Belize is the perfect place for intrepid thrill-seekers and sun-seeking holidaymakers, alike. Explore this stunning and diverse place with an insider's guide to the very best things to do in Belize.
The name, Belize, evokes visions of swaying palms and azure seas.
Yet, Belize's richest treasures can't be found along white-sands beaches or all-inclusive resorts, but rather beneath its stunning watery surfaces, deep in its lush and rugged interior, and in the warmth and humor of its residents.
The Best Things to do in Belize
This tiny English-speaking Central American nation is a wonderland of the ancient and adrenaline-inducing, the natural and divine, and there is no shortage of unique and amazing things to do in Belize for both the casual and intrepid visitor.
A Year in Belize
My partner and I spent over a year living, working, and exploring the width and breadth of this one-of-a-kind destination and are excited to share with you our discoveries. In that spirit, this guide seeks to strike the perfect balance between must-see attractions and incredible off the beaten path experiences from our own insider's knowledge and experience.
With lush forests and vibrant reefs teeming with life, ancient Mayan cities, vast underworlds to explore, and some of the warmest and friendliest locals anywhere — spend enough time here and you'll quickly realize there is simply no other place like Belize on the planet.
1. Island Hop to Uninhabited Caribbean Islands
Kicking off our list is a one-of-a-kind 3-day sailing adventure from Caye Caulker to Dangriga with stops at remote and unknown islands along the Belize barrier reef.
By day, enjoy gliding through crystal clear waters under sail, stopping along the way to access some of the best snorkeling and fishing areas along the Belize reef.
Stay overnight on uninhabited cayes in beach camping accommodations with the option to upgrade for one night to an over-water bungalow.
Our own trip with Ragamuffin was one of the highlights of our time in Belize and highly recommended for anyone looking to get away from it all while experiencing a true paradise.
Location: Starts in Caye Caulker and ends in Dangriga. The trip cannot be done in reverse.
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Cost: $400 All-Inclusive ($450 over Christmas/New Years)
2. Take a Boat Through the Jungle to an Ancient Mayan City
Once a major Mayan city, Lamanai was inhabited for 3,000 years until the early 20th century. The sprawling archaeological site is impressive in its own right, but the spectacular setting and unique way of accessing steal the show.
Lamanai is situated among dense rainforest overlooking a picturesque lagoon where the deafening growl of Howler Monkeys and the exotic echoes of native birds can be heard throughout the site.
To top it all off, the ancient Mayan city is accessed by a one-hour boat ride through the jungle. Makes for an unforgettable day trip from Belize City or Orange Walk, or an even more memorable overnight excursion staying in one of the nearby jungle lodges.
Location: Near Orange Walk
Cost: Varies, depending on length of trip and whether you book a package tour.
Arranging a Package Trip: For the best rates, inquire with your guesthouse in Belize City or Orange Walk.
If you wish to book in advance, Lamanai Belize Tours is one of the most respected operators.
3. Swim & Tube Through Sacred Mayan Caves
Taking a day trip from San Ignacio to Actun Tunichil Muknal (otherwise known as ATM Cave) is hands down one of the most popular inland activities and best things to do in Belize. And it's easy to see why.
Trekking deep into the Mayan underworld combines adventure, intrigue, history, and Mayan mysticism, not to mention subterranean swimming, hiking, climbing, and crawling.
Yet, there are many other lesser known water caves to explore throughout the rest of the country as well.
Some of our other favorites include Barton Creek Cave (which involves taking a boat through the jungle to the mouth of the cave), cave tubing through Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archaelogical Reserve, and exploring Blue Creek Cave outside Punta Gorda in Southern Belize.
ATM Cave Tour Information:
Location: Day Trip from San Ignacio
Cost: From $95 per person on GetYourGuide
4. Scale Belize's Rugged & Remote Victoria Peak
With a height of just 3,675 feet (1,120 m), Victoria Peak might not be the tallest mountain you will ever hike, but it might just be the most strenuous, most spectacular, and most rewarding!
Located deep in the heart of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the multi-day mountain trek takes 3-5 days round trip to complete, depending on conditions and personal ability, and must be done with a licensed tour guide, which can be hired from the nearby community around Cockscomb.
Expect long hiking days, high temperatures and humidity, biting insects, and lots of elevation gain (and loss). Your reward? Stunning views from the top of Belize and an experience like none other.
Location: Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Season: The trail is open from February 1 – May 31 (dry season)
Cost: Inquire locally.
5. Get Down with Garifuna Culture
By far, one of the most memorable things to do in Belize is spend time with the locals. While it's nearly impossible to get a true sense of “Belizean culture” (there are, after all, five very distinct ethnic groups), the culture and practices of the Garifuna people may just be the most accessible to short-term visitors.
In addition to just plain having an incredibly fascinating history, the Garifuna are darn proud of it too. And are keen to share it with others, through food, music, dance, and celebrations.
And there might be no better place in Belize for visitors to experience Garifuna culture than Hopkins and Punta Gorda. Every November, Punta Gorda hosts the world-renowned Battle of the Drums, a signature event of Garifuna Settlement Week which is fervently celebrated throughout Southern Belize.
If you're interested in learning how to drum from a master, or simply want to learn more about Garifuna music and dance, we recommend booking a drum lesson at Warasa Garifuna Drum School in Punta Gorda.
6. Over & Under Belize's Blue Hole
It doesn't matter whether you dive it or fly over it, there's no mistaking the allure of Belize's most famous natural feature and dive site.
Originally made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1971, the Blue Hole is the iconic bucket list dive trip. It's also one of the most panned by serious divers. After all, it's a big, deep blue hole with not much else to see.
Still, if you want the bragging rights of diving the Big One, most dive trips to the site will also include a second dive to a nearby reef wall offering an abundance of marine life.
Not a diver? Not to worry! Experiencing the Blue Hole by air gives you the ultimate view of this stunning natural phenomenon without the long boat trip (book a flyover tour here).
7. Rappell Down, Zip-line Over, & Swim Through Idyllic Waterfalls
Mayflower Bocawina National Park is a jungle paradise for outdoor adrenaline seekers, offering rappelling, zip lining, and hiking experiences through lush, tropical rainforest.
Few places offer the chance to fly through the air (on Belize's longest zip line), stand face-to-face with cascading falls, and cool off in idyllic pools while surrounding yourself in a jungle paradise.
Do you like rare and colorful birds? Mayflower Bocawina's also got some of the best birding in Belize.
Truly a bucket list adventure and one of the best things to do in Belize!
Location: Stann Creek District, near Dangriga and Hopkins
Season: Best time to visit is dry season, mid-November to April.
Lodging & Outfitters: We recommend Bocawina Rainforest Resort & Adventures.
Cost: Varies, depending on activities and length of stay.
8. Ride Horses on Jungle Trails
A short distance from Hopkins in Kendal, Outback Trails offers a unique opportunity for riders of all skill levels to explore Southern Belize's mountains and streams by horseback.
Spend the day riding miles of pristine jungle trails, over clear mountain streams and under towering cohune trees. You can also combine your ride with a climb to a lookout tower or a jungle hike to a remote waterfall and swimming hole.
Location: Kendal, near Hopkins
Season: Best time to visit is dry season, mid-November to April.
Duration: 3+ hours.
9. Snorkel with Sharks, Rays, Turtles & Manatees
If you've ever visited an aquarium and dreamed of jumping in, snorkeling in the waters of Belize is what you've been waiting for. But no glass walls here. This is the real deal.
The waters off Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye offer some of the best and most accessible snorkeling in the region, particularly if you are hoping to see Nurse Sharks, Spotted Rays, sea turtles or even Manatees.
While Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley get much of the attention and notoriety for sharks, rays, and sea turtles, Mexico Rocks a bit farther north is a less crowded option offering the chance to see all of the above without the crowds.
If you do choose to visit Hol Chan, we highly recommend that you get on a sail and snorkel day trip through Ragamuffin Tours.
For a rare chance to snorkel near the elusive manatee, head to the mangroves of Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary.
For snorkel trips in Belize, we recommend having 1-3 days of flexibility in your trip itinerary. Belize is an amazing snorkel and dive destination. However, weather conditions (even in “dry” season) can be quite unpredictable from day to day.
Location: Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye
Season: Visibility is best in dry season, mid-November to April, but manatees prefer to visit in the summer months when the water is warmer.
10. Get Up Close & Personal with Howler Monkeys
Spend enough time on mainland Belize and you're bound to hear the deep guttural growls of the Black Howler Monkey in the distance. Yet, you could easily stay for a year and never catch a glimpse of one of the largest primates in the Americas.
Visiting the Community Baboon Sanctuary near Belize City exponentially increases your chances of not one but multiple spottings of the sociable primate along with the entire family!
Local residents have banded together to create a protected area of forest for their beloved “baboon” and welcome visitors daily with guided tours.
Location: Bermudian Landing, about 45 minutes west of Belize City
Duration: 1-2 Hours
Cost: US$7 entry fee
11. Hook the Big One with a Legendary Local Fishing Family
Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke, Wikimedia Commons
For nearly two decades, the Garbutt's brothers of Punta Gorda have tirelessly worked to increase the profile of Southern Belize's world-class sportfishing along its legendary flats.
Climb aboard the Garbutt's custom-fitted 23-foot skiff for one of your best chances anywhere to hook permit, bonefish, and tarpon. Along the way, catch a view of manatees and dolphins.
Garbutts offers onsite accommodation at their lodge near Punta Gorda, dive trips, and exclusive access to Lime Caye 40 miles (64 km) offshore, known for its excellent fishing, diving, and natural beauty well off the tourist track.
Location: Punta Gorda
Cost: US$1,340 for three nights, all-inclusive
12. Experience Southern Belize's Top Festivals
What do lobster, chocolate, and drums have in common? They each take center stage in popular festivals in Southern Belize.
Every May, Toledo's famous Cacao Fest (Chocolate Festival) celebrates the region's economic and cultural connection to cacao, showcasing the region's best chocolate products from local producers.
Belize Brewing Company even gets into the spirit of the season with their much anticipated Belikin Chocolate Stout brewed just for the occasion.
Each year, the festival begins in the center of Punta Gorda with chocolate, local crafts, and entertainment, and finishes at the nearby Mayan ruins of Lubaantun.
Lobsterfest in Placencia
There are multiple lobster festivals in Belize, but many consider Placencia's Lobsterfest to be a tail above the rest. Held every June since 1998, Lobsterfest offers a diverse selection of lobster and other dishes, with Creole, Maya, Garifuna, Indian, Chinese, European, and North American influences. And it's hard to beat the beach location.
Get knee-deep in lobster as you shake a leg to live Caribbean steel drums and a variety of music from local groups.
And be sure to book lodging in Placencia well in advance, as accommodation fills up fast for the ever-popular event.
If you find yourself in Southern Belize in November, don't miss Battle of the Drums, one of the main events of Garifuna Settlement Week in Punta Gorda. See some of the best Garifuna-style drummers on the planet compete for the top prize. Groups come from across Belize, as well as Guatemala and Honduras, to display their talent and skill for a packed venue.
13. Feed Your Chocolate Addiction in Toledo District
For many families in Belize, cacao farming has been a way of life for generations. Fortunately for the rest of us, family traditions have translated into tasty (and sustainable!) family businesses, particularly in Toledo district, where local farmers produce some of the highest quality chocolate in the world.
Ixcacao, San Felipe
Ixcacao in San Felipe offers a unique opportunity to not only indulge in a variety of local chocolate products from the Cho family farm, but experience the entire process from start to finish with members of the family as your hosts.
If you can't get out to San Felipe or attend the Cacao Fest (mentioned above), be sure to check out Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory in downtown Punta Gorda for your chocolate fix as well as insight into the local chocolate making process.
14. Pamper Yourself in the Jungle
Sure, Belize offers its share of exclusive island resorts, many priced well out of reach of most mortals. What visitors may not know is that Belize also offers several luxurious jungle resorts that are a bit more affordable.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek and Ka'ana Resort are lauded as two of the best high-end eco-resorts and spas in the country, where you can relax in lush jungle surroundings and do some serious rejuvenating with all the amenities you would expect from a top lodge.
15. Explore the World's First Jaguar Preserve
Don't count on spotting a jaguar at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. But rest assured, around 200 of these stealthy cats are out there, scattered across the immense and densely forested reserve.
What you can count on is seeing colorful native bird species and other tropical jungle creatures across dozens of kilometers of hiking paths. Tube the river, explore the remains of aircraft wreckage hidden in the jungle, or hire a guide and trek to the top of Victoria Peak (see #4, above).
Cockscomb also offers a variety of lodging options from the very basic to the comfy and quirky.
Check out our complete guide to visiting the sanctuary, including details on hikes and lodging.
Location: Near Maya Centre, 20 km southwest of Hopkins
16. Chill Out on Caye Caulker
We couldn't put together a list of amazing things to do in Belize and not include Caye Caulker!
Located just off the coast of Belize, Caye Caulker is one of the most popular chill-out places in Central America.
Colorful, low-key, and downright funky, Caye Caulker laughs in the face of conventional beach holidays. You won't find a proper beach on the limestone coral island, but most visitors agree that swimming in the Split is a more than adequate substitute.
And not to worry, if it's a cold beer with toes in the sand that you crave, you can do just that at more than a dozen “cool spots” across the island.
If a couple of days swaying in a hammock, cooling off in the Caribbean, and sipping on ice-cold Belikin beers is just too relaxing for your tastes, rent a kayak and explore the mangroves of the western shore, try your hand at kite surfing, or book a snorkel or scuba day trip exploring some of the best sites along the Belize Barrier Reef (see #9, above).
All this, plus delicious local cuisine (lobster, anyone?), and some of the friendliest locals anywhere.
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