I want to brag about Belize, okay? This country that I get to call home is really cool. It has it all: beautiful beaches, gorgeous green jungles, soaring mountains, fertile farm land, rushing rivers, idyllic islands, friendly people… what more could you want?! It’s the total package. And there’s more! The official national language is English, US currency is widely accepted, and it’s only about a 2-hour flight from Miami or Houston. Belize has world-class diving and fishing, unsurpassed natural beauty with birding and other wildlife spotting opportunities, an intriguing history and fascinating cultural cuisine. What Belize doesn’t have, in my opinion, is also an asset. No big box stores, no mega-all-inclusive-resorts, no franchises or chain restaurants. This is a place of small, and often, family-run businesses and unforgettable adventure. A destination for slow travel and authentic experiences. To me, Belize is a diamond in the rough. She is exquisite in an un-manicured sort of way. More lovely in her perceived imperfections, things aren’t always orderly or perfectly tidy, but they’re gorgeously real and raw and untamed.
You’ll be astounded by Belize’s biodiversity. For a geographically small country, it is blessed with a wide array of landscapes and geological features both above and below the sea. The World’s second largest barrier reef and the considerable collection of marine life that it attracts, is a major draw for divers, fishermen, or even just curious snorkelers. The reef stretches some 185 miles and is adorned by numerous islands, often called Cayes here, like sparkling jewels upon a necklace. Visitors may be tempted to spend the entirety of their visit on the beach, but Belize has so much more in store for adventurous spirits.
On the mainland you find the awe-inspiring Maya Mountains reaching up towards blue skies in the bright Caribbean sunshine. The mountain range and surrounding basins are rich in limestone and erodible soil, making the region ripe for the formation of caves and cenotes. In the West, the remote Maya Mountain Massif area is home to a massive forest reserve and the Chiquibul Cave System- the largest and longest in Central America. The ancient Maya utilized these caves for religious ceremonies and many still shelter their sacred artifacts within the twisting tunnels and secret chambers. You don’t need to be a professional spelunker to explore a cave in Belize, many are easily accessible to visitors such as the Rio Frio Cave in Mountain Pine Ridge area or St. Herman’s cave on the Hummingbird Highway, both of which you can explore on your own. Excellent guided tours are available through wet cave systems of Barton Creek and Actun Tunichil Muknal (often called ATM Cave for short) which are complicated underground chambers sprinkled with original artifacts left behind in sacred Maya rituals some 2,000 years ago.
Lush jungle, tropical broadleaf forest, and spectacular waterfalls dominate the Central and Southern areas of the country. Unparalleled excursions are offered to the bravest of visitors. Challenging hiking, adrenaline inducing ziplining, and exhilarating rappelling experiences provide you with a workout and an anomalous adventure you’d be hard pressed to find in other destinations.
The flatter areas to the North of the country and along the coast comprise of hardwood forests, tropical pine savanna, lagoon and fertile wetlands, along with littoral forest and vitally important mangrove swamps. Belize’s agricultural heavy weights are citrus, banana, and sugar cane in the central and northern regions, along with cacao in the southern areas. Belize is a Birder’s paradise, giving opportunity to spot a dizzying array of species. The littoral zone is a plenteous habitat rich in both wildlife and the unique vegetation that sustains it. The extraordinary coastal ecology of the country is mind boggling. The many rivers and watersheds that feed new nutrients in to the marine systems, the salt-resistant mangroves that filter pollutants and protect the shoreline from erosion, the natural fruit-bearing trees and bushes that need a variety of mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates—it is a complex and dazzling dance!
The friendly people of Belize are nearly as diverse as its landscapes. We are a melting pot of cultures: Maya, Mestizo, Creole, Chinese, East Indian, Garifuna, Mennonite, and more! This makes for a very dynamic atmosphere and exciting culinary scene. Foodies will appreciate the diversity and scope of what traditional “Belizean” cuisine entails while history buffs might enjoy learning about the country’s past and how it came to collect such a range of populations. There’s just so much to love about this tiny Central American country in the Caribbean Sea.