ancient Mayan pottery and eventually, reach the Crystal Maiden — the name given to the fully intact skeleton of a 1,000+ year old human sacrifice. Yeah, you’ll feel like Indiana Jones.
Roadtrip back to the coast and stop of Bertha’s Tamales
What’s on this plate is a Belizean legend. It’s a tamale from Bertha’s Tamales, a roadside snack stand founded by Bertha Lisbey over 60 years ago. For decades, Bertha manned the stand, but since her passing, her shy daughter Guadalupe now dishes out her mother’s famous and delicious tamales (I ate 3).
How to find it: Bertha’s is located on Hummingbird Highway, the road you take to drive from the country’s rugged jungle interior to the central or southern coast (more specifically, it’s at about mile 25 when driving east from Belmopan).
Repel down a waterfall in Mayflower Bocawina National Park
Before reaching the coast, stop at Mayflower Bocawina National Park for a few more jungle adventures with Bocawina Rainforest Resort and Adventures.
Within the 7,000-acre park there are two main waterfalls that you can repel down: Bocawina Falls and Antelope Falls. At Bocawina Falls, which can be reached after a short 20-minute hike, you’ll complete a 100-foot repel down the gradually sloping grade (pictured above). The entire experience takes about 2 hours depending on the size of the group. To take it up several notches, there’s the 250-foot repel down the much more vertical Antelope Falls — which is more remote and takes about four hours.
Choosing which waterfall to do will depend on how much time you have and how deep into the jungle you want to hike.
Go zip lining
After repelling, and still in Mayflower Bocawina National Park with Bocawina Rainforest Resort and Adventures, head zip lining.
The exhilarating course is spread throughout the rainforest over eight unique tracks — the longest single run is 2,300 feet (the longest in Belize). The scenery is breathtaking and you’ll build up some good speed too!
Soak up some culture in Hopkins
Finally back on the beach, head for Hopkins, a small fishing village considered by many to be the center of Garifuna culture in Belize.
The Hopkins locals are known for their friendliness and willingness to share their culture with travelers — and that’s especially true for the drummers and dancers of the Lebeha Drumming Center. Contact them ahead of your visit and arrange a group or private drum performance and lesson, held either under the center’s thatched roof or right on the beach.
Alternatively, check out Hopkins’ beachfront Swinging Armadillo bar and grill, which usually has live music, often drumming, every Thursday night.
Fly back to Belize City (and try and get the co-pilot seat!)
Since the planes are so small and only require one pilot, the co-pilot seat is usually available for a passenger. When the plans are full, someone will need to sit in the co-pilot seat (that’s what happened to me), but if you ask the attendant helping board the plan, or ask the pilot, they’ll probably let you ride shotgun.
This list of things to do in Belize includes about 75% of my trip. I didn’t even mention my two nights in peaceful Placencia, the vibrant Placencia Village, my stay and delicious dinner at Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro and my beyond memorable dinner at the limited time only, pop-up restaurant Limalita at the soon-to-be-built Itz’ana resort.
And while I covered a lot of ground in Belize, and spent seven days in the country, I didn’t even see the far southern part of the country, where the forest meets the beach.
I guess I’ll just have to go back.
Photo Credit: all photos are my own, except for “Xunantunich” by Mary Clare Jensen and “Actun Tunichil Muknal” by Belize Tourism (left) & Amber Karnes (right).
Disclaimer: I was invited to Belize as a guest of Tourism Belize. All opinions are entirely my own. For real, I can’t wait to make it back to Belize one day soon so I can keep exploring!
Latest posts by Trevor Morrow (see all)
- GEAR REPORT: FILSON’S SMALL FIELD DUFFLE - March 9, 2017
- WHERE WOULD YOU GO IF YOUR NEXT TRIP WAS YOUR LAST? - February 13, 2017
- HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT WEEKEND IN TEMPE, ARIZONA - February 2, 2017