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Welcome to beautiful Belize.

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Belize is a gem of a destination—a natural and genuine country that caters to the nature lovers, honeymooners, adventurous thrill-seekers, and members of the relaxation nation. And although it's a small country—at 8,867 square miles, it's a little smaller than Vermont—Belize packs plenty of big attractions into its petite package. Below, our top 10 reasons you should be visiting the Central American country right now:

1. Airfare Is Cheap

Like seriously, you won’t Belize it (we couldn't help ourselves). Southwest offers non-stop flights (about 2 ½ hours long) out of Hobby to Belize City for as low as $127 in the months of August through December.

2. It's the Only English-Speaking Country in Central America

While Spanish and Creole are also spoken, English is the primary language, which makes it easy for us Houstonians to get to know the locals better. And the locals are known for their easy-going and relaxed hospitality, helping to make your vacation a breeze.

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Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world.

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3. It's Island Time 24/7

Belize is home to more than 450 islands, known here as cayes, and atolls are perfect for snorkeling, diving, or just lounging on the beach while you sip your tropical drink. Pro tip: Instead of going around telling your friends about the exotic “ca-yays” you’re going to visit, pronounce it like “keys”—I learned the hard way.

4. You Never Have to Leave Ambergris Caye

One of the more popular cayes, Ambergris Caye, is a hub for tourism, but not in that exhausted, plastic trinkets in the overpriced souvenir shop sort of way that a lot of popular destinations have fallen victim to. Ambergris Caye is home to San Pedro Town, the Great Blue Hole, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley, and Mexico Rocks. Plenty to do, plenty to see.

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The Great Blue Hole

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5. You Can Dive into the Deepest Part of the Earth

Divers flock to the Great Blue Hole for a reason: a massive sinkhole off the coast of Belize, it’s been declared "the most amazing place on earth" by the Discovery Channel. Here, divers can encounter Midnight Parrotfish, Caribbean reef sharks, and a myriad of marine life in the crystal-clear blue waters. Be warned: This dive is for advanced divers only. As NASA scientist Glyn Collinson once put it: “It was the deepest deep blue hole imaginable.” That said, you don't need your scuba certification to experience the Great Blue Hole; Belize offers helicopter tours so you can see its deep, dark beauty from above.

6. You Can Visit the Second Largest Coral Reef in the World

The Belize Barrier Reef is the country's most popular tourist attraction (attracting almost half of those who come to Belize), where visitors can scuba dive or snorkel their way around the diverse ecosystem, which includes vibrant coral, over 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrate species—and that’s only an estimated 10 percent of the species currently discovered within this massive reef system.

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The ruins of Xunantunich contain of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces.

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7. You Can Even Check Out Mayan Ruins

Whether you’re a history buff, on the search for the perfect selfie, or just want to be immersed in the culture, you can find what you’re looking for at one of the many Mayan temples located in Belize. Sites like Caracol, Xunantunich, altun Ha, Cahal Pech, and Lamanai (just to name a few) were once surrounded by more than one million Mayans back in the Classic Period from 300 to 900 AD.

8. Did We Mention the Caves and Jungles?

If you’re a thrill-seeker and up for some exploring, you can visit Jaguar Paw to go cave tubing and zip lining through the jungle. (And if you're not the outdoorsy type, the same adventure company that takes you tubing and zip lining also runs a rum tasting tour in Belize City.)

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You can catch jaguars snuggling at the Belize Zoo.

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9. Wonder at the World-Renowned Belize Zoo

This isn’t your typical zoo—the Belize Zoo has been called "the best little zoo in the world," with 29 acres of tropical savanna and exhibits with more than 150 exotic animals. You can even arrange a night visit to see the more crepuscular and nocturnal animals, including jaguars, margays, kinkajous, crocodiles, peccaries, howler monkeys, and the Baird's tapir, the national animal of Belize.

10. Feed a Shark with Your Bare Hands

One of the most popular snorkeling tours you can find, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley is only about 4 miles south of San Pedro, or a quick and refreshing 15-minute boat ride away. A little further down south and you’ll find the home to a multitude of tamed rays and nurse sharks just waiting to be fed by hand. Don’t worry, they won’t bite.

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