Belize Travel and Tourism
As a travel and tourism destination, Belize embodies the ‘small packages sometimes contain big things’ saying. This minuscule country in Central America has the largest Mayan city, Caracol; the longest barrier reef running continuously in the Western hemisphere; and the highest population of the biggest new-world cat, the jaguar. Belize also has the most easily accessible and extensive cave system, that attract both experienced and amateur spelunkers alike, and also a practically unending supply of some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities in the world.
Depending on what you prefer, you can choose to put up in a tent on a desert island, a secluded nature lodge in the middle of the Mundo Maya, or a luxurious and intimate hotel. Or, if you feel like it, you could sample them all. The best part about a Belize vacation is that because of its compact size, you can sample a wide range of world-class experiences and places in a short period of time.
Once known as the British Honduras, Belize got its independence from Britain as recently as 1981, which makes it the second-youngest country in the Western Hemisphere. With no big cities, and having a population of just 280,000, it is also one of the most sparsely populated countries. It is bordered by the Honduras on the south, Guatemala on the west, the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico on the north, and the Caribbean Sea on the east.
A traveler to Belize will discover that it is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, along with having a charming mix of ethnic languages, such as Mayan; Mestizo, a Spanish-Indian language; Creole, an African-European language; Hispanic; Garifuna, an African-Indian language; Mennonite; Asian; Middle Eastern; and Anglo-European.
Tourism being one of the fastest developing segments of its economy, Belize offers a wide variety of attractions to people who choose to travel to this destination, from ecotourism to active adventures to sun ‘n’ fun beach vacations.
Belize Vacation Must Sees
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated in Northern Belize, this wildlife sanctuary is located in a swampy lowland where 250 species of birds make their home. It also serves as a sojourn for large numbers of migratory bird species. The largest bird in North and South America, the jabiru stork, which is an endangered species, also makes this sanctuary its main nesting site. Other wildlife can also be seen in this sanctuary such as howler monkeys, coatimundi, iguanas, and crocodiles. Crooked Tree can be best explored by taking a dugout canoe and paddling through the lagoon network.
Rio Bravo Conservation Area
Also in Northern Belize, this is a huge mixed tract consisting of virgin forest, areas where the forest is managed providing sustainable yield, along with areas that are recovering reforestation tracts. Nearly 200 tropical tree species and 400 species of birds exist in this area. This is also home to many of the new-world species of cats, and is one of the best places in North and South America to spot a jaguar. This area also has the La Milpa, one of the major Mayan ceremonial cities where excavations are ongoing.
The Cayes and Barrier Reef
As mentioned earlier, the Belize Barrier Reef, running along the country’s entire coastline, is the world’s second-longest barrier reef running continuously. Apart from some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling sites, the barrier reef is also lined with myriad cayes, or small islands, which are mostly uninhabited. These islands range in size from vacation destination islands that are fairly large, such as Ambergis Caye and Caye Caulker, to mangroves or patches of sand that are smaller than a football field. Whether you prefer the hustle and the bustle of the former, or the deserted island ambiance of a private or smaller caye, or a little of both, you have plenty of choices.
Arguably more magnificent than the barrier reef, along with its many cayes, are the three atolls that lie mid-ocean in Belize. Distinctive formations of reefs and small islands, which surround a saltwater lagoon in the middle of the ocean, atolls are a stunning, isolated, and unique phenomenon. There are three of them in Belize: Glover’s Reef, Lighthouse Reef, and Turneffe Island. Being sparsely developed, a visit to these atolls will be infused with a sense of isolation, adventure, and romance.
Caves of Belize
Another unique natural feature in Belize is the extensive cave network, which the ancient Mayans considered to be a mystical realm between the netherworld spirits of those who died and the world of the living. They named this mystical region Xibalba. In practically every cave that has been explored in Belize, discoveries have been made of Mayan use, such as ritual altars, burial mounds, campsites, and fire pits. Innumerable pottery pieces, along with large numbers of bones, skeletons, and artifacts have also been found. Being quite accessible, on your vacation to Belize, a trip to Xibalba should be on the top of your itinerary.
Some of the other must see tourism spots in Belize are the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve, in Southern Belize, and the Rio On Pools, located in Western Belize and Cayo District.
Belize Outdoor Recreation
Belize is a great tourism destination for the adventurous and active traveler. With the country being so compact, you can mix and match your itinerary; the quality of the local tour operators and adventures is very good; and the range of options available is wide. Whether you are interested in bird-watching, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, spelunking, sailing, snorkeling, or scuba diving, Belize offers some of the best opportunities and terrain.
With over 570 species of birds, both migrant and resident, making Belize their home, and a great variety of habitats and ecosystems, the country has an abundance of excellent sites for bird-watching. Lodges that offer the best bird-watching experience include the lodge situated at Big Falls, Toledo District; Pook’s Hill, outside Belmopan; Lighthouse Reef Resort situated on Lighthouse Reef Atoll; Blancaneaux Lodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge area; duPlooy’s, Chaa Creek, or any other nature lodge located outside San Ignacio; Chan Chich Lodge, close to Gallon Jug; and Lamanai Outpost Lodge, situated on the New River Lagoon.