Belize is little coastal country in Central America by Caribbean Sea. On north it borders Mexico and west and south it borders Guatemala. It used to be known as British Honduras, and was later named Belize by the river and the harbor of the same names.
In Belize density of population is the lowest of all Central America´s countries. Here lives Maya, Creoles, Mestizos (posterity of the Spanish) and Garinagu (mix of African and Carib ancestry) and a little percentage of other expats. The official language is English, so the country is nice to travel from communication point of view, too.
Belize has typical Caribbean atmosphere that we felt immediately after crossing Mexican-Belize border. Go slow and enjoy 🙂 – that is how we felt it. We enjoyed mostly in nature beauties and biotic diversity of the country, which is really great.
Down side of traveling Belize is the fact that it is not a cheap country. Spending a night for 4 persons cost us 100 eur, a meal for 4 persons was rarely under 50 eur, which is expensive for us – as we didn´t afford any luxury. But sometimes – not always – beautiful parts of the world are expensive and we just take it as it is.
You can use public transport for traveling across Belize, but it drives only between towns and villages – it won´t get you to the hidden beauties in the nature. Combination of public transport and tourist routes that will take you to those places is more expensive than renting a car – which we highly recommend.
We explored only north part of Belize at our first visit, so the south will have to wait for our next time.
Why is it worth to visit Belize at least once in a lifetime?
Here are our top 5 experiences:
1. Belize Barrier Reef and its coral islands
Belize Barrier Reef itself is strong enough reason to visit Belize. It is the craziest, the funkiest and the most magnificent underwater system as we have seen so far. Belize Barrier Reef is part of the second biggest coral reef in the world (the biggest is Australia´s Great Barrier Reef), it is also its most beautiful part and under Unesco protection.
Besides 300 km width and 40 km long ecosystem of numerous coral reefs by Belizean coast, it comprises three atolls as well: Turneffe Atoll, Glover´s Reef Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll. On the last one there is Great Blue Hole that attracts divers from all over the world, but unfortunately it is not suitable for snorkeling.
By Belize´s Caribbean coast there are some small and some little bigger islands that are like fairytale. We landed on backpackers´ Caye Caulker, that is small island by Barrier Reef, and its motto is: GO SLOW. The island has no roads, no cars, only one street made of white sand, simple colorful little houses and easy pace of Caribbean atmosphere.
There are more coral islands by Belize Barrier Reef that you can explore. We visited Geoff´s Caye, which is only one of them.
If sailing or longer trip by boat doesn´t do you harm (like throwing up for example) you can go sailing from north side of Belize among coral islands by Belize Barrier Reef to south side – Hopkins or Placencia. Another Slovene family said that sailing was wonderful and we believe them.
2. Wonderful but not crowded Mayan pyramids
We were exploring Mayan pyramids in Mexico as well, but we liked those that we saw in Belize the most. Maybe because they weren’t crowded, in the middle of Belizean jungle with a view all the way to Guatemala. You can easily climb on them as there are not so many tourists.
The most beautiful Mayan pyramids that you shouldn´t leave out when traveling through Belize are Xunantunish by Belize-Guatemala border. The nature around them is like fairytale, as well are the views. And peace, silence, only birds and a few travelers.
3. Cocoa plantations and the best chocolate
Two years ago we visited Zotter Chocolate Factory in Austria and when seeing their film about where (in Belize) and by what means (fair trade economy) they get the best cocoa for their excellent chocolates, we said that we had to go there one day. Yes, the film was showing Belize and cocoa plantations on its south.
We unfortunately didn´t go all the way to the south of Belize, but we went to chocolate shop AJAW in San Igancio, where locals (Mayas) showed us traditional chocolate production from the best cocoa beans. Even though the experience wasn´t cheap (again), it was genuine and tasteful. Cocoa plantations are high on our wish list for our next trip to Belize.
4. San Ignacio
San Ignacio is mini town by Guatemala border, great starting point for trip to mountainous part of this Caribbean country and for enjoying in flora and fauna of Belizean jungle.
In the morning you can observe toucans that are national birds of Belize. You can visit Iguana Project – they want to protect iguanas that are endangered in this part of Belize (because of illegal trading with their meat and eggs). We met many iguanas in the nature as well; they were truly impressive with their colors and mohawks.
You can go to Mountain Pine Ridge forest reserve to search for hidden waterfalls and observing flora and fauna of Belize.
Near San Ignacio is famous ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal), but we decided not to go, because the path to the underground caves was too steep and difficult for the kids. But after what we have read on different forums, the experience is worth the trouble and can be phenomenal.
5. Famous Howler monkeys and Community Baboon Sanctuary
Community Baboon Sanctuary is nature reserve where famous Howler monkeys live – those are the loudest monkeys of all kind of monkeys (their sounds were used in movie King Kong and in some other movies) and they are the second loudest living creature on Earth (beside lions). They live only in the trees in the wild and they rarely contact with humans. After seven years of trying they managed to contact one monkey family in nature reserve and the respectfully take us to them in their natural habitat. The experience was really authentic. Again – there were no other tourists, just the nature, wilderness, us, locals and monkeys and birds and iguanas.
Even though Belize is a small country it has a lot to offer and we are truly grateful that we decided to visit it. We recommend ii a lot 🙂 .