Traveling in Belize
Belize is possibly the most culturally diverse country in Central America, due to its history of British colonialism, Mayan ancestry, and deep ties to both Latin and Caribbean culture. Belize is perhaps best known as the birthplace of chewing gum and Punta music; as well as being the only Central American country with English as its official language. But Belize also offers travelers amazingly diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems, a wide range of activities, from caving to diving, and some of the most amazing Mayan sites in Central America.
22,966 km2 / 8,867 sq mi
340,844 (2014 estimate)
Belizian dollar (BZD)
Some great photos of Belize
Useful information and recommendations for visiting Belize City.
Museum of Belize Built between 1854 and 1857 as a Her Majesty’s Prison while the area was still a British colony, it was a replacement for a wooden prison nearby. It was the Belize City Prison until 1993, when prisoners were then transferred to the Hattieville Prison. In 2002, it was restored and renovated into a national museum. It features exhibits of Maya artifacts and explores some 3,000 years of Maya history, the prison's history, colonial life, and cultural exhibits of the many ethnic groups of the nation.
Belize Zoo The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center was started in 1983, as a last ditch effort to provide a home for a collection of wild animals which had been used in making documentary films about tropical forests. Shortly after the backyard "zoo" began, it was quickly realized that its Belizean visitors were unfamiliar with the different species of wildlife which shared their country. This very aspect fomented the commitment to develop the little zoo into a dynamic wildlife education center. Today, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is settled upon 29 acres of tropical savanna and exhibits over 150 animals, representing over 45 species, all native to Belize. The zoo keeps animals which were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated animals, or sent to The Belize Zoo as donations from other zoological institutions.
Old Belize Old Belize is a re-creation of Belize as it once was. Inside Old Belize you will find giant tropical trees in an ancient rainforest, Mayan temples, an old estate-tyoe sugar mill, Chiceleors taping Chicle trees, an old sawmill, a traditional Garifuna home, and a recreation of colonial Belize Town, the predecessor to Belize City.
The Image Factory The Image Factory Art Foundation and Gallery is a museum in Belize City, Belize. Established in 1995, it is important in Belizean art and literature.
The Great House A beautiful, old colonial style building, just 100 meters from the Caribbean Sea may be a little pricier that other hotels, but offers the grace and charm of the colonial era. Winter double occupancy rates are $183 per night. Visit in the summer months to get a big discount.
Easy Inn Hotel A boutique-style hotel located at 2 Miles off Belize City downtown, and 6 miles away from the International Airport. Rates are very reasonable at $50 per night for double occupancy, and include all the services needed.
Bella Sombra Guest House Kings Park Just 10 meters from the Caribbean Sea, this guest house features basic services, with others available for a fee. At $35 for a family room (occupancy 4), this is a quality budget choice.
Harbour View This restaurant, featuring international faire, is the choice for the refined palate. With choices ranging from Parasol of Reddened Shrimp to Picasso Pork Tenderloin, your culinary experience will be well worth the price. Main courses start at around $16. Live music provides a fun atmosphere.
Jambel’s Jerk Pit Too For a more Caribbean flavor, this restaurant provides Jamaican jerk served with seafood or chicken. The restaurant also features a beautiful view of the harbor. Main courses start at $6.
Wet Lizard If you’re looking for authentic Belizean food, this is a good choice. While American style food is also featured on the menu, choices like Conch Fritters and Banana Chimichanga will give you a local taste. Main courses start at $10.
Ecological Tours & Services Offers shore excursions and adventure vacations. Specialize in water activities and caving.
Chan Chich Lodge Specializes in tours of the jungle and Mayan history. All inclusive packages are available.
Useful information about visiting San Ignacio.
Belize Botanic Gardens Nestled in the foothills, just 10 miles west of San Ignacio, these 45 acre gardens showcase native and exotic plants of Belize, in an environment of scientific learning and research. A variety of tours are available, and prices are reasonable.
Rainforest Medicine Trail Guided and self-guided tours along the bank of the Macal River allow visitors to discover the amazing history of Maya traditional medicine. From vines that store drinking water to plants that cleanse blood, everyone will enjoy the bounty found in the rainforest.
Tropical Wings Nature Center This eco-center features exhibits on birds, bats, ants, plants, and butterflies. Visitors can hike, watch videos, or follow tours to learn more about the biodiversity of Belize.
Chaa Creek If you’re looking for luxury accommodations, this is the place. The owners strive to “coexist with nature while creating a true jungle experience.” A 365 acre private nature reserve, combined with a spa and several available tour options can provide a unique Belizean experience, if you’re willing to pay for it. Cottages begin at $125 per person, while suites begin at $380 for double occupancy. Many extras are included. A less expensive option is to stay at the resort’s Macal River Camp, which includes breakfast and dinner beginning at $65 per person.
Black Rock Lodge For a mid-range option, consider Black Rock Lodge. Located in the rainforest south of San Ignacio, its location offers easy opportunities for canoeing, horseback riding, and caving. This Lodge uses renewable energy sources and wastewater recovery, as well as organic gardening, to provide a fresh, unique experience. Double occupancy prices begin at $85 in the low season, and $130 in the peak of the high season.
The Trek Stop The Trek Stop is a nice budget option, geared towards backpackers and adventure-seekers. Located in conjunction with the Tropical Wings Nature Center, it also features free Wi-fi, hot water, a restaurant (or kitchen for those who want to cook for themselves), and a Frisbee golf course. Visitors can camp for $7 per person per night, and even rent a tent for $10, or stay in one of the small cabins. Cabin rates are $15 for one person or $24 for two people.
Erva's This small restaurant features traditional Belizean food, but also offers seafood and pizza. Main courses start at $8.
Running W Steak House This restaurant is affiliated with the cattle ranch of the same name and features both traditional and Maya-style steak. Fish, chicken, and Belizean faire are also offered, beginning at $8.
Useful information and recommendations for visiting Orange Walk Town.
Lamanai These Mayan ruins were continuously occupied for over a thousand years and features a strong crocodile motif, found on figurines, pottery, headdresses, and architecture. While only 5% of the site has been investigated, there’s more than enough to see, with 12 major buildings, 100 minor structures, and a ball court. Industrial and religious remnants of the 16th and 19th centuries are also present at the site.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary This 16,400 acre sanctuary is one of the best birding spots in Belize. With a mixture of laggons, swamps, and forests, you can see a wide variety of Central American wildlife and plant life. If you’re here in late winter, the Belize Audubon Society celebrates World Wetlands Day in the nearby communities on the 2nd of February each year.
Honey Camp Lagoon This lagoon was used by the Maya for ceremonial purposes for at least five centures and pirates are rumored to have hidden gold here. Today, visitors will find a peaceful, mostly undeveloped piece of heaven. This is the place to relax in between the more exciting pursuits on your agenda.
Hotel de la Fuente This magnificent hotel features air conditioning and refrigerators in every room, for a reasonable price. Located near downtown, prices range from $40 to $95 a night. A breakfast of pancakes, French toast, and local specialties is available each morning for $3-$6, and bicycles and canoes are available for free.
St. Christopher’s Hotel St. Christopher’s is another great option, also featuring air conditioned rooms, and located near Lamanai. Rooms range from $35-70 a night. Free wi-fi, coffee and fruit are available, and if you’re traveling with a group, they will cater breakfast, lunch, and dinner for groups of 25 or more.
Nahil Mayab This restaurant offers beautiful and delicious fine dining with options ranging from seafood to Mayan fare to pastas, burgers, and steak. There are also vegetarian and kids menus.
El Establo Bar & Grill For a more local flair, try out this cozy little restaurant which serves traditional food.
Useful information and recommendations for visiting Belmopan.
Belize Zoo A beautiful 29 acre campus with over 150 animals, representing at least 45 species, all native to Belize, the Belize Zoo offers educational programs for locals and tourists. The Zoo receives no government funds and so relies on donations and membership fees, something to keep in mind if you’re into ecological sustainability. The Zoo is also wheelchair accessible.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre) This cave is notable for Maya archaeology, including skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. Skeletal remains can be seen in several areas, including “The Crystal Maiden,” the remains of a teenage girl whose bones have been calcified and appear to be crystalline.
Cave Branch River Cave System The Cave Branch River flows down from the Mountain Pine Ridge and through several limestone caves. Adventure tours via tubing or kayaking are available through paid tours. Information is available at www.cavebranch.com. Accommodations also available, including camping, bunkhouses, cabana’s, and suites. Prices range from $5 to $195.
Zip Line Canopy Tour These tours are offered by Jaguar Paw, located on the banks of the Cave’s Branch River. Combine your zip-line fun with caving, tubing, hiking, and abseiling. More information is available at chukka.com/location/jaguar-paw/. Accommodations also available beginning at $185 a night.
El Rey Hotel (formerly El Rey Inn) This quaint hotel offers celling or standing fans, hot showers, TV, and free Wi-Fi in each room. Upgrading will get you air conditioning and further amenities. Room prices begin at $45 and can be combined with local tour packages through BelizeTravelServices.com.
Bullfrog Inn This Inn specifically markets to groups and families with children. Each room comes with air conditioning, one double and one single bed, private balcony, and TV. Wi-Fi is available in the Lobby and Restaurant & Bar. Rates begin at $75 a night.
The Caladium Restaurant This restaurant is located in the Market Square and offers traditional food and drink as well as international faire. The restaurant is fully air conditioned and offers take-out as well.
Ristorante Puccini’s Although not the best looking restaurant, Puccini’s reportedly has some of the best food in Belmopan, serving Italian and Belizean favorites. Indoor and outdoor eating options are available.
Corker’s Restaurant & Pub Run by a British husband and wife team, this restaurant offers British and international dishes to Belmopan. This is the place to go if you are looking for a top-end, chef prepared menu and a full bar.
Located in western Belize, it is the home of Belmopan, the nation’s new capital.
The Cayo District covers approximately two thousand square miles of beautiful landscape, including most of the popular scenic attractions in the country. The official Belize website proclaims that “You will find clear, meandering rivers, lush jungles, green hillsides, thundering waterfalls, huge cave systems, two of the most important Mayan ruins, and a pine ridge forest just waiting for you to explore and experience. It’s rich with wildlife and a favored destination for eco tourists.”
Additionally, you can find a wide variety of cuisines at the many restaurants, including native Belizean food, Italian, British, American, and German. While both the English and Spanish languages are commonly used, there are also large populations of Creoles, Chinese, Lebanese, Guatemalans, Mennonites, and Mayas. Also, the Cayo District provides most of the livestock, poultry, and grain for the country.
If you’re looking to relocate, the Cayo District has a large expat population and a lower cost of living than many other areas of Belize.
Attractions, Accommodations and Restaurants See the Belmopan section above.
One mile west of the Belize Barrier Reef and known for traditional ship building, fishing, and tourism, although not of the large-scale development type.
Manatee Tour While these beautiful sea creatures are located all over the Caribbean, large concentrations can be found near Caye Caulker.
Water Sports Snorkeling, scuba diving, and wind surfing are all popular activities based out of Caye Caulker.
Barefoot Beach Resort Located on the beachfront, these tropical themed rooms, suites, and cottages feature TV, Air conditioning, refrigerators, and private baths. Outside, make use of sun decks, hammocks, and beachfront lounge chairs. Double occupancy from $40 a day.
Sailwinds Beach Suites Located on the beach near where the Caye Caulker water taxi docks, all suites face the beach and feature air conditioning, private bath, TV, Wi-Fi, and a stocked kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, and cook top. Rates begin at $80 for double occupancy.
The Sand Box This beach themed restaurant (there is sand on the floor inside and out) features local and international food, and is considered one of the best restaurants in the area.
Located in coastal southern Belize, the Placencia Peninsula offers twelve miles of golden beaches and all the water activities and see food you could want. Visitors will also find they are in close proximity to the beautiful Maya Mountains of the southern mainland.
Laughing Bird Caye National Park Located 11 miles from Plcencia Village on beautiful isle of Laughing Bird Caye, this Park was formed to protect the diverse marine and island habitat of the Caye. Since 1996, the Park has been designated as one of the premiere protected areas within the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. Of particular note are the various types of coral surrounding the Caye and the variety of plant life on the isle itself.
Lola’s Art Gallery Some of Lola’s artwork has been featured in New York City, but you’ll want to visit the location where the art takes shape. She uses a variety of mediums to capture the natural and cultural beauty of Belize and the Caribbean. A little off the beaten path, but easy to find and worth the trip.
Chabil Mar Villas This boutique hotel is more expensive than many other hotels in Belize, but if you’re looking for excellent accommodations and service, this is the place to consider. With rooms starting at $250 a night, you get 1,000 square feet of space featuring multi-zoned air conditioning, a personal veranda, bath and pool towels, Turkish robes, Wi-Fi, fully equipped kitchens, TV’s, Washer and Dryer, and much, much more.
Tri Tan Beach Cabanas These very nice cabanas are also reasonably priced, beginning at $45 a night, and feature queen beds, hot water showers, ceiling fans, refrigerators, and microwaves.
Mojo Lounge & Bartique This restaurant features mainly Caribbean cuisine, along with creative drinks and live music. The food and service are excellent.
Tutti Frutti While this isn’t a full service restaurant, it’s said that the Gelato is the best outside of Italy. They have a wide variety of flavors, changed seasonally.
Located in coastal northern Belize, just south of the Mexican border, this is the largest island in Belize. The hub of Belizean maritime trade for centuries and know for its fishing, coconuts, and chicle. Water sports and ecotourism are the main draws for tourists.
Lalas Bird Sancuary Along with a wide variety of birds, crocodiles, raccoons and other land-life are common attractions for visitors.
The Lagoon This is the place to get away from the noise of the city. A beautiful natural setting, caves, and interesting tidal formations make this an interesting and relaxing getaway.
Martha's Hotel Centrally located, yet 1 block from the beach, this budget hotel is available monthly during the slow season. Clean, comfortable rooms, and private baths beginning at around $15 a night.
Bella Vista Guest Homes These guest homes feature kitchens, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, TV, and more. Secluded, they are only accessible by walking, golf cart, bicycle, or boat. 3 night minimum, starting at $79 a night.
Red Ginger This restaurant features fresh “tropical cuisine… including innovative versions of more familiar recipes together with less known regional cuisine.” The ambience is an outstanding combination of modern and Latin, and the food is excellent.
Elvi’s Kitchen A wide variety of well-prepared seafood and the Macho Burger Challenge make this a favorite eating spot. Check it out especially on Friday’s to try out their Mayan Feast, featuring traditional Mayan dishes and live music.
Great Blue Hole
Located in the Caribbean, approximately 40 miles east-southeast of Belize City. The Great Blue Hole is an amazing natural phenomenon; a 984 foot wide, 410 foot deep, underwater sinkhole. Divers at this UNESCO World Heritage Site can see the Caribbean reef shark and Blacktip shark, as well as nurse sharks and giant groupers.
Attractions, Accommodations and Restaurants See the section on Belize City above.
Belize Travel Links
Here are some links that we've found useful in planning our travels in Belize.