What is Belize Known For? 13 Fascinating Claims to Fame

Belize is a country renowned for its adventurous spirit, untouched nature, and unique blend of cultures. From the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea to the dense jungles, Belize appeals to travelers with promises of unforgettable experiences.

Whether you’re seeking thrilling adventures like diving into the mesmerizing depths of the Great Blue Hole or immersing yourself in the Maya or Garifuna culture, Belize will leave a lasting impression. But what is Belize known for, actually? Is it the country’s beaches, its caves, or its historical sites?

We delve into what makes Belize truly special – so special, in fact, that this small country captures the hearts of adventurers in a big way.

From its food to its culture to its ancient sites, this guide to the top things Belize is known for details 13 noteworthy things that are most often talked about in conversations about traveling to Belize. 

What is Belize known for?

So, let’s dive into it. Whether you’re planning a trip to this small country on the eastern shores of Central America or researching the best countries to visit in the region, we’ve laid out 13 things Belize is known for. 

Mayan ruins

people walking up stairs to a pyramid at Xunantunich - One Of The Best Maya Sites In Belize
Xunantunich Is One Of The Best Maya Sites In Belize, And It’s Only 10-15 Minutes Outside Of San Ignacio. | Photo by Stephanie Klepacki

Perhaps one of the main things Belize is known for its many Mayan archeology sites scattered across the country. The remnants of these ancient Maya cities are mostly found within the lush rainforests and jungles.

Sites such as Xunantunich, Caracol, and Lamanai are among the most famous Belize Mayan ruins. These sites all feature impressive structures, including towering pyramids, intricate stone carvings, and sacred temples, each revealing insights into Maya governance, belief systems, and daily life. 

Belize’s prominence as a hub of Mayan civilization is attributed to its strategic location along ancient trade routes and its abundant natural resources, which sustained thriving communities for centuries.

Today, these archaeological treasures in Belize, as well as the massive unearthed city of Tikal in eastern Guatemala, draw visitors from around the world, eager to explore the mysteries of Maya history.

Barrier Reef

a nurse shark in Shark Ray Alley in the Belize Barrier Reef
You’ll have the opportunity to swim with Nurse Sharks At Shark Ray Alley. Photo By Wouter Naert From Unsplash

The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world, following only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  

Stretching over 190 miles along the country’s coastline, this natural wonder is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated for its unique biodiversity featuring colorful coral formations, vibrant marine life, and pristine turquoise waters. 

The reef provides crucial habitat for countless species of fish, sharks, and other marine animals, making Belize a popular destination for snorkelers and divers, with plenty of snorkeling tours you can book that will take you to the most popular spots. 

Blue Hole

the great blue hole off the coast of belize as seen from above
The Blue Hole Is One Of The Most Famous Dive Spots In The World. | Photo By Johnny Grieg From Getty Images/Canva Pro

Situated 43-miles off the coast of Belize, the Great Blue Hole is one of the most fascinating natural phenomena in the country. This iconic marine sinkhole measures over 300 meters across and plunges to a depth of more than 120 meters. 

Its mesmerizing sapphire-blue waters and perfectly circular shape create a captivating spectacle visible even from space. Formed thousands of years ago during the last ice age, the Great Blue Hole is renowned for its incredible geological formations, including underwater stalactites and stalagmites.

Today, the site is a mecca for divers seeking to explore its mysterious depths. It is also a popular helicopter tour for those wanting to get a glimpse of the marvel from above. 


the entrance to rio frio cave - one of the things Belize is known for
The entrance to Rio Frio Cave in Western Belize.

Belize is home to hundreds of caves, many of them holding a fascinating tale of ancient rituals and even human sacrifice. Carved out over millions of years, these subterranean systems offer a glimpse into the country’s geological makeup. However, many of these caves have become popular destinations for tourists. 

The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave stands out as one of the most popular, known for its ceremonial significance to the ancient Maya, who believed caves to be a gateway to the underworld. Here, visitors can marvel at crystalline stalactites and stalagmites while encountering ancient artifacts and skeletal remains, while exploring the wet cave on an intertube. 

Another popular cave to visit, Rio Frio Cave, is known for its massive cathedral-like chambers and awe-inspiring entrance. 

Whether delving into the depths of ancient civilizations or marveling at the beauty of nature, Belize’s caves are sure to evoke a sense of both mystery and wonder.


a cabana at table rock jungle lodge in belize
Eco-lodges may utilize sustainable practices, but they still offer luxurious experiences with private cabanas often built with locally sourced products.

Belize has gained international acclaim for its high-end eco-lodges, which seamlessly blend luxury with sustainable practices. 

Lodges like Table Rock Jungle Lodge or the Lodge at Chaa Chaa Creek provide environmentally conscious travelers an unparalleled experience immersed in the country’s jungles. These eco-lodges provide a sanctuary for those seeking to reconnect with nature and enjoy a technology-free vacation without compromising on comfort. 

From lavish treehouses and rustic-chic cabanas to elegantly appointed villas, each accommodation boasts eco-friendly features such as solar power, rainwater harvesting, and locally sourced materials and food grown on the property, minimizing environmental impact. 

The Cayes

Ambergris Caye and the dock in San Pedro Belize
The cayes, like Ambergris Caye, are Belize’s famous islands.

Belize is known for its breathtaking islands, locally known as “cayes”. Visitors come from all over to bask in the sun, relax in the calm, shallow water of the Caribbean, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the cayes – which are ranked among the best Caribbean islands for families

You’ll find incredible snorkeling and diving in places like the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Alley, located between Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The idyllic turquoise waters are teeming with tropical fish, making a snorkeling trip to the reserve one of the best things to do when visiting Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.

The largest of the islands, Ambergris Caye is a popular destination for families, with everything from luxurious retreats to more budget-friendly resorts located around the island and in the island’s main city, San Pedro.

In contrast, Caye Caulker is known for its laid-back vibe popular with backpackers and diving enthusiasts. 

Speaking English

Belize is one of the best places to visit in Central America for those who are concerned about encountering a language barrier. It is the only country in Central America that recognizes English as its official language rather than Spanish. 

As a former British colony until its independence in 1981, English was established as the language of governance, education, and commerce during colonial rule. This legacy has persisted, with English spoken widely around the country. 

While English may be the official language, there are significant populations of speakers of Spanish, Garifuna, and Maya languages, as well. 


outside the Belize Chocolate Company
Belize is known for its chocolate, and you can sample and buy some at the Belize Chocolate Company in San Pedro.

While Belize may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of chocolate, it actually has a longer history of chocolate-making than many other countries like Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium that are famous for their chocolate. 

Cacao has been cultivated in Belize for centuries, dating back to the time of the ancient Maya civilization, who revered cacao as a valuable commodity and form of currency. 

Today, Belize continues this legacy by producing some of the world’s finest organic cacao beans. The country’s tropical climate and fertile soil provide the perfect conditions for cacao to grow. 

Belizean farmers prioritize sustainable and organic farming practices, ensuring the preservation of the environment and the integrity of the final product. Visiting a cacao farm and learning to make your own chocolate is a popular tour experience in Belize. 

No western chain restaurants

a street with local restaurants in San Ignacio Belize
You won’t find any western chain restaurants in Belize. Instead, you’ll find local-owned restaurants serving authentic cuisine.

One of the weirdest things you’ll see in Belize is actually what you won’t see. You won’t find a McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, or other popular western chain restaurants in Belize. 

Driving around Belize, the absence of Western chain restaurants was a refreshing distinction when compared to many other places we have visited. It preserves the unique culinary identity of the country and supports local businesses. 

While the developing economy in Belize may pose challenges that international chain restaurants simply aren’t willing to overlook when considering a presence in the country, it is also a wonderful way to feel more connected and immersed in the country’s culture. But don’t worry if you’re traveling with a picky eater. More on the food Belize is famous for later.  

Garifuna culture 

two Garifuna men drumming in Belize
Garifuna drumming is a beautiful cultural experience you can have in Belize. | Photo by Meritt Thomas from Unsplash

Garifuna culture in Belize is a beautiful part of the nation’s identity, deeply rooted in the history of the Afro-Indigenous heritage. Descendants of West African slaves and Carib and Arawak indigenous peoples, the Garifuna people arrived in Belize in the early 19th century, bringing with them their unique traditions, music, and cuisine. 

One of the most prominent aspects of Garifuna culture is its music, particularly the rhythmic beats. Traditional Garifuna drumming, accompanied by dance, is central to celebrations and rituals, providing a powerful connection to ancestral roots. 

Additionally, Garifuna cuisine, characterized by dishes that showcase a fusion of African and Caribbean culinary influences. While you can find Garifuna people throughout Belize, the cultural influences are strongest in and around Hopkins, one of the best places to visit in Belize

To experience this cherished culture book a Garifuna cultural and culinary experience in Hopkins.

Belizean food

a stew Chicken meal in Belize
Belizean food often includes rice and beans. Stew chicken is a popular main course.

Belizean cuisine is beloved for its flavorful yet seemingly simple dishes, like rice and beans, a staple found on nearly every Belizean table. This savory dish features rice cooked with coconut milk and red kidney beans, infused with spices like garlic, onion, and thyme. 

Other favorites include stew chicken, conch fritters, and fry jacks. If you’re visiting Belize with kids, your little ones will love fry jacks and smoothies made from fresh fruit grown in the country. 


the mountain pine ridge forest reserve
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is one of Belize’s protected jungles.

Another thing Belize is known for is its dense jungles filled with untamed beauty. 

Forests cloak much of the country’s landscape, offering a sanctuary for a plethora of wildlife species, from jaguars to howler monkeys. The country’s most famous jungle reserve, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is also home to caves, waterfalls, and natural swimming holes like Rio On Pools

Visitors to Belize’s jungles can participate in a variety of activities from exhilarating zip-lining excursions to tranquil hikes along winding trails, all popular things to do around San Ignacio Belize, which is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore the Belizean jungles.

Border dispute

The immigration office at the Belize border with guatemala
Crossing the border between Guatemala and Belize won’t cause any issues, but the two countries have had a longstanding border dispute

The border dispute between Belize and Guatemala is a longstanding and complex issue that dates back to the colonial era. 

Guatemala has historically claimed sovereignty over the territory of Belize, based on inheritance of the Spanish colonial boundaries. However, Belize, which was a former British colony, gained independence from Britain in 1981, and its borders are recognized internationally.

Despite this, Guatemala did not formally recognize Belize’s sovereignty for at least a decade, and still there are tensions over where the official border should be, particularly in the southern portion of Belize. 

While progress has been made in recent years, the border issue remains unresolved. Nevertheless, crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala isn’t an issue for tourists – although it is admittedly a process.

Conclusion: Things Belize is famous for

Do you have other questions besides “What is Belize known for?” or are there any Belize claims to fame you would add to this list? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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