13 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Belize
Located in Central America, Belize is full of surprises, both natural and cultural. You can hike in forests alive with birds, white-faced monkeys, and the colorful world of the Mayan people, visit ruins and beautiful coves, and explore rivers, canals, and fascinating caves.
As a huge island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, this Central American nation offers more than ample opportunities for diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing, and surfing.
Belize is a truly authentic place with culture and warmth unlike any other in Central America. This small but charismatic country is a wonderful place to visit.
Here is the best of Belize, with travel information on what to do, what to see, and the best places to stay.
Belize Barrier Reef
One of the world's most stunning natural attractions is a marine park called Belize Barrier Reef. Belizean reef sharks may be seen alongside hawksbill turtles. At the southern end of this reef, the capital city of Belize, Belize City is a colonial capital and home to historical forts and churches. Visitors are usually attracted to the barrier reef's many cayes, some of which are accessible only by boat. Among the most interesting is Ambergris Caye, home to the world's only inland saltwater lagoon, with Ambergris Caye's fantastic diving and snorkeling attracting tourists from all over the world. Belize Barrier Reef is accessible by a paved road along the Belize coastline or by water. Belize Barrier Reef is one of Belize's top ecotourism sites and the National Geographic designation as a World Heritage Site means it's a great place for travelers looking for something a bit different.
Caye Caulker, which can be reached by boat from Belize's Belize City, is a small coral island located just offshore and linked to the mainland by a narrow causeway. There is a long strip of beach on the island and a row of restaurants and hotels, but it's not the main focus of visitors' interest. Travelers love this small, quiet island because it provides a much-needed alternative to the so-called package-tour locations. Many have discovered that in addition to the small, quiet, private, local nature of the island there are plenty of other activities on offer. The island is well connected to Belize City by water taxis and there are a number of day tours that operate out of the capital. Some of the activities include snorkeling, banana boat rides, and trips into the San Ignacio rainforest. There are over 20 dive shops that operate out of the island and along the nearby reefs. For those who don't want to get their feet wet, there are numerous ATV rides. As you're unlikely to find Wi-Fi anywhere on the island, the only way to stay in touch is with your mobile phone. Internet cafes are also available in Belize City.
Belize City, the capital of the country and former British naval base of Belize is today the largest inland port in Central America. Having once struggled to attract tourists in the wake of Hurricane Janet, Belize City is now a lively urban center and the center of arts and culture, incorporating a number of impressive festivals. Sights to see include a small museum of medicinal herbs and spices, numerous pleasant residential streets, lively squares, and Belize's oldest and best example of Maya architecture, the City Hall. Exploring the country is easy, as most travelers explore on a tour, whether it's a package tour, scheduled private tour, or a customized self-guided trip.
A rugged and beautiful natural preserve about 1,300 kilometers west of the Guatemalan border, San Pedro is a sleepy little town with a long tradition as a center for the Belizean mahogany industry. The town, about 2 hours by car from Belize City, can be reached by boat and reached by road from Belize City, three times a week during the dry season, on an old narrow-gauge rail line. San Pedro is the center for Belize's mahogany forests, which, between February and May, are the best time to view them. Having traveled across the central plateau to reach these forested peaks, you will be rewarded with some excellent adventure sport-fishing, as the area is very rich in freshwater tarpon. Some of the best fishing is done from May to October and is reached by small boats from San Pedro and the deep lagoons near Monkey River. Within the park is an excellent small-boat base with a good guesthouse that offers guided mahogany and tarpon fishing trips to the offshore reefs. San Pedro also has more than 20 small craft-building workshops and factories, many offering to build you a personal sailing boat. For all types of visitors, the main attraction is the village of San Ignacio, the location of the San Ignacio Belize Folk Village. With dozens of thatch-roofed cottages, a church dating from 1797, a government-run hospital, and a cross-country walking trail along the village's perimeter, the site makes for a pleasant and interesting day trip.
Maya Ruins at Lamanai
The small town of Lamanai is the setting for Maya Ruins of Lamanai, a unique archaeological site consisting of a series of ancient Maya dwellings perched high on a jungle-draped cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Part of the site was discovered in 1936 when the inhabitants found the mounds of debris made by Spanish archeologists years before. Archaeologists found several structures, including a series of palaces constructed from temples of limestone blocks. Evidence of food storage sites and ritual remains were discovered. In recent years, the site has become well-known and a popular tourist attraction because of its cultural significance and gorgeous scenery. A ferry runs every day from the Lamanai town to the ruins.
The Blue Hole (Blue Hole) is one of Belize's top attractions. The vast natural sinkhole at Blue Hole at Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the third largest in the world, after the Blue Hole in Honduras and the Great Blue Hole in Belize. Geologists estimate the Blue Hole has the capacity to hold 200 million cubic meters of water - that's enough to fill Wembley Stadium, every house in London, and all the vehicles in Beijing. The Belize Audubon Society estimates that more than 400 bird species have been identified, and others that haven't yet been discovered. The Blue Hole in Belize is about 90 meters wide, 50 meters deep, and 300 meters long. Even before the development of boat tours, people used the Blue Hole to collect water, although the limestone formation often flooded in storms. Fishermen in the 1800s used the Blue Hole as a fishing location, as well as to transport wood. Blue Hole tours have increased in popularity.
Lighthouse Reef is a barrier reef of limestone pinnacles, 10 miles off the coast of Belize. At low tide you can swim to the remote, little-visited caves of the Great Blue Hole, a 90-meter deep sinkhole, and a much larger maze of reefs and tunnels called The Devil's Cauldron. If you have time, make an expedition to the second-largest barrier reef on the planet, Mayan ruins in Lamanai and other caves that can be reached by boat. Bird watching is excellent in this area, with hundreds of species in its many islands.
Situated between the Belize Barrier Reef and Lamanai, a cave-art city carved into the limestone in the early 1500s, Punta Gorda is a laid-back place and the only port of call for international cruise ships on their Belize stops. Despite the tourist crowds, Punta Gorda still has a sleepy Caribbean feel. Most people live here from small fishing villages nearby. Although there are a number of hotel chains, the town feels little changed in decades. Things to do in Punta Gorda include taking a boat cruise across the Cayo District or a hike on the Punta Gorda reef, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world. Visitors can also swim and snorkel with stingrays in the shallow lagoon. The best-value hotels are those in the Punta Gorda Plaza and Tres Puntas.
With more than 60% of the population made up of mestizos or Creoles, Corozal is at heart a humble town of modest frame homes and sturdy streets. Take a walk in the town, and you'll see a nice mix of Spanish-influenced style homes, and English and Maya-influenced houses. Corozal is the gateway to San Ignacio and its small villages, which have a UNESCO World Heritage Site status due to their unique architecture, including cobble-paved, 2,000-year-old streets. The main attraction for travelers is the Waterfall Gardens, the largest such facility in Belize. This fascinating tropical garden stretches for more than six acres in the forest and is home to literally hundreds of plants and animals. The most popular way to see it is by canoe, in which there are guided tours that tell you about the rainforest, flora, fauna, and more. Other popular activities include horseback riding, snorkeling, and birdwatching at the Southern Pine Ridge, a beautifully situated nature reserve. The Corozal Bay region also offers windsurfing, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and boat tours.
Belmopan, the new capital of Belize, is located on the southern coast of Belize, just a few miles from Belize's border with Mexico. Although Belmopan is still growing rapidly, it already has a number of attractions for tourists including the Maya museum, the San Pedro market, and the views of the Caribbean Sea. This relatively new destination is one of Belize's most important attractions. You can learn about its history, explore the beautiful lagoons and beaches that surround Belize City, and see the sites of the Maya civilization. To learn more about Belmopan's history, visit the Belmopan Museum. Located in Belize's state capital, the museum contains information on the city's indigenous culture as well as its migration history and the British and Spanish rule. If you're more interested in outdoor activities than indoor attractions, take advantage of the nearby lagoons and beaches. Punta Gorda Lagoon is a large water park where you can cool off in pools and saltwater lakes.
Enchanting San Ignacio, capital of the Cayo District, is known for its historic church and romantic streets, and is close to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai and the beautiful Caribbean beaches of Santa Elena. Places to visit include the San Ignacio Church, a neo-Gothic basilica dating from 1910 and built to the design of French architect Paul Cie. Visitors can climb the bell tower for a view of the harbor, and they can also visit the museum. The town's most famous shopping area is also home to a number of boutiques. Nearby, the secluded beaches of Playa Larga and Calle 6 are known for surfing. Also in the area are a few great restaurants and some of the best Mayan ruins in Belize. To get there, either fly to San Ignacio or take a bus from Belize City, as there is no public transport.
Despite the modern infrastructure and easy access to resorts, Ambergris Caye is still a small and rather sleepy island that retains a Caribbean vibe. The main attraction is its sprawling reef system, which attracts divers and snorkelers in particular. But the island also has plenty of natural beauty, including two small beaches that enjoy some of the best sunset views in the region. Many restaurants and bars lie along the southern promenade, and the popular reef gives divers an exciting dive site with a strong current. The island is popular with tourists and can be busy.
Located on the edge of a vast, dense, rainforest, Xunantunich is one of Belize's best-kept secrets. It has attracted few tourists, despite being part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and being included on the Antiquities List, so seeing this little village in the rainforest at the northern end of the Mayan Barrier Reef is an adventure in itself. With numerous small hotels, including Jungle View Lodge, Xunantunich is the gateway to the pristine barrier reef. This beautiful place is primarily home to the Mayan Q’eqchi’ people, which means there is little tourism, and you can visit the local village, watch as Mayans prepare and serve their traditional cuisine, and explore Mayan ruins such as San Lucas, or the Thousand Pillar Temple. You can swim in the warm Caribbean, and visit snorkel and dive sites.