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Perched on the Caribbean Sea and threaded with vast and varied ecosystems, Belize offers abundant open spaces, diverse wildlife, and stunning stretches of ocean. You’ll find lush rainforests, savannas, wetlands, pine forests, and mighty networks of mangrove trees here. These lands are home to a rich panoply of animals, including jaguars, monkeys, tapirs, and riotously colored birds like scarlet macaws and toucans. Off its tranquil sandy shores you’ll find hundreds of cayes and the world’s second-largest barrier reef. Ecotourism and outdoor activities rule the day here: you can hike, snorkel, and zipline through breathtaking scenery. Belize — where many residents are multilingual and English, Belizean Creole, and Spanish are spoken — also boasts a rich ancient history, and is dotted with Mayan ruins. You can easily plan trips here paced to explore it all, or simply snuggle into a hammock on one of the many cays and ponder the deep blue sea.
Fly into Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE), located about a 20-minute drive from the largest city of Belize City. There are taxis available at the airport, as well as several rental car agencies. A rental car is a flexible option for touring Belize, but there are alternative transit modes, too, including short local flights and a public bus system where you flag down drivers by hand to get a lift. Water taxis will carry you between the mainland and the cayes.
Late winter to early spring is high season in Belize, when the weather is warm and sunny, but not humid or scorching. Expect lots of other visitors to frequent the most popular sites during this time too. May and November can be hot and humid, and the summer and fall experience heavy rainfall and possible hurricanes. The country celebrates its independence from the United Kingdom on September 21, preceded by two weeks of festivities including parades, street parties, and live music.
This lush and wild place is the world’s largest jaguar preserve, and if you attend a guided night tour you may see one of these beautiful, shy big cats. But they aren’t the only highlight of this 128,000 acre rainforest. You may also spy ocelots, deer, and tapirs — cute creatures that look a bit like a cross between a pig and a panda. Birders will be in their element, as more than 300 species thrive here.
The Belize Barrier Reef System — which includes hundreds of sand cays and mangrove forests — is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most scenic places in the world. Snorkelers will be delighted by the rainbow-colored tropical fish that live here, while scuba divers can explore the famed Great Blue Hole, a deep marine sinkhole populated by hammerhead sharks. After a day in the water, you can relax in nearby Ambergris Caye, a supremely pretty (and popular) destination.
Explore the ancient Mayan history of Belize at this fascinating archaeological site. Its grounds include six plazas and more than 25 temples, including the 130 foot El Castillo decorated with carved friezes. Used as a ceremonial center, the site’s history is still being unearthed today. In 2016, archaeologists undercovered what may be the largest royal tomb in all of Belize.