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Nestled in-between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize is the perfect place to visit while traveling through Central America. Yet, it’s got a distinctly Caribbean feel compared to its Latin American surroundings making it an ideal destination for beach bums and divers. It’s a small enough country that even with just one week, you can have an amazing Belize itinerary.
World-class diving, delicious Caribbean food, sun-drenched islands, lush jungles, kind people – these are just some of the reasons to love Belize. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday on the beach or an action-packed adventure backpacking Belize, you can find it here.
As of July 2020, Belize is planning to open for international tourism on August 15th. You can get information about Covid-19 in Belize here.
Arrival in Belize
Flying: If you’re flying into Belize, you’ll be landing in the Belize City Airport (BZE), which I would advise leaving as soon as you can since there are much nicer places to be in the country.
Belize City is pretty centrally located so you can go just about anywhere else in the country from there on the same day. The cheapest way is to take a taxi to the bus station/water taxi port (same location) and travel to your next destination from there. There are some flights from Belize City airport to the islands, but it’s about double the price of the water taxi.
From Mexico: Being neighbors, Belize is very accessible from Mexico. If you’re traveling down the coast from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, one of the best ways to get to Belize is via a water taxi from Chetumal Mexico (close to Bacalar) to the island of San Pedro. Alternatively, you can catch an overnight bus straight from Cancun Airport to Belize City.
From Guatemala: Flores Guatemala, which is home to the Tikal ruins, is just two hours from the border or Belize-Guatemala. You can book a shared shuttle from San Ignacio or Belize City to Flores or Tikal here. You can also access Rio Dulce Guatemala relatively easily from Belize. Boats run from Punta Gorda to Livingstone.
Best Places to Visit in Belize
Ambergris Caye (San Pedro)
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize and has become one of the top places to visit. Although it’s the biggest, it’s still plenty of island charm, with golf carts as the primary form of transportation. San Pedro is the main town on Ambergris Caye, where you’ll find most of the accommodation options and restaurants.
Top things to do in San Pedro
Secret Beach – this not-so-secret beach is now one of the most popular places to visit in San Pedro, with gorgeous turquoise water and perfect white sand to relax on. There are several bars on the beach, where you can easily spend the day drinking tropical cocktails and swapping stories with travelers.
Dive/Snorkel in The Belize Barrier Reef, which has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It makes up around 33% of the MesoAmerican Reef, the world’s 2nd largest after the Great Barrier reef in Australia.
One most famous dive sites in Belize/the world is the blue hole. It’s a 300m wide/125 m sinkhole. While diving here is a unique experience, the best way to actually get an appreciation for the blue hole is to take a scenic flight over it. The blue hole diving tours will usually take you to two other dive sites, which are much better in terms of marine life.
While many people visit Caye Caulker as a day trip from San Pedro, I think it’s the better island to stay, especially if you are a backpacker or solo traveler. It’s just a 30-minute water taxi from San Pedro or 90 minutes from Belize City.
Caye Caulker is a tiny little island that you can walk across in about an hour and the main strip in about ten minutes. It’s known for its laid-back atmosphere, with the official motto ‘go slow’. Oddly enough, the weekend I showed up here I was greeted with a massive party on the island. It turns out, most of the population of Belize come here during easter weekend to celebrate. I came back another time outside of Easter, and the island was much more chill.
Top things to do in Caye Caulker
Visit the Split – in 1961, a hurricane hit and divided part of the island in two. That area has now become the hub of entertainment in Caye Caulker, where you can find fun beach bars. My favorite is the Lazy Lizard, where you can eat and drink while being in the water. Yesssss.
Go snorkeling/diving – As mentioned above, Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a novice snorkeling, the waters in Belize are well worth exploring. It was actually snorkeling in Caye Caulker that inspired me to get my diving certification in Utila and later come back and dive here.
One of the best places for snorkeling from either San Pedro or Caye Caulker is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is between the two islands. Here you can see lively corals that give way to an abundance of marine life including stingrays, eagle rays, sea turtles, manta rays. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes see manatees.
Another popular snorkeling tour is this half-day tour which takes you to three stops, including Shark Ray Alley where you can go swimming with dozens of nurse sharks and stingrays. It’s fun!
San Pedro vs. Caye Caulker
If you’re looking for more luxury, then San Pedro is the better choice. It’s got a way bigger range of accommodation options, as well as a much larger choice for food and restaurant options. Another pro of San Pedro is that there’s an airport, so you can fly here from Belize City. On the flip side of that, you’ll be paying higher prices and there will be larger crowds.
Caye Caulker is much more laid-back, and I think is better suited for backpackers and solo travelers. You’ll find more young people here. It’s got cheaper accommodation and tours, plus you’ll save money on transport since you can walk the entire island. Another pro of Caye Caulker is that it’s easy to see the sunset from the island, which I didn’t find was the case for San Pedro.
At the end of the day, both San Pedro and Caye Caulker are beautiful tropical paradise islands so you won’t be disappointed with either.
Cayo District (San Ignacio)
The Cayo district is the best place to go in Belize if you’re after adventure and history, thanks to its concentration of Mayan ruins, caves, wildlife, and rivers for tubing.
San Ignacio is the main town people stay in here. It’s famous for the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave Tour, which was a cave used by the Mayans to perform human sacrifices. Nowadays, it’s used as an adventure tour where you’ll spend the day walking through the jungle, swimming across rivers, and crawling inside a pitch-black cave. It reminds me a lot of the adventure tour in Semuc Champey Guatemala.
Cave Tubing is another popular activity to do here, which is often combined with zip-lining for a full day of adventure.
Tikal Ruins in Flores Guatemala
While not technically in Belize, this historic site is close enough that it’s become a popular add on to a Belize itinerary. Just two hours from San Ignacio Belize is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tikal, which was one of the largest Mayan sites. You can visit here as a day trip or spend the night in Flores. If you’re backpacking through Central America, this is a perfect place to go from Belize and start your trip in Guatemala.
Placencia is another laid-back Caribbean beach town. It’s known for Gladden Split, which is one of the best places to go diving with whale sharks in Belize, and the main reason I came here. The whale shark season is from April to June. Unfortunately, I was a bit too early in the season and we didn’t see any, but I did get to go diving with dolphins and see a bull shark, which made up for it.
This is a more off-the-beaten-path destination in Belize but can be a great option for your Belize itinerary as it’s got access to both jungle and beaches. It’s also home to a large Garifuna population.
Hopkins is nearby to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve, an area of about 150 square miles of tropical forest where you have the chance to spot the elusive Jaguar.
It’s also near the Mayflower Bocawina National Park, which is the perfect place to visit in Belize for adventure. It’s got hiking trails, waterfalls, and wildlife.
There are over 265 islands to explore in the waters of Belize, many uninhabited, so unless you have your own sailboat one of the best ways to visit them is by joining a sailing tour. Raggamuffin tours run sailing tours from Caye Caulker to Dangriga (not far from Hopkins/Placencia), which I HIGHLY recommend adding to your Belize itinerary. It was so much fun!
Days are spent drinking rum, fishing off the back of the boat, exploring remote islands, and snorkeling in the pristine waters. The sailboat isn’t large enough for everyone to sleep on, so nights are spent on the beautiful islands. It was such an amazing way to explore Belize!
Belize Itinerary Ideas
One week is just enough time to see the main highlights in Belize, but a 10 day or 2 week Belize itinerary will allow you to experience more of the country at a slower pace.
Belize Itinerary 7 Days
While 7 days isn’t enough time to visit all of Belize, you can see the main highlights. Here’s an example of a Belize itinerary for 7 days which covers both beaches and adventure:
- Day 1: Arrive Belize City – Take bus to San Ignacio
- Day 2: San Ignacio ATM Tour
- Day 3: Day tour to Tikal Ruins or Cave Tubing/Zip-lining
- Day 4: Head back to Belize city to catch water taxi to San Pedro or Caye Caulker
- Day 5: Relax on Caye Caulker or San Pedro
- Day 6: Day Trip to go snorkeling/diving
- Day 7: Return to Belize City for flight
If you prefer island hopping over adventure, an option would be to replace the first three days with a Raggamuffin sailing tour or visit Placencia/Hopkins.
Belize Itinerary 10 days
If you have 10 days in Belize, you could do the same 7 day Belize itinerary but then add on Plancia/Hopkins or spend an extra couple days visiting both Caye Caulker and San Pedro. Alternatively, you could spend a few days in Flores Guatemala.
2 Weeks in Belize
With two weeks in Belize, you can fit in all of the places recommended in this post:
- Day 1: Arrive in Belize City, take water taxi to San Pedro
- Day 2: Go on a diving or snorkeling tour
- Day 3: Visit Beach Bars
- Day 5: Transfer San Pedro to Caye Caulker
- Day 6: Chill out on Caye Caulker at The Split
- Day 7: Sailing Trip from Caye Caulker to Dangriga
- Day 8: Sailing Trip
- Day 9: Arrive Dangriga, go to Hopkins or Placencia
- Day 10: Visit Cockscomb Basic Wildlife Sanctuary or Diving at Gladden Split
- Day 11: Transfer to San Ignacio
- Day 12: ATM Cave Tour or Cave Tubing
- Day 13: Day trip to Mayan Ruins
- Day 14: Return to Belize City to catch flight home
Getting Around Belize
The two domestic flight operators in Belize are Maya Air and Tropic Air. Flights are available from Belize City to some islands, but it will cost you about double the price than water taxis. Busses are widely available to take you between cities in Belize. Within the islands, golf carts are the best way to get around. In Caye Caulker, you can walk everywhere.
Belize Travel Tips
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. While the weather is hot year-round, if you visit during the wet season you may get rained on which isn’t always fun if you want a beach vacation.
Language Spoken: The official language of Belize is English, making it a very easy destination to visit for foreigners. However there are several languages you will hear spoken here including Kriol (Belizean Creole), Spanish, Garifuna, and Maya.
Currency: Belize has its own dollar (the Belizian dollar), which is matched to the US dollar (1 USD = 2 Belize dollar). You can just bring USD dollars if you want, everyone accepts them. If you pay for something in USD, they will likely give you back change in BZD.
Safety: Belize is a relatively safe country, especially on the islands. Belize City is known for having the most crime, so watch your belongings closely here if you are transferring between places. I never felt in danger here as a solo female traveler. However, it is still Central America so keep your wits about you, avoid showing off valuables, and don’t walk alone at night.
Belize is a wonderful country. Whether you’re coming down for a beach or dive holiday, or backpacking through on your way to Guatemala, it’s sure to be a fun time.
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