Things To Do in Belize

by Guest

When you consider Belize is such a small country at less than 9,000 square miles (making it comparable in size to Massachusetts in the US or Wales in the UK) and with a population of only 367,000, it has an exciting range of sightseeing and sporting activities unmatched by most other countries in the world. Things to do in Belize can be divided into three broad categories - coastal activities, inland activities and food based experiences.

Belize Coastal Activities

1. Belize Coral Reef - snorkeling, diving

Probably the biggest draw is the massive Belize barrier reef . The second largest reef in the world and the longest in the Northern hemisphere, stretching along all 200 miles of Belize’s coastline. All this means the majority of visitors coming to the country do so for the sole purpose of diving and snorkeling and Belize attracts divers from all over the world to its shores for this reason alone.

The advantages of crystal clear waters, breath taking coral formations and a wide variety of tropical fish make Belize one of the top destinations worldwide for both diving and snorkeling. Among the many reasons people come to dive in Belize two stand out. The coral reef boasts three of only four true coral atolls and an enormous ocean cave known as the Blue Hole, which is arguably the most well known and most photographed dive site in the world.

2. Belize Cayes

With close to 200 cayes (small, sandy elevations dotted along the coastline near to the reef) divers are offered a multitude of places from which to explore. The largest and most popular of these cayes is Ambergis. Located just off the small town of San Pedro and allowing access to Hol Chan Nature Reserve Ambergris Caye is where many divers go to enjoy waters which have been stringently protected by the authorities since 1987 from fishing, anchoring, or the removal of coral. Aside from geographical attractions on the reef, people also come for the wildlife and specifically three marine animals: whale sharks, dolphins, and stingrays.

Whale Shark in Belize

Whale Shark in Belize

3. Swimming with Whalesharks, Dolphins, Rays and Sharks

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and as plankton feeders are very docile. They can be viewed either in the water or by tour boat and will venture close to both allowing for great photographic opportunities and the chance to swim with these magnificent creatures. The best place to do this is Gladden Spit, located at the southern end of the barrier reef.

Dolphins appeal to everyone and at Spanish lookout caye visitors get the chance not only to watch displays by these creatures, but also to handle them in the water, feel their heartbeat and get to know more about the second most intelligent creature on Earth from their handlers and keepers.

Lastly Shark Ray Alley offers snorkelers the chance to swim with rays and smaller sharks getting up close photos to die for in this cutaway channel between the reef. Really for anyone interested in learning to dive and explore tropical waters there is nowhere better than Belize.

4. Jet skiing, Sailing, Kayaking, Kite-surfing

On the water visitors have a huge selection of activities to choose from. Sailing, jet skiing, surfing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, canoeing, and kayaking are all on offer to name a few. Along the Belize coastline activities from the relatively sedate paddling of a pedalo near shore to more adventurous forms of exercise can be found at locations dotted all the way from the North to the South.

Belize Overland Activities

Most of the interior of Belize is covered in dense rainforest with five large forest reserves (Mountain Pine Ridge, Sibun, Cockscomb Basin, Columbia & Deep River), the Rio Bravo Conservation Area and Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary covering most of the country. These areas are divided in part by a vast array of rivers and waterways flowing through Belize and out into the Caribbean Sea. All of this offers ample opportunity for things to do inland away from the coast.

1. Belize Jungle Tours

Jungle tours are popular with visitors and as Belize is the native home of the jaguar it’s an activity not to miss while you’re there. The best place to see South America’s largest cat is at the Jaguar Preserve in Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve. Camping, dormitories and cabins are available and range in price from US $10 to $50 per night. Using this as a base, visitors can explore the reserve either guided or unguided, hiking or cycling along well-defined trails with signs that point out both the flora and fauna en route.

2. Kayaking in Belize

If walking trails isn’t your thing then perhaps canoeing or kayaking down one of the many rivers appeals more. The Macal and Mopan rivers, which start in the mountains of Guatamala, come together to form the Belize river (the main waterway through the country). Here you can hire boats of various descriptions from a single kayak to go white water rafting to larger powerboats for river cruising and fishing.

3. Caving in Belize

For the adventurous, caving is also on offer and visitors can pothole, climb and dive in some of the world’s largest caverns. One particularly popular activity is cave tubing where you can float for miles downriver underground on inflatable rings. Combine that with a visit to the Actun Tunichil Muknal Mayan cave system and you’re in for a spectacular day.

Caving in Belize

Caving in Belize

Food in Belize

The cuisine of Belize has its roots in Mayan as well as layers of immigrants over the years including Spanish, British, Caribbean, African and Mexican. It’s fusion of tastes, flavours and ingredients which have some together to create wide variety of dishes.

While travelling near the coast or on the islands, be sure to try the seafood which is some of the best in Central America. Lobster is some of the cheapest in the world and is seriously important to the country’s economy. The lobster season (which lasts around 6 months), kicks off with a seafood festival on Caye Caulker. Throughout the rest of the season, lobsters can be seen cooking on barbecues across the breaches of the coast and the Cayes. The best way to eat them? Simply covered in lemony butter and accompanied by a cold beer. Outside of the season, it’s illegal to sell lobster, so it’s almost impossible to buy. While lobster may be the highlight, there is plenty of other seafood to buy. Conch is popular and is simply cooked on the barbecue, marinated, and made into ceviche or deep dried as fritters. Other fish cooked on the barbecue is served with salad, coleslaw and potatoes.

Ceviche is popular across the coast, but is quite different from its Peruvian counterpart. More like a salsa – white fish, conch or even octopus are flash boiled and then mixed with roughly chopped cucumber, onions, tomatoes and lime juice to create something more similar to a salsa. It’s almost always served with crispy nachos used to scoop up the mixture.

A stable for Belizeans is rice and beans, much like the Caribbean diet. Be sure to ask that way around because if you ask for beans and rice, you’ll be served the two ingredients separately. Every table will have a bottle of the spicy Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce. Made from chillies and onions, Belizeans throw this on everything from fish to meat. First time travellers to Belize should be careful when trying the sauce for the first time.

There are plenty of pastry options in Belize. Meat pie vendors typically travel around on bike delivering these little snacks across town. Filled with minced meat and gravy, Belizeans top with Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce. One is never enough. As the rest of Latin America, empanadas are also popular. These pastry pockets are filled with everything from vegetables, fish and meat. In the morning, look out for fry jacks, little fried dough pockets filled with ham, eggs, cheese, beans, chicken and more. A hearty breakfast to set you up for the day.

Stews are popular across the country. Simple black gumbos, chimoles, cochinita pibils and boil ups are all simple, delicious and don’t disappoint. Rich spices form the base of these stews that typically have chicken, beef or fish in them.

Fruit lovers should rejoice. No many counties have exotic fruits in such abundance. Bananas, melons, papayas, mangoes, pineapple and coconuts are found from street sellers on almost every street corner. Some vendors offer to blend them into smoothies.

A word of warning. Sea turtles, rodents and iguanas show up on some menus. Don’t be tempted to try them though as the wildlife is endangered and these dishes are having a big impact on the population.

Here are some more articles on Belize that will help you plan your vacation:

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