Things to Do in Belize
Around 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) south of the shores of Ambergris Caye, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the most-visited snorkeling and diving area in Belize. Part of the Belize Barrier Reef, the reserve covers about 3 square miles (7.7 square kilometers) and is divided into zones according to marine habitat.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Stone Sepulchre) in the Cayo district of Belize is a popular excursion destination, just outside of San Ignacio. Visitors experience an Indiana Jones-type adventure where they wade through the cave’s tunnels and passageways lined with stalactites and stalagmites.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the natural landscapes, stunning waterfalls, indigenous wildlife and numerous bird species that make Belize’s Mayflower Bocawina National Park a Central American destination. Visitors to this tropical gem can navigate well-marked trails through dense forests in search of rare and colorful birds or take a dip in one of the swimming holes filled with clear blue waters from rushing falls. Mayflower Bocawina is also home to a handful of ancient Mayan ruins, including Mayflower Plaza and the Maintzunun temple mound, making it a perfect stop for history lovers.
The park offers plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors and travelers will find several well-kept camping areas throughout Mayflower. Those who prefer a touch of luxury over truly roughing it can find accommodation just beyond the park in Placencia, Hopkins and Dangriga.
Ruled by the motto,go slow, Belize’s Caye Caulker is a relaxed Caribbean island famous for its turquoise waters and manatee population—a lack of cars adds to the sense of tranquility. Explore the surrounding coral reefs by snorkeling or scuba diving, or just sip rum cocktails on its sun-soaked docks.
A yawning, 65-foot (20-meter) chasm in the heart of Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge, the Rio Frio Cave welcomes exploration with the largest cave mouth in the country. Light filters in from both ends, illuminating an underground river, limestone formations, and dripping stalactites.
Overlooking the beautiful Mopan River from a hilltop, the ruins at Xunantunich are some of the most visited Maya sites in the world. Located in the Cayo region, Xunantunich—which means “stone woman” in Mayan—dates back to the Classic Era, around 200–900. The complex comprises about 25 temples and palaces.
The Belize City cruise terminal connects the country’s Caribbean cayes with the mainland and the city’s urban center. Most visitors don’t linger here, but cruise ship passengers pass through on their way to inland attractions like Mayan ruins, and it’s also the main gateway for ferry traffic to islands like Ambergris Caye.
Part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley is home to a multitude of 6-foot (1.8-meter) nurse sharks and stingrays with 4-foot (1.2-meter) wingspans. Over the years, fishers went to the site to clean out their catch—eventually, nurse sharks and stingrays started gathering in search of the boats and their daily treats.
Recognized as one of the world’s top diving sites, and part of the Belize Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Site, this stunning, deep blue circular sinkhole is located on the Lighthouse Reef atoll. About 1,000 feet (305 meters) in diameter over 400 feet (122 meters) deep, the Great Blue Hole is a unique geographic phenomenon.
Located near the Guatemalan border, the ancient Maya city of Caracol is the largest archeological site in Belize. Discovered in 1938, Caracol covers about 65 square miles (168 square kilometers) and includes more than 35,000 structures, five plazas, and an abundance of jungle. Visit on a day trip for a unique look at Maya life.
More Things to Do in Belize
Altun Ha, site of the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, covers about 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) of Belizean countryside. The central area has more than 500 historic structures, mostly built during the Maya Classic era (AD 200 to 900). Join a private or group tour to learn how the city’s 10,000 inhabitants lived.
Meaning "submerged crocodile" in Yucatan Mayan, Lamanai is perhaps the most mysterious Maya site in Belize, because it is not yet completely uncovered. See history in the making as you visit the excavation site, where some temples still remain buried underground. Exposed structures that rise from the jungle floor offer plenty to explore.
Belize’s Blue Hole National Park (officially St Herman’s Blue Hole National Park) sits near the capital city of Belmopan and is home to two cave systems (Crystal and St. Herman’s), along with nature trails and the jungle pool that gives rise to the park’s official name.
The caves are the main attractions in the park, with the cave and hole connected by an underground stream. The Blue Hole pool was formed by an underground limestone cave that collapsed, creating the sapphire blue pool at the bottom of the cenote. Visitors also typically visit Crystal Cave, also called Mountain Cow Cave, which can be seen on a guided tours through the Mayan underworld known as Xibalba.
The park has a series of small trails, many of which are good for birding, as the forest canopy is low-lying. Birds spotted in the region include jacamars, blue-crowned motmots, scarlet-rumped tanager, nightingale wren and the long-tailed hermit hummingbird.
Established as a reserve in 1944, the 100,000-acre Mountain Pine Ridge is easily the most breathtaking scenery in all of the Cayo District, if not Belize. The Chiquibul Road will lead you through pine forests, waterfalls, cascading water pools over granite boulders and the Maya Mountains in the distance—it’s a sight to be seen.
Among all the Maya caves in Belize, Barton Creek Cave is unique: a tall river cave that was once used for sacrificial purposes and can be explored only by canoe. The most striking feature is a stalactite so low, you occasionally will have to duck into the canoe to avoid getting struck. But the ride to the end is well worth it.
About an hour outside of Belize City, Caves Branch Outpost has become the adventure capital of Belize. Perched on the Caves Branch River, the outpost offers a range of outdoor adventure activities, including cave tubing, kayaking, horseback riding, zip lining, rock climbing and rappelling.
One of the most popular and unique activities, cave tubing, sends visitors floating on inner tubes through ancient caves filled with stalagmites, stalagtites and other crystalline cave formations. This subterranean exploration is best combined with a bird’s-eye view; Caves Branch Outpost’s Zipride experience comprises a zip line course that zigzags above the tropical canopy
The Caves Branch Outpost also houses a cafe, gift shop and security lockers where guests can store their belongings while out on adventures.
Big Rock Falls is a large waterfall located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve that attracts a number of visitors who enjoy swimming and cliff jumping.
Part of the Vaca Plateau, the falls can be reached via a short, but somewhat difficult, 15-minute hike. The trek is pretty much straight down and includes a fairly steep section with a not so sturdy railing and a rope to hold on to and aid in the climb down. Once at the water level, you must walk over slippery, uneven slabs of granite rock. The deep emerald pools are perfect for swimming or cliff jumping, and the water is very deep so there is little risk of hitting the bottom when jumping in.
Getting to Big Rock Falls from San Ignacio can be an adventure in itself. The drive is approximately 13 miles over unpaved roads throughout Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve with scenic views.
In 1983 Richard Foster came to Belize to film a wildlife documentary. Over a dozen animals used in filming became partly tame by the time shooting wrapped, so Sharon Matola, the American biologist in charge of their care, decided to found the Belize Zoo to give them somewhere to call home.
Today, the Belize Zoo covers 29 acres (11.7 hectares) and is home to more than 150 animals representing 45 species native to the country. Many of the zoo’s residents are rescue animals who have been injured, orphaned or donated from other zoos, and the spacious enclosures make it feel more like a wildlife refuge than a typical zoo.
Among the Belize Zoo’s star tenants are the five species of wild cats native to Belize: jaguar, puma, margay, ocelot and jaguarundi. Other animals in residence include spider monkeys, manatees, scarlet macaws, toucans, tree frogs and boa constrictors. If a half-day visit to the zoo isn’t enough, wildlife-loving visitors can stay the night in the neighboring Belize Zoo Lodge, which has its own nature trails and birdwatching deck.
Half Moon Caye Natural Monument is located off the coast of Belize in the southeastern part of Lighthouse Reef Atoll and belongs to the Belize Barrier Reef. With the introduction of the National Parks System, the tiny island was classified as a natural monument and has since served as a bird sanctuary. The western part of the crescent shaped island is covered by dense coastal forest mainly made up of the orange-flowered Ziricote trees, which are the preferred nesting ground for many migratory birds, such as the red-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. The trees are also home to a number of green and black iguanas and the Belize leaf-toed gecko.
The eastern part of Half Moon Caye only sees sparse vegetation and the main attraction on that part of the island is the stunning beach dotted with coconut trees. Apart from spotting rare birds and enjoying the island paradise feeling, most visitors come here for the diving opportunities. Vibrant coral formations, sea turtles, morays, stingrays and marine life in all colors of the rainbow compete for attention and shallow as well as deeper dives along the Half Moon Caye Wall offer a wide range of opportunities for various different skill levels. They all are guaranteed to leave you with a wealth of photos and experiences.
The Community Baboon Sanctuary is dedicated to protecting and preserving Belize's black howler monkey population. The 18-square-mile (29-square-kilometer) reserve in the jungle contains about 1,500 monkeys, as well as anteaters, armadillos, iguanas, turtles, deer, and more than 200 different species of birds.
Sanctuary visitors, including tour groups and independent travelers, are given tours where guides identify the wildlife and vegetation, and explain the local culture. The on-site visitors' center and natural history museum also provide information about the environment, conservation efforts, and the monkeys themselves. Visitors can follow trails through the forest or take canoe rides on the river to spot black howler monkeys (locally called baboons) and other animals.
Things to Know Before You Go
The entrance fee includes a guided nature walk; most third-party tours cover the fee.
The sanctuary recommends bringing water, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Several tour options are offered, including a night hike, bird tour, and a river canoe tour.
Located just a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the town center of San Ignacio, Cahal Pech is a small but significant archaeological reserve that can be visited in a couple of hours. The site, which was settled around 1,000 BC and abandoned in AD 800, includes plazas, ball courts, an altar, and even a royal burial chamber.
The largest of three atolls in Belize and the Caribbean as a whole, the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve is known for offering some of the best diving in the country, thanks to deep walls filled with marine life. It is also believed to be the mythical location of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth as well as Peter Pan’s fictional island, Neverland.
San Jose Succotz is one of Belize’s small villages in the Cayo District, near the Guatemalan border. This peaceful village lies along the banks of the Mopan River and is best known as the home of the Xunantunich Maya site. El Castillo is the signature temple of Xunantunich, the second tallest structure in Belize. Most travelers visit San Jose Succotz to explore the ancient Maya site, but there is more to this rural Maya village than many people realize.
Belizeans are quick to point out that Succotz is also the home of its championship San Jose Succotz Marching Band. The village also hosts the popular annual Succotz Fair that showcases traditional Maya and Mestizo culture. San Jose Succotz is also home to a number of important medicinal plants utilized in the Maya culture. At least 64 species utilized in over 100 remedies have been identified in the area.
Travelers looking to say in the San Jose Succotz area will find several rustic lodging options, including a hostel with dorms and private rooms. Located within a short distance from San Jose Succotz is Chaa Creek, which has a Natural History Center and Butterfly Farm worth exploring.
Other popular sights further out from Succotz include Cahal Pech, San Ignacio and Santa Elena House of Culture, and San Ignacio Hotel’s Green Iguana Exhibit. The Cayo District is considered Belize’s cultural center, and there are countless natural and historical recreational activities easily accessible.
Crystal Cave, also known as Mountain Cow Cave, is located within the Blue Hole National Park near Belmopan, Belize’s capital city. To get to Crystal Cave, you may have to start with a moderately challenging, 50-minute hike through lush rain forest and steep terrain. Depending on your entrance point, you then descend by rope for 15 feet to drop into the mouth of the cave.
Ancient Mayans believed this to be the domain of their gods, earning it the name of Xibalba. Mayans said this is the portal between the tangible human world and the invisible world of the gods. Sacred rituals and important ceremonies were once performed here, and visitors today will see remnants such as ceremonial bowls, pots, and even skeletal remains from sacrificial victims.
Crystal Cave is also full of natural wonders including unique rock formations, massive stalagmites and crystal clusters, a major attraction. The calcite formations cover the floors, walls, and ceiling of Crystal Cave. Some tours include the opportunity to explore Crystal Cave in the water, as you can embark on a refreshing cave tubing journey as you meander along the waters of Xibalba and through an impressive Gothic chamber with hidden pottery dating back to 300 AD.
- Things to do in Belize City
- Things to do in San Ignacio
- Things to do in Ambergris Caye
- Things to do in Hopkins
- Things to do in Placencia
- Things to do in Punta Gorda
- Things to do in Dangriga
- Things to do in Honduras
- Things to do in Guatemala
- Things to do in The Cayes
- Things to do in Flores
- Things to do in San Pedro Sula
- Things to do in Petén
- Things to do in Central Highlands
- Things to do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan