ORVIS GUIDE TO ADVENTURE
BELIZE TRAVEL GUIDE
Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a tiny country, slightly larger than Massachusetts. It is located on the eastern coast of Central America, tucked just below the Yucatan Peninsula, bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea. Though it seems exotic and faraway, it’s only a five-hour direct flight from New York, or less than half that from Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, or Miami. You can also get there by driving through Mexico.
WHY TRAVEL TO BELIZE?
Belize’s 240-mile Caribbean coastline is longer than the state of Maine’s. It includes beautiful beaches as well as marshland, lagoons, and saltwater flats which harbor a plethora of wildlife, making it ideal for fly fishing. Offshore is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Belize Barrier Reef, a diverse ecosystem dotted with hundreds of low-lying tropical islands called cayes (pronounced “keys”). It also has three coral atolls.
Inland, more than half of Belize’s western land area consists of dense tropical jungle, most of which is part of a network of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Much of Belize’s jungle region remains unexplored and includes rainforests, beautiful mountains, mysterious artifact-filled caves, towering waterfalls, and remote meandering rivers. Moreover, it is home to 900 ancient Mayan sites as well as vibrant present-day Mayan Villages.
In addition to its natural beauty, Belize combines the best of Latin American and Caribbean culinary and cultural traditions. Its inhabitants are a diverse mix: Belizean, Creole, Mestizo, Garifuna, Mennonite, Chinese, Arab, and Mayan, as well as a growing community of expats from around the world. They are friendly and welcoming with a low-key, laid-back attitude, yet like to have a good time. And everyone speaks English!
BEST TIME TO VISIT BELIZE
Belize has a comfortable tropical climate, depending on the time of year and where you are in the country. Coastal sea breezes moderate summer heat (86°F on average) most everywhere. Winters can be cool but not cold, rarely falling below 60°F. Humidity is consistent at around 85 percent.
Most people will tell you the best time to visit Belize is during dry season, late November to mid-April. This is also considered high tourist season which means more people. If you want to go when it’s quiet, consider visiting during rainy season—June through November. Though there will be some drenching showers, it will still be warm and sunny a good deal of the time.
Timing also depends on what you want to do while you’re there. For example, the ocean is calmer during summer months which some people prefer for sea kayaking and scuba diving. In addition, you might want to time your visit to coincide with certain events. For example, if you want to dive with whale sharks, you can only do so in Placencia from March until June, and during a full moon.
GETTING AROUND IN BELIZE
Because of its small scale, its well-organized road system, and reliable public transportation, Belize is a relatively easy country in which to get around, which means you can see and do a lot in a week. The islands and Barrier Reef are also accessible via ubiquitous water taxis. Towns and villages are all small enough to cover on foot but taxis are also readily available. Bicycles and golf carts are available to rent in many areas as well.
Towns & Villages
LOCAL BELIZE CUISINE
The local cuisine combines the best of Mexican, Caribbean, Spanish, African, and Mayan cuisines. One of the most popular dishes is rice and beans with beef, chicken, or seafood, cooked in coconut milk and accompanied by potato salad. As you might expect, fresh seafood is widely available, including fresh fish, lobster, shrimp, and conch, especially on the coast. Kriol-based dark stew chicken, stew beef and stew fish are other favorite local dishes.
FAVORITE BELIZE DESTINATIONS
On the southern tip of the island is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. This 6.5-mile reserve features incredible coral formations along with sea grass beds and mangroves which attract abundant and diverse marine life. It is located at the southern tip of Ambergris and is a popular spot for snorkelers and scuba divers. A particularly appealing spot is Shark Ray Alley where nurse sharks and southern stingrays tend to congregate.
Half Moon Caye National Monument
Another famous attraction nearby is the Blue Hole Natural Monument otherwise known as the Great Blue Hole, a massive, 400-foot deep underwater sinkhole near the center of Lighthouse Reef. It is an ancient vertical cave in the ocean that harbors an amazing collection of marine wildlife, making it a popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. This natural monument is so large and striking, it can be seen from space.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Guanacaste National Park
The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Ancient Mayan Ruins
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
For those who seek an active, adventure-filled vacation in an incredibly beautiful, warm place, Belize is a great choice. But what makes Belize even more appealing is that It’s easy to get there and it’s easy to navigate once you’re there. Not only is it a very welcoming, laid back country where everyone speaks English, it also boasts an extensive road network connecting most areas of the country and reliable public transportation.
While Belize offers some of the modern conveniences of home, it couldn’t be more different. In addition to the biodiverse coast, jungles, and rainforests, its indigenous polyglot population, and a culture that straddles the ancient and modern worlds, it is a unique and exotic destination you won’t soon forget.
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