There are many cool things to do in Belize.
This is an incredible country with rich culture and history; fabulous nature – beaches, jungle and a great reef; delicious food and welcoming people. It’s really child friendly too – learn more about it on this post about the things to do in Belize with kids.
Belize is a small country, and roughly 350000 people live in it. The biggest city being Belize City and the capital set in tiny Belmopan, where it was established after that hurricane Hattie flooded Belize City in 1961.
So, are you in search of what to do in Belize? Continue reading this post to discover the top things to do in Belize.
13 Unmissable Things To Do In Belize
Exploring the fabulous nature
From mountains to tropical rainforest, fertile subtropical foothills where cattle is reared, rivers and jungle covered Mayan archeological sites Belize is a fabulous Caribbean country, yet set in Central America. It has enough to inspire adventure seekers, animal lovers, birdwatchers, trekkers and sport addicts, as well as Mayan history enthusiasts.
One of the nicest things to do in Belize is definitely taking advantage of all its amazing nature. You can go fun tubing, zip lining, hiking in the forest, visit caves – and much more.
Visiting the archeological sites
When researching about the things to do in Belize, remember that a trip to Belize isn’t complete without a visit to the archeological sites. The most famous ones are Caracol, Xunantunich and Altun Ha. The best part of visiting Mayan sites in Belize is that they are not nearly as crowded as the ones in other countries of Central America (think Tikal in Guatemala, or Palenque and Chichen Itza in Mexico). I recommend hiring a guide when visiting the ruins, so that you can make more sense of what you are seeing.
Below is a list of the best sites to visit in Belize.
*Credit to Michael Anderson of Passport Explored.
Although Belize is home to beautiful beaches, it also boasts some fascinating Mayan ruins that are certainly worth visiting. One of the best and most accessible ruins is Xunantunich. This archaeological site is located about half an hour away from San Ignacio, which is a great base for exploring Belize‘s inland attractions.
Upon reaching the Xunantunich sign, you’ll need to cross the Mopan River and then continue on foot for approximately one mile until you reach the entrance to the site. From there you can begin exploring these ruins and learning about the history of the ancient Maya that once populated this area.
Once you enter the main plaza you’ll no doubt notice El Castillo, which is the second tallest structure in the entire country, towering over you. Unlike many other Mayan ruins, you can actually climb to the top of El Castillo and gaze out into the wide expanses of jungle surrounding you.
From the top, you’ll be able to see into both Belize and Guatemala as this location is incredibly close to the border between these two countries. Overall, visiting Xunantunich is easily one of the best things to do in Belize.
This tour of Xunantunich departs from San Ignacio and can be booked online.
*Credit to Sean Lau of Living Out Lau
When the country Belize comes to mind, you will inevitably think about turquoise water, friendly locals dancing to Caribbean music, and incredible seafood. While those qualities are true about Belize, there is some much more to Belize than just those, and so many more interesting things to do in Belize than just hanging at the beach.
Belize was once the heart of the Mayan civilization, a place where the most important temples, palaces, and other structures existed. To understand why the Mayans were so important, we must understand their scientific achievements. For example, they are known to be the inventors of the number “0”, 1,700 years before the Europeans started using it.
One of the Mayan ruins where you can see the remarkable remains of the Maya civilization is Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve.
Cahal Pech, or “Place of the Ticks” in the Maya language, was a spacious hilltop home for an elite Maya family. As one of the oldest Mayan ruins, you will find ancient remains of temples and other significant structures. Only a short 30-minute walk away, visiting Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve is one of the best things to do in San Ignacio, Belize!
Visiting Caracol really is one of the things to do in Belize. Located in the Cayo District and at about 40 km from Xunantunich and San Ignacio, the name “Caracol” is Spanish and means “snail” – apparently in reference to the winding access road leading to the archeological site. It’s a massive site – larger than the more famous Tikal, in Guatemala, with which Caracol was often at war.
This guided tour of Caracol departs from San Ignacio and can be booked online.
*Credit to Claire Sturzaker of Tales of a Backpacker
The Mayan ruins at Lamanai lie in the heart of the jungle of Northern Belize. Lamanai has an incredible setting on the edge of the New River Lagoon and is renowned for the journey to reach the ruins, usually by boat along the river – this is one of the most fun things to do in Belize. The name Lamanai means ‘submerged crocodile’ in Maya and arriving here by water you don’t need to guess how it got the name!
Lamanai was inhabited for almost 3000 years; far exceeding the average lifespan of most Maya communities. It was once a thriving city of 20,000 people, but the excavated site consists of just three temples, a ball court, and a few smaller buildings. That said, Lamanai is definitely worth visiting for the journey to reach the ruins and the unique temples.
Climbing to the top of the High Temple you are rewarded with panoramic views of dense jungle for miles around. Part of Jaguar Temple pyramid is built in the shape of a jaguar’s head, but the Mask Temple is the stand-out structure, with large faces carved into the front of the pyramid which have been carefully excavated and preserved.
Lastly, Altun Ha – whose name means “Rockstone Water” – is another impressive archeological site. The site was first excavated in the 1960s and it is said that at its maximum splendor it was home to more than 10000 people. It’s located at about 50 km from Belize City and 10 km from the Caribbean sea.
This guided tour of Altun Ha departs from Belize City and can be booked online.
Going to Secret Beach in Ambergris Caye
*Credit to Megan Indoe of Bobo and Chichi
One of the best places in Belize to really let it sink in that you’ve arrived to paradise is Secret Beach in Ambergris Caye, just a short golf cart drive from San Pedro.
If you’re staying in San Pedro or in a resort at Ambergris Caye, you’ll want to rent a golf cart for at least a day to explore the island and hard to reach places like Secret Beach or hire a driver to take you and pick you back up.
Don’t let the name fool you though, Secret Beach is not so secret and is considered one of the best beaches on Ambergris Caye with crystal clear turquoise water and gorgeous white sand.
You should try to visit earlier in the day as you might get to enjoy a little bit of the beach to yourself before everyone else gets there.
After enjoying sitting on the chairs on the pier looking at Leonardo DiCaprio’s island off in the distance and taking a swim in the turquoise waters you can spend the rest of your day eating and sipping on tropical cocktails or cold beer at the relaxed island bars on the sand. This is really one of the coolest things to do in Belize.
This is one of the most relaxing and gorgeous places to visit in Ambergris Caye, Belize!
Chilling at Caye Caulker
*Credit to Erika Van ‘t Veld of Erika’s Travelventures
Out of all the towns and islands to make you feel like you’re in a Caribbean paradise in Belize, Caye Caulker has to be one of the best. “Go Slow” is one of the slogans of Caye Caulker, and there’s no better place to put this in to practice than at “The Split.” The Split is a narrow channel of water that divides Caye Caulker in to two, which was formed when Hurricane Hattie ravaged the island in 1961. Hanging out here is one of the best things to do in Belize to disconnect and enjoy the island.
At the Split is a large pier, perfect for sunbathing, a shallow swimming area great for younger kids to play (with adult supervision), and of course the deeper channel where experienced swimmers can test their skills against the quick tide. It’s easy to lose time and spend all day here, because everything you need is just steps away.
The Lazy Lizard is a bar and grill next to the Split that serves Belizean favorite dishes like ceviche, jerk chicken, grilled lobster, and of course plenty of Belizean rum. From the Lazy Lizard, you can also rent some thatched-roof beach cabanas so you can chill in some much-needed shade.
Snorkeling in Caye Caulker
*Credit to Joanna Davis of The World in my Pocket
Belize is home to the second largest reef in the world, after the Great Barrier, which is down in Australia. And with that in mind, it is a no brainer that some of the best things to do in Belize are water related. One of the best things to do when you travel to this small Caribbean country, is to go snorkeling in Caye Caulker.
There are many different day trips that take you to different parts of the reef, which spreads on an area of over 300 km. As there are over 500 different species of fish, sea turtles but also marine mammals such as manatees and dolphins, you can go on several trips without worrying that you will see the same things.
The most popular snorkeling day trip is around the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, between Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Here you will get a chance to observe over forty types of corals but also sting rays, eagle rays, nurse sharks, moray eels, sea turtles, sea turtles and, sometimes, the West Indian manatees.
Exploring Belize barrier reef
*Credit to Bret Love of Green Global Travel
Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, the Belize Barrier Reef makes up around 33% of the MesoAmerican Reef (the world’s second largest coral reef system, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). Stretching 190 miles along the Central American country’s coastline, the reef is Belize’s top tourist attraction, with snorkeling and scuba diving attracting approximately 50% of its annual visitors.
At one point the reef system was included on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, but it was thankfully removed (due to successful conservation initiatives) in 2018. The reef’s incredible assortment of holes, pinnacles, reef flats, and walls are home to an amazing array of marine life, including 70 hard coral species, 35 soft coral species, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrates.
During dives (at depths ranging from 15 to 60+ feet), you normally get exceptionally clear visibility and get to see, among others, a Nurse Shark, Moray Eel, several Spotted Rays, a Sea Turtle, Pufferfish, Lobsters, and thousands of colorful fish. If you look carefully you may even see tiny seahorses.
Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort is the most recommended company for dives.
Exploring Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
*Credit to Tom Bartel of Travel Past 50
One of the most unique things to do in Belize is exploring the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. Located in western Belize, this is a sacred Mayan sacrificial site which was used from around 600 to 900 C.E. The cave system extends five kilometers into a hillside, which you can only reach by swimming and wading up the river that carved the cave out of the hill.
After climbing out of the river into the cave, you reach an internal plateau where you’ll get close enough to touch Mayan pottery that was used in religious rituals, and almost close enough to touch the remains of humans that anthropologists believe were sacrificed to the gods here.
According to the theories, the Mayans entered the cave only infrequently when “special measures” were called for. There is evidence of around twenty rituals over the course of the 300 years that the remote parts of the cave were used. There are fourteen human skeletons in various states spread throughout the cave. Many of them are in remote caverns which are not open to tourists. However, you do see several close up.
The only way to tour the ATM Cave is with a licensed guide. The easiest way to arrange that is to ask your hotel in San Ignacio to connect you with a guide. Cameras are not allowed in the cave.
You can book a tour of the ATM Cave here.
Going on a sailing trip
*Credit to of Explore with Lora Pope
Belize is home to over 200 islands and cayes, so one of the best things to do in Belize is to go on a multi-day sailing trip. There are many sailing companies in Belize, but Raggamuffin tours is a great option for budget travelers. This 3-day tour leaves from Caye Caulker and ends in Dangriga.
Days are spent drinking rum, fishing off the back of the boat, exploring remote islands, and snorkeling in the pristine waters. The sailboat isn’t large enough for everyone to sleep on, so nights are spent on the islands. The first night is on Rendenzouz Caye sleeping in tents while the second night is in cabins on Ragga Caye.
The crew that runs the tour are wonderful locals who will make sure you have a good time. They will even teach you to sail! The food on the tour is amazing. Every day the chef will prepare the catch of the day along with some other traditional Belize cuisine. Sailing through Belize with Raggamuffin tours is the perfect way to disconnect with the world and enjoy the beauty of Belize.
Ok, it may not be Mexico, which was inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, but food in Belize is actually delicious. The local staple is rice and beans, just as in most of Central America, and it is usually accompanied with either beef, chicken or pork, in the form of stews.
Fruit is also very abundant, so fresh and so sweet that I am pretty sure you won’t be able to eat any tropical fruit back home!
By the way, did you know that you can find some of the best burritos in the continent (you’ll have to scout for them in the street!), as well as incredible seafood on the coast.
*Credit to Nikki Rue of She Saves She Travels
One of the most interesting things to do in Belize is learning how to make chocolate like the ancient Mayans. Chocolate making tours are available in most of the large cities in Belize, and are very budget friendly so perfect even when you visit Belize on a budget! It’s a really unique experience to learn this ancient technique from a tradition that’s hundreds of years old.
Native to Central America and South America, cacao is the fruit that turns into chocolate and it’s plentiful in Belize!
During a chocolate making class you will learn that the ancient Mayans drank their chocolate and early on it was only for royalty. It is cool to see how the Mayans have changed the recipe and process over the centuries. You will be able to taste the cacao during each step of the process. It turns from bitter, slimy fruit seeds to an intense, roasted chocolate flavor.
You can find chocolate making classes or tours in throughout Belize: San Ignacio, Belize City, San Pedro and Placencia. It’s a relatively affordable tour (just $12 USD per person) and it’s easy enough for all ages. It is delicious and certainly one of the most interesting things to do in Belize.
Interacting with the locals
Less than 350000 people live in Belize, and for as little as this may seem, there is a great mixture of ethnicities, languages and cultures. Here you will be able to hear English (did you know that Belize was under British domination, and it used to be called British Honduras?), Spanish, Creole and Mayan.
This reflects the population, which consists of Creoles, West Indians, Mayans, Chinese as well as Garifunas.
Most importantly, people in Belize are extremely friendly and laid back, always willing to lend a hand to travelers, make jokes and ensuring everyone feels welcome. Belize’s Love FM advert says “be kind to tourists”. I guess people take this quite literally! Not to mention, the fact that everybody here speaks English makes it so easy for travelers.
Cave tubing in San Ignacio
*Credit to Whitney Kjeldsen of Designs For Travel
One of the top things to do in Belize is to go cave tubing in San Ignacio. Combining adventure with history, this is one of the most memorable activities in Belize and you should definitely include it in your Belize itinerary.
This adventure begins by getting into the water, at a cave opening with a headlamp and an inflated tube. The guide safely leads a small group through an incredible cave system. There are often points at which you can touch the ceiling of the cave before it opens up again, where you make stops to check out the incredible relics.
These cave systems were used by the Mayans as ceremonial sites and give you the opportunity to get a glimpse of the history, culture, and religion. Many antiquities, such as pottery, remain inside the caves. It’s incredible to be able to see these things up close!
The fun adventure continues as you float down the river, inside the cave and see crystal formations that are over 5,000,000 years old! Cave tubing in Belize will create a memory that lasts a lifetime.
These are some good cave tubing experiences that can be booked online:
- Belize cave tubing – not the cheapest option but it includes everything!
- Cave tubing with lunch and optional zip line – this tour departs from San Ignacio. It’s a full day of adventure.
- Zip lining and cave tubing adventure – the most expensive but also most fun option. It departs from Belize City.
Staying at a fabulous resort
Chaa Cree is located close to San Ignacio. This is not far from the Guatemala border and from Tikal, and it is the second largest city in the country, with as many as 20000 people!
The lodge is completely immersed in the rain forest (and rain you will get!), with lovely rooms (some so huge that they look more like mansions), a great infinity pool, a bar and a restaurant serving delicious drinks (including the good Belikin, best enjoyed on a hammock!) and meals.
While the lodge is definitely not suitable for a backpacker’s budget, the Macal River Camp (a 10 minutes jungle walk from the lodge) can be factored in. At $ 65 USD per night, it may seem expensive. However, included in the price you can get breakfast and dinner, and you can use of all the facilities and excursions at the lodge, such as tubing, canoeing, birdwatching, touring the butterfly farm and the medicinal route.
There is no electricity at the camp (well, just in the bathrooms and in the dining area), nor wifi. Bungalows, which fit up to 4 persons, are lit by kerosene lamps and surrounded by mosquito nests.
There are 4 spotless toilets and showers. Each night a fire is lit for guests to sit about, tell stories and share their wisdom. It simply is the perfect place to relax, to listen to the sound of nature and to be stranded in tropical rain.
Other resources: Backpacking Belize on a Budget by Road Affair.
Further readings about Central America
Make sure to read my other posts if you are planning a trip to Central America:
- The Most Awesome Things To Do In Nicaragua
- What to expect when volcano boarding on Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
- Everything You Need To Know When Going On A Hike Of Pacaya Volcano, In Guatemala
- 27 Absolutely Fabulous Things To Do In Costa Rica
- 7 Absolutely Incredible Things To Do In Panama