You've heard that the Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest in the world. But have you heard that this reef is home to more than 100 different kinds of coral and some 500 species of fish? This alluring underwater world is undoubtedly the top attraction in Belize. Snorkelers swim through translucent seas, gazing at a kaleidoscope of coral, fish and turtles; divers go deeper, investigating underwater caves and walls and the world-renowned Blue Hole.
The turquoise waters are inviting even for those who choose to remain above the surface. Kayakers glide from one sandy, palm-dotted islet to another; windsurfers and sailors skim across the surf by the power of the breeze; sunbathers lounge on the dock, lulled into relaxation by the gentle lapping; and foodies feast on delectable fresh fish, spiny-tailed lobster and other creatures of the sea.
In the Jungle
Inland, a vast network of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries offers a safe haven for wildlife, which ranges from the industrious cutter ants to the national animal of Belize, Baird's tapir. Birders aim their binoculars at some 570 species, which roost along the rivers and lagoons and in the broadleaf forest. Of course, many of these birds and animals are elusive, but keen-eyed visitors can easily spot both spider monkeys and howler monkeys, peccaries, coatimundis, gibnuts, American and Morelot's crocodiles, green iguanas and countless species of birds. Even the showy keel-billed toucan – the national bird of Belize – occasionally makes an appearance in public.
In the Land of the Maya
If that's not enough adventure for you, Belize is also home to one of the world's most mysterious civilizations – the ancient Maya. The country is sprinkled with archaeological sites that date to the Maya heyday, known as the Classic Period (AD 250–1000). Enormous steps lead to the tops of tall stone temples, often yielding 360-degree jungle views. Curious climbers can explore excavated tombs and examine intricate hieroglyphs, while adventurers can descend deep into natural caves to see where the Maya kings performed rituals and made sacrifices to the gods of their underworld.
Why I Love Belize, Central America
By Joshua Samuel Brown, Author
With its Spanish-speaking neighbors to the south and west and the laid-back Caribbean to the east, Central America's youngest nation offers a cultural mélange – including Maya, mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, Mennonite and more – unrivaled in Central America. Belize is home to verdant jungles, from the Maya Mountains in the southwest to the Shipstern Nature Reserve in the northeast, not to mention ancient ruins, remnants of bygone days as part of the greater Maya kingdom. Then there are the beaches, miles of white sand and blue sea dotted with a nigh-uncountable number of islands big and small. So what's not to love?
Best places to stay in Belize
Belize travel guide
With one foot in Central America and the other dipped in the Caribbean Sea, Belize is home to the second-longest barrier reef in the world, jungles that teem with wildlife, and mysterious Mayan ruins.
Island-hopping down Central America’s Caribbean coast
You don't always need suitcases full of cash to enjoy the Caribbean Sea – cradled in its western corner lie a number of idyllic island groups that are surprisingly easy on the pocket. San Blas Islands, Panama San Blas, Kuna Yala, Panama by Ben Kucinski. Creative Commons Attribution Licence.
Ancient Maya ruins in Belize
Diving and snorkelling in Belize
Belize - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Belize starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on diving & snorkeling.
5 family-friendly destinations you might not have thought about
Everyone knows travel changes once kids come into the picture. Suddenly you have to plan around naps, easily accessible rescue centers for soiled-underpants and whining backseat drivers. What they don’t tell you is how much fun it can be, and that it doesn’t have to be limited to timeshares on beaches and mega-amusement parks.
Eco-lodges in Belize
Belize - Belize District (Chapter)
Belize City embodies the country's amazing cultural diversity, its neighborhoods packed with people, restaurants and shops that represent every ethnicity. There is also plenty to see and do in Belize District – sample the country's Maya heritage, Creole culture and luxuriant wildlife, all within an hour's drive of the city.
Find your paradise somewhere between the blazing Yucatán sun and the cool Guatemalan highlands on this 16-day odyssey. Wander Antigua’s cobblestone streets and its local markets before experiencing the diverse beauty of Lake Atitlán and its indigenous villages.
Trek though jungles to Mayan ruins and relax on white-sand beaches. Get an authentic taste of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala with an adventure that combines the mystery of the ancient ruins with the crystalline waters of the Caribbean.
Ten unusual honeymoon hotspots
It’s your honeymoon, so it has to be special and unique. From the windswept beaches of a car-free island in the Baltic to tasting wine rarely sipped outside Argentina, these hideaways rarely appear on the usual post-wedding itinerary: 1. Snuggle in a beach basket built for two on Hiddensee Island, Germany.
Belize - Tikal & Flores, Guatemala (Chapter)
The glory and splendors of the ancient Maya world await you, just over the border in the lush rainforests of Eastern Guatemala. The region is especially important to the Maya people, being home to many temples, pyramids and ruins.