The perfect itinerary for Belize combines the tropical beach on the coast with the lush green jungle inland. This small country in Central America, sandwiched between well-known destinations of Guatemala and Mexico, can be fully explored in only one to two weeks. You’ll go on hikes through the jungle, snorkel in the largest living coral reef in the world, drink cocktails on a bounty island, stay in bucket-list jungle lodges and swim under waterfalls. A Belize trip should definitely be on anyone’s bucket list! In this blog we’ll give you practical tips for your trip around Belize and we’ll give you the ultimate Belize 2-week itinerary.
Belize tips: things to know before traveling to Belize
Although Belize is sandwiched between popular destinations like Guatemala and Mexico, it’s a completely different country to prepare for.
Read more: things to know before traveling to Belize.
#1 Watch the dollars. Belize uses Belizean dollars, but you can also pay with dollars in most tourist places. So beware that the prices are often stated in US and not BZN dollars. So make sure to always pay close attention to which dollar is meant. This is often indicated on a restaurant menu or the prices are double, but make sure to pay extra attention when you discuss a price orally.
#2 Don’t forget the exit fee at the border. If you leave Belize, you have to pay an exit fee in cash at the border. During our trip that was 40 BZN dollars (so 20 USD). So don’t make the mistake of spending all your money and standing at the border empty-handed.
#3 Leave your Spanish dictionary at home. Are you coming to Central America to practice your Spanish? Then Belize may not be the best destination for you. In Belize, English is the official language, but many other languages are also spoken, such as African Creole, Old German, three Mayan languages and – yes also – Spanish.
#4 The best time to travel to Belize is November to April. High season runs pretty much in that period. In February, March and April the country is dry and warm. You may want to avoid August, September and October due to hurricane season. The months of June and July are part of the rainy season, but it will not rain very much in Belize then, so you might consider those months as well for your trip.
#5 Allow 1 to 2 weeks of travel time for Belize. Belize is not a big country, so you don’t need a month to fully explore the country. With 2 or even 1 week, you can visit the most important sights of Belize and enjoy relaxed days on the beach or at your jungle lodge. 1 week could be enough to visit many of the Belize highlights, but we think 2 weeks would be perfect if you want to plan in enough time to relax at the beaches or some of the unique places to stay in Belize.
How to travel around Belize
There are roughly two options for traveling around Belize: by public transport or by private rental car or taxi. A rental car or taxi in Belize is very expensive. The normal bus is fairly cheap, especially for the expensive standards in Belize, but it is also a very slow way to travel through Belize.
Belize is only a small country and has less than 400,000 inhabitants. As the country is very small, distances are small as well. This means that a car or taxi can take you from one travel destination to another in no time. But a car or taxi comes with a big price and you might want to spend your travel budget on other things. The only cheap means of transport is the local bus. These are rattling, old American school buses that travel across the country at an extremely slow pace. A fantastic local and authentic experience, but one that almost makes you forget how small Belize is.
The local bus can take you almost anywhere. From Punta Gorda in the far south, a bus service goes north on the main road and we also traveled all the way by local bus to the northern border with Mexico. Almost all buses eventually end up in Belize City as the end station. But the buses will probably only take you to the towns and villages of Belize. If you book one of the beautiful jungle lodges in Belize on those stunning remote locations, you will eventually have to walk or hitchhike or take a taxi.
Another mode of transport you’ll probably have to use is the ferry as you can’t visit Belize without enjoying the Caribbean island life on Caye Caulker of in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. You can get to these islands by ferry from Belize City or Mexico.
Combine Belize with Guatemala and/or Mexico
With a location sandwiched between Guatemala and Mexico, Belize is perfect to visit in combination with these two beautiful destinations. We traveled around Guatemala, Belize and Mexico in two months, but you can also combine Belize with Guatemala or Mexico with less travel time.
A combination of Belize with Guatemala makes a lot of sense to us. Any Guatemala itinerary will eventually make you travel from jungle paradise Rio Dulce to the Mayan city of Tikal in the north. Why not do that via Belize! From Rio Dulce you can easily travel to Punta Gorda in the south of Belize. After exploring Belize, you’ll cross the border to Guatemala again from San Ignacio which is quite close to Tikal. As far as we are concerned, the perfect itinerary for Guatemala will certainly bring you to Belize as well. Guatemala doesn’t have the tropical beach destinations Belize does, so Belize will make a wonderful addition to the Guatemala destinations.
A combination of Belize with Mexico is also easy to make. You can easily travel from Mexico by fast boat to the island destinations of Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye in Belize. That is pricey, but it will save you a lot of time. As far as we are concerned, the perfect itinerary for Mexico does not necessarily make you visit Belize, as Mexico already has beautiful beaches and jungles. A combination between Guatemala and Belize therefore makes more sense to us.
The perfect itinerary for Belize in two weeks
#1 Jungle Paradise Punta Gorda
Our trip of Belize starts in the very south of the country: in the coastal town of Punta Gorda. As Belize is often visited in combination with Guatemala, this is a handy starting point. You can take a boat taxi from Livingston in Guatemala or drive to Punta Gorda by rental car or bus from Rio Dulce.
Punta Gorda is worth a visit for its beautiful waterfalls, lush jungle and small Mayan temples, combined with the most beautiful accommodations in Belize. Add to that the fact that this part of Belize is not overrun by travelers and you understand that you’ll have a beautiful jungle experience in this area.
Read more: bucketlist jungleresorts in Punta Gorda.
Scattered through the jungle are not only beautiful waterfalls and some smaller Mayan cities and ruins, but also beautiful cottages and jungle resorts that make a destination in themselves. We stayed at Hickatee Cottages, a beautiful, small-scale ecolodge with comfortable cottages, a warm bath of friendliness and a fantastic jungle experience. It’s only a 15-minute bike ride from Punta Gorda – bikes can be borrowed for free – but you feel like you’re in a completely different world. Other bucket list accommodations at Punta Gorda include the luxury Copal Tree Lodge or the small-scale The Lodge at Big Falls.
#2 Jaguar Reserve Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Our next stop is Cockscomb Park, where you can make beautiful hikes through the jungle. The bus that runs north from Punta Gorda can drop you off near Cockscomb. But it is perhaps even easier to visit the park as a day trip from Hopkins, the next stop on this itinerary. You can then get there by taxi or on a tour.
Read more: hiking in Cockscomb Park.
Cockscomb is the very first jaguar reserve in the world and it is the perfect place to enjoy the lush green Belizean jungle. Between 40 and 60 jaguars live in the park, but chances are small to spot one. A visit to Cockscomb is therefore not about jaguar spotting, but about the beautiful jungle hikes. Cockscomb is one of the most accessible parks with multiple trails that you can do in just a few hours. Many visitors combine the trails and do at least two. All hikes are indicated on a map at the entrance, including length and degree of difficulty. We recommend the trails to the plane wreck and to the waterfalls where you can take a refreshing dip.
#3 Hopkins bounty beaches
Just around the corner from Cockscomb is the beach paradise of Hopkins. In the small fishing village of Hopkins, fishing is no longer the only activity. The beautiful Caribbean beaches and blue sea have attracted many travelers to Hopkins and tourism is now the main source of income at this bounty beach paradise. Hopkins has one of the best beaches in Belize – and maybe even the world. Yet the small town still has a relaxed atmosphere and is certainly not overrun by tourists. Hopkins turned out to be the perfect mix for us between relaxed beach days and special excursions at sea and in the jungle.
Read more: best things to do in Hopkins.
The highlights of Hopkins? The best thing about Hopkins is the picture-perfect Caribbean beach and relaxed atmosphere. Although there is not much to do, you can easily spend your days at Hopkins. Not only with lazing on the beautiful beach, but also with many unforgettable activities like ziplining in the jungle, snorkeling in the Great Belizean Reef and a bioluminescence tour at night. To fully enjoy the Hopkins beaches, book a stay at one of the amazing beach cabins on Hopkins beach as we did. We stayed at one of the beach cabanas of Coconut Row which we can highly recommend.
Read more: best beach resorts in Hopkins.
#4 Island life on Caye Caulker (or Ambergris Caye)
Continue your beach days by traveling to one of the famous islands of Belize, choosing between laid-back Caye Caulker or luxurious San Pedro / Ambergris. Head to Belize City first from Hopkins, where you can take the ferry boat that first stops at Caye Caulker and then at the town San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
How to choose between the islands? You’ll find a lot of opinions on the islands online, but we ultimately chose Caye Caulker because it is a bit more budget-friendly. Ambergris is known for its beautiful hotels and resorts, especially in the luxury segment. We also heard that Ambergris is a bigger and more touristy destination, while Caye Caulker is a much smaller island with a more relaxed backpacker vibe. To us, choosing between Caye Caulker and Ambergris is mainly about budget and about back-to-basic (Caye Caulker) versus luxury (Ambergris).
But for both islands the main activity is the same: you are supposed to relax and do absolutely nothing. You travel to the islands to enjoy the tropical island vibe, the magical sunsets and the beautiful sea life. But even if you want to plan some activities, you’ll have plenty to do as well. The most popular activity on both Ambergris and Caye Caulker is a snorkel or dive tour in the Great Belizean Reef or a scuba diving excursion at the bucket list spot among divers, The Great Blue Hole. Other activities include renting a golf cart to cruise around the island (there are no cars on the island), enjoying the cocktail happy hour and watching the sun go down each night.
Combination with Mexico: Caye Caulker and Ambergris are close to the Mexican border. If you combine your Belize itinerary with Mexico, we recommend that you first go to San Ignacio and Tikal (the next destinations in this blog) to conclude your Belize trip with the islands. You can then take the direct speed ferry from the islands to Mexico.
#5 San Ignacio and its Mayan cities
San Ignacio is one of Belize’s most beautiful destinations for its lush jungle environment with unique jungle lodges, spectacular Mayan temples and unforgettable excursions. No Belize itinerary is complete without spending a few days in the jungle paradise of San Ignacio.
Read more: best things to do in San Ignacio.
Although the town of San Ignacio is very cozy with a lovely square, many restaurants and shops, travelers mainly come here for the beautiful surroundings. From San Ignacio you visit the most beautiful Mayan temples in Belize. Along the road from San Ignacio to the border with Guatemala you can visit Xunantunich, whose great temple is still the tallest structure in Belize. Closer to the city are the ruins Cahal Pech, which are a lot smaller but also definitely worth a visit. Or how about the very remote ruins of Caracol deep in the Belizean jungle?
Another highlight of San Ignacio is the famous guided Actun Tunichil Muknal tour. This day trip is usually referred to as the ATM tour and takes you on an adventurous excursion to an ancient Mayan cave, where human sacrifices were discovered.
Read more: the best jungle lodges of San Ignacio.
#6 Day trip to Tikal in Guatemala
When combining Belize with Guatemala, this is your moment to cross the border to Guatemala and visit Isla de Flores and Tikal. But if you’re only visiting Belize or plan on continuing your trip to Mexico, we absolutely recommend you make a small trip from San Ignacio to Guatemala at this point in the itinerary. Visiting the famous Mayan city of Tikal is something not to miss, when you are this close. You can easily take a day tour to Tikal from San Ignacio, but you can also choose to stay one or more nights in Guatemala. We preferred this for a somewhat quieter travel pace.