Belize Cover

Belize | Travel Guide from the jungle to the heavenly beaches

When you move to Quebec, you know the winters will last. In the first years, you like that. Until you can’t see the end of it … And when you get up one morning under a new snowstorm, you lose it. Need heat, need sun, fast! How far is Belize?

Belize Letters in Belize City

Belize in a few words

Located between Mexico and Guatemala, bordering the Caribbean Sea, Belize is a small country, barely twice the size of Ile-de-France. Former British Honduras, it is the only country in Central America whose official language is English. Between the Caribbean and British influences, Belize invites you to discover unspoiled nature, made up of tropical forests (virgin forest covers nearly 80% of its territory), ancient Mayan sites, and idyllic beaches.

Despite its small size, Belize has 17 national parks, 500 native bird species, and many rare wild animals including the tapir, puma, or jaguar. The country is home to the only jaguar reserve on the continent, the Cockscomb Sanctuary.

Belize also offers more than 386 kilometers of coastline and hundreds of small paradise islands (cayes) dotted along the second-largest barrier reef in the world, home to incredible marine life: dolphins, rays, turtles, sharks, tropical fish, etc.

How to get to Belize?

From Montreal, you can reach Belize in 8-9 hours (6-hour flight + stopover time in Miami). From Europe however, there are no direct flights to Belize. Most companies offer a stopover in North America (New York, Miami, Atlanta, or Toronto), which makes the trip much longer.

Arriving at Philip Goldson International Airport, just board one of the many taxis that offer the trip to Belize City. It takes +/- 20€ for a 30-minute journey.

When to go to Belize?

Belize enjoys a humid tropical climate. The rainy season, from May to November, brings heavy rains and the risk of hurricanes. Inland, the air is stuffy. In the cayes, a tropical breeze makes it more breathable. The dry season, from February to April, is definitely the best time to discover the country.

What to do in Belize?

Landing in Belize City

The largest city in the country, Belize City was also the capital until 1961, before being almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Hattie and replaced by Belmopan, inland.

Belize Town is founded by British loggers in 1638. Since the beginning, it is a place of great importance for the British who take advantage of its position near the sea to bring in thousands of slaves for logging. Signs of this colonial period can still be seen today, such as the wooden houses built on stilts, which bear witness to a time when Belize was known as British Honduras.

The port of Belize City, mainly intended for cruise ships, is the first port in the country. Starting point for many attractions inland and on the islands, the city is also the industrial and financial center of the country.

What to see in Belize City?

  • Connecting the north and south of the city, the Swing Bridge, originally known as the “Great Belize Bridge”, is known to be the only swing bridge in the world still operated by hand. Built of wood in 1818, it was replaced identically in 1859 before being replaced by a metal bridge in 1923. Despite the ravages of time and Hurricane Hattie, the bridge is still used today for special ceremonies.
  • Designed by architect Christopher Rahn, the Governor’s House is the perfect combination of Caribbean architectural features and the aristocratic lines of English architecture. Apart from its appearance, the building is known to have been the place where a decree abolishing slavery was signed in 1834.
  • Built from 1812 to 1820 with bricks transported by boat from England, St John’s Cathedral is the oldest Anglican church in Central America and the only place where kings have been crowned outside of England. Next door, Yarborough Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in the country.

Where to stay in Belize City?

When it comes to accommodation, there is something for every budget and every style in Belize City.

The nice establishments are mainly located in the districts of West Landivar and King’s Park, while the port of Belize City has many guesthouses and small hotels. For more luxurious establishments, look to Buttonwood Bay and Bella Vista, the upscale neighborhoods near the beach.

Note that while Belize City does not have a very safe reputation, the risks are relatively low if you stay in the commercial district (east of Southside Canal) and in the Fort George district. The Southside district, on the other hand, is to be avoided.

➜ We stayed in the Buttonwood Bay area, at Villa Boscardi. This charming B&B, which offers 8 spacious rooms with private bathrooms, is quietly located in a safe residential area. Special mention for the jacuzzi which allows you to cool off after a day of sightseeing and the generous breakfasts!

Visit the Belize Zoo

Located 45 minutes from Belize City, in the heart of the primary forest, the Belize Zoo brings together more than 150 animals in a 29-acre setting. Established in 1983 to provide a home for wild animals that were used in the making of documentary films about the rainforests, the zoo has since welcomed other specimens rescued from the black market, abandoned by their owners, or donated by other zoos. Among others, you can see tapirs, toucans, howler monkeys, boa constrictors, and jaguars.

➜ The human scale of the facilities, being able to observe animals in their natural habitats, and the importance given to the rescue and rehabilitation of species make Belize Zoo a very special place. The abundant vegetation plunges the visitors into the heart of the tropical savannah. A very nice experience!

Good to know

  • The Belize Zoo is located 40 minutes from Belize City, on the highway toward Belmopan.
  • The zoo is open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Visiting the zoo takes about 2 hours.
  • Admission price: $15 per adult – $5 for children 3 to 12 years old.
  • The “Lindo Link” experience allows you to get closer to Lindo, a rescued jaguar who has become one of the zoo’s emblematic ambassadors.
  • Right next to the zoo, the Tropical Education Center/Zoo Lodge offers a variety of accommodations and meals on a 20-hectare property.

Discover the Mayas in Altun Ha

55 kilometers north of Belize City, the archaeological site of Altun Ha invites you to discover the Mayan culture. In its glory days, eight to ten thousand people lived in this important city which served as a trading link between the Caribbean coast and the Maya centers located inland.

Altun Ha is a rich ceremonial center that has two main squares:

  • In Plaza A, inside structure A-1, is the “Green Tomb“, which contained a 6th-century male burial and over 300 jade objects (hence the name of the tomb).
  • Smaller than Plaza A, and later added, Plaza B features 13 temples and residential structures, including the “Temple of Masonry Altars” also known as the “Temple of the Sun God“. This towering structure (B-4) has housed the famous jade head of “Kinich Ahau”, the Mayan sun god, a replica of which is on display at the Central Bank of Belize. The Altun Ha Jade head stands 6 inches high and weighs 9.75 Lbs. It remains the single largest carved jade object yet discovered in the Maya area and is considered the crown jewel in Belize.
Altun Ha
Altun Ha

➜ Altun Ha is probably not the most impressive Mayan archaeological site, but it offers the advantage of being very close to Belize City. At the top of the highest temple, the panoramic view of the site and the surrounding jungle is breathtaking. If you visit the site in the morning, make a stop at Bacab Eco Park for a refreshing lunch break by the pool.

Bacab Eco Park
Bacab Eco Park

Good to know

  • The Altun Ha archaeological site is located north of Belize City, about an hour’s drive away.
  • It is possible to visit the site with or without a guide. Several companies offer excursions from Belize City.
  • Bacab Eco Park is located 20 minutes from Belize City. The park is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Try ziplining and cave tubing

Located north of Belmopan, the Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is home to an extensive system of limestone caves considered sacred by the ancient Maya. The reserve is mainly known for its zipline and cave-tubing activities.

From Belize City, it takes about an hour to reach the site. Upon arrival, a guide invites you to join the zipline activity. With 12 platforms and 8 cable courses, Zip Riders of the Howling Hills is one of the largest venues in Belize. The longest cable travels over 1,300 feet through the rainforest, nearly 200 feet above the Cave Branch River below. Thrills guaranteed!

Ziplining near Belize City

➜ Being afraid of heights, I started the zipline activity with some apprehension. But our two guides were so reassuring that I embarked on the first track without thinking too much about it … and it was great! No dizziness, just lots of fun sliding down the cables. Even our youngest (4 years old at the time) had a wonderful time 🙂

After the zipline course, put on a swimsuit and equip yourself with a life jacket and a headlamp. Progress along the Cave Branch River, through lush vegetation, for about twenty minutes in the direction of the caves. When the water level allows it, sit in a big buoy and let yourself slide on the water

After a last 15-minute walk, the entrance to the caves awaits.

Cave Branch River

Comfortably installed in a buoy (except for the youngest who needs to sit with an adult), turn on your headlamp. The guide will take the lead of the convoy and give explanations as you progress through the caves. Jagged stalactites, shimmering crystalline formations, blind fish, Mayan remains … It’s captivating and very impressive, especially for children. Back in the open air, let yourself slide for a few more meters before ending the activity.

Good to know

  • The Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is located an hour’s drive from Belize City, towards Belmopan.
  • It takes about 1 hour for the zipline activity and 1h30 for the cave tubing activity.
  • To participate in the activities, children must be 5 years old or at least 1 meter tall.
  • Admission price: $85 per person with lunch (no transportation)
    Several companies offer excursions from Belize City.

Spend a day at Kukumba Beach

Located just outside of Belize City, Old Belize is a small paradise that includes a marina, a museum, and a water park. The park is called Kukumba Beach in reference to the American market gardener who, in the 1950s, grew vegetables on farms in the region, including cucumbers (kukumba in Creole), and used the port to send his vegetables to the United States.

Kukumba Beach, Old Belize
Kukumba Beach, Old Belize

In addition to a large water slide (50 feet high and 80 feet long), the park offers a Tarzan swing, beach volleyball courts, and floating structures.

Kukumba Beach, Old Belize
Vue depuis le toboggan aquatique de Kukumba Beach, Old Belize

➜ Kukumba Beach offers all the ingredients for a successful family day out. The inflatable structures allow the youngest to have fun while the more adventurous go down the big slide. The beach is beautiful and deckchairs are made available to enjoy it. The restaurant does not leave an unforgettable memory but the view surely is pleasant.

Good to know

  • Kukumba Beach is open Tuesday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm, and closed on Monday.
  • Entrance fee: $15 for people taller than 1 meter – $5 for others
  • The Old Belize Exotic Beach &Bar Restaurant offers on-site dining.

Escape to Ambergris Caye

Whether for a day trip or staying a few days, it is unthinkable to come to Belize without visiting the Caribbean islands. With their turquoise waters and heavenly beaches, they are the country’s main tourist destination.

From Belize City, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are easily accessible by ferry. The two islands are obviously very beautiful, although their atmosphere is very different. Caye Caulker is the ultimate relaxing island, so small that you walk around it. Ambergris Caye is bigger and gives access to more activities. That is why we chose to spend 2 nights there. Strolling on the beach, exploring the island in a golf cart, having meal feet in the sand … A stay in paradise 🙂

➜ You will find more information about these two idyllic days here : “Belize | 2-day tropical getaway to the stunning Ambergris Caye.

➜ Are you craving more of these breathtaking paradisiacal landscapes? Then why not embark on an unforgettable cruise through the stunning Cayes of Belize? Join me on this incredible journey and experience the true beauty of this destination here: “Belize | Sailing cruise in the Belizean cayes“.

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