by Latin America Specialist, Michael M.
I recently returned from a trip to Belize and aside from the natural beauty of the country, the thing that struck me the most was the wide variety of experiences Belize has to offer. Whether you're interested in hiking through the jungles and the sounds of the wildlife, snorkeling in crystal clear waters or learning more about Maya culture, Belize will go above and beyond your expectations.
Wildlife and jungle
There are few experiences within Central America that compare to those offered in the Orange Walk District. It is one of the only places within Central America where you can combine deep jungle experience and great wildlife into one.
The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is home to hundreds of waterbirds such as snail kites and jabiru storks. For a truly immersive wildlife experience, I recommend the city of Lamanai.
To reach Lamanai, you'll head about 45 minutes north of Belize City until you reach the banks of a quiet lagoon. There, you'll weave through narrow canals making your way further into the jungle as you fly past herons, fly catchers, turtles and more.
Lamanai Outpost Lodge is the standalone lodge in the area and is situated directly onto the lagoon. A stay here will have you waking up to the calls of howler monkeys and keel billed toucans that inhabit the area. Take to the waterways to spot caimans and common water birds. You can also explore the jungle on foot to spot an array of other jungle creatures up close and personal in their natural habitat.
Snorkeling and diving
Renowned for its calm, crystal clear waters, the coast and Cayes of Belize offer images fit for a postcard. Situated on the second largest Barrier Reef in the world, Belize offers some of the most beautiful shades of blue and marine wildlife in the world.
If you are interested in snorkeling and diving, staying on Ambergris Caye is a great option. Just a 15 minute small plane away, you will fly to where the sea meets the sky, surrounded by blues and greens until you touch down on this picturesque island.
The most popular snorkeling destination is Shark Ray Alley where rays and nurse sharks will dip and dodge in between snorkelers. If you are looking for smaller crowds, be sure to head to Mexico Rocks. A lesser known snorkeling spot that will still allow for rays, green sea turtles, barracuda, beautiful coral and more.
San Pedro is home to numerous diving shops, which serve as gateway to some of the best diving in the world. There is quite a range of diving, from shallow inside the reef, to numerous spots deeper just outside the barrier reef, to even a full day trip to the famous blue hole.
One popular excursion that I recommend is the Blue Hole Three Tank Dive. This is a full day trip that will take you to some of the most pristine underwater sites. This includes a stop at Blue Hole — a 1,000 foot coral reef that drops into a deep cavern filled with incredible natural formations. You’ll see many fish swim right by you.
Culture and history
If you are interested in Maya Culture, a visit to the Cayo District is not to be missed. There, you can visit the temples of Xunantunich or the largest within Belize, Caracol, which is famous for overcoming the great city of Tikal in Guatemala.
There are also a number of cave systems within this region. Caves were sacred in Maya culture and were often used for offering ceremonies. A visit to Cayo is not complete without a venture to Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, where you can map the fall of the Maya empire in the area through offering, ending in a perfectly preserved human sacrifice.
Further north, the city of Lamanai is packed full of Maya history. This impressive Maya site outlasted the fall of both Tikal and Caracol due to its location on the lagoon, they were even growing at this point. Due to the location of the Outpost Lodge, you get to the visit this site before the day trips arrive, like having a whole Maya city to yourself.
In addition to plentiful snorkeling and diving opportunities, Belize has many adventure activities beyond the water, and the Cayo District is perfect for those seeking excitement. Take to the rivers and go tubing, hike on extensive trails to secret waterfalls, go zip-lining through the trees or explore the forest at night to see glow in the dark scorpions.
The Mountain Pine Ridge area in Cayo especially lends itself to a variety of active adventures. Big Rock Falls, a magnificent 60-foot waterfall with two large spring water pools, is one of my top picks. The area is also great for hiking and visitors can embark on anything from moderate to difficult treks.
Start planning your trip to Belize
Simply Belize: jungle & beachBelizeView this tour
Belize reef & rainforest tourBelizeView this tour
Grand tour of BelizeBelizeView this tour
Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.View All Tours in Belize
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