A trip to Belize would not be a vacation without a chance to do something innovative and exhilarating! There is so much to do in Belize, numerous activities that include, tropical rain forests, Mountains, Caves, archaeological sites and more!
Below are the top ten things to do in Belize.
Caracol & Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
Caracol, which modern name is Spanish for “Snail” is the largest Archaeological site in Belize to date. It has the tallest man made structure, Caana at 140 feet above the jungle top. This site was discovered in 1938 by loggers in the area and excavations began until 1950. Many carvings dated around 500-800 AD a ceramic indicates that this site was settled around 300 AD and continue to flourished for more than a century after 652 AD war with Tikal. Caracol, a classic period site is renowned for its large mask, hieroglyphic texts found on stelae, altars, ball- courts-markers, capstones with a fine display of the Maya’s engineering skills.
Mountain Pine Ridge is a landscape of Pine Forest and granite hillsides. This reserve was established in 1944 and has been one of the most visited reserves in Belize. During this time, a total of 1,504,000 acres (6,086 km2) was designated as forest reserve. Most of which was destroyed by a fire in 1949. The elevation of the reserve averages between 1312 to 2296 feet with the highest point being Baldy Beacon at 3336 feet and dropping to 394 ft at the lowest point on the Macal River. Mountain Pine Ridge is home to various mammals, including Cougars, Jaguars, ocelots, Tapirs etc. It is also home to various species of birds to name a few Pine Siskin, Eastern Bluebird, King Vulture, Stygian Owl, Ocellated Turkey, Keel-billed Toucan and others. Notable features/Points of Interest of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve: Barton Creek Cave, Thousand Foot Falls, Rio on Pools.
Lamanai Maya Ruin
Lamanai Ruins in the Orange Walk District, is derived from the Maya term “Submerged Crocodile”. Evidence of Maya life here dates back to 1500 BC. It continued to flourish through the post classic period and Spanish colonial times (A.D. 1544-1700) this is shown by a significant amount of copper artifacts found. This is said to be possibly the third largest site in Belize. A notable feature of Lamanai is its second largest Pre- Classic structure in the Maya world. It also boast with three of the most impressive temples: Jaguar Temple-named for its boxy jaguar decoration, Mask Temple-adorned by a thirteen foot stone mask of a Mayan King and Mayan Temple- with one of the most panoramic views from this temple. Lamanai is set in tropical forests and provides visitors an exceptional experience into the biological diversity of the Maya Culture.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Actun Tunichil Muknal refer to as ATM or locally known as “Xibalba” means “Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher.” ATM was discovered in 1989 and it is within the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. There are several skeleton remains in this cave, along with many ceramic artifacts. The skeleton remains ranging from age one to adults. Four of which are infants between ages one and three, another is seven years old, a fifteen and a twenty one year old. One of the skeletons remains is called “The Crystal Maiden”. This is one of the highlights of this tour. It is that of an 18 year old girl believed to have been sacrificed for the last 1100 years ago. All show signs of blunt trauma to the head and others having their skulls crushed. Other items found in the cave includes ceramics marked with “Kill Holes” which is an indication that they were used for ceremonial purposes.
Xunantunich which is pronounced “CHEW-nahn-too-neech” is one of the easiest and most accessible sites, with just 8 miles from San Ignacio Town. Xunantunich means “Stone Woman” and the site sits atop a ridge above the Mopan River. This was a major ceremonial site during the classic period. It occupies about one square mile and consists of six plazas surrounded by more than twenty six temples and palaces. The second tallest structure in Belize (after Caracol) is “El Castillo” at about 130 feet tall. Visitors are taken in a hand-cranked ferry over the river for a one mile drive or hike to the parking lot and visitor’s center.
Diving and Snorkeling the Barrier Reef
Belize's Barrier Reef is the longest in the western hemisphere and second longest in the world. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996, stretching from Cozumel in Mexico, along the coastline of Belize to the Bay Islands of Honduras. It offers spectacular wall dives and ocean drop offs. Snorkeling is available on the many shallow reefs with great visibility to a diverse ecosystem and pristine corals.
The Belize Zoo, founded in 1983 by Sharon Matola. The zoo is settled on 29 acres of Savannah with over 150 animals representing 45 different species living in their natural habitat. This is one of the smallest Zoos you have probably been too, but one of the best. Home to Jabiru storks, Harpy eagle, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, crocodiles, many snakes and wild cats. Don’t miss the opportunity to stop by and explore our many indigenous animals of Belize some of which are endangered.
The Baboon Sanctuary near Bermudian Landing was founded in 1985. It is a joint project between several landowners and the community to sustain and protect the endangered baboon (local term for Black Howler Monkey) in their natural habitat. This project has caused the population of baboons in the sanctuary to rise to over 2,000 monkeys. This is a popular day trip with less than an hour drive from Belize City. A trip to this sanctuary is well worth it to experience one of the six species of howler monkeys in the world.
Hopkins Village, Belize
Has one of the best beaches in Belize stretching across a 7-miles stretch of sandy beaches, it boasts a myriad of nature reserves, a beautiful local Garifuna fishing village, and nearby Mayan sites. While visiting Hopkins Village, you can take a trip to the Jaguar Preserve, a Monkey River tour, Visit Lubaantun or Nim Li Punit, take a snorkeling trip or diving and explore an underwater oasis or simply walk around the “Hopkins Cultural Village.”
Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve
Cockscomb was declared a Jaguar Preserve in 1986 and it is the only Jaguar Preserve in the world. The area covers 150 square miles of tropical forest. Jaguars are masters of stealth and chances of seeing one is about seventeen thousand to one. However, a trip to Jaguar Preserve takes you through jungle trails exploring medicinal plants, over 300 bird species, peccary, howler monkeys, gibnut, agouti and snakes amongst others. One also has the opportunity of enjoying a refreshing river tubing tour after the trails.
One of the most popular trips of Belize and a very exciting combination. The cave tubing tour lasts about an hour and a half. Once at Caves Branch, Guides take you through a 30 minute trail into the jungle, exploring the fauna of Belize and on to the entrance of the Cave. The tour takes you through three cave system of inner tubes, enjoying the magnificent rock formation in the cave while floating downstream. While exiting the cave, the tour brings you to the point where you had started your trek.
The above list is among my top ten things to do in Belize. There are many other activities to explore and enjoy like, river rafting, sunset sailing and fishing. Also, delving into different parts of Belize can give you a true taste into our diverse cultures, people and music.