Best things to do in Belize

22 Best Things To Do In Belize

A hidden gem of Central America, Belize is a small country with rich biodiversity and un-BE-LI-ZE-able landscapes. While Belize remains off the radar for many tourists, it boasts the UNESCO-listed Great Blue Hole, the second largest barrier reef in the world along its Caribbean coastline, and the jungle-covered mainland with Mayan ruins and stunning caves.

Why should I visit Belize?

This country packs a punch when it comes to adventures and the list of cool things to do in Belize is really long. I was lucky to spend a few months in Belize and see its many hidden gems.

If you like a good adventure, you will fall in love in Belize!

This Central American country is located off the beaten tourist path and offers something that it neighbors might not: an incredible sense of discovery that you get to experience when you visit places only a few other people have seen!

If you want to learn about some of the best things to do in Belize, keep reading this article!

Do I need to rent a car in Belize?

This is a tricky question.

Belize is a developing country with limited infrastructure and a small road network that includes major highways traversing main areas of the country and many primitive roads. Road tripping in Belize is not really a thing, as many travelers choose just one or two areas to stay, however renting a car is a great way to explore many cool places to visit in Belize where few other travelers go.

There are several rental car companies in Belize City airport and you can rent a vehicle here for your adventures on mainland Belize.

Best things to do in San Ignacio, Belize

Taking a chicken bus in Belize

Another alternative is to explore Belize by chicken bus.

This is a truly unique experience because chicken buses are a unique Central American thing and look like old school buses from the United States that have been painted in weird bright colors. Many locals get around Belize by chicken buses and while they are definitely not the most comfortable mode of transportation (they are hot and rides are often bumpy), you can save a good chunk of money traveling Belize by one of the chicken buses.

Is it safe to take a chicken bus in Belize?

Many travelers who visit Belize often ask me about safety on cheek buses. In other Central American countries, chicken buses have been associated with crime, however, in Belize, they enjoy a much safer reputation. Still, remember to keep an eye on your belongings and be vigilant during your ride. The space for luggage is limited on chicken buses and you should keep an eye on your things at all times.

Is Belize in Central America?

Belize is a Central American country with a Caribbean Coast that is bordered by Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the south and west. Located in the northeast of Central America, Belize was known as British Honduras until 1973. 

Today, it is the only country in the region where English is the official language, which is a huge bonus for English-speaking travelers who want to visit Belize.

What’s the official language in Belize?

Originally established as a pirate colony in the Caribbean by British buccaneers, Belize has become a true melting pot of cultures. 

While English is the official language of Belize, residents of the country also speak Spanish, Mayan, Creole, and Garifuna. The colorful identity of Belize is reflected in its cuisine, traditions, and culture, and you will see this incredible diversity when you travel to different regions in the country.

Best things to do in Belize for adventure lovers

Best restaurants in San Pedro, Belize

1. Explore Ambergris Caye

Where to stay: Drift Inn Belize

Caye Ambergris (pronounced key) is a must-stop for any traveler who comes to this country. A gateway to the famous Blue Hole in Belize and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Caye Ambergris is the biggest island in the country that boasts some of the best things to do in Belize. 

Home to San Pedro, the second-largest city in Belize, Caye Ambergris also has tons of good restaurants and hotels for every price point, so if you are looking for a base with great amenities and plenty of hotels, look no further than Caye Ambergris.

PRO TIP: Check my complete guide on best things to do on Ambergris Caye to plan your trip

Best things to do in San Pedro, Belize

2. Check out Iguana Sanctuary in San Pedro

Aside from the classic tourist things to do in San Pedro, this town also has a couple of secrets. One of them is Iguana Eco-Center, a sanctuary where you can see tons of beautiful green iguanas roaming around freely and even feed them a tasty banana. 

Besides being a fun experience, this place also does a stellar job at providing safe heaven for these endangered reptiles that are unfortunately still hunted in Belize.

Best things to do in Belize

3. Chill out in Caye Caulker

Where to stay: Sea Dreams Hotel

Caye Ambergris’ smaller cousin, Caye Caulker sits just 30 minutes south and is easily accessed by a boat taxi from San Pedro. Unlike Caye Ambergris, Caye Caulker boasts a more quiet atmosphere with inexpensive stays such as Wish You Were Here that cater to budget travelers and backpackers. 

While Caye Caulker is a much smaller island than Caye Ambergris, it’s still close enough to Blue Hole and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, so you will not miss out on the best things in Belize if you decide to stay here.

4. Dive in the Great Blue Hole

The crown jewel is Belize, the Great Blue Hole is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site located in an offshore atoll called Lighthouse Reef.

A popular site among experienced divers, the Great Blue Hole was created thousands of years ago when the rising sea level flooded a vast network of caves that have stalactites and stalagmites. It is over 400 feet deep and is the largest sea hole of its kind in the world.

FUN FACT: The Great Blue Hole was formed centuries ago after the huge cave located above the sea level collapsed. The area gradually filled with water, and today it’s a popular spot for divers who come here here to explore gigantic stalactite and stalagmite formations. The Great Blue Hole was discovered in the 1970’s by marine biologist Jacques Cousteau who declared this area one of the top diving spots in the world.

Things to know about diving in the Great Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole is located about 43 miles off the coast of Belize. The majority of tours to Belize Blue Hole leave from San PedroCaye Caulker, or sometimes, Belize City, and take about 2 hours one way. It’s also possible to snorkel in Blue Hole, however, you will not see much here because most cool things such as stalagmites and stalactites are located much deeper. 

  • The Great Blue Hole is an advanced diving site. If you are a newbie diver, get comfortable diving in more shallow areas with the depth of at least 30 feet before booking a diving tour of the Great Blue Hole.
  • The Great Blue Hole is one of the most popular diving places in the world. It’s a good idea to book tours ahead of time, especially if you travel during the high season. 
  • The Great Blue Hole is deep and diving here will feel colder than at Hol Chan. Consider wearing a wet suit to stay warm.
  • If you don’t want to dive, you can also snorkel in the Blue Hole and around the surrounding reefs.

PRO TIP: You can also book a flight over Blue Hole from San Pedro with Tropic Air or Maya Island Air to see the Blue Hole and the Belize Barrier Reef from above.

Diving Blue Hole is one of the best things to do in Belize among thrill-seekers. This is a day-long adventure, so make sure to allocate at least an extra day if you want to dive in Blue Hole.

5. Snorkel (or dive) in Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Whether you want to snorkel or dive in Belize, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is an absolute must. Protected by the Belizean government, Hol Chan Marine Reserve means “Little Channel” in the Mayan language which refers to the deep cut in the barrier reef. 

At Hol Chan, you can see colorful corals, and watch all sorts of marine wildlife such as stingrays, turtles, and even manatees. Visiting this reserve is possible only with a guided tour, and several companies in San Pedro offer tours of the Hol Chan.

Popular tour packages in Hol Chan include snorkeling and diving options. Most companies provide snorkeling equipment, however, make sure to check with your tour operator before departing.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to bring your GoPro whether you plan on snorkeling or diving in Hol Chan. The marine world that you are about to see is absolutely stunning, and you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to take photos and videos of it! 

6. Feed nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley

One of the major highlights of Hol Chan Marine Reserve is Shark Ray Alley, an area within Hol Chan where you can snorkel alongside nurse sharks, the friendly creatures who are used to being fed by tour boats that come here regularly. Most tour operators include a stop of Hol Chan on their itinerary other you purchase a snorkeling or diving trip.

Don’t worry, nurse sharks have no interest in eating you! These mellow guys start swarming around the boat the moment it appears because they are used to being fed and are far more interested in eating fish, than doing anything to you.

7. Venture out to Bolsa Chica National Park

One of the most adventurous things to do in Belize is taking a boat ride to Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Preserve, a remote area north of Ambergris Caye. Bacalar Chico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stretches for more than 60 miles across from the Bay of Chetumal in Mexico.

This stunning natural area is home to many cool animals such as jaguars and ocelots and it sees very few tourists. Snorkeling is also possible and since waters are so calm here you will have a good chance to spot manatees, turtles and many types of fish.

A day tour typically takes all day and includes stops at secluded beaches, as well as time for lunch and exploring.

Taking a boat tour of this area is one of the most things to do in San Pedro, Belize although many travelers still don’t know about it. Several local tour companies in San Pedro offer trips to Bacalar Chico including Serious Adventures and Seaduced by Belize

Best things to do in Belize
Best things to do in Belize

8. Stop at Belize Zoo

Belize Zoo is a must on your itinerary.

While I normally wouldn’t recommend going to a zoo for ethical reasons (I find them cruel and obsolete), Belize Zoo is not really a zoo but a rehabilitation center for orphaned and injured animals native to Belize that can’t be released into the wild. 

Here you can spot spider monkeys, macaws, toucans, jaguars, and pumas in a natural setting that has a jungle-like feel to it, as opposed to concrete cages with bars that you see in regular zoos.

PRO TIP: Belize Zoo is about halfway between Belize City and Belmopan, so there are few hotels nearby. If you are looking to stay in the area, spend a night in Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, one of the most popular hotels in Belize in the middle of the jungle.

By visiting Belize Zoo you will not only get a lesson in Belize biodiversity but also help the country’s conservation efforts, because people who work here are doing an awesome job preserving these species and educating the public about their importance.

PRO TIP: Some tours combine a visit to Belize Zoo with a quick stop at Altun Ha ruins just north of Belize City. But even if you don’t have a car, you can also visit Belize Zoo by chicken bus, just don’t forget to ask a driver to make a stop near Belize Zoo. The entrance to the zoo is located right along the highway.

9. Enjoy expat hub Placencia

Where to stay: Casa Del Hut

A popular ex-pat hub, Placencia is a beachside town located on a peninsula a few hours south of the airport in Belize City. Placencia is a perfect place to relax and kick back if you are looking for a low-key place to relax. If you decide to stay in Placencia for a couple of days, visit nearby Hopkins, where you can learn about Belize Garifuna culture and take some cooking lessons.

What’s also cool about Placencia is that it provides quick access to some less-discovered Cayes (islands) in southern Belize including Silk Cayes and Sapodilla Cayes with sugary white beaches and crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling.

If you are looking for an ultimate getaway, check out Ranguana Caye Cabanas just 20 miles from Placencia. This little island is unbelievably gorgeous!

To get to Placencia, you can either take a chicken bus from the main bus station in Belize City (a more economical option that will cost between $10-15 USD), fly from Belize City on Tropic Air or arrange a private transfer from Belize to Placencia that will help you travel fast and with no hassle.

10. Go zip lining in Bocawina National Park

If you are looking for a grand adventure in the jungle, look no further than Bocawina National Park, a hidden gem in the jungle of Belize that boasts the longest zip lines in Central America where you can rappel down cascading waterfalls and also learn about unexcavated Mayan ruins in the area.

One of the most popular places to visit in southern Belize, Bocawina National Park is only 20 minutes from Hopkins and Dangriga.

11. See the different side of Belize in San Ignacio

Where to stay: Mariposa Jungle Lodge 

A tourist hub in western Belize, San Ignacio is a small town in the Cayo District near Guatemala’s Border. San Ignacio is a perfect base if you are looking for some cool adventures in the western part of the country such as visiting nearby Mayan ruins Xunantunich and Cahal Pech, tubing, and caving.

Some of the best activities in San Ignacio are the Green Iguana Habitat, San Ignacio Market, and the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch.

For a cool adventure, rent a kayak and making your way down the Macal River early in the morning. There’s something magical about kayaking pre-dawn and listening to all the birds above you.

If you are traveling to San Ignacio from Belize City, arrange a private transfer that will help you to save time on the road and skip public transportation.

PRO TIP: Check my complete guide to San Ignacio ahead of your trip!

12. Go spelunking at ATM caves

Spelunking is one of the best things to do in Belize and no place is more famous for it than ATM caves (more commonly known as ATM caves) that have been profiled by the National Geographic. A visit to this place requires a guide, and you will find many tour operators in places like Placencia and San Ignacio selling guided tours to ATM caves.

A typical tour to ATM caves in Belize lasts 8 hours and includes a pick-up from a hotel, transportation to the caves, an actual tour, and a lunch. No more than 8 people are allowed on a tour, as the caves are limited to just 120 visitors a day.

Because of the accidents in the past that damaged the fragile artifacts within the caves, you are not allowed to bring cameras on your tour. Also, make sure to wear moisture-wicking clothes that dry quickly, as you will be wading and swimming in the water before you arrive at the underground exhibit. 

Touring ATM caves is a lot of fun, and it was one of my most memorable experiences in Belize.

13. Go cave tubing

Cave tubing is one of the most popular things to do in Belize. It’s also one of the best ways to explore the country and chill out at the same time. Cave tubing is basically floating down the river that includes passages through the cave system that had been used by ancient Mayans for their rituals thousands of years ago.

Many tour companies in Belize offer cave tubing packages, and you should definitely check out this fun activity.

Best things to do in Belize

14. Climb Caracol Mayan Ruins

Located near the border with Guatemala, Caracol is a remote Mayan ruins site whose visitation hovers just above 10,000 people a year – a remarkably low number, when you consider other popular spots in the region such as Tikal, and Chichen Itza, that see millions of tourists.

Once the most powerful city in the Mayan world, Caracol was a rival of Tikal in neighboring Guatemala and commanded a significant economic and political influence.

Caracol no doubt remains one of the best-hidden gems in Belize, as visiting Caracol requires time and effort. The road to Caracol is rough and bumpy, and it takes about 1,5 to 2 hours to get here from San Ignacio, which is the closest town. 

Many tour operators sell packages to Caracol, so if you don’t have a 4X4 rental vehicle, you can also come here with an organized tour which is a better option in my opinion, as you will get to learn the cool history of this place.

15. … Or explore Xunantunich

One of the most beautiful Mayan ruins in Belize, Xunantunich means “stone woman” in the Mayan language. It can be reached by taxi from downtown San Ignacio.

Xunantunich was an important ceremonial site for the ancient Maya and today it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Belize with impressive ceremonial sites and the dominant El Castillo pyramid. Taking a tour of Xunantunich is by far one of the best things to do in San Ignacio, so make sure not to miss it!

Xunantunich’s claim to fame is that it’s the oldest continuously excavated Mayan ruin site in Belize. In 2016, archaeologists discovered the largest royal Maya tomb under the floor of one of the temples! The tomb contained the remains of a Mayan queen accompanied by gifts to the gods and remains of animals that appeared to be deer or Jaguar.

PRO TIP: If you want to visit a smaller and less touristy Mayan ruin site, consider making a stop at Cahal Pech, just outside of downtown San Ignacio. Cahal Pech is located above the steep hill and is a perfect spot if you want to have the entire Mayan ruin site all to yourself.

16. Go on a hike in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

If you decide to make your way to Caracol, make a stop at the nearby Mountain Ridge Forest Reserve, home to the tallest waterfall in Central America, a gorgeous Rio Frio Cave, and the beautiful pools where you can cool off after the day of adventures , as well as a couple of scenic hikes.

17. Learn about crocodile art in Lamanai

Famous for its incredible crocodile art, Lamanai is the longest-occupied Mayan site nestled along the New River Lagoon in Northern Belize. Lamanai means “submerged crocodile” in the Mayan language, so there’s little surprise about the presence of these reptiles at this place. Oh, you can see them on the banks of the river too, if you get lucky!

Among the highlights of Lamanai are impressive crocodile art, several plazas, and Mayan temples (High Temple, Mayan Temple) that house impressive Mayan artifacts.

A tour of Lamanai is possible only with a guided tour, because of its remote location, and normally takes most of your day. When you come here, make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks and put on some sunscreen, as it gets pretty hot in the jungle.

18. See jaguars at Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary

Did you know that Belize is home to the only jaguar preserve in the world where you can see these cats roam in the wild? Bear in mind, jaguars are nocturnal animals and are not keen on contact with people, so your chances of seeing one while hiking this place during the daytime are not very big.

Still, Cockscomb National Park is worth a visit, if you are craving a refreshing hike and some exercise after spending a few days at the beach. The easiest way to access it is from Placencia, however, you can take a tour of Cockscomb National Park from many parts of Belize.

To see a jaguar, I recommend heading to Belize Zoo that has a great rehabilitation program for these beautiful cats.

19. Get off the beaten path in Punta Gorda

Where to stay: The Sea Front Inn

A perfect place for an adventurous soul, Punta Gorda is a small town in the southern part of Belize that sees very few tourists. A gateway to Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Punta Gorda will be the longest trip that you will take in the country. If you don’t feel like traveling on a chicken bus, you can also take a flight from Belize City on Tropic Air, which will be under one hour.

Punta Gorda is a perfect destination where you can get a taste of real Belize, take in those unspoiled landscapes and enjoy a slow-paced life after exploring all those awesome things to do in Belize. Punta Gorda is one of the best places to visit in Belize if you want to get off the beaten tourist path.

20. Discover the many cultures of Belize

Belize identity is a colorful mix of many cultures and races.

The most prevalent ones are Mestizos, Maya, Kriol, Mennonites, and Garinagu. Although Belize is a small country, no part of it is similar to another. Today many American and Canadian expats are buying real estate in Belize, but this country has been inhabited by many other cultures throughout its history.

For example, Hopkins is heavily influenced by the Garifuna culture, and if you plan to visit this town, the best way to learn about local culture is by taking one of Garifuna drumming classes.

The western Cayo district has many Mennonite communities but is also heavily influenced by neighboring Guatemala. You will hear more Spanish here than in coastal parts of Belize. Learning the country’s cultural identity is one of the best things to do in Belize and you should take some time chatting with locals and learn their way of living during your time in Belize.

21. Visit remote cayes in Belize

Most people know Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulker, but Belize has a ton of other cafes that are worth a stop!

Some of the best islands in Belize are those that are less known. For example, Tobacco Cayes and Glover Reef offer paradise-like scenery with many small islands where only a few tourists go. I recommend spending a couple of days on one of these islands for a surreal experience. 

If you travel on a budget, you can do beach camping, but if you would rather stay in a nice room, there are some cool high-end hotels where you can spend a few nights. I recommend Thatch Caye Resort and Blue Marlin Beach Resort.

Most common questions about Belize

Best things to do in San Ignacio, Belize

Is Belize safe to visit?

Belize is a small country, however, the high crime rate in Belize City puts it in a bad category when it comes to violence statistics. As someone who spent a while in Belize, I can say that it’s safe for travelers. Places like San Pedro, Placencia, and San Ignacio are the most popular destinations for tourists, and the crime rate generally comes down to pickpocketing and petty theft.

As a rule, avoid walking around Belize City, especially by yourself, and especially during late hours, if you want to stay out of trouble. Belize City is not a major travel destination in the country, and is simply used as an entry point since it is home to the main international airport in Belize.

How much time do I need in Belize?

Many travelers come to Belize with the idea that there’s not much to do here except for diving and climbing a couple of cool ruins. By now you know that this is simply not true, because Belize is a diverse and unique country that is home to many cultures, landscapes, and fun things to do.

If you want to explore the country beyond a classic diving trip, I recommend between 7-10 days, which should be just enough to experience some of the best things to do in Belize. However, if you want to go a bit deeper, and do some island hopping in southern Belize and explore the jungles, consider staying in Belize for at least two weeks.

Time will fly once you come here, I promise you!

What’s the best time to visit Belize?

As with many other Central American countries, the best time to visit Belize is from early December through April – the dry season when the country has no rain and plenty of sunshine. This is also the busiest time in Belize, so be ready to pay more for hotels, tours, and everything else in between. The rainy season in Belize lasts from June through early November and often brings hurricanes that can affect your activities.

For a better experience, consider visiting Belize during the shoulder season – November through early December or April through May when prices are not too bad and crowds are smaller than during the high season.

Final word on best things to do in Belize

Aaaand… That’s a wrap! I hope this article helped to inspire you to visit Belize and embark on one of the biggest adventures in your life. Belize might not be the most advertised destination in Central America, but it’s well worth a visit and once you visit Belize, you will want to come back again and again. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article.

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