Why are you reminding me to pack toothpaste and deodorant when deciding what to pack for Belize? This is not my first day as a post-pubescent adult, despite what my Hello Kitty T-shirt and collection of medicated face washes might tell you.
This is why I’m not generally a fan of packing posts. Every traveler knows they must maintain some sort of hygienic existence on the road; this is not advice. This is common sense. You’re wasting my time and my cache.
On the other hand, every traveler is different. What you travel with and what I travel with are rarely the same. I don’t carry a water filter. I don’t wear sarongs or “multi functional scarves.” And you’ll never, ever, find ballet flats and practical skirts in my suitcase.
Who are these travelers? And how do they climb mountains in ballet flats? Doesn’t sound very practical to me.
What to pack for Belize
I do believe packing posts are necessary but best when used as an afterthought. “What should I have packed? Could I have left some of it at home? What would I bring next time?”
However, there is one item I believe all travelers take with them regardless of their destination and plans: a crapload of denial. It comes in many forms: “Can’t forget my makeup! I’m going to look so pretty in the jungle. I’m definitely going to wear all of this jewelry. Of course I’m going to work out on my vacation!” Ha! You’re so stupid.
My recent trip to Belize was no exception, except maybe to the rules of hygiene. Oh, the space I could have saved for bottles of rum and hot sauce. Here’s what to pack for Belize based on lessons learned…
What to know about packing for Belize
First of all, it’s hot in Belize. Like, eating habanero peppers on the surface of the sun while watching Jared Leto front a rock band.
I know, you’d never think the surface of the sun could harbor 90% humidity but there I was, accidentally drinking my own salty sweat as it ran from my face into my mouth. I knew heat would be a thing because I looked at the forecast beforehand that showed 86°F every day I’d be there.
THIS IS SO HILARIOUSLY INACCURATE. I don’t know where on Earth (literally) the weather people get their information because I’m certain the temperature in the Belizean jungle never dipped below 110°F.
Luckily, when deciding what to pack for Belize, I planned for hot. I just wish I’d planned for OMG I think I might die… yup, this is it. This is the end. OMG Jared Leto has a pink mohawk hot.
What to pack for Belize: Apparel
During my six days in Belize (+1 in Guatemala), I wore 20 of the 29 pieces of clothing pictured here. Not bad! That’s definitely a better ratio than the fried chicken to fitness comparison I saw on that trip. Those results I’m keeping to myself.
The photo above illustrates my standard *what to pack for Belize* look for the trip and also why I’ll never be a fashion icon. That and my love for beer and deep-fried things, and, while we’re at it, deep-fried beer.
Cheerleading shorts, a sports bra, and a loose-fitting tank top were all I could bear to wear in the 100°F+ Central American heat. I look reasonably clean in this picture but if only you could understand the level of sweaty I was when this photo was taken. I came home three pounds lighter if that tells you anything.
Fashion – 0, Survival – 7
For this trip to Belize I stuck to just plain ol’ tank tops, as loose-fitting as possible. This includes a tank top dress and a tube top dress I didn’t wear anyway. Sleeves be damned! (Although, this would eventually be my demise.)
Luckily, I’m familiar enough with humidity to understand I needed to pack three pairs of Soffe shorts and a pair of hiking shorts. I also packed a nicer pair of white shorts, a full-length pair of white linen pants, a one-piece jumper thing I thought was cute for a hot second, a flowy maxi skirt (ha!), and a pair of denim overall shorts (*keels over in a fit of laughter*).
Apparel packed but not pictured
Underwear (some things are left to the imagination, no?), socks I needed for some adventures, a strapless bra to wear with my “nicer” tops which is the single most uncomfortable and ridiculous thing to bring into the jungle with you, and something to sleep in.
Scratch that, my pajamas are pictured. Depending on what time of year you visit, you may end up just sleeping in your birthday suit sprawled out in front of a box fan.
Don’t bring nice things
I packed a few dresses and a few “nice” tops thinking maybe there’d be a night or two I’d want to look not like a howler monkey for dinner. Nuh-uh. Nope. There is no looking nice when you’re in the jungle during a drought.
Oddly enough, too, because I’m sure I could have filled the river basin with back sweat. I did, however, wear the tank top dress three whole days in a row because it was the only thing that allowed adequate air flow to my nether regions. ‘Twas the most practical of all my Belize outfits.
Apparel I should have left behind
What not to wear in Belize: Denim!
It’s way too heavy, too hot, too sticky, uncomfortable, restrictive, and just all around terrible. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.
All white things
I brought a pair of nice white shorts and some white linen pants. Neither of these things were white when I left Belize.
The white linen pants were only worn for salvation after sitting in (and sticking to) chairs became too painful for my severely sunburned butt cheeks. These pants actually saved me. Except when they almost got stuck in my bike chain. Also, no longer white.
Things I wanted to keep clean
Don’t bring anything to Belize you wouldn’t mind destroying with road dirt (so much emphasis here), sweat, bike rust, hot sauce splatter, sunburn tears
Just don’t bring any tops that require the use of a strapless bra. Unless peeling a soaking wet bra off yourself at the end of the day is on your Belize bucket list.
I wore that thing once and it immediately shrunk. Now it’s basically just a pair of underwear with a shirt attached. Forget “romper.” Hell, let’s just call it was it is – a onesie.
What to pack for Belize: Shoes
I wore all the shoes I brought! That maybe has never happened before. Everything you see in this picture is now covered in a thick layer of road dust plastered on with sweat that dripped from my body.
I packed a couple pairs of flip-flops and a “nicer” pair of sandals that I wore once then realized I was so, so stupid.
The best shoes for Belize
But the two I wore the most and the most important on the list of what to pack for Belize:
- North Face hiking shoes / Buy here on Amazon or Zappos
- Keen H2 hiking sandals / Buy here on Amazon or Zappos
Belize jungle activities
During my time in Belize jungle, I:
- hiked through a cave (that involved river crossings, a lot of swimming, rock climbing, some ladder action, a jungle hike, and eating some live termites – irrelevant but still notable)
- explored the ancient Mayan complex of Tikal and climbed many of the towers (pictured earlier)
- hiked to the summit of a mountain
- mountain biked through the jungle
- hiked to and swam in a jungle river
- rode a packed, old, beat up American school bus across the country standing up in the aisle
You need these shoes
To say these two pairs of shoes were invaluable is an understatement. To say air conditioning and handrails are fundamental is also one.
I’ve had the North Face hiking shoes for years but the Keens I bought specifically for this trip and our adventure through Belize’s famed ATM Cave.
The Keens are basically hiking boots made for hikes that involve water and they’re the absolute best shoes for Belize. While there we noticed everyone else was wearing Keens too.
They’re not the best looking shoe but still the most comfortable shoes I own. Can I wear these to your wedding? See also: Why I’m not a fashion icon.
Shoes I should have left behind
Let’s be honest, I really only needed one pair of flip-flips, my hiking shoes, and my Keens.
I should’ve left the fancy Ralph Lauren’s and the gold sandals behind since I only wore them each for like an hour. One incredibly uncomfortable hour. I was clearly trying very, very hard.
What to pack for Belize: Swimwear
When deciding what to pack for Belize, anyone who’s been to a Caribbean island knows they’re going to need many swimsuits, the region’s official dress code.
Yellow for snorkeling, teal for just about anything, sequins for my bachelorette party in Las Vegas that I somehow thought I needed in Belize.
Swimwear I should have left behind
The sparkly one. Caye Caulker, Belize is the lowest-key, most chill place I’ve ever been. There’s no room for sequins on Caye Caulker. Regardless, even though I should have worn all three of these, I, of course, did not.
I wore the teal one while hiking the ATM Cave. Then I forgot I brought the yellow one and wore the teal one again snorkeling in Caye Caulker. Then, due to the intense sunburn I acquired in the exact shape of the teal one, I was forced to wear it for the rest of the trip anyway.
Depending on how long you’ll be in Belize, you really only need like two good bathing suits. And make sure they’re functional over fashionable!
What to pack for Belize: Adventures
So, Belize is full of adventures. I squeezed in as many as I could but still only scratched the surface. And my shins. So much.
As I mentioned, in Belize we:
- toured the ATM Cave,
- took a day trip to Tikal,
- climbed a mountain,
- spent 3 days in Caye Caulker,
- biked through the jungle,
- and spent some time snorkeling in Belize.
We made good use of all the things pictured here (except for one) that we brought for these occasions.
What to pack for Belize: snorkeling
Proper snorkeling gear
Aqualung fins, mask, and snorkel. Yes, they have snorkeling gear there but I prefer my own because I’m a snorkel snob. I mean, would you use a communal straw at a restaurant if all they did to clean it was dip it in the ocean? I didn’t think so.
I use Spit antifog gel for my mask every time I’m in the water. It keeps your mask from fogging up so you can see all the amazing things there is to see in Belize’s Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. This is a snorkeling must-have!
I love my Deep See dive booties. These are great for keeping your snorkel fins in place while you’re in the water, and even better for walking around on the wet, slippery boat.
What to pack for Belize: the jungle
I highly recommend bringing some compact binoculars for the wildlife obsession. Belize is actually one of the top bird-watching destinations in the world, if you’re into that. But also, howler monkeys and toucans galore!
Water bottle fanny pack
I wear my water bottle fanny pack for hiking because I need both hands when I fall. It also has a little pocket for chapstick and your ID for identifying you when you pass out from heat exhaustion. Belize really is the best!
Refillable water bottle
Pictured above is a standard Camelbak Eddy but I now use this Takeya stainless steel bottle instead and it never leaves my side (⇡ literally, har har). It never leaks the way Camelbak does and it keeps my water cold for daysss.
Regardless of what kind you bring, this may be the most important thing to pack for Belize. The threat of dehydration in real in Belize! Both my accommodations in the jungle and on the islands came with 10-gallon jugs of clean water to refill my bottle with nonstop.
Even these cheap, polarized classics will do. Just don’t forget sunglasses!
Personally, I didn’t find out about dry bags until I was already in Belize. However, I now use my 10L dry bag all the time.
Dry bags are the best option for when you want to keep your things away from water, dirt, sun, and everything else. In Belize, dry bags are perfect for the beach and snorkeling, for miscellaneous jungle adventures, river tubing, boating, and absolutely necessary for touring the ATM Cave.
Dry bags come in many sizes, but a 10L one will hold a couple of towels, shoes, clothing, a book, phones, and most of whatever else you’ll need. (Without being too big and bulky)
Dry bag for your phone
I’m new to the world of waterproof phone cases but they’ve been a favorite of my readers for years! This little dry bag for your phone lets you use it safely on the beach and even underwater. It takes some getting used to but definitely works!
I always advocate for bringing extra, backup food where jungle adventures are concerned. Actually, just always bring food with you everywhere. I always have Clif Bars on hand but bring your protein bar of choice!
I brought OFF! Deep Woods bug repellent for all those Zika-carrying mosquitos we were warned about. Oh, but guess what? There was a drought and we didn’t encounter a single mosquito in Belize. The jungle just isn’t what it used to be. Thanks, Obama.
However, I would still highly recommend bringing bug spray to Belize with you. It is the jungle after all. Gimme all the deet!
What I should have left behind
Nothing! I brought all the right stuff and nothing I didn’t need. OK, technically I didn’t use the bug spray but I would’ve been stressed had I not brought it. Peace of mind, y’all. The most important thing to have on your travels.
What to pack for Belize: the beach
Well….. we didn’t spend much time at the “beach” so much as we did the bar near the water but most of this did get used.
Anticipating my days on Caye Caulker I packed:
- Beach bag – As you’ll see, I carried a lot of my denial in here.
- Beach towels
- An Aerobie because the thought of “laying around” on the beach gives me anxiety and I need physical activity at all times. The Aerobie is the round, yellow thing that screams “Denial!” as it whizzes by your head only you’ll never hear it because it didn’t leave the bag.
- Sunscreen + SPF lipbalm
- Magazines – you can steal these from your local craft brewery
- Actually really good sunglasses since I anticipated a much lower activity level on the islands than I did in the jungle.
Beach things I should’ve left behind
The beach towels
Both places we stayed provided us with all the beach towels we could ever need. I have no idea why I thought a beach cabana on the beach wouldn’t provide these.
Leave these at home! They take up a lot of space in your suitcase and smell awful the entire week you drag them around.
Obviously this trip was before I started traveling with quick-dry, microfiber towels. These are much easier to pack, are super absorbent, dry quickly, and don’t smell bad!
Honestly, who was I kidding? The only thing I read at the beach was the label of the Belikin beer bottle.
The Ralph Lauren sunglasses
I wore the cheap plastic ones the whole week and they were perfect.
Ladies! My hair was in a messy bun the entire week. Now, you know what happens when you wear metal sunglasses with nosepieces when your hair is up. So much ripping.
The plastic frames you can slide on top of your head and off with ease, something I do a lot for taking pictures and when using my shirt to wipe the sweat off my face. You will too. Just stick with the simple sunglasses.
SPF 8? Tanning lotion? Psshhhh! I’ve never been darker than I am right now from this Belize trip and this is all from trying to avoid the sun! You definitely won’t have trouble getting some color in Belize so the more SPF the better.
What to pack for Belize: Electronics
Yes, it’s all necessary! I could have done without all the clothing and beach towels and *rolls eyes* reading material, but I cannot do without my gear.
What to pack for Belize: travel gear must-haves
Really good camera
Belize is so beautiful you’ll definitely be snapping away nonstop. This camera is great for traveling and specifically for traveling to Belize. It’s dust- proof, sand-proof, shock-proof, and water resistant. I brought it everywhere on this trip (climbing mountains, riding bikes, you name it) and it held up perfectly!
Don’t forget the charger!
To Belize I brought the Joby GorillaPod, Zoom model – the weird looking tripod that’s flexible and weighs practically nothing. But now I always travel with the cell phone-sized version of this so I can use it anywhere.
GoPro and accessories
For all the adventures I got up to in Belize, I had to have my GoPro! I mostly just used it snorkeling and to create the snorkeling video at the top of this post. But you can also use it for hiking and hiking, wind surfing (which I’m totally trying next time), kayaking, river tubing, and literally everything else.
Don’t forget the charger!
And with it I always bring my arsenal of GoPro accessories:
- GoPro floating hand grip for sturdier underwater shooting plus it floats and has an adjustable strap so… idiot-proof.
- GoPro chest mount for activities like mountain biking and kayaking when you want to see your hands
- Head strap for things like river tubing or spelunking
- And the extremely necessary Polar Pro GoPro red snorkel filter. The red filter balances out the blues and greens you get when filming in the ocean to give you colors closer to what you actually see. I show you:
On the left is the picture of the sea turtle I took with my GoPro + red filter. The picture on the right my husband took of me taking the picture of the sea turtle (no red filter).
On the left is how I saw it when I was down there in between being head-butted by sharks and bitch-slapped by turtles – vibrant colors and crystal clear water. And that’s how I’d like to remember it.
Pictured but not mentioned
- A curling iron that I’ve had since my literal first day as a post-pubescent adult.
- Fujifilm FinePix waterproof digital camera + battery charger + floaty wrist thing. This is the camera I used in Iceland and Hawaii before I got my GoPro. It’s good, but there’s nothing better than a GoPro.
Electronics I should have left behind
Well, I didn’t use the GoPro chest or head strap but I’m glad I brought them (and I definitely could have used them). Peace of mind, remember? They weigh almost nothing and pack up real tight.
But mostly, the curling iron. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I laugh hysterically at how naïve I was to pack a curling iron for Belize.
It’s something I always pack, regardless of what I have planned or where I’m going. I have long, straight hair that I usually curl into big waves… when I care. Caring about my hair was utterly impossible in Belize. Wearing my hair down was also impossible.
Every day was the same: shower, apply Moroccan oil (a non-negotiable), stand naked in front of the wind machine to air dry and pretend I’m a fashion model. Wrap hair into a bun on top of my head before leaving the cabin/cabana. Do not remove until next shower.
It was too damn hot and sweaty and sticky for anything else. Every time I saw the curling iron in my suitcase I LOL’ed. Idiot. Now I know.
How to pack for Belize
I may be late to the game but I know a lot of you who still haven’t jumped on the packing cube bandwagon. You need to use packing cubes! I use the TravelWise Packing Cube System and I’m obsessed. These things have seriously changed my travel game.
Bra travel case
And of course my bra travel case. These hard shell bra travel cases are so great. They prevent all your bras and bathing suit tops from getting all bent up and keep them the shape they’re supposed to be.
In this one I have three bras, three swimsuits (tops and bottom), and five pairs of socks. (Because, let’s face it, my bras don’t take up all that much space.)
What I should have packed for Belize
I meant to bring a hat for hiking, or any other reason I’d need it, buuuut I forgot and ended up buying one there. Even though I have 10 at my house.
The sun of the islands is inescapable and sometimes you just have to create your own shade.
I focused so much on the Belize is hot thing and refused to pack anything other than tank tops. This became a problem after the snorkel sunburn of 2016 and the need for something to cover my shoulders. Again, I had to buy one there.
I know it’s hot in Belize, but bring something with sleeves. This should be their tourism slogan.
After sun lotion
By the grace of a Mayan god I ended up finding some Ocean Potion burn relief at the gift shop in Caye Caulker. However, it was pretty funny having to get my husband to chop off some stalks of the aloe plant outside our cabana to apply to my burnt butt cheeks. *Sigh* The memories that will stay with us forever…
After the snorkel sunburn of 2016 I needed much Ibuprofen. During the 2-hour cross-country chicken bus ride through the uncontrolled wildfires of Belize, I needed much Ibuprofen.
Luckily, Belize has pharmacies and you can purchase drugs by the pill (Ibuprofen among them), the way I wish you could in the U.S.
Mostly, Neosporin and bandaids. Because rock climbing inside a cave, underwater, is hard and coral is sharp. After many years of traveling and adventure, I know now the importance of bringing a small travel-sized first aid kit.
Like I mentioned earlier, it was on my trip to the ATM Cave that I learned about dry bags for the first time. I had attempted to put everything I wanted to keep dry into a series of Ziplock bags but ended up eating a wet granola bar. You had ONE JOB, Ziplock!
I have a dry bag now and it’s definitely the best possible way to keep things dry, even while submerged in water.
Yes, we have a couple of headlamps at home and could have used them on our jungle night hike and in our summit hike’s dark cave. Our guide provided some but I couldn’t figure out how to wear it so I just carried it around. (Leave me alone…)
It was really annoying dealing with the lamp while trying to keep the feisty tarantula from crawling up my arms and pants leg:
What to pack for Belize that was not pictured
You’re not an idiot. You don’t need someone telling you what hygiene products to bring or what undergarments to pack. However, if you’d like to know my preferences, I’d be glad to share those with you.
I think you can handle this one and I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what products I took with me. I’m not completely uncivilized, you know. I tried to remain as clean as possible, given the circumstances.
Underwear and socks
Yes, I brought them. At certain times it was all I wore. Think wind machine.
I needed socks for hiking and biking adventures, and for inside the ATM Cave when you have to take your Keens off and finish the hike in your socks. This is 100% a real thing you have to do.
Another big dumb-dumb moment. I think I put on mascara a couple of days but that was the extent of it. I’d work up such a sweat putting makeup on that it would be completely null and void by the end of it. Don’t get caught in the vicious cycle like I did. Seriously, no one cares!
Now, if I could only learn to unpack…
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