From the coral reefs of Placencia to the colourful markets of San Ignacio, here are the best places to visit in Belize!

Sandwiched between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize offers a unique blend of ancient Maya sites, tropical rainforests and a barrier reef to rival Australia’s. With a culture that merges its Maya roots with colonial history and Caribbean influences, this pint-sized nation is best known for its natural assets, fiery food (try the Marie Sharps hot sauce!) and a level of multiculturalism you just don’t find elsewhere in Central America.

Head to Belize’s long Caribbean coastline and you can snorkel with nurse sharks and turtles and hang out on remote cayes and atolls. The Blue Hole, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker need very little introduction, while the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef off the sandy shores of Placencia is being carefully restored by community conservation efforts after devasting hurricanes.

Head into the rainforest, and you can search out crashing waterfalls, misty mountain peaks and elusive jaguars in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The ruins of Maya temples await you in San Ignacio, while the brave can venture into caves that the Maya believed could be the entrance to the Underworld.

If you’re planning a Central American adventure, then keep reading, as I list the best places to visit in Belize.

Best places to visit in Belize

I spent around three weeks exploring the best places to visit in Belize on my last trip there back in 2022. It was the first time after Covid-19 that I’d really begun to travel again, and the Caribbean-like atmosphere of Belize’s beach towns enraptured me in a way that I was not expecting when I crossed the border from Mexico.

I guess I’d just forgotten what it was like to have fun, with the sun shining and a cold beer hand after all those lockdowns back home in England!

Regardless of the timing, I really loved the Belizean way of life. Slow-paced, sure, but also community-focused and surprisingly diverse. There are few places where so many people from different cultures get on, and although Belize has its problems, it makes for a fascinating travel destination.

While you can visit the major Belizean tourist spots in two weeks, stay a little longer, linger inland and not just on the resort islands, and, from the Maya to the Mennonites, try to learn a little bit about all of the different peoples that call Belize home.

The Belize Barrier Reef.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in North America? Everything You Need to Know.

1. Belize City

Belize City is no longer the capital, but it is the country’s primary gateway if you’re flying into Belize. As the largest city in the small Central American nation, Belize City has a richly diverse heritage, with an array of experiences for the curious traveller.

Belize City traces its origins to the mid-17th century as a British settlement. A hub for the mahogany trade and piracy, its significance grew over centuries. However, after being severely damaged by Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the capital’s status was transferred to Belmopan in the 1970s.

Steeped in British colonial history, the city offers architectural delights like St. John’s Cathedral, the oldest surviving building of the colonial era. Venturing into the heart of the city, you can explore markets boasting local arts, crafts and a profusion of flavoursome Belizean street food.

History buffs will love a visit to the Museum of Belize, a former colonial prison transformed into a time capsule of Belize’s unique past, from Mayan civilization to modern times. Not far from the city, the Belize Barrier Reef awaits, offering an underwater paradise teeming with marine life for snorkellers and divers. Belize City may not be polished, but it’s a gateway to the country’s fascinating history and nature.

Belize City is ridiculously close to the Belize Barrier Reef.

Read more: Where is Belize? Everything You Need to Know.

2. Belmopan

Belmopan, the surprising capital city of Belize, is almost hidden amid the verdant tropical forests, boasting wide, leafy boulevards and a strange sense of tranquillity that stands in stark contrast to most hectic capitals.

Belmopan was established in the 1960s following the devastation of Hurricane Hattie, which heavily damaged the former capital, Belize City. Designed as a planned community with a ring-like structure, Belmopan was envisioned to be resilient against natural disasters. Over the years, it has grown into the nation’s political and administrative centre.

A notable feature is the unique architectural style, visible in government buildings and embassies that pepper the cityscape. In the heart of Belmopan, the market area comes alive on Tuesdays and Fridays with local farmers selling fresh produce and vendors offering unique handicrafts, truly an authentic cultural experience.

The city is surrounded by natural attractions such as the Guanacaste National Park, a small yet biodiverse wonderland, perfect for hiking and birdwatching.

The market in Belmopan, Central America’s smallest capital city.

3. Belize Central Prison

The Belize Central Prison, managed by the non-governmental Kolbe Foundation, stands as an unexpected yet intriguing destination for visitors seeking a deeper understanding of Belize’s societal fabric. Unlike the daunting image prisons often convey, this facility is unique in its approach to rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society.

Visitors to the prison can tour The Prison Art Gallery, a striking testament to the therapeutic and transformative power of art. The gallery displays an array of paintings, sculptures and handicrafts created by inmates, many pieces available for purchase, with proceeds supporting the artists and the foundation’s rehabilitation programs.

Additionally, the facility includes an agricultural program where inmates cultivate crops and rear livestock, and a wood workshop, producing high-quality furniture. These initiatives provide inmates with practical skills for post-prison life.

While visiting Belize Central Prison may not be a traditional tourist experience, it offers a rare insight into progressive correctional methods and serves as a stark reminder of the human potential for change.

Read more: Is Belize a Country? Everything You Need to Know.

4. The Great Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole is one of Belize’s most iconic natural attractions, recognised worldwide for its remarkable uniqueness. It’s a massive underwater sinkhole located near the centre of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll approximately 70 kilometres from the mainland.

The hole is circular in shape, over 300 meters across and 125 meters deep. It’s named for the deep, rich blue colour of the water in its depths, which contrasts sharply with the lighter surrounding waters.

The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation when sea levels were lower, and its geological formations include stalactites and stalagmites.

For divers, it’s a bucket-list destination. While diving, you can explore the ancient formations and encounter a variety of marine life, including Caribbean reef sharks and an array of tropical fish.

This natural wonder gained worldwide fame when famed explorer Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world in 1971. Today, it continues to captivate visitors with its underwater beauty.

The Great Blue Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef.

Read more: How community conservation is saving the Belize Barrier Reef

5. Blue Hole National Park

Blue Hole National Park, not to be confused with the famous Great Blue Hole, is another destination hidden away in the lush Belizean jungle. Named after the striking sapphire-blue sinkhole, the park spans 575 acres and boasts a rich array of natural wonders.

At the heart of the park is the Blue Hole, a pool fed by an underground river. Surrounded by dense tropical foliage, it offers a refreshing escape from the tropical heat. The crystal-clear water, filled with small fish, is perfect for a leisurely swim.

The park is also home to St. Herman’s Cave, one of Belize’s most accessible caves. A guided tour reveals awe-inspiring stalactite and stalagmite formations, offering a glimpse into the area’s geological past and Mayan history.

Beyond swimming and caving, visitors can enjoy bird-watching and hiking along nature trails, offering opportunities to spot over 200 species of birds and diverse flora.

6. San Ignacio

San Ignacio, affectionately known as ‘Cayo’, serves as a base for nature enthusiasts, history buffs and adventure seekers alike in western Belize, not far from the Guatemalan border.

The town is renowned for its proximity to some of Belize’s most significant Mayan archaeological sites. A short distance away, the sprawling complex of Xunantunich unveils the ancient Mayan world with its magnificent El Castillo pyramid. Cahal Pech, another key archaeological site, sits on a hill overlooking the town and offers fascinating insights into the Mayan civilization, while the infamous ATM Cave is just a short drive away.

San Ignacio is not just about history, though. It’s a thriving hub of Belizean culture. The vibrant Saturday market is a must-visit, overflowing with local produce, handicrafts and Belizean culinary delights. This is the place to visit in Belize if you want to see the country’s many different cultures side by because here you’ll find Maya, European, Mennonite, Garifuna and other Caribbean influences all intertwined.

Cahal Pech, San Ignacio.

7. ATM Cave

Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave, one of Belize’s most fascinating attractions, is a place where natural beauty has been blurred by significant historical and archaeological finds. Located in the heart of the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, the cave serves as a window into the ancient Maya world.

Reaching the cave involves an adventurous journey through dense jungle and across shallow rivers. Once inside, a surreal underworld unfolds, where stalactites and stalagmites cast otherworldly shadows in the lamplight. But the true intrigue lies in the cave’s archaeological treasures. ATM cave is a sacred site where the ancient Mayas performed rituals and sacrifices, believing it to be a gateway to the underworld.

Visitors can see remnants of pottery and tools, but the most arresting sight is the ‘Crystal Maiden’, a complete human skeleton calcified over time, giving it a sparkling appearance. Guided tours are mandatory to preserve the site, add context to the otherworldly visuals and provide a deeper understanding of Maya rituals and beliefs.

Exploring ATM Cave is an experience that blends adventure and history, and honestly, it was one of the best places I visited in Belize. Sign up for tours from nearby San Ignacio. I travelled with Maya Walk Tours, and I wrote a full article for BBC Travel about my journey into the Maya underworld.

8. San Antonio Women’s Co-operative, San Ignacio

The San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in San Ignacio is a shining example of community empowerment and cultural preservation in Belize. Established by a group of Yucatec Maya women, the co-op aims to preserve and pass on ancestral traditions, while simultaneously providing economic opportunities for its members.

Visit the cooperative and you can engage in an array of cultural experiences that provide a deeper understanding of Maya heritage. From hands-on pottery classes, where you shape clay as the Maya did centuries ago, to traditional cooking demonstrations featuring staples like corn tortillas and ‘caldo’, a Maya chicken soup, every activity is a cultural immersion.

Each interaction at the cooperative is underscored by the women’s warm hospitality and their passion for sharing their heritage. It’s not only an opportunity to learn about the Maya way of life, but also a chance to contribute to a community-driven initiative that supports local women and preserves valuable traditions. This makes a visit to the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative a highlight of any trip to Belize.

Grinding corn at the San Antonio Women’s Co-operative in San Ignacio.

9. Spanish Lookout and Barton Creek, San Ignacio

The Mennonite communities near San Ignacio offer a fascinating glimpse into a way of life that starkly contrasts with the rest of the country. These traditional Mennonite communities, such as Spanish Lookout and Barton Creek, live a life reminiscent of an earlier era, rooted in farming and guided by religious beliefs.

The Mennonites, seeking religious freedom and exemption from military service, migrated to Belize in the 1950s from Mexico and Canada. With their traditional ways and farming expertise, they significantly bolstered Belize’s agriculture, particularly in dairy and poultry. Today, their close-knit communities remain a distinctive part of Belize’s cultural tapestry.

Spanish Lookout, the more progressive of the two, is known for its industriousness, with flourishing dairy farms and manufacturing businesses. Visitors often stop by the well-stocked supermarket with homemade ice cream and cheeses (the Mennonites have cornered the cheese and ice cream market in Belize!).

For a deeper dive into the traditional Mennonite lifestyle, Barton Creek is a must-visit. Known for their conservative dress and horse-drawn carts, the community here lives without modern conveniences such as electricity and cars, focused on farming and traditional crafts. I joined a ‘Cultural Tour‘ from San Ignacio which combined a trip to a Mennonite community with a trip to the San Antonio Women’s Co-operative.

A Mennonite community near San Ignacio, Belize.

10. Xunantunich Ruins

Xunantunich, meaning ‘Maiden of the Rock’ in the Mayan language, is an ancient Mayan archaeological site located deep in the Cayo District of Belize.

The highlight of Xunantunich is El Castillo, the towering main pyramid that stands approximately 40 metres tall. Climbing to the top rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding jungle and neighbouring Guatemala, which is just a few miles to the west.

Exploring the site, you’ll encounter other significant structures, such as the ball court, the royal palace, and the intricate friezes adorned with Mayan motifs. The detailed stone carvings provide glimpses into the rich cultural and religious practices of the ancient Maya.

Accessing Xunantunich requires crossing the Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry, adding a touch of adventure to the journey. The site is surrounded by lush vegetation, creating a serene and atmospheric setting for exploration.

Read more: Photos From The Road: The Mayan Ruins of Mexico

11. Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, a unique ecological area in western Belize, presents a striking departure from the country’s typical tropical rainforests. Covering over 100,000 acres, the reserve is a vast expanse of pine forest, rolling granite hills, and refreshing rivers and waterfalls, providing an array of natural wonders waiting to be explored.

As you traverse the reserve, the pungent scent of pine mingles with the crisp, high-altitude air, an experience unique within the Belizean landscape. While the reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise, it’s also home to elusive Central American creatures like jaguars, ocelots and tapirs.

The reserve is strewn with natural attractions. Among these, the Rio On Pools, a series of cascading pools and waterfalls, and Big Rock Falls, a towering 45-metre waterfall, offer spectacular views and refreshing swim spots. Moreover, the reserve hosts several archaeological sites, like Caracol, one of Belize’s largest ancient Maya cities, tucked amidst the pine forest.

Much of Belize is covered in forests.

12. Caracol

Caracol is an extensive archaeological site in the Cayo District of western Belize. It was one of the most significant Mayan cities in the Classic Period, rivalling Tikal in size, power, and riches. The city reached its peak around 650 AD and covered an area much larger than present-day Belize City.

The name ‘Caracol’ translates to ‘snail’ in Spanish, referring to the winding access roads, but its ancient Mayan name was ‘Oxwitza’, meaning ‘Three Hill Water’. The site was rediscovered in 1937, and archaeological work has been ongoing since the 1950s.

Caracol is renowned for its impressive architecture. The central area features several large plazas, palaces and temples. The largest pyramid, named Caana or ‘Sky Palace’, rises over 40 metres high, making it the tallest man-made structure in Belize.

The site is also known for its detailed hieroglyphic inscriptions providing valuable insights into the political and social dynamics of the Mayan civilization. Caracol’s location within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve offers visitors not only a rich archaeological experience but also a chance to enjoy Belize’s stunning natural environment. Visiting Caracol typically involves a guided tour due to its remote location and the rough condition of the access roads.

Maya ruins abound in Belize.

13. Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye, the largest of Belize’s islands, is located northeast of the country and protected by the Belize Barrier Reef. The Caye offers an array of water-based activities and a laid-back island vibe.

San Pedro, the island’s only town, is a lively hub brimming with colourful shops, art galleries and a variety of restaurants. The town’s streets, often busy with golf carts – the island’s primary mode of transportation – exhibit a fusion of Caribbean and Central American influences.

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley are popular spots for snorkelling and diving, offering encounters with diverse species, including nurse sharks, stingrays, and vibrant tropical fish. The island is also a gateway to the world-renowned Great Blue Hole, a must-visit for diving enthusiasts.

For those seeking relaxation, the island’s beautiful beaches, such as Secret Beach, provide the perfect setting. Adventure seekers can explore the island’s northern parts, where lush mangrove swamps teem with birdlife.

14. Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker, a small coral island located off the coast of Belize, embodies the quintessential laid-back Caribbean charm. Its motto, ‘Go Slow’, perfectly captures the relaxed and easy-going vibe that permeates the island.

With sandy streets lined by brightly painted wooden houses and swaying palm trees, Caye Caulker is a tropical paradise that invites visitors to unwind and soak up the island vibes. Cars are non-existent here, with bicycles and golf carts serving as the primary modes of transport. It’s a place where time seems to slow, allowing you to fully appreciate the stunning surroundings.

The island is fringed by the spectacular Belize Barrier Reef, making it an ideal base for snorkelling and scuba diving. The local tour operators offer trips to nearby marine reserves such as Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, providing opportunities to swim with nurse sharks, stingrays, and a myriad of tropical fish.

Caye Caulker’s food scene is a treat, particularly for seafood lovers. Fresh lobster and conch ceviche are local favourites. As evening falls, the waterfront comes alive with barefoot bars offering refreshing drinks, local music and sunset views.

Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are both part of the Belize Barrier Reef.

15. Corozal

Corozal, perched on Belize’s northern border, offers a unique blend of Belizean and Mexican influences. This coastal town, with its beautiful bay views, has an easy-going vibe that captivates those seeking a less-trodden path.

In Corozal, remnants of the past coexist with the present. At Santa Rita, an archaeological site on the outskirts, you can see the vestiges of a significant Mayan trading post, said to be the legendary city of Chetumal. In the town’s centre, the Corozal Town Hall mural tells the story of the area’s tumultuous history through artistic depictions.

The town is also known for its waterfront promenade, where locals and visitors alike enjoy scenic views of Corozal Bay. Furthermore, its close proximity to Mexico makes it a perfect base for day trips to the bustling city of Chetumal.

16. Orange Walk

Located in the north of Belize, Orange Walk is often referred to as ‘Sugarcity’ due to its prosperous sugarcane production.

Beyond its urban core at Orange Walk Town, the Orange Walk district is a haven for nature enthusiasts and history buffs. The nearby Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, teeming with wildlife, offers a pristine setting for birdwatching and hiking.

The district also hosts remarkable archaeological sites, such as Lamanai, a Mayan city accessible via a scenic boat ride on the New River. This journey reveals a richly biodiverse ecosystem and culminates in towering ancient pyramids emerging from the jungle.

17. Lamanai

Lamanai is one of Belize’s most intriguing archaeological sites. Tucked away in the lush tropical rainforest, this ancient city is best accessed via a picturesque boat ride along the New River.

Featuring a remarkable continuity of occupation from about 1500 BC to the 17th century AD, Lamanai boasts structures from different eras of Mayan history. The site’s main attractions include the Mask Temple, adorned with giant faces believed to represent ancient Mayan rulers; the High Temple, offering panoramic views of the surrounding jungle from its peak; and the Jaguar Temple, named for its jaguar decorations.

Amidst the vestiges of this ancient civilization, you will often spot wildlife, including howler monkeys, tropical birds, and yes, even crocodiles. This mix of history and nature makes Lamanai a must-visit destination in Belize.

18. Altun Ha

Altun Ha is another important archaeological site that reflects the Mayan history of Belize. Located about 50 kilometres north of Belize City, the name Altun Ha translates to ‘Rockstone Pond’ in the Mayan language, referencing the nearby water source.

The city was a significant Mayan ceremonial and trading centre between 200 BC and AD 900, particularly flourishing during the Classic Period of Mayan civilization. Its strategic location near the coast and waterways made it an important link in the region’s trade routes.

Altun Ha covers an area of approximately 8 square kilometres and is known for its two main plazas and thirteen structures. The most famous is the Temple of the Green Tomb, which held a rich collection of jade, indicating the high status of the person buried there.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of Altun Ha is the Temple of the Masonry Altars, often seen in promotional materials about Belize. At 16 metres high, it’s the tallest structure at Altun Ha and was likely the focal point of religious ceremonies.

Maya ruins in Belize.

19. Dangriga 

Dangriga, the cultural capital of Belize, pulsates with a rhythm that reflects its Garifuna heritage. Situated along the Caribbean Sea, the city, formerly known as Stann Creek Town, is a melange of cultural expression and tropical beauty.

Music and dance are the heartbeats of Dangriga. Visitors can immerse themselves in the pulsating rhythms of Garifuna music, marked by the resonant beats of the Garifuna drum. The Gulisi Garifuna Museum provides insights into the history and culture of the Garifuna people, while local workshops offer hands-on experience in traditional drumming and dancing.

The town is also the gateway to the Southern Cays and the Belize Barrier Reef, providing ample opportunities for snorkelling, fishing, and boating. Nearby, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, known for its jaguar preservation efforts, offers nature trails and bird-watching opportunities.

Garifuna drums.

20. Hopkins

Caught between the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, Hopkins is a quaint coastal village that is the epitome of Belize’s diverse culture. Renowned as a centre of Garifuna culture, this fishing village offers visitors an authentic cultural immersion.

Hopkins’ Garifuna residents are proud of their Afro-Caribbean heritage and are eager to share their customs and traditions. Visitors can partake in drumming lessons, traditional dances, or culinary workshops to make local dishes such as cassava bread and hudut, a hearty fish stew.

The village is not just about cultural experiences, though. Its long, golden-sand beach is a serene spot to relax and soak up the Caribbean sun. For adventure-seekers, Hopkins is a perfect base for exploring the nearby Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Belize Barrier Reef, providing opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, snorkelling and diving.

Hudut, a traditional Garifuna coconut fish stew.

21. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Hidden away in the heart of Belize’s lush rainforest, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1986. It was the world’s first jaguar preserve, created to protect and study this majestic yet highly elusive animal.

Sprawling across almost 400 square kilometres, the sanctuary is a biodiversity hotspot, home to an array of wildlife such as jaguars, ocelots, pumas, tapirs and over 290 species of birds. While sighting a jaguar is a rare treat, the signs of their presence, such as paw prints, add an element of excitement to every trail.

The sanctuary offers various hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging mountain hikes. The trail to Ben’s Bluff offers panoramic views of the basin, while the waterfall trail leads to a refreshing swimming spot.

I stayed at a homestay in the nearby Maya Centre, a small community where you can organise trips and guides to venture into the wildlife sanctuary.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.

22. Placencia

Placencia is a picturesque peninsula in southern Belize that’s famed for its golden beaches and Caribbean culture. Once a quiet fishing village, Placencia has evolved into a premier tourist destination without losing its laid-back vibes.

The village’s main street, a narrow, pedestrian-only pathway on the beach, is lined with colourful art galleries, local eateries and craft shops. The peninsula boasts the best of both worlds: on the west, the calm lagoon waters with views of the Maya Mountains, and to the east, the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea.

Adventure seekers can dive into the azure waters, explore the nearby barrier reef, or kayak through mangroves. Be sure to learn more about Fragments of Hope, the local community conservation project that’s restored large tracts of the local coral reef.

Placencia, Belize.

23. Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye, a slender island within the Belize Barrier Reef, is named after the Laughing Gull birds that once used it as a breeding site, although they’ve now moved to quieter nesting grounds.

This petite coral island is part of a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s revered for its remarkable biodiversity. Its white sandy beach, fringed with swaying palms, is perfect for sun-soaked relaxation, while the surrounding turquoise waters hold a world of underwater wonder.

Laughing Bird Caye is a favourite among snorkelers and divers, who are drawn to its vibrant coral reef. The diverse marine life includes colourful tropical fish, sea turtles, lobsters, and stingrays, all living among the flourishing coral formations.

The colourful reef and the associated marine life have all been restored thanks to Fragments for Hope. Much of Laughing Bird Caye was obliterated by Hurricane Iris in 2001, but community conservation work has successfully restored the ecosystem to much of its former glory.

More corals = More fish

24. Glover’s Reef

Glover’s Reef is one of the most spectacular marine reserves in Belize. Named after a 17th-century pirate, John Glover, who used the area as his base, it’s now a haven for marine life and a paradise for divers and snorkellers.

The reef is an atoll, a ring-shaped coral island enclosing a lagoon, and is located approximately 50 kilometres off the mainland of Belize. It’s one of the three atolls found in Belizean waters and one of the few found in the entire Western Hemisphere.

Glover’s Reef hosts over 700 patch reefs in its central lagoon and is celebrated for its remarkable diversity of marine life. It’s home to a variety of coral species and numerous types of fish, making it a vibrant and visually stunning underwater ecosystem.

In 1996, Glover’s Reef was designated as a marine reserve, and in 2000, it was declared a World Heritage Site as part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. These designations protect the atoll’s natural resources, ensuring the preservation of its unique biodiversity and spectacular beauty for future generations.

25. Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda, Belize’s southernmost town, is an off-the-beaten-path glimpse into Belizean life. Often referred to as ‘PG’, the town is a melting pot of diverse cultures, including Garifuna, Maya, East Indian and Creole communities. This cultural richness is reflected in the music scene and local cuisine, while the weekly market, a hive of activity with farmers and fishers selling their fresh produce, offers a unique taste of local life.

Beyond its cultural allure, Punta Gorda is a launchpad for adventure travellers. The town is a stepping stone to the untouched beauty of Toledo’s outer cays and the depths of the Belize Barrier Reef. The nearby Maya villages and the Rio Blanco National Park offer opportunities for cultural encounters and exploring the pristine rainforest.

Lively markets are found all over Belize.

BONUS: The Principality of Islandia

Islandia, or more specifically, the ‘Principality of Islandia’, is a bonus addition to my list of the best places to visit in Belize. That’s because arguably, Islandia isn’t actually in Belize. This small island is a fifteen-minute boat ride from Belize City, and there’s nothing there but a few mangroves and palm trees. However, Islandia was the reason I visited Belize in the first place when I was on an assignment for CNN Travel.

In 2022, Islandia was purchased for around $250,000 by a group of investors, country counters and micronationalists calling themselves ‘Let’s Buy an Island‘. This was the first time an island had ever been crowdfunded, and as soon as the purchase went through, they also declared it to be an independent nation.

Needless to say, Belize wasn’t too happy, but the story made headlines worldwide for its audacity. Let’s Buy an Island still owns Islandia, and they have big plans to develop it. You can visit on tours with Young Pioneer Tours, but sadly, they’ve sold out of all the shares that could have given you a piece of the island. You can still sign up for Citizenship of Islandia, though. I’m even a Duke.

The Principality of Islandia.

Map of the best places to visit in Belize

Here’s a map of the best places to visit in Belize:

The best time to visit Belize

Determining the best time to visit Belize depends largely on what you’re seeking from your visit. If you’re interested in good weather and don’t mind crowds, the dry season from late November to April might be ideal. During this time, rainfall is minimal, making it perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, exploring Mayan ruins, and beach relaxation. This period also coincides with the peak tourism season, so you can expect more tourists and slightly higher prices.

For those interested in diving and snorkelling, especially at the famous Great Blue Hole, the conditions are typically best between April and June. These months also align with the whale shark season, providing unique wildlife viewing opportunities.

If you’re on a budget and don’t mind occasional rain, the off-peak season from May to November offers lower prices. Despite being Belize’s rainy season, showers are often brief and the landscape is lush and green. Remember to check the forecast, as the latter part of this period can experience hurricanes.

FAQ: The best places to visit in Belize

Here’s an FAQ on the best places to visit in Belize:

Q1: What is the best place to experience marine life in Belize?

A: The Belize Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers the best snorkelling and diving experiences with diverse marine life.

Q2: Where can I experience Belize’s Mayan history?

A: Caracol and Xunantunich are notable Mayan archaeological sites, offering insights into the rich Mayan history of Belize.

Q3: Which are the best islands to visit in Belize?

A: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are among the most popular islands. Ambergris Caye is known for its water sports and vibrant nightlife, while Caye Caulker offers a more relaxed vibe.

Q4: Where can I spot a Jaguar in Belize?

A: The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a known habitat for jaguars, although seeing one requires luck due to their elusive nature.

Q5: Which place is recommended for beach lovers in Belize?

A: The Placencia Peninsula is renowned for its beautiful, palm-lined beaches.

Q6: Where can I go cave exploring in Belize?

A: The Blue Hole National Park, not to be confused with the Great Blue Hole, offers spelunking in St. Herman’s Cave.

Q7: Can I visit Belize on a budget?

A: Yes, places like Caye Caulker are known for being budget-friendly, and there are affordable accommodation options throughout the country.

Q8: Is Belize a good destination for bird watching?

A: Absolutely, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and other natural parks offer excellent bird-watching opportunities.

Q9: Is Belize a good destination for adventure sports?

A: Definitely. Between the reef, rivers, and caves, Belize offers numerous opportunities for water sports, fishing, spelunking, and even jungle zip-lining.

Q10: Is it worth visiting Belize City?

A: While not as popular as some other destinations in Belize, Belize City holds historical significance and serves as a transport hub. The city’s highlights include the Belize Museum and the Swing Bridge.