Top Things to See & Do In Belize
Although Belize is a small country, it is packed full of exciting adventure destinations. Visitors can swim across a pool to enter the ATM Cave where ancient Maya priests once performed human sacrifices, explore the ruins of Cahal Pech, once home to an elite royal Maya family more than a thousand years ago, rappel more than 300 feet down the infamous "Back Hole Drop", ride an inner tube down the Caves Branch river while passing through the remnants of the Maya underworld, zip line through the jungle canopy, enjoy some of the best fishing anywhere in the world, snorkel in crystal clear water, and enjoy bird watching in a land that more than 500 species of birds call home.
This 30 Must Do list is the ultimate in Belize Tours. It is the definitive list for every adventure seeker looking for a thrill ride in Belize or to simply get out and see a little bit more of our country in an intrepid fashion.
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Best Things To Do in Belize
The ATM Tour (Actun Tunichil Muknal) can best be described as an “Indiana Jones” type experience and visitors have the opportunity to view impressive stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave along with Maya pottery that have been undisturbed for hundreds of years. Your guide will reveal ancient passage ways and will share stories of Maya Gods and evidence of a Mayan princess burial scene.
One of the largest river caves in Belize, Barton Creek Cave consists of giant passages covered with numerous large speleothems over a navigable river and these features of the cave have made it a popular cave tour in the Cayo District.
Cahal Pech means “place of ticks” in modern-day Maya, and refers to the fact that the surrounding area was once used as pasture land. However, this was the royal acropolis-palace of an elite Mayan ruling family who lived here during the Classic period. Cahal Pech was settled around 1000 BC and abandoned by 800 AD.
Caracol Maya Ruins is located in the Cayo District, deep in the jungles of the Chiquibul Reserve and the tour includes a visit to the on site museum that hosts the ancient artifacts narrating the story of Caracol in it’s era.
Cave tubing is one of the top tours to do on a Belize vacation. The Caves Branch tour will take you through the majestic Maya underworld where you will discover stunning stalactites and stalagmites formations, astonishing crystal curtains, fire pits, Maya ceremonial pottery, wall carvings, glyph writings and even skeletal remains of sacrificial victims.
The edge of the Actun Lock Tunich sink hole is over 300 feet above the basin below and 200 feet above the rainforest. This tour begins with a hike into the foothills of the Maya Mountain and at the end of the hike; you prepare to descend for over 200 feet.
The Zip lining is in close proximity to the Caves Branch Park, it therefore allows you to enjoy two different tours in one day. You can do Cave tubing and Zip lining at this location. Zip lining is an exhilarating experience and has become a popular attraction.
The El Pilar Archeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna is a legally declared cultural monument in both Belize and Guatemala. The Reserve is emcompasses 5,000 acres, half in Guatemala in the Peten Department and half in Belize in the Cayo District. The Belize portion of the Reserve is managed by the Belize Institute of Archaeology and the Guatemalan portion is managed by the Instituto de Antroplogia a Historia.
Horseback ride on open farmlands or lush jungle trails and enjoy picturesque views of the the surrounding countryside. You will also see marvellous Belizean wildlife in its natural habitat. If you love horseback riding then this is a must do tour for you!
TheMountain Pine Ridge Nature Reserve is the oldest of Belize’s natural parks and encompasses a spectacular range of rolling hills, peaks, and gorges formed from some of the oldest rocks in Central America.
The Reserve is comprised of 300 square miles of unpaved roads and nature trails. The top attractions in the area are Rio on Pools, Big Rock Waterfalls, Rio Frio Cave and the one thousand foot fall.
Big Rock Falls is one of the most beautiful and wonderful waterfalls in the Mountain Pine Ridge. An easy climb over the granite boulders along the banks of the Privassion brings you to the base of the waterfall. The tremendous view of water rushing over the huge 150-ft rock formations and plummeting into the deep perfectly round pool at its base provides a rush of excitement. About ten to fifteen minutes later, the Privassion River comes into view and the sound of Big Rock Falls echoes through the valley.
Rio on Pools is a continuous series of pools formed by large granite boulders that interconnect by small waterfalls making it perfect for a refreshing swim on a hot day. This enchanting waterfall has been rated as a popular waterfall to visit in Belize.
Many travelers who visit Caracol Maya Temples in the Chiquibul Nature Reserve stop at this spectacular waterfall for a swim.
The thousand foot fall is the highest of all the waterfalls in Belize and Central America. This fall is 1600 ft tall and falls over a steep cliff where it is submerged into densely forested depths. It is a grand waterfall and an attraction worth seeing. If you are the adventurous type you can hike down the mountainside and end such challenge with a cool and refreshing swim on the deep pool at the base of the waterfall.
The Rio Frio Cave is one of the most remarkable attractions in the Mountain Pine Ridge Nature Reserve.
Everything is gigantic in this cave! When you enter, you will see huge stalactites hanging from the massive cathedral-like vault which was part of a cave system that the Maya used to bury their dead.
Room size boulders are strewn throughout the cave and a stream flows through forming pools with cascading falls.Canoeing on the Macal River
Leaving Cahal Pech Village Resort we will drive up the Western highway passing farms and orange orchards before reaching the Macal river. Paddling slowly downstream, our knowledgable guide will point out the different flora and fauna, birds and other wildlife along the way, including 3 foot Iguanas perched high above the jungle canopy. Canoe through peaceful rock canyons and just relax and take in picturesque beauty of the river bank.
Even though Tikal is in Guatemala it is still a tour that many travelers do from Belize.
Tikal is a place for wondering, not only at the engineering accomplishments of the Maya, but at the jungle of the Peten region in Guatemala. Tikal site is a national park where the local still practice dancing and other cultural activities handed down threw the generations.
Xunantunich was the first Maya ruin to be opened for visitors in 1950, because of its proximity to San Ignacio. Extensive archeological work has been carried out at the site providing a wealth of historical information about the Mayas.
The Belize Zoo was initially intended for animals which were injured or donated to the facility and could not be returned to the wild. The zoo is now home to an impressive array of large cats, primates, reptiles and birds. You'll have the opportunity to view Belize's prolific wildlife in one location.
Scuba Diving in Belize
Sailing in Belize
Snorkeling in Belize
Even if you’ve never snorkeled before, our knowledgeable local guides will help you explore the kaleidoscope of colors found in hard and soft corals, sponges, and over 500 species of fish and marine life.There are hundreds of snorkeling sites of varying depths along the Belize Barrier Reef. Every snorkel spot is a little different from the other and if you go back to the same spot, each time you will see something different.From schools of fish, to turtles, to the occasional barracuda, there’s a lot going on underwater. Check for yourself; you won’t be disappointed.
Kayaking in Belize
Look down on the clear waters to see the reefs, fish, rays and sea turtles. Overhead there are migratory birds and sunshine for days. By the way, pack some sun screen.
Coastal and island resorts offer kayaks for short excursions up the beach and around the islands while professional kayak outfitters offer multiday packages that operate from a single base camp. Or you can do an island hopping tour. Either way, when the water calls, we have the answer.
Hiking in Belize
As intimidating as some of our trails may look on a map, don’t worry. Most are designed in loops so you easily return to your starting point. Some trails are self-guided, some require the expertise of a licensed tour guide who can point out birds, wildlife and local plants.
Whatever level of hiker you consider yourself, we have the trail to match what you’re looking for. Take a day tour or spend several days camping—either one provides you with the chance to encounter exotic tropical plants and birds, or to see wildlife, including howler monkeys, crocodile, or the tracks of the elusive jaguar and tapir (just hope they’re only the tracks).
Fishing in Belize
From spin, to fly, to trolling, our abundance of game fish guarantees excellent sport fishing all year round. And since many rivers empty into the Caribbean Sea, you’re practically guaranteed a daily catch. Not to mention the fact that our guides have no problem sharing their own “secret” spots with guests.
Explore Turneffe Atoll, which provides you with some of the most desired areas in the world for fly fishing. Bonefish, permit and tarpon are everywhere here. In fact, Belize is one of few places where you can fish a Grand Slam—bonefish, permit and tarpon all in the same day. How many times do you get to win a Grand Slam on a vacation?
Although some are just strips of uninhabited sandy coral, Belize has more than 400 offshore islands situated throughout the length of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Larger islands like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker have a full range of amenities, including gourmet restaurants, cafes, resorts, and entertainment venues. Technically not an island, the Placencia Peninsula in Belize's southwest features 16 miles of golden sands on the Caribbean.
Thousands of years ago, the island now known as Ambergris Caye was also a peninsula. The ancient Maya dug a channel, separating Ambergris Caye from what is now the Mexican State of Quintana Roo (where the popular resorts in Cancun are located). Although San Pedro, the colorful capital of Ambergris Caye, was featured in the hit 1986 Madonna song "La Isla Bonita", the town has successfully preserved its old-world charm. With few cars on the island, residents and visitors alike get around on bicycles and golf carts, visiting the dozens of shops, cafes, gourmet restaurants, and pizza joints in between roaming the many beaches, bird watching, and enjoying fine living in one of the many luxury hotels and resorts on the island.
Just south of Ambergris Caye is the island of Caye Caulker, a popular jumping off point for scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and sailing excursions along the Belize Barrier Reef. About an hour away from the mainland by water taxi, Caye Caulker still retains much of its laid back charm from the days when it was frequented by backpackers and fishermen.
Domestic carriers Tropic Air and Maya Island Air have air connections to Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula, making it easy to hop between them and any destination on the mainland. The islands can be reached by private water taxi while Placencia has convenient ground connections to the rest of the country, situated at the terminals of several major roadways.
The Placencia Peninsula is becoming an increasingly popular destination, but still gives visitors the opportunity to experience local culture. Villages like Hopkins and Seine Bight, and the town of Dangriga, are home to the Garifuna culture, a unique blend of African and indigenous Caribbean musical, linguistic, culinary, and dance traditions. Placencia is also a great jumping off point to popular snorkeling and scuba diving destinations on the Belize Barrier Reef as well as top mainland attractions like the enormous Cockscomb Basin Nature Preserve, the world's only dedicated jaguar reserve.
Visit the Belize Museum
Serving for centuries as the colony's principal prison in what was then the capital, the large brick structure off of Queen Street in downtown Belize City was converted to the Belize Museum in 1993. Featuring exhibits documenting the full spectrum of the country's history, visitors can see artifacts from the long millennia of Maya rule, items from the early days when Belize was a pirate haven, cats o' nine tails and chain balls from colonial times when the building was a prison, and special displays about the distinct cultures and peoples in modern Belize.
The Belize Museum also showcases many of the country's modern heroes, including Philip Goldson, a distinguished parliamentarian and journalist whose name now graces the international airport in Belize City and labor leader Antonio Soberanis. Visitors to the Belize Museum can see several of the original cells and the remains of a wood-fired oven that originally produced some of the best bread in the country.
The museum is located adjacent to the Central Bank in the Fort George area of downtown Belize City. Admission prices are $10 BZD, and the museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Tuesday through Thursday and 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.
Measuring more than 150 square miles (400 square kilometers) in size, the Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve is a vast trackless wilderness. A protected natural area, the reserve is home to the world's only full-time jaguar preservation team, a collection of scientists dedicated to studying and protecting the jaguar and four other native big cat species.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary has a varied landscape, including rivers, mountain slopes, jungle, and wetlands, ranging from the Maya Mountains in the west to the Caribbean Sea in the east. Located in Belize's Stann Creek District, the reserve is home to broadleaf forests, mahogany, and cedar trees as well as peccaries, tapirs (Belize's national animal), coatimundis, otters, and more than 300 species of birds.
The entrance fee to the reserve is $10 with an additional fee of $5 per person for visitors wishing to camp, $20 per person for lodging at the onsite dormitory, or around $50 for lodging at one of the site's cabins. Food and drink is not sold within the boundaries of the reserve.
No tour of Belize would be complete without a chance to stroll along the more than 180 miles of beaches found in the country. The perfect setting for a hammock strung between two trees, working on your tan, swimming in the sparking azure water, or simply sitting back and admiring the view, beaches in Belize range from golden to sugar white sand. Some of the most popular beaches can be found on the Placencia Peninsula, the islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, and the village of Hopkins.
Thanks to the breakwater action of the Belize Barrier Reef, almost all of the beaches in the country are safe for swimming, with a minimum of rip tides and undertows. World-class fishing and sailing abounds once you cross over the reef, heading for deeper water some 50 miles off shore.
In Belize, the islands are referred to as cayes (pronounced "keys"). Belize is also the only country outside of the Atlantic to have coral atolls, ideal places to enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving.
Experience Garifuna Culture in Belize
Formed several centuries ago when imported African slaves intermarried with indigenous Caribbean islanders, the Garifuna are one of the most iconic cultures in Belize. Recognized by the United Nations in 2001, the Garifuna language, dance, and music is a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.
Far from the maddening crowds of casual visitors, small villages like Seine Bight and Hopkins as well as towns like Dangriga are home to the Garifuna people who still maintain their traditional lifestyles. Dangriga is known as the cultural capital of Belize, a thriving coastal town where local Garifuna musicians invented the indigenous musical genre of punta and punta rock. Every November 19, Belize celebrates Garifuna Settlement Day to commemorate the arrival of the Garifuna on the shores of Belize more than 200 years ago, entertaining locals and visitors alike with a dawn re-enactment featuring dugout canoes, parades, musical demonstrations, and plenty of traditional Garifuna foods.
Located a few miles away, the idyllic fishing village of Hopkins is still a relaxed, family-friendly town where visitors can see and hear Garifuna music or partake in Garifuna drumming workshops, learn to cook Garifuna dishes, and learn from talented local artists and craftsmen. Several charming resorts and hotels have been built near Hopkins, giving visitors an excellent way to enjoy an authentic experience in Belize.
Although initially similar in appearance to the country's majority Creole population, the Gariganu (the plural of Garifuna) remain a distinct ethnic group with their own language. Many Garifuna settled in nearby Honduras, explaining why many of today's Garifuna in Belize have Latino surnames.
Another traditional Garifuna village in Belize is Seine Bight. Located on the Placencia Peninsula, Seine Bight has a population of approximately 750 people living in a beautiful natural setting on the Caribbean coast.
If you aren't sure what to do in Belize, Cahal Pech has a wide range of exciting tours and adventures. Whether you want to relax and enjoy the tranquility of cave tubing or exploring the underground passages of Barton Creek Cave or see beautifully-preserved ancient Maya sites like El Pilar, Caracol, and Cahal Pech, there's something for everyone in Belize. Cahal Pech allows guests to mix and match the destinations of their choice, crafting the perfect one-day or multi-day itinerary to suit their needs, activity level, and budget.
"A friend of ours had vacationed in Belize last year, and this year I decided that we'd enjoy a fun family vacation in Belize. After browsing what seemed to be hundreds of sites of fun things to do in Belize, I signed us up for one of Cahal Pech's comprehensive tours. Wow! I wasn't sure what fun Belize things to do would be right for the while family, but we had a blast sailing through the caves of Barton Creek Cave, touring the old Maya site of Cahal Pech that for some reason was called "Home of the Ticks", and zip lining through the jungle treetops. My two sons and husband got to try the more adventurous stuff like rappelling down the Black Hole and going into the ATM Cave. Leaving the boys to their fun, I took the young ones to Caracol where I took what seems like a million gorgeous photos. We also got to see a beautiful waterfall where we had a scrumptious picnic lunch. Definitely recommend these tours as a great way to see the country, and now we are all counting down to next year when we get to come back. My kids are already planning on what we'll do next on our next vacation in Belize!"
-Rosie Johnson, Helena, Montana