Belize is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited, and I can’t recommend this destination enough. Whether you’re solo backpacking, traveling with family or on your honeymoon – Belize offers something for everyone!
I visited Belize during my five-month backpacking trip around Central America, and quickly fell in love with its gorgeous coastline, turquoise waters, and laidback Caribbean atmosphere. It’s truly a beach lover’s paradise. Belize is also home to the second largest reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef, and the snorkeling and diving here is absolutely world class.
But that’s not all this tiny country has to offer! Away from the coast, Belize’s interior is covered with lush jungles full of natural wonders, mysterious caves, ancient Mayan cities, and incredible wildlife sanctuaries. The food is amazing, too, and the people of Belize are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met.
In this guide, I’ll share my top travel tips for Belize!
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Caye Caulker is a tiny, laidback island where the motto is “Go Slow”. There’s not much to do here except relax, enjoy the sun and spend some time in the ocean, which is exactly why I love it so much!
The island is a short boat ride away from the Belize Barrier Reef, making it one of the best places in the country to book a snorkeling or diving tour. I can personally recommend Stressless Eco Friendly Tours. I went on their five-hour snorkeling tour and ended up seeing nurse sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and a large array of beautiful tropical fish.
If you prefer to relax and lounge in the sun all day, head to the Lazy Lizard. This popular beach bar is located at the Split, a channel dividing the island into two halves. It’s the place to be on Caye Caulker, and everyone comes here to chill out, go for a swim and have some drinks. The ocean views are amazing, too!
Located in the west of Belize, San Ignacio is a popular backpacker’s hub, as many travelers stop here on their way to Guatemala. It’s a great base for exploring the Mayan ruins of Caracol and Xunantunich, as well as the mysterious Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave, which is home to a Maya sacrificial site.
San Ignacio also offers an array of activities for adventure-seekers, who come here to hike through dense rainforests, swim in beautiful waterfalls, and canoe down the meandering Macal River. If you’re interested in experiencing local life, be sure to visit the San Ignacio Market, which is especially busy on Saturdays.
Placencia is a small beach town with a relaxed, Caribbean vibe. It’s located on the southern tip of the Placencia Peninsula, a long, thin stretch of land in the Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Belize. This is where you’ll find some of the best beaches in the country, and many travelers come here to wind down and relax for a couple of days. The crystal clear waters around Placencia also provide lots of opportunities for snorkeling, diving and sea kayaking.
Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye, is home to white sand beaches, beautiful resorts, and a lively nightlife scene. It’s very popular with luxury travelers and families, but backpackers usually prefer the smaller, more laidback island of Caye Caulker.
Hopkins is a quiet fisherman’s village located on the coast of mainland Belize. It’s known as the cultural center of the Garifuna, descendants of Carib Indians and West Africans who settled along the coast. They still maintain many of their cultural traditions, such as drumming and dancing.
Top 10 Things to do In Belize
1. Go snorkeling or diving
Belize is home to the second largest reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef, which makes it the perfect destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. You’ll find lots of snorkeling and diving tours on offer on the islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.
2. Take a tour of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave
One of the most exciting and unique things to do in Belize is go on a tour of the ATM Cave. This dark, spooky cave is home to an ancient Maya archaeological site containing the skeletal remains of human sacrifice victims. An organized tour costs around 100-120 US dollars, but it’s definitely worth the price tag!
3. Visit a wildlife sanctuary
Belize is full of incredible wildlife sanctuaries. Here you can spot a large array of beautiful wild animals in their natural habitat, including tropical birds, howler monkeys, crocodiles and – if you’re very, very lucky – even a jaguar.
4. Explore the Mayan ruins of Caracol
Caracol is the largest and most impressive Mayan site in the country. Its ruins are located deep in the jungle of mainland Belize, giving them a wild and ancient feel. Be sure to climb the highest pyramid for some epic views of the landscape!
5. Relax on a tropical beach
With its long stretch of tropical coastline, Belize is home to countless white sand beaches. For the best beaches in the country, head to Placencia or Hopkins. You can also take a boat tour to one of Belize’s many tiny islands, which are called ‘cayes’.
6. Go hiking in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
This beautiful, unspoiled nature reserve offers hiking opportunities for every level of fitness. Here you’ll find vast pine forests, steep mountains, meandering streams and gorgeous waterfalls. Don’t forget to bring your swimwear!
7. Stay in an eco-friendly jungle lodge
Belize is well-known for its many ‘eco-lodges’, ranging from luxury jungle resorts to simple, budget friendly hostels. If you’ve always wanted to spend a night in your own private cabin while falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest, here’s your chance.
8. Visit St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park
Located in the heart of Belize’s rainforest, this national park is home to St. Herman’s Cave, a large cave with giant stalactite and stalagmite formations. The park also contains several hiking trails through the jungle and a swimming hole called the Inland Blue Hole, where you can cool off after your hike.
9. Experience Garifuna culture
The Garifuna are descendants of Carib Indians and West Africans who escaped Spanish slave ships. They settled along the coast of Belize. The best place to experience Garifuna culture is the tiny fisherman’s village of Hopkins, where you can take drumming or dancing lessons, or sample some traditional Garifuna dishes.
10. Go sea kayaking
With its clear blue waters, shallow lagoons, and abundance of marine life, Belize is one of the best destinations in Central America for sea kayaking. I recommend booking a kayaking tour in Hopkins or Placencia.
Belize Travel Information
The capital of Belize is Belmopan. Not Belize City as many people assume.
The currency in Belize is the Belize Dollar (BZD)
The dialing code of Belize is +501
The water may not be safe to drink from the tap in most places in Belize, however, you will find filtered water in most places to fill up your water bottle.
Belize Budget Per Day
Backpackers Budget – $110 BZD ($55USD)
Accommodation: $15 USD
Food: $15 USD
Activities & Transport: $25 USD
Mid Budget – $280 BZD ($140 USD)
Accommodation: $40 USD
Food: $30 USD
Activities & Transport: $70 USD
Luxury Budget – $700 BZD ($350 USD)
Accommodation: $140 USD
Food: $60 USD
Activities & Transport: $150 USD
Food in Belize
The food in Belize is influenced by many different cultures, which makes it an interesting melting pot! It’s mostly a blend of Mayan, British, Spanish and African cuisines. Many traditional Belizean dishes contain meat or fish, but you’ll be able to find enough vegetarian options here, as well.
These are the most popular dishes in Belize:
- Tamales: dating all the way back to the Mayan era, tamales are cornmeal rolls wrapped in plantain or banana leaves. They’re usually filled with chicken or pork.
- Ceviche: fresh seafood marinated in lime juice with onions and garlic, as well as some other ingredients. It’s my favorite dish in Belize!
- Stew Chicken: a mix of tender chicken and spices, this dish is usually served with rice and beans.
- Conchita Pibil: another classic Mayan dish, conchita pibil consists of marinated, slow-roasted pork and vegetables stuffed inside a soft tortilla.
- Garnaches and Salbutes: fried tortillas topped with a variety of fresh ingredients, such as beans, onion, lettuce, cheese and (sometimes) chicken. They’re a popular snack in Belize.
- Lobster: fresh lobster can be found almost everywhere on Caye Caulker, at very reasonable prices.
Belize Money Saving Tips
Belize isn’t exactly known as a budget-friendly destination, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to save money! Here are my tips to cut down on your travel costs in Belize:
- Use public transportation instead of renting a car or taking shuttles. Gas is expensive here, but the local buses are very cheap.
- Avoid high end resorts and hotels. Stay in a hostel, guesthouse, low-budget jungle lodge or beach cabana instead.
- Eat street food. Restaurants are expensive here, but thankfully, there are many street food stands in Belize offering delicious local food at very low prices!
- Travel during the rainy season (between May and December). Flights and accommodation will be much cheaper during this time. Be aware, though, that some hotels and resorts close down in the rainy season.
- Pick a few activities to splurge on! Belize offers a wide range of amazing activities, such as snorkeling in the Barrier Reef, visiting the ATM Cave, and exploring Mayan ruins. Don’t be afraid to splurge on one or two organized tours to make the most out of your trip to Belize.
Belize Packing Advice
Belize has a subtropical climate which means it can get very hot and humid there, especially on the mainland. I would suggest packing outfits that are casual and comfortable, like summer dresses, shorts and tank tops. If you’re visiting a beach destination, you should also bring swimwear, sandals or flip-flops, a beach towel, sunglasses with UV protection and sunscreen, preferably one that is reef-friendly.
Are you planning on doing some hiking? Don’t forget to bring comfortable clothes and shoes that are well-suited for the jungle. My suggestion would be to bring a pair of trail runners instead of hiking shoes, because they’re lightweight and more suitable for tropical climates. I also recommend bringing a light rain jacket or poncho in case you get caught in a downpour.
Last but not least, you should absolutely bring mosquito repellent! Due to Belize’s humid climate, the country unfortunately has mosquitos year-round.
Or you can just skip ahead and download my free packing list using the form below.
Where to Stay in Belize
As a popular tourist destination, Belize offers a wide range of accommodation options, from low budget hostels to high-end beach resorts. No matter what your budget is, I’m sure you’ll find a place you like!
These are the most popular types of accommodation in Belize:
Beach resorts: if you’re looking for a little luxury, Belize has plenty of resorts to choose from. Most of them can be found on Ambergris Caye and the Placencia Peninsula.
Beach cabanas: a great way to spend a couple of nights near the ocean! Beach cabanas are usually very simple and rustic, but they’re much cheaper than luxury resorts.
Hotels and guesthouses: you won’t find many chain hotels in Belize, but the country is full of small hotels and guesthouses. Sometimes breakfast is included.
Hostels: affordable hostels can be found in every tourist hub, including Caye Caulker, San Ignacio and Placencia.
Eco-lodges: the best way to experience the rainforest is to spend a night or two in an eco-friendly jungle lodge. They range from upscale resorts with air-conditioned rooms to rustic jungle cabins.
Traveling in Belize
There are several ways to travel in Belize. The choice you make will depend mostly on your budget and your need for comfort.
If you don’t want to spend too much money (and don’t mind squeezing into a tiny seat), I would recommend using local transportation. Belize has two types of buses: direct buses, which travel quickly between destinations, and chicken buses. The chicken buses are much slower, but they’re also dirt cheap, and they give you an interesting glimpse into local life.
I found the buses to be perfectly safe, even for solo female travelers. Be careful when you use the bus at night, however. Theft is very common on night buses, so I suggest paying close attention to your belongings.
If you’re a traveler who prefers to have a little bit more comfort, you could also take a taxi or shuttle. You can ask the reception at your hotel or hostel for recommendations. Licensed taxis can also be found at airport, bus and ferry terminals.
Alternatively, you could also rent a car, but keep in mind gas is expensive here. Road conditions aren’t the best in Belize, either. Watch out for potholes and avoid driving at night.
To get to the islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, you can either take the ferry or travel by air. There are two main ferry companies: San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi and Ocean Ferry Belize. Tickets can be bought online or at the ferry terminal. Flights are more expensive but provide a much quicker way of traveling.
If you are planning some long bus journeys then take a read of this guide to surviving long bus journeys!
Belize Safety Advice
Belize is one of the safest countries in Central America. Although I was traveling alone, I never felt unsafe there! Besides, the national language of Belize is English and its people are very warm and friendly, so you can always approach someone if you happen to run into trouble or need assistance.
That said, I still recommend taking precautions and keeping your guard up, especially when you’re traveling solo. Here are my tips to stay safe in Belize:
- Try to avoid isolated areas at night, like the jungle, deserted beaches or empty streets.
- Never leave your valuables on the beach while you go swimming, but leave them at your hostel or hotel, or ask another traveler to watch over them.
- If you can, avoid taking night buses, because theft is very common. Take an authorized taxi instead, or even better: travel during the day.
- Though Belize in general is very safe, some parts of Belize City are a bit sketchy, so I highly recommend sticking to the touristy areas there. Or you could skip Belize City altogether, which is what I did! There’s not that much to see and do there, anyway.
The Best Time To Visit Belize
Like most countries with a subtropical climate, Belize has two seasons: a dry season (from December to May) and a rainy season (from June to November).
The best time to visit Belize is during dry season, especially from mid-February until mid-April when the chance of rain is extremely low. This is also the busiest and most expensive time of year, however! If you don’t mind a bit of rain, you could also travel during shoulder season (May, November or early December), when the rainy season isn’t in full swing.
During rainy season, hotels and excursions will be much cheaper, but you’ll also have to deal with frequent showers, strong winds and potential hurricanes. Some restaurants and hotels also close during this time.
Marieke is a freelance writer and founder of travel blog Echoes from Elsewhere, where she shares stories from her adventures around the world, in-depth destination guides and advice for solo female travelers. She prefers to travel alone and independently – she just straps on her backpack and sees where the road takes her! Besides travel, her favorite things are coffee, fantasy novels, cats and dogs (who says you can’t love both?) and tropical beaches.