Top 10 Things to Do in Belize
Central America conjures up images of rainforest, exotic wildlife and white-sand beaches and Belize offers all of this and more, but without the crowds. With a small population of 360,000, this undiscovered destination is renowned for its natural diversity, adventure, heritage and food. Whether it’s zip-lining through the jungle at night, to scaling Mayan ruins or scuba diving on the world’s second largest barrier reef, why not try these top 10 experiences to have in Belize.
- Stand-up Paddle Boarding in a UNESCO Protected Lagoon
Try out this year’s hottest trend – stand-up paddle boarding in Belize’s Glover’s Reef Atoll, a 32km long reef. The Caribbean Sea offers perfect conditions for stand-up paddle boarding with its clear, calm waters, ideal for skimming over coral reefs and watching marine life dart around under-foot. Navigate around the tropical islands of this UNESCO protected lagoon area of the Belizean National Marine Reserves, which has some of the most diverse tropical sea life and reef ecology in the Caribbean.
Island Expeditions has a seven-night jungle and tropical island tour costing from $1,739 per person. This price includes seven nights’ accommodation with daily activity choices, including stand-up paddle boarding. For more information, visit www.gloversreef.travel
- Explore the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave System
Popularly known as ATM, this cave system and Maya archaeological site was used by the Mayans for sacrificial ceremonies and is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve in the Cayo District. The main cave system is almost 5km long and consists of long river passages and prehistoric channels, leading to a giant sink hole collapse in the jungle created when the Jurassic asteroid hit the earth. Take a guided tour through the site and discover a large number of artefacts, including skeletons from possible sacrifice victims estimated to be more than 1,000 years old, as well as ancient ceramics and stoneware.
MayaWalk Tours offers and eight hour guided tour of the ATM caves and costs from $95 per person. A moderate level of fitness is required and involves some swimming. For more information, visit www.mayawalk.com/belize-atm-cave-tour
- Five Mile Jungle zip-lining by night
For those with an adventurous streak, try gliding through the pristine jungle canopy on Central America’s longest zip lining course in the Mayflower Bocawina National Forest. With the course covering 2.5 miles and the longest cable stretching up to 2,300 feet, guests can experience the excitement of zip-lining both by day or by night. By day, local Mayan guides will point out some of the 200 different species of birds found in the area; while by night, hear the jungle come alive with the nocturnal wildlife as thrill-seekers make their way through the 12 different platforms perched in the dense jungle.
Bocawina Adventures offers a two hour guided zip lining tour from $65 per person, based on two people. For more information, visit www.bocawinaadventures.com
- Stay on a private island
Staying on a private island for most people is completely out of reach, but not in Belize. Bird Island delivers visitors that remote desert island feeling and is the perfect getaway for guests to kick-back and relax. The private island is situated on an atoll so guests can snorkel and kayak over the multi-coloured coral or take out a fishing boat and attempt to catch their next meal. Islanders will have to stock up on supplies before arriving as they will have the island completely to themselves, but will be supplied drinking water via the filtered-rain water system.
Six guests booking for four nights in November 2019 costs £4,432 (£185 per person, per night). For more information, visit www.airbnb.co.uk
- Visit the world’s first Jaguar Reserve
Founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the Jaguar, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is regarded as one of the world’s premier Jaguar preservation sites. Located in south-central Belize, the reserve spans over 128,000 acres of rainforest and makes Belize the most jaguar-populated country in the world. To get a glimpse of a jaguar, puma, ocelot, tapir and some of the 300 different species of birds that call Cockscomb home, take a guided tour of the sanctuary with Hamanasi Adventure.
A full day tour of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve with Hamanasi Adventure costs from $75 per person. For more information, visit www.hamanasi.com
- Lobster lover’s heaven
Held annually in June, the Placencia Lobster Festival is a three-day event that encompasses Belize’s culturally inspired foods, performances and a chance to meet the friendly locals. Aside from the enticing aroma of sizzling lobsters, arguably the main attraction of the festival is the fishing competition where local anglers will compete to find the largest lobster and most lionfish caught – which currently at 247, a record which was set in 2015. With its melting-pot of cultures including Creole, Maya and Garifuna, the laid-back fishing village of Placencia is always a hit with travellers, but exploring during lobster festival is even more rewarding especially for foodies.
Dates for 2018 to be announced. For more information, visit www.travelbelize.org/2017-placencia-lobster-festival
- Climb to the summit of Xunantunich
The great classical Maya site of Xunantunich, overlooks the Mopan River and is home to more than 25 Maya temples and palaces. Meaning ‘Stone Woman’ in Mayan, Xunantunich’s main plaza is dominated by the El Castillo – a 40 metre pyramid which can be summited and offers breathtaking views over the surrounding forest and Maya mountains. Belize’s archaeological sites are far less visited, meaning visitors can expect to see few other tourists as they explore these ancient wonders.
Intrepid Travel has a 17 day Mayan Encounter tour which has the option to visit Xunantunich and other Mayan ruins. For more information, visit www.intrepidtravel.com/uk/mexico/mayan-encounter-101651
- Learn to drum with the Garifuna
The Garifuna people arrived in Belize from St. Vincent in the early 19th century adding a vibrant blend to the country’s cultural makeup. Visit the WARASA Garifuna Drum School in Punta Gorda to discover the rich history and heritage of the Garifuna and learn the different traditional drumbeats and dances that influence music throughout Belize and the rest of Central America. Here, there’s also the opportunity to take part in interactive drumming lessons, drum-making and cookery lessons.
For more information, visit www.warasadrumschool.com
- Ixcacao Belizean Chocolate
The ancient Maya invented chocolate, so it goes without saying that some of the best chocolate on the planet is from Belize. Ixcacao Maya Belizean Chocolate is family-run producer in San Felipe village in the Toledo district of Belize. Using organic cacao beans and authentic methods, visitors can explore the plantation during a guided tour to learn about the production, how to make chocolate the traditional way and feast on the ‘Chocolate Lunch’, consisting of dark chocolate flavoured chicken.
A four hour tour, including lunch and chocolate making session costs from $50 per person. For more information, visit www.ixcacaomayabelizeanchocolate.com
- Diving on the world’s second largest barrier reef
Home to the world’s second largest barrier reef after Australia, the Belizean version is a haven for marine-life. From schools of fish, to turtles and even the occasional nurse shark, there’s so much going on underwater and there’s ample opportunity to explore the reefs and atolls. Guests can scuba dive from Ramon’s Village Resort situated on Ambergris Caye and within a 15 minute boat ride to 40 dive sites.
Three nights at Belizean Shores Resort costs from $422.78 per person and includes breakfast daily and includes a two day dive package. For more information, visit www.ramons.com
For further information on Belize please visit www.travelbelize.org
Mark Bibby Jackson
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