For a tiny country, Belize punches well above its weight. The Caribbean coastline is home to the second largest coral reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef, naturally), while its lush inland is filled with dense jungle. If you’re adventurous and nature-loving, there are countless exciting things to do in Belize.
Belize is a true melting pot, which reflects in the language, culture, and food. Though English is its official language, many speak Kriol, Spanish, Maya, or Garifuna. Recent immigrant groups – primarily the Chinese and, oddly, the Mennonites – as well as American and Canadian retirees add to the diversity of Belize that make this beautiful country such a special place.
With its diverse culture and cuisine, dedication to preserving its history and biodiversity, and insane natural wonders, Belize is a bucket list must for every traveler. Keep reading to see the variety of diverse options for what to see and do in Belize, Central America’s most unique country!
My Top 21 Things to Do in Belize
1. Go caving in the world’s #1 most sacred cave
National Geographic knows a thing or two about travel, wouldn’t you say? Since it’s consistently voted for Actun Tunichil Muknal as its #1 sacred cave in the world… I’d say it’s worth checking out. Tours aren’t cheap, thanks to permits and the fact that everyone needs to be accompanied by a licensed guide in groups no larger than 8. But trust me, even this cheap bitch says it’s well worth every dollar you spend: it’s one of the best excursions in Belize for a reason. For a full review of my day caving in ATM, read it here.
Tours start (yes, start!) at $120 per person. Yes, it’s expensive, but for a reason: only 125 people are allowed to visit daily, tour groups are capped at 8 people per guide, and all tour companies must pay a large fee to pay for the preservation of the cave. I recommend booking in advance due to the strict limit of people allowed in daily.
Pro Tip: Never travel without travel insurance – especially if you’re doing crazy activities like caving! I use World Nomads Explorer Plan to cover me from anything from caving to scuba diving at very affordable prices.
Where to Stay: I’ve stayed at both budget and higher-end places in San Ignacio. Bella’s Backpackers is great for solo travelers on a budget, with a great location and good social atmosphere. If you have a little more money to spend, I loved staying at Table Rock Lodge, an off the grid, almost 100% sustainable eco lodge with fruit orchards that you can help yourself to — oh, and five pet donkeys!
2. Drink in an inner tube at a bar
One of my favorite things to do in Belize is to chill in an inner tube outside of a bar, baking in the Belizean heat. Sip ‘N’ Dip is a cute little beach bar right by the Split on the north end of Caye Caulker, and it’s the perfect place to meet new friends, have some drinks, and hang out in a tube (or swing, or hammock!).
Where to Stay: Caye Caulker is one of the most relaxing places I can think of. We stayed at Sea N Sun Guest House and thought it offered excellent value (and great wifi, which can be hit or miss on the island!). We especially enjoyed that it included free kayak and bicycle rental. For a hostel, I’d recommend Go Slow — the backpacker favorite on the island, Dirty McNasty’s, pretty much lives up to its name and doesn’t come recommended.
3. Stay in a luxurious beachfront hotel
Victoria House is the nicest boutique hotel on the beach in Belize, and you can see the stunning turquoise water from pretty much every room in the hotel. As a bonus, you’re just steps away from unreal sunrises. These cabañas will cost you a fraction of the cost of bungalows in the South Pacific — but with equally beautiful water in front of you.
Accommodations in Belize offer a great bargain in comparison to other countries, so take advantage of Belize’s best hotels if you have the budget for it! Check out my review here.
4. Drink way too many coconuts on Caye Caulker
Walking too fast on Caye Caulker may very well be a misdemeanor for the way that random passersby will shout at you to “go slow.” In fact, the sole occupation of some of Caye Caulker’s residents seems to be to admonish travelers for walking too fast. But who am I to go against the locals? When in Rome, right? Just order up a coconut from one of the men on the main drag (hold the rum, trust me) and listen.
Sometimes, the best answer to the question what to do in Belize is: nothing.
5. Visit the least crowded Mayan Ruins you’ll ever see
Caracol is a hidden gem right on the border of Belize — and with none of the crowds of Tikal, the ruins made famous by Star Wars in neighboring Guatemala. While it’s not quite as objectively impressive as Tikal, I think Caracol is more charming as you can climb the highest pyramid and see epic views over the whole landscape, including into Guatemala. Definitely one of the best points of interest in Belize for history lovers.
Plus, there are far fewer people visiting Caracol as it’s quite difficult to get to without a tour or renting a 4×4. I recommend going on a tour unless you have a group to defray the costs of a rental. As a bonus, there are amazing natural pools right outside of Caracol, the Rio On Pools, which most tours will add on at the end of your day — the perfect way to cool off in the heat that often exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit! It’s definitely one of the places you should visit if you’re planning a trip to Belize (review here).
Where to Stay: Stay nearby in San Ignacio [see hotel recommendations above]
6. Order a bucket of Belikins and enjoy the sea
If you’re looking to just log off and enjoy some sunny holidays in Belize, get yourself to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye. I’ve never seen water bluer or calmer than off the coast of Belize’s cayes. There’s no better drinking buddy (except for an actual drinking buddy, I guess) than a bucket of Belikins – Belize’s national beer. Be warned that Belikins are basically 50% glass and very little beer, so even a bucket of six Belikins won’t get you that tipsy!
Where to Stay: One of my favorite hostels ever, Sandbar in Ambergris Caye, is conveniently located super close to Palapa Bar in San Pedro, and has both private rooms and dormitories.
7. Snorkel and sail with sharks and rays
There are plenty of speedboats that will take you out to Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, but nothing beats doing it on a proper sailboat. With refreshments like rum punch and delicious fresh lunches, taking a full-day snorkeling trip on one of the Cayes is definitely one of the best things to do in Belize. See my review of my tour with Raggamuffin here.
Day of snorkeling will usually set you back about $45 for a half-day boat tour and increase for a full-day tour, and is inclusive of snorkel equipment, fees to access the Marine Reserve, snacks, and sometimes even rum punch!
Where to Stay: I loved going with Raggamuffin Tours – if you go on a tour with them, you’ll want to stay on Caye Caulker. Our room at Sea N Sun Guest House was a two-minute walk away from their tour office.
8. Catch a Belizean sunset
Believe it or not, a beach sunset in Belize can be a bit elusive, as most of the country’s coastline faces the east. But not so on Caye Caulker! This island is so narrow that no matter where you are, you can walk to a prime sunset spot in under five minutes (this is not true for Ambergris Caye, by the way – sunrises are way better there, as good sunset spots can take a bit of work to get to).
Bring some rum punch (or Belikins, or wine, or rum, or anything else, really…) and enjoy with some friends and your camera!
Where to Stay: Anywhere on Caye Caulker, you’re never more than a 5 minute walk from an epic sunset.
9. Spend a day at the Split on Caye Caulker
The Split is the best place to chill in all of Caye Caulker – which is saying something for an island whose motto is literally “go slow.” Since the cayes of Belize don’t have sandy beaches, The Split is a makeshift beach where the water is deeper and bluer than usual – perfect for diving into and swimming.
Luckily there are plenty of bars and restaurants around in case you need refreshments. Check out The Lazy Lizard for drinks or the pizza place for food, a great option if you’re visiting Belize on a budget.
10. Explore the ruins of Altun Ha
Check out the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha – one of the most important in the country – just 30 miles from Belize City. Explore stone Mayan structures and climb up to the top of the central temple which is not too much of a hike at only 54 feet tall.
Since Altun Ha is so close to Belize City, most tours will combine visiting the ruins with a guided tour of Belize City. I’ll be honest: Belize City is a bit of a dump. It’s sketchy and not a place you want to walk around by yourself, especially as a female traveler. There are some cool historic landmarks and points of interest, but nothing crazy. So, if you really want to visit Belize City, it’s best to book a guided tour to keep yourself safe and stress-free.
Where to Stay: You could stay in Belize City, but I’d recommend staying in either Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye and making this a day trip, instead. It’s safer, and you’ll have a better time.
11. Visit the Belize Zoo
Before I get my head put on a stake for suggesting you visit a zoo — The Belize Zoo is different. For one, they only house animal species native to Belize — you won’t see any polar bears suffering in humid climates here. They have 45 species of animals, all of whom have been orphaned or hurt and are unable to survive in the wild.
The Belize Zoo also works to rehabilitate animals like jaguars and wild birds and release them back into the wild. While zoos worldwide understandably hold a bad rap, I really can’t find anything to fault the Belize Zoo for. You can take a tour there or save money by taking a local bus from Belize City towards Benque and asking to be let off at the zoo.
Where to Stay: As I wrote above, I don’t really recommend staying overnight in Belize City as it’s not the safest of cities. I stayed there one night and it was fine, but I will admit that I had some uncomfortable moments. I was followed when getting money from an ATM (then, a few minutes later, a taxi driver tried to rip us off). If you must stay in Belize City, I stayed at Sea Breeze and found it to be quite safe and pleasant. Better, in my opinion, is to come from Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye as a day trip.
12. Experience Garifuna culture
The Garifuna are one of the native peoples of the Caribbean, and many Garifuna people call Belize’s south coastal area of Dangriga and Hopkins home. Music and dance are essential to Garifuna culture. The music is unique, employing techniques such as call and response as well as using natural materials like conch shells to produce music. The food is also distinct and a nice change of pace if you’ve gotten accustomed to eating Belizean staples like jerk and curry chicken day in and day out.
Where to Stay: Hopkins Bay is one of the nicest options in Hopkins. A more budget-friendly option would be The Funky Dodo (hostel) or Cosmopolitan Guesthouse (mid-range hotel). Dangriga has fewer options for accommodations and will have more of a local vibe.
13. Enjoy your own private tropical island for a day
A short boat ride away from the beaches of Placencia is a small island called Ranguana, which is a private island only for day trippers and those who stay at the one hotel on the island. You’ll need to take a tour to get here, but once you do, you can spend all day snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or just lazing out in sun with a Belikin in hand on one of the most pristine beaches in Belize.
Where to Stay: Placencia has a really wide range of accommodation options, from budget to midrange to the astronomically expensive. My top pick for budget travellers is Andi Di Hows hostel; for mid-range, Southern Shores cabanas; for luxury, Los Porticos.
14. Eat some jerk chicken
Belize’s national dish may technically be rice and beans, but jerk chicken is a strong contender. Originally from nearby Jamaica, Belize has taken on jerk chicken as one of its own and makes a mean – though slightly less spicy – version of it.
If you’re on San Pedro, be sure to check out Robin’s Kitchen for some of the best jerk I’ve ever eaten… and I used to live in a predominantly Jamaican neighborhood of Brooklyn, so I know my shit. If you’re not a fan of BBQ jerk chicken
(what’s wrong with you?) you’ve got to at least try a Belizean curry!
Where to Stay: Jerk chicken is available everywhere, but I had some of the best at Robin’s Kitchen in San Pedro just a few blocks from Victoria House. That said, you can find it virtually everywhere, but Robin’s is the real deal, grilled in a steel drum over pimento wood!
15. Helicopter over the Blue Hole
The top Belize attraction for a reason – but it’ll cost you! If you want to see a good view of Belize’s iconic Blue Hole, you’re way better off flying over it than diving it. People I spoke to who dove the Blue Hole said that they really couldn’t see much of the Blue Hole from the boat, and that once they started diving, there actually wasn’t much to see.
Honestly, I’ve heard some not-so-great things about diving the Blue Hole. Apparently, some of the divemasters encouraged people to go beyond their PADI-certified limits — a big no-go in my book — and one girl got nitrogen narcosis and was feeling really ill and almost passed out underwater — a huge risk.
So if you do dive the Blue Hole, make sure you stay within your limits and go with a reputable company.
Luckily, you have none of those risks – and a much better view! – when you helicopter over the Blue Hole! It is expensive, but what a bucket list item!
16. Explore the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich
While not quite as large or impressive as the ruins of Caracol, Xunantunich is still one of the best attractions in Belize. Plus, it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to get to from San Ignacio, which one of the best places to stay in Belize if you’re looking for exciting day trips. You can take a bus and then walk a mile or hire a taxi for cheap. The ruins of Cahal Pech are even closer, but not quite as exciting as Xunantunich.
17. Visit a howler monkey sanctuary
Howler monkeys kind of sound like demons, but they sure are cute! If you want to connect with your primate kin while in Belize, check out the Community Baboon Sanctuary close to Belize City.
Note for my fellow pendants: there are no baboons here – that’s apparently just the old local name for howler monkeys. Go figure. Eight villages have worked together to preserve the ecosystem around the river and protect the howler monkeys in their natural habitats. You can take a tour or rent a car to go to the sanctuary.
Where to Stay: Tours leave from Belize City, but as I’ve said above, I’d recommend doing it as a day trip from one of the islands and taking the ferry into Belize City for the day.
18. Scuba dive in one of the many reefs
If you’re scuba certified, you need to plan a diving vacation to Belize! Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are home to several scuba shops which can take you to some of the best destinations in the area: Mexico Rocks, Hol Chan, and Turneffe Atoll are all fantastic dive locations.
Bonus: if you’re in Hopkins or Placencia during the right time of year, you may even be lucky and spot some whale sharks!
Pro Tip: Not every travel insurance covers diving-related accidents, which can be incredibly expensive if not covered. One of the few plans I’ve found that covers diving accidents is World Nomads Explorer Plan. I’d never dive without it.
Where to Stay: Anywhere on the coast has plenty of options, but I think Ambergris Caye has the best range of SCUBA operators.
19. Stay in an eco friendly jungle lodge
San Ignacio Belize is somewhat of a hub for eco lodges. I stayed at Table Rock Jungle Lodge, which is almost entirely solar powered and 100% off the electrical grid (don’t fear though — there is wifi, just not in your room!), and I absolutely adored it.
I mean, how many hotels can say they come with their own donkeys and that you’re free to pick any fruit on their farm at any time (the staff will even give you free coconuts from their trees!) You can also borrow canoes or tubes to coast down the beautiful Macal River nearby.
If you want a little more luxury in the jungle, there are a few higher-end options, with a higher price tag to boot. Chaa Creek and Ka’ana are widely recognized as some of the most luxurious Belize jungle resorts. If you crave a little more glamor with your eco digs, check out one of those two options: Ka’ana or Chaa Creek.
20. Play with ALL THE DOGS at Caye Caulker’s only animal shelter
Okay, I’m probably the only person who thinks that laying around in the sand with a bunch of homeless dogs is an essential thing to do in Belize, but stay with me, here. A sweet local guy named Kenny runs this humble little animal shelter that takes in and helps rehome dogs and cats in need of some TLC.
Caye Caulker Animal Shelter is entirely run by donations – so if you can, donate either your time to love on these dogs (or take them for a walk around the island) or a few extra dollars to help support Kenny’s mission.
21. Pray to spot a jaguar in Cockscomb Basin
Did you know Belize is home to the world’s only jaguar preserve? These endangered beauties can be found if you’re incredibly lucky in Cockscomb Basin (check prices for tours here), though I wouldn’t count on a spotting — there are only 200 of them in this wildlife preserve spanning 150 square miles. Still, countless other species call this protected area home, including other wild cats like the ocelot and the adorable jaguarundi.
For the less patient and less deep-pocketed: if you simply must see a jaguar, the Belize Zoo has a jaguar rehabilitation program that does excellent work. I normally don’t support zoos – I find them unethical and cruel – but the Belize Zoo is a notable exception as it houses only A) species native to Belize and B) animals who are not yet able to be released into the wild for health or socialization reasons.
Important Safety Notes:
- Belize is a safe but developing country. I will note that Belize City has a high crime rate; however, violence generally targets locals, not tourists. Limit your time spent there in lieu of spending more time in safer, more interesting locations. That said, regardless of where you travel in Belize, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! I use and recommend World Nomads – it’ll cover you in cases of theft, medical emergencies, and accidents.
- Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving)
- Crimes of opportunity happen everywhere, and Belize is no exception. While there’s no reason to be especially fearful about theft in Belize, you do need to pay attention to your belongings. This goes double on public transit. I recommend purchasing a backpack with locking zippers. When traveling by chicken bus, never keep your valuables in your larger backpack, but instead on a daypack that never leaves your side.
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