10 best places to visit in Belize

The best places to visit in Belize include gigantic Mayan structures, the largest living coral reef in the world, lush jungle, beautiful bounty beaches and Caribbean island life. We chose to travel to Belize because of its practical location between our travel destinations Guatemala and Mexico. But we immediately fell in love with this Caribbean country that combines the most picture-perfect beaches with beautiful jungles. A Belize trip should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list! What are the top things to do in Belize? This blog will tell you about the 10 best places to visit in Belize, hoping to inspire you to put Belize on your travel wishlist.

Coconut Row | Hopkins |

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.

Cahal Pech Belize | The Orange Backpack

The perfect itinerary for Belize

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.

Read more: the perfect Belize 2 week itinerary.

#1 Jungle paradise Punta Gorda. Start in Punta Gorda, the very south of Belize, which can be easily reached from Guatemala by boat from Livingston or by bus from Rio Dulce.

#2 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary Jaguar Reserve. Then make a stop at the very first jaguar reserve in the world where you can make beautiful, easy jungle hikes and swim under waterfalls.

#3 The bounty beaches of Hopkins. Visit the most beautiful beaches of Belize in the small coastal town of Hopkins, where you can book unforgettable snorkeling and diving excursions in the Great Belizean Reef and stay in idyllic beach cabanas.

#4 Island life on Caye Caulker (or Ambergris Caye). Relax on one of Belize’s ‘cayes’ (islands), where you will spend your days drinking cocktails, swimming in the sea and watching sunsets.

#5 San Ignacio and its Mayan cities. Book a jungle lodge near San Ignacio and explore the amazing jungle of Belize, the most beautiful Mayan cities and the famous ATM caves from there.

#6 Day trip to Tikal in Guatemala. Take a day trip to Central America’s most famous Mayan city or cross the border into Guatemala to continue your journey there.

Xunantunich Belize | The Orange Backpack

The 10 best places to visit in Belize

#1 The Belize Barrier Reef and The Great Blue Hole

Did you know that Belize has the largest living coral reef in the world? If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss in Belize, it’s a snorkeling or diving trip to the Great Belizean Reef. Snorkeling among sharks, rays and tropical fish is a wonderful experience and can be done in several places in Belize. Many travelers think of Caye Caulker or San Pedro on Ambergris for a snorkel or dive tour, but if you’re looking for a more tranquil experience without many other boats on the water, Hopkins is an even better place for a dive or snorkel tour. We chose to do both and went snorkeling on both Caye Caulker and Hopkins.

You can also book a dive tour to the famous Great Blue Hole from both Hopkins and Caye Caulker. This is a gigantic sinkhole off the coast of Belize with depths of more than 100 meters and with stalagmites, stalactites, coral, special fish and many sharks. Since it was named one of the five most beautiful dive sites in the world by Jacques Cousteau, The Blue Hole has been on many bucket lists. The stalagmites, the stalactites, the coral, the special fish and the many sharks make diving at the Great Blue Hole a unique experience. Want to know more about this unique sinkhole? Then check out this Discovery documentary!

Snorkelling | Hopkins |

#2 Island life on Caye Caulker

If you want to experience island life in Belize, you will quickly end up at Caye Caulker. The relaxed atmosphere, idyllic sunsets and beautiful marine life attract many tourists to the island. Caye Caulker’s motto is ‘go slow’, creating the perfect place to do absolutely nothing for a few days. Do you still like to do some activities? No worries, there is plenty to do as well.

Read more: where to stay at Caye Caulker and the best things to do on Caye Caulker.

We already mentioned the possibility to snorkel from Caye Caulker in the Great Belizean Reef or to dive at The Great Blue Hole. This is the most popular excursion offered on the island and one not to miss. Other activities on Caye Caulker include renting a golf cart to cruise around the island (there are no cars on the island), enjoying cocktails at happy hour, watching the sun go down every night, spotting seahorses and pelicans at Iguana Reef and seeing where the island was once split in two by a hurricane. 

#3 San Ignacio’s jungle lodges

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. Although the town itself is nice, travelers come to this destination in Belize for the unique places to stay outside of town, where you can spend your days at one of the unforgettable jungle lodges of San Ignacio.

Read more: the best jungle lodges of San Ignacio.

The jungle lodges and jungle resorts in the lush and green jungle environment of San Ignacio offer you the chance to spend some days in unique bungalows, cabins or boutique hotels in the middle of nowhere. The jungle lodges are usually surrounded by exotic gardens with an outdoor swimming pool and large forest areas with hiking trails and wildlife. From some accommodations, such as the popular Table Rock Jungle Lodge, you can even kayak through the jungle!

#4 Mayan city of Xunantunich

Xunantunich is one of the most beautiful Maya sites in Belize. The largest structure El Castillo is still the tallest building in all of Belize! The complex consists of several squares, surrounded by ancient Mayan structures.

Read more: visiting the Xunantunich Mayan ruins.

During your visit to Xunantunich, you will immediately notice that not the entire Maya city has been excavated. Part of Xunantunich consists of overgrown hills, covering even more ancient structures. This Maya site has more than just temples and religious sites, as there are many palaces and political structures as well. El Castillo for example, was not a temple, but a palace of the most important family. Also noteworthy and not to be missed are the signs carved out of stone on the side of El Castillo. We did not see this in any other Maya city in Central America! You can climb to the top of El Castillo for a beautiful view of Xunantunich and the jungle environment. You can also climb other buildings and temples. But because these are less high, the views from up there are a little less spectacular.

You can easily visit the Maya complex from San Ignacio, as it is located along the road from the city to the border with Guatemala. There are perhaps more impressive Mayan cities in Belize to visit, such as Lamanai and Caracol, but these are less easy to reach. Caracol is located deep in the jungle and you can visit it on a long day tour from San Ignacio. Lamanai is located in the north of Belize and can only be visited by making a detour to the otherwise uninteresting town Orange Walk.

Read more: best things to do in San Ignacio.

#5 Island life on Ambergris Caye

Besides backpacker’s favorite Caye Caulker, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye is also a popular island destination in Belize.

Technically, Ambergris is not an island, but a peninsula that runs into the Caribbean Sea from Mexico. But since you can’t get to Ambergris from Belize overland, we get why it is always referred to as an island. San Pedro is the largest (and only) town on Ambergris and it will be the place where you arrive on the island by ferry.

Ambergris is often called the Bali from Belize because of the trendy hotspots, tourist facilities and beautiful accommodations. Just like on Caye Caulker, the main activity on the island is snorkeling and diving, but you can also rent golf carts to cross the island, watch the most beautiful sunsets and enjoy delicious food at the many restaurants. Ambergris is also perfect for some lazy days at the hotel pool or at the beach.

For a Caribbean island, Ambergris actually has surprisingly few beaches (just like Caye Caulker, by the way). Secret Beach is the most beautiful and popular beach on Ambergris, although it is not very secret. It is a bit far from San Pedro and most resorts and hotels, so the best (and cheapest) way to get here is by renting a golf cart.

Belize Ambergris

#6 The bounty beaches of Hopkins

In the small fishing village of Hopkins in Belize, 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, but other great options are The Lodge at Jaguar Reef and Hopkins Bay Belize.

Read more: best beach resorts in Hopkins.

Hopkins Belize

#7 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary Jaguar Reserve

One of the best places to visit in Belize is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the very first jaguar reserve in the world. It is the perfect place to enjoy the lush green Belizean jungle. Between 40 and 60 jaguars live in the park and so do other big cats, making this a great place for travelers who love to spot wildlife. But chances are small to spot one, especially during the day. You could book a night tour with a park ranger to perhaps spot one of the Cockscomb jaguars.

Read more: hiking in Cockscomb Park.

A visit to Cockscomb is mainly 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.

Plane Wreck | Cockscomb Basin |

#8 The Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves

One of Belize’s most acclaimed landmarks is the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves you can visit from San Ignacio. This excursion is hailed as one of the most unique things to do in Belize and is certainly very different from most places you can visit in Central America. The ATM-tour takes you to an ancient Mayan cave, where human sacrifices were found.

Where a visit to Mayan ruins normally requires little physical effort, the ATM tour is a unique adventure. After a short but strenuous hike through the jungle you reach the entrance of the cave system. The system is largely flooded, so you will have to swim through the caves to get to the well-known cave that this tour is all about. In the caves, it is pitch dark and the only light comes from the headlamps of you, the guide and the rest of the group. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos during the tour.

Especially considering that the ATM cave is an ancient Mayan sacrificial site where many bones have been found and still lie, you’ll get that this is one of the most adventurous things to do in Belize. The tour is physically strenuous and you need to be reasonably fit to properly accomplish all the swimming and scrambling work to get to the main cave.

#9 Jungle paradise Punta Gorda

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.

As Punta Gorda is located far south of Belize, it is not a worn-out tourist destination. Punta Gorda is therefore a somewhat more undiscovered gem, where you can enjoy the jungle of Belize in peace. There is not much to do in Punta Gorda. It is a quiet village with local restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious meal. The town is perfect to find an ATM to get your first money for Belize, enjoy good local food, book a snorkeling tour and explore the jungle.

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.

Read more: bucketlist jungleresorts in Punta Gorda.

#10 Day trip to Tikal in Guatemala

San Ignacio is this close to the border with Guatemala that a day tour to this neighboring country is a logical choice if you are not already visiting Guatemala after Belize. 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. If you have enough time and energy, you can also stop at the lesser-known, but amazing Yaxha Mayan Ruins along the way for the most magical sunset from the top of an ancient pyramid.

As travel distances are long and you also have to cross the border between Belize and Guatemala, it is a pretty long day trip from San Ignacio though. We therefore chose to make this trip without a tour and stay in Guatemala for a few nights. We preferred this for a somewhat quieter travel pace. We first stayed two nights at the Yaxha Ruins, then one night at Tikal and eventually two nights at the Isla de Flores peninsula before traveling back to Belize.

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