Belize: worth knowing
Since public holidays and customs differ greatly from region to region, mainly national holidays and holidays relevant to travelers are listed here.
|9 . March
|Baron-Bliss-DayThis day honors the philanthropist Henry Bliss, who financially supported the interests of the people of Belize.
|1st of May
|Commonwealth DayCelebrates Belize’s membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.
|Battle of St. George’s Caye Day/National Daycommemorates the battle of 1798 between the British and the Mexican descendants of the Spaniards.
|Pan American Day/Columbus Day
|Garifuna Settlement Day (Garifuna Settlement Day)commemorates the intrepid settlers who came to the country in 1832.
Source: Countryaah – Belize Holidays
In Belize has a typical subtropical climate with a rainy season between June and November. The mean temperatures are between 23 °C in January and 27 °C in July. The mean annual rainfall is around 1,890 mm.
It should be mentioned that Belize is in the migration zone of tropical cyclones (hurricanes).
The culture in Belize is a colorful hodgepodge resulting from the various influences of the ethnic groups living in the country.
All parts of the population, be they Creole, Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo or Mennonite, have helped determine the customs and traditions in the country.
Politeness is so important in Belize that you often greet each other on the street even though you don’t know each other. The relatively casual way people deal with each other considers it impolite not to greet even a loose acquaintance or an employee in the bank, etc. A slight nod of the head is sufficient for unfamiliar passers-by on the street.
When it comes to eating, talking is considered impolite and is only indulgent if the topic discussed is important and cannot be postponed.
As for sports, soccer and basketball rule the field. The teams are enthusiastically supported by their fans.
Musically, the punta, a popular type of Garifuna that is of Afro-Caribbean origin, dominates. Slower and more melodic is the Paranda, while the Brukdown is a very modern, but no less popular style of music in Belize.
Although the people are mainly Christians, the Obeah cult is still practiced in some parts of the country, which is somewhat similar to voodoo.
Despite its small area of 22,966 km², Belize impresses with a great variety of landscapes, most of which has hardly been touched by human hands, 50% is under nature protection and is a habitat for numerous animals.
Around 40% of the country is dominated by the jungle. This represents the largest closed remnant of the tropical rainforest and is easily recognizable even on satellite images from space.
Among the thousands of different plant species found in Belize are more than 500 tree and over 200 orchid varieties.
The coastal areas of the country are covered with dense mangrove forest, while in the interior the rather dry savannas are predominant.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that BZ stands for the nation of Belize as a two-letter acronym.
Anyone who comes to Belize, which is not yet very well developed for tourism, certainly does so because of the fantastic natural landscapes, the enchanting beaches and the countless Mayan ruins in the country.
Around 75% of the country consists of untouched nature and gives the traveler an incomparable insight into the flora and fauna of this beautiful country.
Around 40% of Belize’s area is determined by the jungle, in which thousands of plant species can be seen. In Toledo, the southernmost of the six provincial districts and ancient Mayan land, you can still find untouched mangrove swamps, steppes and primeval forests. It is also off the coast of the country – after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia- with a length of approx. 300 km the second largest barrier reef in the world. Diving here is almost a must for visitors.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Belize Barrier Reef (Reef)
In the Caribbean, the Barrier Reef and its cayes (= small coral islands) extend over a length of about 300 km, the second largest coral reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef off Australia. It stretches along the entire coast of Belize and offers countless small reefs, sandbars and islands protection. The cayes as well as the coast of the country are mostly covered by wide, dense mangrove forests. The reef system has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
Some of the coral islands and parts of the reef are national parks or marine reserves and are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is made up of several parts, which are described in more detail below.
In detail these are:
- Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve
- Blue Hole Natural Monument
- Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
- Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve
- South Water Caye Marine Reserve
- Laughing Bird Caye National Park
- Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve
Major cities in the country
Belize City is the largest city in the country and the economic and cultural center with around 70,000 residents.
The city is located in the east of the country on the Caribbean coast in the Belize District, of which it is the capital.
Belize City was founded in the middle of the 17th century as a “logging settlement” for British workers. Due to its location, Belize City is served by many cruise ships and the Philip SW Goldson International Airport (BZE) also contributes to its role as a transport hub.
In Belize City, visitors will find museums and special structures such as churches and monuments. A great advantage of the city is the possibility of taking day trips to most of the country’s major attractions with the help of the many tour operators.
Belmopan has about 15,000 residents and is the capital of Belize. The city is centrally located inland in the Cayo District Province. The name of the city is a recreation of “Belize” and the river “Mopan”.
The city was only founded in 1970 and is a planned capital. Belmopan has the Belize Archeology Museum, one of the museums in all of Belize.
Belmopan is also a starting point for excursions to the nearby Guanacaste National Park, the Belize Zoo or Actun Tunichil Muknal.
The city of Corozal Town is located in the north of Belize, near the border with Mexico.
The city is the capital of the Corozal District and has approximately 8,000 residents.
Corozal Town is well worth a stop on the way to or from Mexico. Due to its location on the coast, the relatively small town offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beaches and organize a boat trip to the Mayan ruins of Cerros.
The Maya ruins of Santa Rita and the former Fort Barlee can also be found here.
The city of Dangriga has about 9,000 residents and is located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea in the province of Stann Creek, of which it is the capital.
The city used to be called Stann Creek Town.
Dangriga is also seen as the capital of Garifuna culture and the Gulisi Garifuna Museum in Dangriga offers a lot of information.
Dangriga is ideal as a starting point for trips to the nearby Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mayflower Bocawina National Park.
Orange Walk Town
The city of Orange Walk Town with its approx. 14,000 residents is located in the north of Belize near the border with Mexico.
The city is the capital of the Orange Walk District.
From Orange Walk Town you can take a boat to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Just getting there through the jungle is an incredible experience. Unfortunately, the city itself does not offer any special sights, but has a tourist infrastructure and therefore serves primarily as a starting point for tours to the nearby Mayan ruins and nature reserves.
The city of Punta Gorda is located in the south of Belize on the coast of the Caribbean Sea and is the capital of the Toledo District.
Punta Gorda has about 6,000 residents.
The city is known for the Toledo Cacao Festival, which takes place every year in May. The city in the deep south of the country is suitable as a starting point for tours to the southern islands of the country or to explore the Mayan ruins in the deep south of Belize. You can also plan trips to the Sarstoon/Temash National Park.
San Ignacio has a population of around 20,000, making it the second largest city in the country and the capital of the Cayo Province.
San Ignacio is located 30 km southwest of Belmopan in the west of the country near the border with Guatemala. Almost no other place is better for visiting Mayan ruins than San Ignacio.
As a starting point for excursions into the tropical rainforest and the Maja ruin Xunantunich, 13 kilometers away.
The ruins of Caracol can also be easily reached from San Ignacio.
Cahal Pech, located on the outskirts, can be reached on foot.
Actun Tunichil Muknal, a cave used by the Mayans for ritual purposes, can also be visited on a day trip.
There are also numerous tours from San Ignacio to the great Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala.
Mayan cultural monuments
With about 1,400 ruins and places of worship of the Maya Indians, Belize is one of the countries in Central America with the most such sites.
The country extends in the former core area of the Mayan Empire, whose most famous ruined city Chichén Itzá is in today’s Mexico.
The Mayan heyday was between the 7th and 14th centuries, with the decline of the Mayan culture as early as 900 AD. begins.
The reasons for the decline of the Mayan culture have not yet been clearly clarified and several theories exist. It is assumed that the Maya lost their once great influence through invasions by the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples of Central America, much earlier than through the first Spanish conquista of the conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1519.
However, the conquest and colonization of Central America was a long-term process and it was not until 1697 that the last Maya empire (Tayasal) was conquered by the Spanish. Today around 10% of the population of Belize are Maya descendants.
Due to the large number of Mayan ruins in Belize, it is initially difficult to find good starting points for visiting ruins, but the most famous ruins are all very easy to reach.
Caracol is a huge Mayan archaeological site in the Cayo District in western Belize, about 75 km south of the city of San Ignacio. Caracol is one of the most beautiful Maya ruins at all.
The current name Caracol is Spanish and means “snail”. However, this is due to a translation error and the actual name of the city was probably Oxwitzá, which means “three mountains of water”. The settlement history of the former city goes back to the year 600 BC. back.
With over 115,000 residents, the city was the largest city that ever existed in what is now Belize and one of the most powerful Mayan centers. From the year 553 AD. there were several conflicts with neighboring states, for example with Tikal.
The last written record of the Kingdom of Caracol dates back to 859 AD. and numerous structures show signs of fire from around AD 900. on.
Caracol was rediscovered in 1937 and the Caracol project has been running since 1985, which is dedicated to the systematic development of the complex.
When exploring the very large area, one should stick to the biological nature trail, which is laid out as a circular route and leads past the highlights of Caracol.
The many altars, pyramids, structures, steles and temples make the explorer’s heart beat faster and reflect a touch of the metropolis of Caracol.
Structures A1 to A10 include buildings used for astronomy and a separate archaeological collection can be admired under palm roofs. The central acropolis offers fine paintings and the caana (sky place) is one of the tallest structures in all of Belize with a height of 43.5 m. There are 4 palaces and 3 religious buildings here.
From the caana you can also enjoy an excellent all-round view of the entire complex. The street network of the former metropolis called Sakbe is also very impressive. Of course, this is only a small cross-section through the remarkable buildings of Caracol and one should not forget the flora and fauna of the area in the rainforest.
Due to the remote location of Caracol in the rainforest, you should pay attention to a few tips.
A refreshed vaccination protection (see travel medicine) and the use of mosquito repellants are recommended. You should also watch out for poisonous snakes. Photographing soldiers and military equipment while driving is prohibited.
Starting points for a visit to Caracol are San Ignacio, Belmopan or accommodation in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
If you arrive with your own vehicle, you should prefer an off-road vehicle due to the quality of the road. It should also be mentioned that part of the route is only safe under military protection due to raids. If you would like to visit Caracol with a tour, it is best to do so from San Ignacio.
The selection of tour providers is large. For real adventurers, the 10-day Maya Divide Trail offers the ultimate hiking experience on the trail of an ancient Maya deposit, but this is only recommended for experienced hikers who can take care of their own food and lodging (hammocks, tents) and the rigors of the unkempt paths as well as the climate.
Xunantunich are the most visited Mayan ruins in the Cayo District in western Belize, about 13 km west of the city of San Ignacio. The complex is elevated on the banks of the Mopan River, just one kilometer from the border with Guatemala.
The current name Xunantunich means something like “stone woman”, the actual name of the former city is unknown. The settlement history of Xunantunich goes back to the year 600 BC. back. However, the city did not grow significantly until AD 600. When it was in bloom, there were up to 10,000 people living in Xunantunich. Xunantunich was abandoned around the year 1000 AD. around and to this day the reason for this is unknown.
Xunantunich was rediscovered in the mid-1890s and systematic archaeological exploration of the complex has been ongoing since 1930.
The system can be divided into 3 groups, with groups B and C having smaller structures. In the main group A there are probably the most interesting buildings such as palaces and large temples. The structure A6, better known as “El Castillo”, is particularly worth seeing. The 40 m high temple complex “El Castillo” can be climbed and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding rainforest.
The cities of San Ignacio or Benque Viejo del Carmen are ideal starting points for a visit to Xunantunich.
With your own car, taxi or bus you can get to the landing stage of a hand-operated ferry, which is the only way to cross the Mopan River. On the other side, you have to walk about 1.5 km to get to the entrance of the complex.
Other Mayan cultural monuments
The ruined city of Altun Ha is located in the north of the country approx. 50 km north of the city of Belize City.
Altun Ha has a long history of settlement. So the first traces of a settlement to the year 200 BC. date. It can be assumed that the city’s heyday and thus the emergence of large temple and residential complexes around the year 900 AD. are to be dated. The entire complex is located in a tropical rainforest landscape. The ruined city can be divided into two main plazas and a total of 13 temples as well as numerous other buildings can be found here.
The most impressive temples of the ruined city include the “Temple of the Green Chamber” on Plaza A and the “Temple of the Brick Altar” on Plaza B. The “Temple of the Green Chamber”
On the back of the $ 2 banknote is a picture of the “Temple of the Green Chamber”. It can also be found on the logo of the famous Belikin beer.
In the “Temple of the Green Chamber” the largest jade work of art of the Maya culture so far, the head of the sun god Kinich Ahau, with a size of 15 cm and a weight of 5 kg, was found.
Many of the structures can be climbed and thus offer a good overview of the facility. An ascent of structure A5 on Plaza is particularly recommended, as one can have a nice view of Plaza B from here.
You can arrive with your own car or you can take part in one of the numerous tours in the cities of Ambergris Caye, Belize City or San Pedro. On site you will find local guides who can lead you through the facility for a fee to be agreed in advance. However, this is not mandatory and does not cover the entrance fee.
The ruined city of Cahal Pech is located in the west of the country near the city of San Ignacio, more precisely on the outskirts on a hill and can also be easily reached on foot.
The name means something like “place of ticks”. Cahal Pech has a long history of settlement. So the first traces of a settlement can be traced back to the year 1,000 BC. date. It can be assumed that the flowering of the city and thus the emergence of large temples and residential complexes took place in the period from 300 BC. until 700 AD are to be dated. The city was probably abandoned around the year 800 AD. Cahal Pech was rediscovered in the 1950s and archaeological digs have been taking place ever since. In addition to the actual ruins, visitors will find a small museum that shows numerous exhibits from the various excavations.
The best thing about Cahal Pech, however, is that it is not yet “overrun with tourists” and so you can enjoy the peace and quiet and nature of the adjacent nature reserve.
The ruined city of Cerros is located in the Corozal District in northern Belize near the border with Mexico. The city existed from around 500 BC. until 200 AD and was a center of maritime trade. There are 3 acropoles as well as several plazas and pyramids. The picturesque location on the coast of Corozal Bay is particularly beautiful. We particularly recommend arriving by boat from Corozal Town.
The Maya ruin Cuello is located in the Orange Walk District in the northwest of the country near the city of Orange Walk Town. Cuello is considered to have a settlement period of approx. 2,500 BC. until 1,000 AD as one of the oldest Mayan sites at all. The complex includes several plazas, temples and residential buildings as well as a palace and underground pantries. The name Cuello comes from the “Cuello Brothers Distillery” on whose property the ruins are. The facilities can be viewed with the approval of the rum distillery.
The ruins of El Pilar are located in the Cayo District in the west of the country near the border with Guatemala. The very large complex with 25 plazas and countless structures covers an area that extends as far as Guatemala, but so far only a small part has been exposed in Belize. During their flowering phase from around 300 AD. until 800 AD the city had between 20,000 and 50,000 residents. A specialty of El Pilar are the gardens laid out in the ancient Mayan style.
The former Mayan city and today’s ruins of Lamanai are located in northern Belize in the Orange Walk District. The name Lamanai comes from the Mayan language and means something like “submerged crocodile”. Lamanai was the longest populated Mayan city. It was founded probably around 1,400 BC. and taken by the Spanish in 1544. But in 1640 the Spaniards were driven out by a rebellion and all Spanish structures razed to the ground. During the 18th century, an epidemic ended the history of the city. The ruins are only partially exposed and many temples are still covered by earth and initially seem to be nothing more than mounds of earth. The structures that have already been uncovered impress every visitor. There are 4 plazas and several temples. A particularly interesting one is the mask temple in which up to 4 m high mask reliefs are worked into the stone. There are also ruins of Spanish churches built in the 16th century. Due to its location in the jungle, the flora and fauna also offer a lot of attractions. An ascent of the over 30 m high “El Castillo” is at your own risk, but the view from up there over the canopy of the rainforest is wonderful.
The best way to get here is from the city of Orange Walk. Boat tours on the New River can be booked there.
Nim Li Punit
The Mayan ruins of Nim Li Punit are located in the Toledo District in the south of Belize approx. 40 km northwest of the city of Punta Gorda. The name Nim Li Punit means something like “big hat”. The beginning of the settlement probably goes back to the year 400 AD. back. The complex consists of 3 plazas, several pyramids up to 12 m high and 25 steles.
The small town of Plancencia is located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea on the peninsula of the same name in the Stann Creek District. Planzencia advertises to be the only Caribbean island that can be reached by car. Whether you like Placencia depends a lot on what you are looking for. The tourist infrastructure here is very good, which therefore attracts a large number of tourists, mostly from North America. Placencia also offers some attractive activities such as diving or snorkeling in the nearby Belize Barrier Reef, sailing, fishing, kayaking, as well as numerous tours to nearby Mayan ruins and of course just relaxing on the wonderful beaches of the island. Another special activity is diving with whale sharks.
From Placencia there is a ferry connection to Puerto Cortés in Honduras. Many tours to Laughing Bird Caye National Park also start from here.
Gales Point Manatee
The Creole village of Gales Point Manatee is located in the southern part of the Belize District on the southern edge of the southern lagoon. Around 500 people live in Gales Point Manatee today. The village specializes in ecotourism. It is particularly well-known because of the extremely good opportunities to observe Caribbean manatees and turtles. Everyone who is interested in tropical rainforests, lagoons and the local wildlife is right here.
The place Sarteneja has about 2000 residents and is located in the north of Belize (Corozal District) on the coast to the Caribbean Sea. This fishing village has specialized in ecotrouism in recent years. In 1952 the village was completely destroyed except for the church.
If you are looking for peace and quiet away from the tourist crowds, this is the right place to enjoy the surrounding rainforest, the lagoons and of course the Caribbean as well as to admire the most beautiful sunsets in Belize. The Shipstern nature reserve is also in the immediate vicinity.
Government House in Belize City
The Government House in Belize City was the official residence of the British Governor from 1814 to 1996. This makes the building one of the oldest in the city today. It now serves as a museum and cultural center (House of Culture). Well worth a visit for the Belize modern art exhibitions and historical exhibits.
|At the south end of Regent Street. Across from St. John’s Cathedral.
Swing Bridge in Belize City
The Swing Bridge, built in 1897 and modernized in 1923, is the world’s last hand-operated swing bridge. The bridge connects Queen Street with Albert Street across Haulover Creek. Anyone in Belize City should look at the hustle and bustle around the bridge and see how the hustle and bustle of the city center can come to a standstill.
Due to the central location, “tugs” are up to mischief here.
Fort Barlee in Corozal Town
The remains of the former Fort Barlee should not be missed when you are in Corozal Town. Fort Barlee was built in 1870 and served as a refugee camp to protect against Mayan attacks at the time of the Caste War (1847-1901). After the fort was built, Corozal Town became a garrison town. The preserved red brick corner pillars are particularly beautiful in the evening light.
|Between the bus station and Plaza5th Avenue
Baron Bliss Memorial in Belize City
The Baron Bliss Memorial serves, as the name suggests, the memory of the British Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss. The memorial also serves as the final resting place of Baron Bliss. He died on March 9, 1926 on his yacht in the port of Belize City without ever having entered the city or the country of Belize. Nevertheless, he developed such a relationship with Belize that after his death he bequeathed all of his fortune to the country and its citizens. The Baron Bliss Trust was founded and with its help numerous projects have been realized to this day.
The Baron Bliss Memorial was erected in his honor and Baron Bliss Day (March 9th) is now a national holiday. The Baron Bliss lighthouse can also be found at the site of the memorial.
|At the southern end of the Fort George Peninsula.Fort Street and Dredge Street,
Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio
The Hawksworth Bridge, built in 1949, which spans the Macal River and thus connects the cities of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, is the only suspension bridge in Belize. However, it is only possible to cross the bridge from San Ignacio to Santa Elena.
Drums Of Our Fathers Monument in Dangriga
The monument “Drums Of Our Fathers” in the city of Dangriga represents the value and importance of drums and drumming for the culture of the Garifuna.
Theater and opera
Bliss Center for the Performing Arts in Belize City
The Bliss Center for the Performing Arts in Belize City is a mixture of theater, museum and gallery. The theater’s performance hall has 600 seats and concerts are staged here in addition to theater productions. Furthermore, the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts shows a large number of Mayan exhibits from the Mayan site of Caracol. The sculpture “Sleeping Giant” can also be found here, which can also be seen on the 5 dollar bill.
Museums, exhibition centers
Belize Museum in Belize City
This Belize City museum is located in the Fort George district in a former prison. But not only the brick building, built in 1857, is worth seeing, the museum is also a must-see for all travelers interested in the history of Belize. The museum opened in 2002 after the former prison closed in 1993. In addition to the permanent exhibitions on the topics of colonial history, independence and Mayan culture, with numerous exhibits on the upper floors, the museum also shows changing special exhibitions.
|Fort George district.Gabourel Lane
Maritime Museum in Belize City
The Maritime Museum in Belize City deals with the nearby world heritage site Barrier Reef and its cayes. This coral system or its flora and fauna is shown in this museum with the help of photographs, models and some exhibits such as turtle shells. Adjacent is the Coastal Zone Museum. Together they cover the topics of natural development as well as the historical development of seafaring in Belize.
|North Front Street
Image Factory in Belize City
The Image Factory in Belize City is an art museum founded in 1995. The Image Factory displays art objects and literature by artists from Belize. The exhibitions change almost monthly.
|91 North Front Street. Near the swing bridge.
Archaeological Institute in Belmopan
The Archaeological Institute in the city of Belmopan is home to some very beautiful finds from various excavations and explorations of various Mayan sites. It is located in the center of Belmopan, right next to the government buildings.
Belize Archive Department in Belmopan
The Belize Archive Department in the city of Belmopan is the state and national archives of Belize. The archive was founded in 1965.The Belize Archive Department offers changing exhibitions on hurricanes and their effects, different cultures of the country such as the Garifuna and city history. The archive’s collection, which is open to the public, includes innumerable books, photographs, newspapers and other documents from Belize that are of great historical value.
|26-28 Unity BoulevardBelmopan
Gulisi Garifuna Museum in Dangriga
The Gulisi Garifuna Museum is located in the town of Dangriga and provides information about the Garifuna culture. The Gulisi Garifuna Museum opened in 2004 and is operated by the National Garifuna Council. The exhibits here include artifacts, images and documents from the Garifuna culture and history. The museum also offers Garifuna language courses. The museum is 3 km outside of Gangriga but can be easily reached by bike.
|The museum is 2 miles outside of Gangrigaon Stann Creek Valley Road.
St John’s Cathedral in Belize City
St John’s Cathedral in Belize City was built from 1812 to 1820, making it the oldest Anglican church or cathedral in Central America. The red bricks used to build the cathedral were imported from Great Britain and the interior of the cathedral is clad in mahogany and apple wood. It should be noted that slave labor was also used to build the building.
|At the south end of Regent Street. Across from Government House.
University of Belize
The University of Belize, or UB for short, was founded in 2000 and is located in the capital Belmopan.
The University of Belize emerged from a merger of the Bliss School of Nursing, Belize Technical College, Belize Teachers’ College, University College of Belize and Belize School of Agriculture. The university has other campuses in Freetwon and Punta Gorda. The University of Belize currently has approximately 4,000 students.
The university offers the following courses:
- Agricultural Sciences
- Historical sciences
- Health sciences
- Computer science
- Natural sciences
Galen University in San Ignacio
The Galen University is located on the outskirts of San Ignacio and was founded in 2003. The university offers the following courses:
- Social sciences
- Environmental science
University of the West Indies
Jamaica is one of the sponsors of the University of the West Indies. This university is a network of several universities, with different institutes spread across the West Indies. There are 3 main institutions in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
Participating states at the University of the West Indies are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
Laughing Bird Caye National Park
The Laughing Bird Caye National Park encloses the island of the same name which is located approx. 20 east of Placencia and belongs to the province of Stann Creek District. The national park was established in 1991 after the area had been advertised as a protected area since 1981. The Laughing Bird Caye National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site Belize Barrier Reef since 1996. The coral formations are breathtaking. There are tours to the national park from Placencia.
Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
The Half Moon Caye Natural Monument is the southeastern part of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll (approx. 80 km east of the city of Belize City), which belongs to the province of Belize District. The Half Moon Caye Natural Monument has existed since 1982 and since 1996 the Laughing Bird Caye National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site Belize Barrier Reef. The Half Moon Caye Natural Monument combines the protection of two ecosystems, both on land and underwater. The places where turtles lay their eggs and the breeding grounds for the many bird species are interesting. Coral systems are impressive under water. The lighthouse from 1820 is also of historical interest.
Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve
The Bacalar Chico National Park with the associated marine reserve is located on the northern tip of the island of Ambergris Caye near the border with Mexico. The national park and the reserve were established in 1996 and have been part of the Belize Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Site since then. Overall, the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve covers an area of approximately 63 km². The national park is best known for its coral reefs, lagoons and beaches. The most famous animal species in the national park include pumas, jaguars, saltwater crocodiles, peccaries, manatees and turtles. The first point of contact within the park is the ranger station, which also functions as a visitor center. A suitable starting point for a visit is San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
Five Blues Lake National Park
Located on the border of the provinces of Cayo District and Stann Creek near the city of Belmopan, Five Blues Lake National Park opened in 1992. This magnificent national park in Belize owes its name to its main attraction, a single lake that has five different shades of blue. However, this lake is not always to be admired. Regardless of the rainy season, the lake empties and fills with water. Why is not yet clear, but it is suspected that it is related to the porous limestone soil. If that’s not enough, you can enjoy the surrounding dense rainforest, which is partially accessible via hiking trails. There are also numerous caves in the park. In total the national park covers an area of approx. 17 km². The Five Blues Lake National Park is located on the Hummingbird Highway approx. 35 km southeast of Belmopan. Visitors must register at the visitor center. Local overnight accommodations are available.
Blue Hole National Park
St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is located in the Cayo District south of the city of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway. The national park was established in 1968 and then gradually expanded. Today the national park covers an area of approx. 2 km². The park takes its name from the Blue Hole, a river with a strong bluish tint that rises from the ground and disappears into the ground only a few meters later. The park also has two caves, St. Herman’s Cave and Mountain Cow Cave. Some of the caves can be entered without a guide. However, if you want to admire the entire 1.5 km long St. Herman’s Cave with its stalactites and Mayan artifacts, you need a guide. The hiking trail that connects the various attractions leads through dense rainforest so there is another opportunity to discover nature. Arrival is possible by car or bus. All buses that use the Hummingbird Highway stop at St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park on request. St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park should not be confused with the Blue Hole National Monument.
Guanacaste National Park
The Guanacaste National Park is located in the Cayo District on the northern outskirts of Belmopan. The national park was established in 1990 and is the smallest national park in Belize with an area of approx. 0.2 km². The park’s name comes from the Guanacaste tree, one of the largest trees in Central America. There is a very special specimen in the park. This very large guanacaste escaped the loggers as its trunk splits into three towards the ground, making it less valuable. The park is located at the confluence of the Belize River and Roaring Creek. The park can be reached by public transport.
Sarstoon-Temash National Park
The Sarstoon-Temash National Park is the southernmost of all the national parks of Belize and is located in the Toledo District on the border with Guatemala. The national park was established in 1994 and covers an area of approx. 170 km². The park’s name is due to its location between the Temash River in the north and the Sarstoon River in the south. The national park includes tropical rainforest, marshland, coastline and the largest mangrove forests in all of Belize. Visitors can encounter jaguars, manatees, crocodiles and numerous species of butterflies, fish and birds. The entrance to the park is in the village of Barranco. The best way to get here is by car or by boat. A bus connection from the city of Punta Gorda is only available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Mayflower Bocawina National Park
The Mayflower Bocawina National Park is located in the Stann Creek District, approximately 25 km west of the city of Dangriga. The national park covers an area of approx. 28 km². The park combines rainforest, mountains, waterfalls and small Mayan ruins, such as the Mayflower Mayan ruins that gave the park its name. The largest waterfalls are the Antelope Falls with a height of over 30 m. The park is criss-crossed by several hiking trails that are much less visited than in the Cockscomb Basin, for example. The visitor center is approximately 3 km from the highway. There is a resort in the park where you can stay overnight. Day tours can be booked in Hopkins town.
Chiquibul National Park
The Chiquibul National Park is located in the Cayo District. The national park surrounds the Mayan ruins of Caracol and covers an area of approx. 1,073 km². This makes the park the national park in Belize. It emerged from the Chiquibul Forest Reserve in 1991 and was expanded in 1995. In the west the park extends to the border with Guatemala and east to the Maya Mountains. Chiquibul National Park is also home to the Chiquibul Cave System, the longest cave system in all of Central America. The park has a high biodiversity because the forest within the park is almost untouched.
Aguas Turbias National Park
The Aguas Turbias National Park is located in the northwest of Belize directly on the border with Guatemala and Mexico in the Cayo District. The Aguas Turbias National Park was founded in 1994 and now covers an area of approx. 35 km². To the west, the Aguas Turbias National Park borders the Rio Bravo Conservation Area.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the southwest of the Stann Creek District, approximately 25 miles southwest of the town of Dangriga.
The reserve was founded in 1986, making it the oldest jaguar reserve in the world.
In 1990 the reserve was expanded considerably and today the entire reserve covers an area of more than 500 km². About 50 jaguars currently live in the area. You will also find pumas, tapirs, snakes, howler monkeys and over 300 species of birds.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary offers visitors many hiking trails of varying difficulty, from 1 km to 5 days. A new trend is tubing, in which one drifts along the South Stan Creel in a tire tube and can thus enjoy nature. There are also several waterfalls in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary that invite you to take a refreshing swim.
It is also possible to organize canoe trips. Accommodation and a campsite are available. In the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary also the Victoria Peak, which is the second highest mountain in the country with a height of 1,120 m. The journey is possible with a tour, your own car and any bus on the Southern Highway (on request).
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the northwestern part of the Belize District, approximately 55 km northwest or a 1.5 hour drive from Belize City. This sanctuary is a real paradise for birds and of course for ornithologists. The numerous rivers, shallow waters and mangroves offer the perfect habitat. Because of this flora there are also many crocodiles and Tabasca turtles. The sanctuary, which has existed since 1984, extends around the village of Crooked Tree, which is considered one of the oldest in the country and has probably been around since 1700. There are overnight accommodations in Crooked Tree. In addition to bird watching, boat tours, hiking and horse riding are all possible activities. It is best to visit the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary in April, since then most of the birds are in the park. You can arrive by tour, your own car or by bus. The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is about 3 miles off the Northern Highway.
Community Baboon Sanctuary in Bermudian Landing
The Community Baboon Sanctuary is located in the western part of the Belize District, approximately 45 km west or an hour’s drive from Belize City. Baboon means howler monkey in the Creaolic dialect, so it doesn’t seem surprising that the Community Baboon Sanctuary is dedicated to protecting howler monkeys, more precisely black howler monkeys. The reserve, founded in 1985 and opened in 1989, now covers an area of more than 50 km². The Community Baboon Sanctuary has expanded steadily since its inception, and it is estimated that up to 2,000 howler monkeys live on the reserve. In the Community Baboon Sanctuary there is a museum which is the central point of contact. Here you can find a lot of information about black howler monkeys as well as the flora of the reserve and other fauna. Then you can experience the reserve on a 45 to 60 minute guided hike. Accommodation and a restaurant are available.
Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
The Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the western part of the Belize District near the Community Baboon Sanctuary. In this protected area, which covers an area of approx. 24 km² and has existed since 2002, there is also the village of Rancho Dolores. Accommodation options can be found here as part of a homestay. In the protected area, relaxation and nature experience can be perfectly combined. Canoeing and hiking are some of the best activities at Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.
Shipstern nature reserve near Sarteneja
The Shipstern nature reserve near Sarteneja is a bird sanctuary. At the moment, advice is being given to grant the Shipstern nature reserve the status of a national park. The most famous resident, who is unfortunately also on the red list of endangered species, is the forest stork. But of course there is more to the animal world than birds. Visitors can have the wildlife explained to them or explore it in the lagoon.
Rio Bravo Conservation Area
The Rio Bravo Conservation Area in northwest Belize is located in the Orange Walk District and extends to the border with Guatemala. The beginning of the nature reserve goes back to 1988 and since then the area has been gradually expanded. Today the reserve covers an area of approximately 935 km², which is about 4% of the total area of Belize. The reserve contains over 400 species of birds, 200 species of trees and the highest density of jaguars in all of Central America. You won’t find many tourists here, because most of the visitors are researchers. Nevertheless, the area can be visited in one tour. The following activities are offered: a morning hike for bird watching, a visit to the Mayan ruins of La Milpa and the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, canoeing and nightly crocodile watching.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is centrally located in the Cayo District and thus in the western part of Belize. This nature reserve has existed since 1977 and now covers approx. 430 km². In contrast to the rest of the rainforest, this nature reserve is covered by coniferous forests, mostly pine trees. In the nature reserve there are numerous caves and waterfalls such as the Thousend Foot Falls (490 m drop height), the Five Sister Falls, Big Rock Falls (excellent bathing opportunities), the approx. 1.5 km long Rio Frio Cave and several small lakes. San Ignacio is a particularly suitable starting point for the journey. If you don’t have a car, you can also book a tour here.
Sibun Forest Reserve
The Sibun Forest Reserve adjoins the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve to the east and is located in the Cayo and Stann Creek District. The name comes from the Sibun River which flows through the nature reserve and has dug a gorge in the landscape. The so-called Sibun Gorge is one of the oldest and most spectacular gorges in Central America. There are also numerous caves and waterfalls such as the 3 km long Petroglyph Cave in which numerous Mayan vessels were found. San Ignacio is a particularly suitable starting point for the journey. If you don’t have a car, you can also book a tour here.
Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve
The Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve is centrally located in the Cayo District and thus in the western part of Belize near the city of San Ignacio. In the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve there are two important Mayan sites in addition to the scenic sights with Pook’s Hill and Actun Tunichil Muknal.
Pook’s Hill is a smaller ruin from the classical period with smaller structures that are exactly aligned with the four cardinal points. Within the ruins, the Pook’s Hill Lodge is the only place to stay in the nature reserve.
Actun Tunichil Muknalis a cave where many archaeological finds such as skeletons, ceramics and tools have been made. The limestone cave was known to the Maya as early as around 200 AD and was called Xibalba (“gateway to the underworld”). The approx. 5 km long cave was rediscovered in 1989 and has been accessible to tourists since 1998, but only with a guide.
Those who want to visit the nature reserve can try this with tours from San Ignacio or Belmopan.
South Water Caye Marine Reserve
The South Water Caye Marine Reserve is located east of the coast of the Stann Creek District and covers an area of approximately 477 km². This makes the South Water Caye Marine Reserve the largest marine reserve in Belize. The South Water Caye Marine Reserve has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site Belize Barrier Reef since 1996. In addition to diving excursions to the protected coral formations, the cayes (islands) of the protected area are also very worth seeing. The journey can be made from almost all coastal cities on the mainland. Many offer tours by boat to the most important highlights. Particularly recommended starting points are Dangriga, Hopkins or Placencia.
Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve
The Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve includes Glover’s Reef, Belize’s southernmost atoll. The marine reserve has existed since 1993 and has been part of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1996. Numerous activities such as diving and snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef as well as fishing, sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing or diving with whale sharks await the visitor. There are overnight accommodations on several islands of the atoll. In addition to a tour, you can also travel by boat shuttle from the cities of Hopkins or Dangriga, but these shuttles only run once a week.
Zoos and Botanical Gardens
Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
The Belize Zoo is located in the western part of the Belize District, approximately 47 km west or an hour’s drive from Belize City. The zoo was founded in 1983 and now covers an area of approximately 120,000 m². Initially, the Belize served as a habitat for wildlife from documentaries. The Belize Zoo only houses native species and is committed to the release of endangered species. More than 170 animals from 48 species currently live here. Highlights include tapirs, the national animal of Belize, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, stapling and howler monkeys, crocodiles Spitz, Königsboas, Terciopelos and rattlesnakes. In addition to the normal day visit, it is also possible to organize night tours to experience the nocturnal animals in full action. Overnight stays are possible in the zoo’s own lodge (including camping). The journey is possible with a tour, your own car and any “non-express bus” on the Western Highway.
Belize Botanic Gardens near San Ignacio
The Belize Botanical Gardens are located near the town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District. The Botanical Garden is located on the banks of the Macal River and covers an area of 180,000 m². The garden contains both native and exotic plants. A special feature is the exhibition of the plants used by the Maya. Furthermore, the Botanical Garden has set itself the task of informing the residents of the region about sustainable agriculture and thus doing its part to protect the environment.
The island of Ambergris Caye is the largest of more than 200 islands in Belize with an area of approx. 64 km². Ambergris Caye is located in northeast Belize, near the border with Mexico. Due to the location of the Belize Barrier Reef, the island of Ambergris Caye and especially San Pedro, the largest city on the island, are ideal starting points for excursions to the Belize Barrier Reef. However, the visitor should bear in mind that many others would also like to benefit from this location. That’s why Ambergris Caye is considered the largest tourist center in Belize for a reason. However, it should also be mentioned that you can relax very well on the wonderful beaches and in the good hotels on the island.
At the northern tip of the island is the Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve and visitors can also visit the Mayan ruins of Marco Gonzalez. In addition to pure relaxation, you can also do all sorts of activities on Ambergris Caye, such as diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing.
You can arrive by flight from Belize City or Corozal or by ferry or water taxi from Belize City, Corozal or Sarteneja.
Caye Caulker Caye Caulker
Island is located in northeastern Belize between Belize City and Ambergris Caye. If Ambergris Caye is too big and crowded for you, this is the right place. However, in the last few years the island has changed from an island dominated by fishing to an island more and more dependent on tourism. Caye Caulker with only about 1,300 residents – most of whom are Creoles, Garifuna or Mestizo – is still a very peaceful place that is particularly popular with backpackers and backpackers.
In contrast to Ambergris Caye, visitors will find an island that is less developed for tourism, but one that knows how to seduce with its special “easy going” way of life. Caye Caulker is located about km off the coast of Belize and has around 1,300 residents, most of whom are Creoles, Garifuna or Mestizo. In 1961, Hurricane Hattie tore the island in two, with the northern island covering an area of 230 ha = 2.3 km², while the southern 165 ha = 1.65 km².
The Belize Barrier Reef runs directly to the east of the island and offers visitors numerous activities such as diving and snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef, as well as fishing, sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing.
You can arrive by flight from Belize City or San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) or by ferry or water taxi to and from Belize City, San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), St George’s Caye or Caye Chapel.
Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is the longest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia of Honduras.
There are many small islands along the reef – the so-called Cayes, including Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Blackadore Caye, and Long Caye.
Dives with hammerhead sharks are available on Caye Caulker.
About 250 different fish species live in the reef.
Other islands of interest to tourists are:
- Caye Espanto
- Caye Chapel
- Lighthouse Reef AtollThe Lighthouse Reef Atoll offers the best underwater world in the whole Caribbean and is very popular with divers. Here is also the Blue Hole National Monument, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Belize Barrier Reef.The Lighthouse Reef Atoll also includes the islands of Long Caye and Half Moon Caye.
- St. George’s Caye
- Tobacco Caye
- Turneffe Atoll
Blue Hole National Monument
The Blue Hole National Monument is an extremely impressive natural monument with a diameter of over 300 m. It was declared a national monument in 1996 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Belize Barrier Reef system. The Great Blue Hole is located in the Lighthouse Reef island system.
This submarine sinkhole clearly stands out from the surrounding light-colored water color due to its deep blue water color and the depth of approx. 125 m. The Great Blue Hole is particularly attractive for divers, as the entrance to an underwater cave system is on its south wall at a depth of approx. 35 to 40 m. Since this cave system was not below the water surface in earlier times, there are numerous stalactites and individual stalagmites here.
Outside the cave system, there are breathtaking corals with the associated fauna on the walls of the sinkhole.
The Great Blue Hole became famous through an expedition and the subsequent film by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1971 and is now one of the most popular diving spots in Belize.
To get to the Blue Hole National Monument, charter a ship in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Lighthouse Reef or Belize City. There are also tours of day tours offered.
The second highest mountain in the country, which was long considered the highest in the country, brings it to an altitude of 1,120 m. It sits enthroned in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and enables fantastic nature observation.
Friends of trekking tours should not miss the hike to the top of the mountain, because it is indescribable and leads through dense tropical rainforest.