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Belize is a small Central American country located about 627.7 km (389.6 miles) south of Cancun, the busiest destination in the Caribbean. Although they are in the same geographical region, they cater to different types of travelers.
Cancun offers tons of entertainment and parties, convenience stores, and mega-resorts, while Belize is more about a low-key vacation in the nature where you can dive, hike in the jungle, and get off the beaten path.
While Cancun feels like a cosmopolitan hub of Mexico, Belize offers a more personable touch with traditional Mayan villages, uncrowded beaches and untouched jungles where you can spot wildlife.
I’ve visited both Belize and Cancun and can tell you that each destination has its pros and cons, so it all depends on what type of experience you are looking for.
What is Cancun like?
Cancun is the busiest tourist destination in Mexico with nearly 20 million visitors coming here every year. It’s the starting point for your adventures in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula which boasts spectacular beaches, beautiful resorts, and tons of amenities.
What is Belize like?
Belize is a hidden gem next to the Yucatan Peninsula. Belize is less famous than Mexico, and yet, it boasts wonderful landscapes with Caribbean beaches, paradise-like islands, lush jungles, and Mayan mountains. The biggest advantage of visiting Belize is that you will not find huge crowds here.
How to get to Belize?
To get to Belize, you need to fly to Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) about 10 miles (16 km) from Belize City. The airport has connections to several cities in the United States and is served by major airlines such as United, Delta, Alaska, and American.
How to get to Cancun?
To get to Cancun, you need to fly to Cancun International Airport (CUN), which is the main transportation hub of the Yucatan. Cancun Airport has flights to many airports around the world and is a convenient starting point whether you want to explore the region or continue to other parts of Mexico like Chipas or Oaxaca.
Belize vs Cancun: Getting around
Getting Around Belize:
Belize has limited public transportation options. Buses are the primary mode of public transport between towns and cities, but schedules can be irregular. Water taxis are common for traveling between islands and coastal parts of Belize.
- Car rentals: Renting a car is a popular option for exploring Belize, especially if you want to visit more remote areas. Roads are not always great, and some areas may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
- Domestic flights: Domestic flights in Belize are the most expensive way to get around the country, but they are also the fastest.
- Biking and walking: In smaller towns and more touristy areas, walking or biking is a good option. You can also rent a golf cart in San Pedro.
Getting Around Cancun:
Cancun is a popular tourist destination and has many transportation options from small minivans (also called combis) that can take you from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen and surrounding areas, to private shuttles and taxis.
- Public Transportation: Cancun has a well-developed public transportation system with buses running regularly. They are a cost-effective way to travel within the city and to nearby destinations.
- Taxis: Taxis in Cancun can be found on many streets. Always negotiate the rate before agreeing on the price.
- Car rentals: Renting a car is a popular option for exploring the Yucatán Peninsula, where Cancun is.
- Shuttles and tours: If you wnat to visit popular landmarks like Chichen Itza, Valadolid or spend the day in cenotes, a guided tour is your best option.
Belize vs Cancun: travel cost
While neither Belize nor Cancun is cheap, Cancun has better options for budget travelers.
If you are traveling on a budget in Cancun, you can choose from less expensive hotels in the city’s downtown away from the beach, and eat street food. Belize has more limited options for budget travelers when even the most modest accommodations and food cost the same as in the United States.
Believe vs Cancun currency:
In Belize, the official currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD). While some businesses in tourist areas may accept U.S. dollars, you should use Belizean dollars for transactions to avoid paying tourist prices.
Belize vs Cancun: food
Both Belize and Cancun offer diverse culinary experiences, influenced by their cultural backgrounds and geographic locations.
Food in Belize
Belizean cuisine is a mix of Caribbean, Central American, and Mayan flavors, and is heavily influenced by Caribbean and Garifuna cultures.
You can find a variety of seafood, tropical fruits, and dishes like rice and beans, tamales, and fry jacks in many places in Belize like San Ignacio. Local markets and street food stalls can offer authentic and flavorful meals that are prepared on the spot.
Food in Belize restaurants is usually more expensive than in Cancun, which has more diverse options at different prices.
Food in Cancun
Cancun offers a rich tapestry of Mexican cuisine that you can try in small local restaurants and more upscale establishments in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Unlike Belize, Cancun has American chain restaurants, which is better if you want something more familiar.
In Cancun, you will find traditional dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, ceviche, and guacamole. Mexican cuisine is known for its bold flavors, diverse ingredients, and regional variations.
Belize vs Cancun: safety
Neither Belize not Cancun are perfectly safe. While Belize is generally safe for tourists petty theft and more serious types of crime have been on the rise in recent years. On the other hand, Cancun has issues with drug trafficking. Tourst scams in Cancun are also not uncommon.
Crime in Belize
Popular destinations like Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Placencia are relatively safe for tourists. Belize City has the most crime in the country, with muggings, robberies, and assaults taking place in troubled neighborhoods controlled by gangs. Stay out of bad parts of Belize City, limit your activities to daytime, and you should be able to minimize your chances of getting in trouble.
➡️ Read my Belize travel tips to stay safe
Crime in Cancun
Cancun is a major tourist destination in Mexico and is considered safe for visitors, but crime here has increased over the years thanks to the battling gangs who are fighting for control of the lucrative territory.
Always be aware of your surroundings, don’t leave your food and drinks unattended and don’t give away your personal information or travel plans to strangers.
Belize vs Cancun: activities
Activities in Cancun are more focused on spending time at the beach and enjoying the water. There are many day trips from Cancun to places like Valladolid, Tulum, and various cenotes, which allow you to explore Yucatan more.
Best activities in Cancun
- Visit the Beaches: Cancun is known for its stunning white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Playa Delfines, Playa Tortugas, and Playa Forum are popular beach destinations.
- Explore Mayan Ruins: Take a day trip to the nearby archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba to explore the ancient Mayan ruins.
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: The Great Mesoamerican Reef is just off the coast of Cancun, providing excellent opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. You can explore colorful coral reefs and marine life.
- Isla Mujeres: Take a ferry to Isla Mujeres, a popular island near Cancun. You can relax on the beaches, explore the town, and visit attractions like Garrafon Natural Reef Park.
- Xcaret Park: This eco-archaeological park offers a mix of nature, culture, and adventure. Enjoy water activities, explore underground rivers, and learn about Mexican history and traditions.
- Cenote Tours: Discover the unique cenotes, which are freshwater sinkholes. Many tour operators offer excursions to cenotes for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Best activities in Belize
Belize activities are mostly about spending time in nature exploring the country’s rich cultural heritage by touring Mayan ruins, and ancient caves and visiting traditional Mayan and Garifuna villages.
Activities in Belize involve more authentic experiences since the country doesn’t have the level of urbanization that you can see in Cancun. If you like immersing yourself in the local culture, Belize is the place to be
- Snorkeling and Diving: Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, making it a paradise for snorkelers and divers. Popular spots include the Blue Hole, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and Shark Ray Alley.
- Visit Mayan Ruins: Explore ancient Mayan ruins scattered throughout Belize. Caracol, Xunantunich, and Altun-Ha are popular archaeological sites that offer a glimpse into the rich history of the Mayan civilization.
- Cave Tubing and Zip Lining: Experience the thrill of cave tubing through underground rivers and combine it with zip-lining for an adventure-filled day in the jungle.
- Wildlife Watching: Belize is home to diverse wildlife. Consider bird watching in the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary or exploring the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, known for its jaguar conservation program.
- Explore the Cayes: Visit the idyllic islands off the coast of Belize, known as cayes. Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are popular for their laid-back atmosphere, water activities, and vibrant marine life.
- Garifuna Cultural Experiences: Learn about the Garifuna culture through music, dance, and traditional cuisine. Hopkins and Dangriga are notable places to experience Garifuna culture.
➡️ Read: Best things to do in Belize
Nightlife in Belize vs nightlife in Cancun
Cancun boasts fun nightlife options with many bars and restaurants in the Cancun Hotel Zone, where you can dance the night away. Belize also has some nightlife options, but most of them are in popular coastal destinations like San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia.
Nightlife options in Belize are more modest compared to nightlife in Cancun, where you can find many popular nightclubs and bars hosting popular bands and putting on shows.
Belize vs Cancun: weather:
Both Belize and Cancun generally experience tropical climates, but there can be some variations in weather patterns.
What is the weather like in Belize?
In Belize, the climate is typically tropical, with a wet season (June to November) and a dry season (December to May). The temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the year, with highs ranging from the mid-80s to mid-90s Fahrenheit (29-35°C). The wet season may bring occasional rain showers and tropical storms.
What is the weather like in Cancun?
Cancun also has a tropical climate. The region experiences a wet season from June to October and a dry season from November to April.
Like Belize, temperatures in Cancun are generally warm, with highs ranging from the mid-80s to mid-90s Fahrenheit (29-35°C). Hurricane season can affect the area, particularly from August to October.
In terms of weather, both destinations offer warm temperatures, especially if you enjoy a tropical climate. However, the timing of your visit may influence your experience.
The dry seasons are more pleasant for outdoor activities and beach vacations, while the wet seasons bring the potential for rain and increased humidity.
Pros of Cancun
- Connectivity – Cancun is a tourist hub of Mexico that has flights to many destinations around the world. It’s much easier to find flights to Cancun than to Belize.
- Good variety of accommodations – Although Cancun is mainly known for its all-inclusive resorts, you can find many types of hotels, as you get away from the Hotel Zone, where the most expensive properties are.
- Food diversity – As the busiest destination in Mexico, Cancun has about every type of restaurant you can think about. Whether you want Mexican tacos, Italian pizza, or Japanese sushi, you will find them in Cancun.
- Budget options – Unless you plan to spend your vacation at an all-inclusive resort, you can easily do Cancun on a budget. You can enjoy street food, stay in more modest hotels, and take advantage of public transport to get around.
- Plenty of things to do – From exploring ruins in Cancun Hotel Zone to checking out cenotes and taking foodie tours, there are many cool things to do in Cancun, so you probably won’t get bored here.
Cons of Cancun
- Lack of authenticity – You will not find real Mexico in Cancun. The city is built on tourism, and everything in Cancun is designed to make you spend money. Speaking from personal experience, visiting Cancun doesn’t introduce you to Mexico, as everything there is geared toward visitors, with the majority of tourism coming from the United States.
- Tourist crowds – Cancun can feel very crowded, especially during the high season, and if you are looking for a more relaxed getaway, it might not be the best option.
- Crime – Crime in Cancun is much higher than anywhere else in Mexico’s Riviera Maya with the majority of it tied to drug trafficking.
- Price gouging – Cancun attracts workers from all over Mexico who come here to take advantage of the tourism industry. Be prepared to pay higher prices than in most places in Mexico.
Pros of Belize
- Some of the best diving in the world – Belize is near the Great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, where you can dive, snorkel, and spot incredible marine wildlife.
- Hundreds of untouched beaches – Just off the coast of Belize, hundreds of small islands like Moho Caye and Laughing Bird Caye look like heaven. You can visit them on a day trip from Placencia and Hopkins.
- Belize is not crowded – Unlike other popular Central American countries like Costa Rica, and Panama, Belize doesn’t have mass tourism. Aside from popular coastal destinations like San Pedro, Placencia, and Caye Caulker, Belize feels quiet.
- No big chains – The lack of big chain stores, shopping malls and restaurants like McDonald’s or Subway in Belize gives more space to local establishments where you can try traditional Belizean food and enjoy a more authentic experience.
- Belize is perfect for adventurous travelers – If you want to feel like Indiana Jones, look no further than Belize. The country has incredible Mayan ruins, remote islands, and even some mountains with hiking trails and waterfalls where you can take a refreshing swim.
- English is the official language – Belize is the only country in Central America that uses English as the official language. It’s a bonus for those travelers who don’t speak Spanish.
Cons of Belize
- It’s expensive – Belize is a relatively expensive country that relies on tourism for its income. A lot of goods and food have to be imported to Belize, which translates to high prices for consumers.
- It’s not well connected – Belize City International Airport (BZE) has flights from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America, but it’s not connected as well as Cancun, which also has flights from Europe and South America.
- Developing infrastructure – The infrastructure in Belize is still developing, so be ready for less convenience when it comes to roads, stores, and general amenities. While major highways in Belize are well-maintained, secondary roads are not always in good condition.
- Public transportation is not the best – Public transport in Belize consists of chicken buses, and repurposed buses from American high schools, that are painted in bright colors. Chicken buses in Belize don’t have air conditioning, space for luggage, or comfortable seats, that’s why many travelers prefer taking private shuttles in Belize.
- Belize City has a high crime – Belize City is the largest city in the country and home to the country’s main airport, but most travelers treat it as a mere pit stop because it has a crime rate with muggings and assaults very common on the south side of the city.
How to get from Cancun to Belize
The easiest way to get from Cancun to Belize is by taking a flight. Tropic Air, a local Belizean airline has daily flights from Cancun to Belize City, which last about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Belize from Cancun by bus
You can also get to Belize from Cancun by bus. This is a cheaper option than taking a flight, but it will also take more time, as you will need to cross the Belize-Mexico border, which could take a bit of time, depending on the time of the day and season.
You may choose a combination of the above options to suit your preferences and schedule. For example, you could take a bus to Chetumal and then a flight from Chetumal to Belize City.
Flights from Cancun to Belize
You can take one of the daily flights from Cancun to Belize that depart from Cancun International Airport and arrive to Belize City Airport.
Is Belize expensive to visit?
Belize is more expensive than Mexico and is quite pricey for Central America. Just to give you an idea, prices on hotels, tours, and food in many popular destinations like San Pedro, Placencia, and Caye Caulker are often equivalent to prices in the United States. Gas is also very expensive, and while Belize is a small country, you will spend a pretty penny if you want to rent a car and explore at your own pace.
Belize vs Cancun: FAQ’s
Is Belize safer than Mexico?
Statistically, Belize is much safer than Mexico. However, Belize is much smaller than Mexico as it’s equivalent to a tiny portion of Mexico’s size.
Is Belize cheaper than Mexico?
Belize is more expensive than Mexico because Belize is small and options for hotels, transportation, and food are more limited and also tends to be more expensive than Mexico, which has plenty of options for budget travelers.
Is Belize similar to Cancun?
While Belize and Cancun are in the same geographical area, the two destinations cater to different types of travelers. Belize is great for getting off the beaten track, spending time in nature, and observing wildlife, while Cancun offers plenty of all-inclusive resorts, connections to many parts of the world, and a more diverse food scene.
Is Belize City worth visiting?
While many travelers skip Belize City it’s worth a stop if you want to learn about the country’s history at the Museum of Belize, discover Altun-Ha ruins located a short drive away, and visit the Baron Bliss Lighthouse, a historic landmark near the city harbor.
Is it worth it to go to Belize?
Belize is one of the most underrated countries in Central America famous fits its gorgeous coastline, Mayan jungles, and diverse wildlife. If you love adventure and want to explore the second-largest barrier reef in the world, it’s worth a visit.
Which is better Tulum or Belize?
Tulum is a popular beach town in Mexico Caribbean north of Belize. While Tulum is known for its boho hotels and top restaurants, Belize offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience, as it remains relatively undiscovered while Tulum has been growing over the last several years.
Belize or Cancun which is better: final word
Belize and Cancun are both popular destinations along the Caribbean Sea. While they boast similar landscapes and you can spot similar flora and fauna, there are also some differences between these two destinations.
Cancun has better connections and amenities, however, it’s very touristy and doesn’t have a taste of a traditional Mexican city. Belize, on the other hand, requires more effort to reach, but it’s worth the effort for adventure travelers due to the diversity of landscapes and activities like hiking, diving, exploring Mayan caves, and zip-lining.