Belize Travel Guide
When I first chose to travel to Belize, it was because I liked how the world sounded. Belize. It brought to mind turquoise waters, tropical waterfalls, and bright colored birds. Aaaaaand I was right. Belize is all those things and more! As you’ll see in this Belize travel guide, it’s the perfect destination for jungle activities (Maya ruins, spelunking, hiking, biking, cave tubing) and for island relaxation (fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, you name it).
Belize is part tropical jungle, part caribbean island charm, and do you really need any more parts besides those? Well, we’ll find out in this Belize Travel Guide.
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BELIZE TRAVEL GUIDE: THE BASICS
CURRENCY | Belize dollars (Check out xe.com for the most up-to-date currency conversion–they have a mobile app too!)
TIME ZONE | Central Time Zone, GMT -6 / The entire country of Belize is one hour behind the Eastern time zone.
VISA / PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS | If you’re planning to spend less than 30 days in Belize, no special documents are required and you can enter with your U.S. passport alone. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your trip.
LANGUAGE(S) SPOKEN | The official language of Belize is English, but in different parts of the country you’re likely to hear other languages such as Spanish (inland) and Creole (on the islands).
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR? | I have not personally experienced anything notable to apply here but word on the street (and from the U.S. Department of State) is that the high crime rate in Belize City is something to avoid at all costs. Being that the main airport is in Belize City this may sound troublesome, but I personally traveled in and out via airplanes, taxis, and boats with no issue.
Obviously, always take standard safety precautions (don’t travel alone, don’t travel at night, don’t flash your wads of cash you baller you). For more information on Belize safety concerns, see this page and always pick up travel insurance before you go.
MOST POPULAR BELIZE DESTINATIONS
➤ CAYE CAULKER | The car-less island that’s just six tropical square miles in size. The motto here is “Go Slow”, the water is turquoise, the snorkeling is top-notch, and the friendly island vibe is addicting.
➤ BELIZE CITY | The country’s main city (but not the capital). Though it’s not known for being the safest city, there are a number of popular tourist attractions here such as the Belize Zoo (featuring only rescued animals native to Belize). Belize City is also home to Belize’s main airport (BZE) and where you’ll catch the ferries to the islands. Also, not that far off is the Blue Hole, the ultimate diving experience in Belize.
➤ SAN IGNACIO | Located in the western part of the country in the Cayo District, near the border with Guatemala. It’s home to some unreal jungle lodges and the perfect base for all your jungle adventure activities.
➤ AMBERGRIS CAYE | Another popular island is Ambergris Caye, slightly bigger than Caye Caulker and it actually has streets and cars. San Pedro is a popular destination town here.
WHEN TO VISIT BELIZE
➤ WEATHER | As you can see from weather-and-climate.com, it’s always nice in Belize. HOWEVER, know that even though it says 90° in May, it honestly felt like 120°. Just sayin’… thermometers don’t tell the whole story, sly sons of bitches.
➤ SEASONS | Belize’s wet season is typically June – October. The dry season in Belize (and the most popular time to visit) is February – April. I know, I know… you were looking at pics of baby jaguars, it’ll be fine. As is with much of the Caribbean, hurricane season lasts from June – November, with most of Belize’s hurricanes and tropical storms occurring later in the season–around September/October. Tourism peaks during the week of Easter so if that’s a time you’re considering, reservations should be made like yesterday.
I personally visited at the very end of May. Because of the drought, it was still dry (as in, no rain–what the humidity did to my face and body is a different story) and aggressively hot.
WHERE TO STAY IN BELIZE
BLACK ROCK LODGE
When I visited the jungles of Belize, I stayed at Black Rock Lodge — a totally self-sustaining eco-lodge nestled in the dense rainforest. Basically, THE DREAM, RIGHT!?
Black Rock Lodge is located just outside San Ignacio, Belize on the western side of the country and makes the perfect place to stay for checking out the famous ATM Cave and Guatemala’s Tikal National Park.
The property is gorgeous, the food was phenomenal every night, and there are more than enough activities to keep all levels of adventurers happy. I CANNOT recommend this place enough. It’s my favorite accommodation anywhere in the world.
For the second half of my trip I spent three days in Caye Caulker, the tiny Caribbean island completely void of cars and worries but chock full of hammocks and island vibe.
Caye Caulker is located just a 45-minute boat ride from Belize City, Belize out in the colorful Caribbean neck of the woods. Come to Caye Caulker to get away from everything but friendly locals, sunshine and sand, and fryjacks.
Colinda Cabanas is in the perfect oceanside location and the owners couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. Each cabana is separate and full of all the amenities you’ll need, comes with bicycles to get around on the island as well as a hammock (of course), an endless supply of fresh water, and a resident gecko.
San Ignacio and Caye Caulker aren’t the only amazing places to visit in Belize though. The country may be small but it’s packing tourism destinations out the wazoo. After you decide where in Belize you want to visit, read reviews on Tripadvisor and then go ahead and book your room!
And don’t forget, there’s always Airbnb and I can help you save $40 on your first Airbnb stay. Just click here to activate the no-strings discount and shop away!
BELIZE TRAVEL GUIDE: WHAT TO DO
Belize is an adventure junkies heaven… but, like, also perfect for those who love to do absolutely nothing more than lift drink to mouth. Repeat.
➤ IN THE JUNGLE | Over on the jungle side of the country you’ve got popular activities like cave tubing, river rafting, hiking, biking, exploring caves–especially touring the ATM Cave, a must-do–yoga, horseback riding, and the list is almost endless.
➤ ON THE ISLANDS | Belize’s islands are relaxed, tropical, and as busy as you want them to be. While my husband would recommend simply lounging at a beach bar with a beer, you can also go fishing, wind surfing, scuba diving, fly over the Blue Hole, or go snorkeling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve–the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef after that Great one.
➤ EVERYWHERE ELSE | Maya ruins can be found all over Belize and exploring them is a popular activity (and rightfully so). However, one of the most popular things to do in Belize… is leave it. While Belize has amazing ruins all over, the biggest in the Maya civilization is Tikal in Guatemala–an easy and eye-opening day trip I highly recommend!
RECOMMENDED BELIZE TOURS
➤ LAND OF BELIZE, INTREPID TRAVEL | If planning an entire trip sounds overwhelming, popular tour company Intrepid offers this 8-day tour of Belize that covers almost everything I’ve mentioned in this Belize travel guide including: jungle activities, visiting Tikal in Guatemala and the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech in Belize, and a few free days on Caye Caulker. This tour includes all accommodation, some meals, and your own personal, knowledgable Belize travel guide.
➤ VIATOR TOURS | If you’re just looking for day tours to various attractions in Belize, Viator is my go-to tour company. They’ve got tours for cave tubing, snorkeling, Maya ruins, and every single thing in between. Their tours include pickup and dropoff and offer those from all different parts of Belize depending on where you are.
BELIZE TRAVEL GUIDE: PACKING ESSENTIALS
➤ BELIZE GUIDEBOOK | I’m a big believer in travel guidebooks – they’re great for historical and background information, practical information like phone numbers, addresses, and opening and closing times, as well as restaurant recommendations and pretty pictures ’cause I’m a dainty little girl. Consider them your portable Belize travel guide.
I personally have the Fodor’s version but I know each guidebook company has their own following so here are some other choices for you. Take special note whether or not the guidebook also features a “side trip to Guatemala” if you’re considering a day trip to Tikal! Which you should because it’s AMAZING.
Rough Guides have quickly become my favorite guidebooks in the last couple of years and I now go straight for them. If you’re just gonna judge the books by their covers, Lonely Planet has you covered. (Ding! Ding! Ding! Winner!) And I have no personal experience with Moon guidebooks but they’re apparently an Amazon favorite.
➤ FOR THE JUNGLE | When planning your trip to the jungles of Belize, keep in mind that IT IS HOTTTTT in the jungles of Belize. Staying cool and hydrated while you’re out doing the most amazing things you’ll do all year is super important.
Go ahead and face it–you’re going to sweat in Belize like you’ve never sweated before. Just embrace the top knot, girl. I like to carry around these quick dry microfiber towels to stay as dry and comfortable as possible. I have this 3-pack–the large is a full-on bath towel; the medium is perfect for wrapping your hair out of the shower; and the small is great for keeping in your purse AT ALL TIMES.
Staying hydrated is probably the #1 thing you need to do while in the jungles of Belize. THANK GOD Black Rock Lodge (and Colinda Cabanas) kept an endless supply of fresh water on hand so I just refilled my Camelbak over and over and over. I think we just solved the issue of the drought. *Gulp*
Luckily for me (apologies to the entire country to Belize for this) there was a drought during my visit. Because of this, I wasn’t subject to the biting mosquitos (et al) that are known to inhabit the rainforest. You may not be so lucky. I still brought along this OFF! Deep Woods just in case.
Belize is one of the world’s top birding destinations. Okay, fine, you may not be an avid birdwatcher, but you just might be in Belize! They are toucans and other colorful, tropical birds just everywhere. Not to mention monkeys, coatis, and perhaps you’d simply like to just keep a safe distance from the tarantulas but still check ’em out. Bring some binoculars!
➤ FOR THE ISLANDS | Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are Belize’s two most popular islands but there are beach destinations a-plenty in this tiny country. While the rainforest is amazing and offers more than enough to do, you should definitely take some time to check out the islands as well. They’re laid back, beautiful, with a Caribbean vibe that you shouldn’t miss.
I know it may seem obvious to bring a pair of sunglasses to a Caribbean island, but whatever. Sometimes they’re easy to forget when you’re heading out to the airport pre-dawn. Leave your expensive (and metal) pair behind and opt for something simple and comfortable (and polarized) for all your jungle and island activities.
I didn’t learn about dry bags until I was already in Belize, seeing how easy everyone else’s life was going. If you’re doing any kind of activity near the water (which you will be), dry bags are the best and, really, the only logical way to store your stuff. Keep everything dry and secure, even underwater.
Y’all. The sun in Belize is not messing around. Please make sure to pack ample amounts of sunscreen for both the jungle and the islands. And if possible, make sure it’s reef safe. The world’s 2nd largest barrier reef is right off the coast of Belize so let’s try to keep all that adorable sea life healthy and happy, mmkay?
So I learned the hard way about the power of the Belizean sun–I got the worst sunburn of my life. On my ass (from a full day of snorkeling, whoops). THANK GOD I was able to find some of this at a shop in Caye Caulker. Had I not, I think I’d be singing quite a different tune. It saved my ass (literally, har har).
You’re going to do so much cool stuff in Belize and you’ll want to record every minute of it. Snorkeling, touring the ATM Cave, river tubing, mountain biking, hiking, all the things! I love my GoPro because I can take it anywhere and everywhere and it’s an effortless way to record all your adventures.
If you plan on using your GoPro while snorkeling the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Floaty Handler is perfect for this. It’s the easiest way to handle your GoPro in the ocean. The handle has an adjustable strap (for all the crashing waves, I presume) and floats in case it does slip off your wrist.
THE SHOES YOU NEED FOR BELIZE
When I was planning my trip to Belize, touring the ATM Cave was at the very top of my to-do wish list. Buuuut what the hell shoes was I supposed to wear? I’d be hiking, I’d be in a cave, I’d be swimming, I’d be wading through rivers, and I’d be wearing them to lunch. I could not find any information on any other Belize travel guide. And I spent hours searching for an answer. Yes, I have problems.
Then I discovered Keens! These are the perfect shoes for every activity in Belize: touring the ATM Cave, hiking and mountain biking, horseback riding, hanging out on the islands, land activities, water activities, ALL THE ACTIVITIES!
They’re waterproof (I mean, they dry quickly), they’re unbelievably comfortable, and they’re sturdy enough to keep your toes intact scrambling over rocks inside a dark cave–my knees weren’t so lucky. I recommend these shoes to EVERYONE traveling to Belize.