Slightly smaller in size than the U.S. state of Massachusetts, with a population of less than 400,000 people, Belize is a gem of Latin America that promotes nature-based wellness and adventure. A destination for ocean lovers as much as it is for history buffs, Belize unites its guests of varied interests with its irresistible Caribbean vibe and jaw-dropping beauty.
From Mayan ruins to pristine national parks—including the northern hemisphere’s largest barrier reef—this is why you must travel to Belize in 2021/2022.
Quick Facts about Belize:
•The only country in Central America with English as its official language
•The exchange rate of US to Belize dollars is locked at 1:2
•Has the lowest population density in Central America
Where is Belize
Home to diverse cultures and languages, Belize is located in Central America: embraced by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the southwest and the Caribbean Sea to the east. It is just a few hours by air from the United States and Canada.
The tropical climate has resulted in an incredible biodiversity and variance in ecosystems. In fact, one quarter of Belize is considered a natural protected area.
Mangrove forests and swamps along coastal plants, hills and low mountains in the center, and lush jungles have helped maintain endemic species of wildlife. Travelers that head off the beaten path may spot jaguars, kinkajou (also referred to as honey bears), Maya Mountains frog as well as the national animal, Baird’s tapir. Paradise for amateur botanists, Belize’ landscape is painted with over 250 species of orchid, fruit trees galore (think guava, papaya, coconuts and cashews), mahogany and logwood trees, and countless medicinal plants.
Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is an outstanding collection of cayes, lagoons, offshore atolls, estuaries and mangrove forests. The barrier reef is an important refuge for numerous threatened marine species, including a variety of turtles and manatees. No wonder Charles Darwin referred to it as ‘the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.’
Brief History of Belize
Mesoamerican cultures began to develop Belize as early as the 16th Century BC. This is evidenced in archaeological sites that travelers can visit today, such as Lamanai (from Yucatec Maya meaning “submerged crocodile”). This site of limestone block temples was continuously inhabited throughout the three periods of the Maya civilization: the Pre-Classic (approximately 1000 BC to 300 AD), the Classic period (300-900 AD), and the Post-Classic (1000-1500 AD).
Though today the legacy lives on through continued traditions, customs and ethinic descendents, the Mayan culture truly peaked between the 600-900 AD. Undoubtedly aided by the fertile land, rich marine life and warm climate, archaeologists estimate that the Mayan population exploded to 2 million in their heyday. Powerful and populous, the Mayans left their mark on sky-reaching temples and underground caves.
It would just take one man to set the Maya way on a different course, and in 1502 the European explorer Christopher Columbus found his way to the coast of Belize. In 1638, England established the first European settlement, followed by countless more until, in 1840, Belize became a Colony of British Honduras. Not until September 21, 1981, was the country given full independence.
What to do in Belize
The incredible Caribbean coastline of Belize makes it a top spot for water adventures—but there’s so much to do on shore as well. So after one has sailed, snorkeled or kayaked through some of the most biodiverse marine reserves on the planet, watched for dolphins, sea turtles and stingrays, or gone deep sea fishing, consider some of the following land based activities:
•Go cave exploring at Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) or cave canoeing at Barton Creek Cave
•Visit Maya ruins like Caracol (the largest and perhaps most important), Lamania (reached by boat), Xunantunich (can be reached by horseback), and Altun Ha (ideal for a day trip and birdwatching)
•Take a scenic hike in the Mountain Ridge Pine Forest Reserve or at the Mayflower Bocawina National Park (that includes a post-hike splash in the waterfall)
•Discover local flavors of Belize that combine influences from Maya, Creole, Mestizo and more. Venture to markets, dine at restaurants or have fun with a cooking class
•Dare to do the extreme and descend 200 feet into darkness in the Actun Loch Tunich sinkhole or zipline through the rainforest
•Go deeper with rural and indigenous tourism
•Island hop to Laughing Bird Caye, just off the coast of Placencia, Belize
When to visit Belize
Belize has a tropical climate with a near year-round warm temperature of 84° F, with the winter season (November-March) rarely experiencing temperatures below 60° F.
There are two main seasons: dry and wet. From February to May, travelers can enjoy plenty of sunshine and low probability of rain. Of course, being the tropics, sudden spurts of rain can occur so it’s advisable to pack a light rain jacket. June to December will have greater likelihood of rain however this is also the time of year when vegetation is lush and hills verdant. The most frequent rain occurs June-July.
For more information and what to see, do and where to stay, contact our award-winning travel team.