Belize is unique in the Central American landscape. Housing Central America’s highest population of biodiversity and home to various cultures and ways of life, it’s the only English-speaking country south of the border, although the locals usually speak Belizean creole. This small, quiet nation, a conglomerate of rich cultures, is a quick flight from Houston, too.
Seeing the beauty of Belize takes patience, a yearning for adventure and a knack for living in the moment. When you land in Belize City, the capital and only city with an international airport, you’ll be surrounded by what are, in honesty, lackluster views, so traveling to one of the nearby towns is the best option.
San Ignacio, about an hour and a half away from Belize City, can be easily accessed by an inexpensive bus or a tour shuttle. The town has a lovely, quiet culture that’s home to lots of biodiversity, bustling markets and stunning ruins. Xunantunich, one of the preeminent sites in the country, can be easily accessed through one of the tours offered around town. If you don’t like the idea of shelling out $100 for a tour, access the park by foot by catching a cab to Bunque, a neighboring small town, and taking the ferry across the river. From there, it’s a quick mile hike, and then you can enjoy the ruins for as long as your heart desires. This process should cost no more than $15 to $20 Belize dollars.
Belize has a varied terrain, which allows visitors the chance for a number of different experiences in just a few days. Venturing north toward to islands, you’ll find the Belize cayes. For a more traditional, beach-town vibe, San Pedro is the place to be. Tourists flock here for cave tubing, snorkeling and an endless number of restaurants. Beware, though, it’s filled with tourists and louder and more expensive than the neighboring island towns.
Caye Caulker, meanwhile, offers a more relaxed, serene beach experience. Here you’ll find fantastic day-long snorkeling tours—complete with sea turtles, nurse sharks and manatees—diving experiences, and other local tours at inexpensive rates. Locals and tourists frequent The Split, a wading area that sits at the channel of the island where the land split during a powerful 1980s hurricane. Here, you’ll find full plates of lobster of potatoes for less the $15, local women offering hair-braiding services, and some great reggae musicians. In the evenings, the island gets pretty quiet, as the I&I Reggae Hut is the only bar on the four-mile island that stays open past midnight, making it a lively scene for young adults.
By the way, Belizean cuisine doesn’t disappoint. The national beer, Belikin, tends to be the only one available at most establishments. A lighter lager, it goes well with seafood and rice and beans, staples in Belizean cuisine. Also popular: the famous Belizean potato salad, a sweet, rich medley of potatoes, salad cream and vegetables. While the cayes are the more expensive area of the country, most food is inexpensive and well worth every dollar.
Belize is rapidly becoming a hotspot for tourism. We recommend enjoying this incredible place before tourism explodes.