Belize is a magnificent country tucked between Mexico and Guatemala, with a long stretch of coastline along the Caribbean Sea. We spent a week in Belize during our Central America backpacking trip and could’ve easily stayed much longer!
I was blown away by the kindness of the local people and their vibrant energy. Not to mention the stunning beaches and relaxed island lifestyles. I loved nature and wildlife and just how welcoming Belize felt.
Belize is not only a perfect destination to visit on its own and spend a week or two exploring but you could also easily combine it with a longer trip from Mexico to Guatemala for example, thanks to its relatively small size.
With so many incredible places to visit in Belize, this list will give you all of the best options to choose the perfect destinations for you.
Best Places To Visit In Belize
Belize may be a small country but there are so many great places in this beautiful country.
Here are the top 10 best places to visit in Belize.
1 – Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a small island with a very relaxed and laid-back vibe. In fact, it is more correct to describe it as 2 islands since it was hit by a hurricane in 1961 and torn in two. Naturally, the locals took this in their stride and this narrow channel of sea between the 2 islands is now named ‘The Split’.
The Split is a popular place to hang out and enjoy the beautiful clear waters. There is a great beach bar by the split called the Lazy Lizard, where I highly recommend spending an afternoon.
Caye Caulker is well known for being a backpacker hub, especially around the main town. You will find plenty of hostels and bars to meet fellow travelers. We loved the beachside coffee shack called Ice & Beans. They do great coffee and have hammocks on the beach so you can swing while you sip.
2 – Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye is one of the best Caribbean islands for families. The largest of the Belizean islands, and one of the most popular places to visit in Belize, Ambergris Caye is around 25 miles long but no wider than 1 mile.
The main town is San Pedro, towards the south of the island. There are a lot of things to do in San Pedro, as it is a bustling hub with a much more authentic feel than Caye Caulker.
In this town, you will find more local people going about their day-to-day lives than you will tourists.
We stayed at the Sandbar Beachfront Hostel and this was one of the best hostels we found in Central America. Located right on the beach they have a private pier over the water, a great pool and the restaurant makes the best pizzas!
If you head further north along Ambergris Caye you will find many quiet and stunning beaches with breathtaking turquoise waters. From the shores of the island, you can even see the Barrier Reef that runs alongside Belize.
3 – San Ignacio
Found just a short drive from the Belize-Guatemala border is the town of San Ignacio. Located in far western Belize, it is often used as a stopover by travelers heading from one country to the other. But the town of San Ignacio actually has an awful lot to offer.
San Ignacio is a small town and can be explored on foot, you can take a stroll along the river or head to the big local market for some fresh fruit or homemade local delicacies.
San Ignacio has a lot to do, and is a great place to base yourself if you want to visit the ATM Cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave) or explore some of the other places mentioned on this list such as Caracol or Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
San Ignacio is also home to its very own Mayan Ruins site called Cahal Pech.
Cahal Pech is only $5 USD to enter and when we visited we had the entire site to ourselves for hours! You are even allowed to climb the Pyramids still at this site.
If you are heading from Belize to Guatemala, it is worth spending a couple of days in San Ignacio before moving on to Guatemala.
ALSO READ: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING GUATEMALA WITH KIDS
4 – Hopkins
Hopkins is a quiet and peaceful beach village located in the south of the country. It is steadily growing in popularity among travelers but this south Belize gem still maintains its authentic nature, food and culture. This is what visitors love most about Hopkins.
You can enjoy the quiet, pristine beaches in peace and get a real experience of the way of life in this area. One of the most special things to do while in Hopkins is experience the Garifuna drumming. An art that is only practiced in a handful of places still, so it is not to be missed.
The Garifuna people are of mixed Afro-Caribbean descent. They immigrated from the island of Saint Vincent to Belize, settling primarily in the coastal areas, like Hopkins, where Garifuna culture is a celebrated part of the visitor experience.
Hopkins is also the best place to stay if you want to explore the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Reserve. This is one of the only Jaguar reserves in the world.
You can join a tour to hike through the reserve, swimming in beautiful waterfalls as you keep your eyes peeled for a rare glimpse of a Jaguar.
5 – Belize City
If you are flying directly to Belize then you will be landing in Belize City as this is the only international airport in the country. It then makes sense that you may want to spend a day or two exploring the country’s capital city.
There is a surprising amount of colonial history and architecture to be found throughout the city and the best way to experience it all is on a guided tour of the city. This way you will have a local guide who can explain more about what you are seeing as well as advising on the safe areas to stick to around the city.
Some more great spots to have on your itinerary in Belize City are the government buildings, St John’s Cathedral and the Museum of Belize.
Spend a day exploring these sites before you head out to the Cayes and you will really be able to appreciate the contrast between city and island life.
6 – The Blue Hole
Perhaps one of the most iconic and well-known places to visit in Belize is the magnificent Blue Hole. This incredibly unique sinkhole is a natural wonder that is located around 43 miles off the coast of Belize.
It is possible to experience the Blue Hole by boat or from above in a helicopter or small plane. Boat trips are best from Ambergris Caye as this is closer to the hole and the journey will be 3-4 hours each way.
Flights also leave from the small airstrip in San Pedro each day to take tourists on an hour-long flight over the hole.
It is also known to be one of the most sought-after dive sites in the world, drawing experienced divers from far and wide to experience its mysterious depths.
7 – Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley
Belize is located right next to the second-largest barrier reef in the world. If you are an ocean lover then no trip to Belize should be complete without taking a diving or snorkeling trip out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve on the Belize Barrier Reef.
The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising seven protected areas, including the Blue Hole, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and stretching as far south as the South Water Caye Marine Reserve and Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, located off the shores of Placencia.
We did a combination of snorkeling and diving and were blown away. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is home to hundreds of colorful fish, rays and sea turtles and the water visibility is great.
Shark Ray Alley is an incredible spot that is now home to hundreds of friendly nurse sharks and rays. You can jump right in and swim amongst them. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. These waters are also home to Manatees.
We were lucky enough to see one and they are much larger than we expected.
8 – Caracol Mayan Ruins
Belize is known for its impressive Mayan ruins. The ancient Mayan archeological site of Caracol is pretty special.
It’s no secret that there are hundreds of Maya sites in Belize, as well as sprinkled across Mexico and Guatemala. While there are a few more famous than Caracol, like Tikal in Guatemala and Chichén Itzá in Mexico, Caracol is seriously underrated.
This impressive site is buried deep within the Belize jungles, 2 hours from the nearest town and no public transport goes there. Making this one of the most off-the-beaten-path places to visit in Belize.
You will need to join a tour or rent a 4×4 to get there as there is an hour of driving off road before you reach the site.
Caracol was once one of the major Maya hubs, covering an area of 55 square miles. Now the main pyramids have been uncovered and tower over the jungle.
9 – Placencia
Placencia is the most southern beach destination on this list, located a little further south along the coast from Hopkins.
This sleepy fishing village is slowly becoming a favorite among travelers thanks to its small and charming main street, lack of traffic and incredible beaches.
Placencia is the name of the village that sits at the end of the 16 mile-long Placencia Peninsula. The narrow strip of land is only half a mile wide at its widest point making it very much feel like a remote caye.
Luckily for us, it has all the vibes of a gorgeous caye but we can drive there. It is still largely undeveloped and mostly inhabited by locals. You will find no high rises here.
Each morning the local fishermen still head out in their boats around the peninsula and during the summer months, this is an ideal spot to head out on a snorkeling tour find Whale sharks.
10 – Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is a unique landscape in Belize. You won’t find the iconic pine trees in the other jungles across the country.
This entrance to the reserve is around a 45-minute drive from San Ignacio. It is possible to drive yourself however the roads inside the reserve can get treacherous after rainfall. The best way to visit the pine forest reserve is on a guided tour.
A tour can take you to multiple spots in a day so you make the most out of your time there. The reserve is home to beautiful towering waterfalls as well as smaller rock pools like Rio On Pools which are perfect for swimming.
It is also where you can find the impressive Rio Frio cave. An enormous cave that leads to a huge underground river system. It is well worth a trip to this wonderful nature spot if you enjoy time in the great outdoors.
Best Places To Visit In Belize FAQs
If you’re planning a trip to any of the best places to visit in Belize, you likely have some other questions about this Central American destination.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Belize.
What part of Belize is best to stay in?
If you are looking for beautiful beaches and to meet lots of fellow travelers then you should stay on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The water around the cayes is shallow and calm, which is ideal if visiting on a Belize family vacation.
If you want beaches but peace and quiet then you should stay along the beaches in the south of the country. If you are looking to experience the jungles and Mayan ruins then you should stay in San Ignacio.
The jungles around San Ignacio are also home to some beautiful eco-lodges that are great for a peaceful escape.
How long do you need in Belize?
I would recommend spending no less than one week in Belize to get the most out of your time there.
Ten days or more would be the ideal amount of time if you want to experience the islands and the coastal area along the mainland, as well as see the Mayan ruins and the jungles in western Belize.
If you have less than a week then I recommend spending your time on the Cayes and not moving around too much.
When is the best time of year to visit Belize?
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season from January to May. This is when you will have the best temperatures and the least rainfall.
From August to December there is a low risk of hurricanes so always check before you travel.
Is Belize safe to visit?
Belize is generally known to be a safe country for tourists to visit. Belize City has a bit of a reputation for being unsafe in certain areas but crime is rarely directed towards tourists. If in doubt there are plenty of great group tours you can join to explore the city with a local who knows the area.
Regardless of where you visit, it is always best to leave your valuables at home and not wander around alone at night time.
Is Belize cheap or expensive?
Belize is not typically a budget travel destination. It is possible to find cheaper hostel beds, take public buses and eat street food. However, there are far more luxury resorts and activities in Belize which are usually pretty expensive.
A Summary of the Best Places to Visit in Belize
So, this concludes our list of the best places to visit in Belize and hopefully, you now have all the information you need to decide which places to visit on your next trip to Belize.
From the beautiful Cayes to the lush jungles, Belize is home to some of the best places to visit in Central America for families, couples, or even solo travelers. It is such a wonderful country that it feels like visiting a true gem, hidden in plain sight.
About the author of this best places to visit in Belize travel guide: This post was contributed by Callie from Counting Our Footsteps. Callie travels full time with her partner while working on their travel blog and sharing their adventures.
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