Belize is a narrow strip of land on the Caribbean coast
line of Central America. It is about 300 km (180 mi) north/south
and 110 km (70 mi) east/west. Its northern border is shared with the
Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, while its western and southern borders are
with Guatemala. Belize was formerly known as British Honduras and in 1981 it became an
independent nation in the British Commonwealth. The Mayan civilization
inhabited the area prior to the Spanish conquest. In 1798 at the Battle of
St George's Caye, the British gained control of the country from Spain. The
population of Belize is just under 400,000. The capital is Belmopan, whose
name reflects the Maya heritage of the Mopan, Yucatec Maya. The largest
city is Belize City, with a population under 100,000. English is the
official language of Belize. Power is provided with standard North American
One of the main attractions to Belize is the snorkeling and
diving associated with the country's location along the Belize Barrier Reef that is
second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. There are
hundreds of small islands, call cayes, along the coast. Belize also
has extensive rainforest, which provides habitat for flora and fauna
typical of the Central American countries to the south.
Many countries do not require a visa to enter Belize. Exempt
nations include those of the Caribbean, the USA, the European Economic Union
and the Commonwealth. Check your specific country at VisaHQ.
For a list of exempt countries, visit Project
The officicial currency of Belize is the Belize dollar. It is
pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 2 Belizean dollars per US dollar.
are around 29 C (84 F) and average lows are about 24 C (75 F).
Temperatures are only a couple of degrees higher than this in the summer
months of June and July, while in winter it is a couple of degrees
cooler. Rainfall is the main determinant for tourism, with the dry
season extending from February to April and coinciding nicely with spring
break in North America.
There is an international airport outside
Belize City and cruise ships also visit Belize City by tender. US
dollars are widely accepted.
Snorkel and scuba diving - A number of
reefs and atolls form the barrier reef off shore from mainland
Belize. At Ambergris Caye, visit Shark
Ray Alley and snorkel with the sharks. The famous Great Blue Hole is a perfectly circular
hole in the barrier reef that is 1,000 feet across and 450 feet
deep. It's located about 80 km (50 mi) east of Belize City in
shallow waters by Half Moon Caye. Half Moon Caye is
serviced by regular tour boats and is a nesting spot for Red Footed
Boobies. Other well known locations are Long Caye's
"Aquarium" and Glovers Reef Atoll.
Head to the beach - Ambergris Caye is the
largest caye in Belize and the main center for the tourist industry. It was once a peninsula attached to the
Yucatan and Mexico. Caye Caulker is between Belize
City and Ambergris Caye. It is a more budget oriented tourist
location. Visit the Split where the island of Caye Caulker
was divided into two sections in 1961 by Hurricane Hattie. Hopkins is a great beach located more than 2
hours south of Belize City. Placencia Caye and Maya Beach
are located on a long thin peninsula an additional 1.5 hours south of
Hopkins. Bannister Caye is a frequent excursion location
for the cruise ship industry.
Mayan Ruins - The easiest Mayan ruin to reach from
Belize City is Altun Ha, which is located a half hour north of
Belize City. Wildlife in the area includes armadillos, coati,
tapirs, crocodiles and numerous varieties of birds. Xunantunich
Mayan Ruins are located about 2.5 hours from Belize City. Visiting
the ruins offers the added adventure of taking a hand cranked ferry
across the river at the town of San Jose Succotz. Cahal Pech
is located in San Ignacio, about 1.5 hours from Belize City and on the
route to Xunantunich. Caracol is the largest Maya site in
Belize and one that is not easy to reach. It's located 2.5 hours
from San Ignacio and is accessed by traveling through the Mountain Pine
Ridge Forest Reserve. Lamanai is a 36 mile boat ride
up the New River from Orange Walk Town, just over an hour northwest of
Mountain Pine Ridge is a full day tour of the caves,
lakes, rivers and waterfalls that form the wilderness of Belize.
Visit the Rio Frio Cave, Rio on the Pools, Big Rock Cave, Hidden Valley
Falls and Barton Creek Cave. Mountain Pine Ridge is about 45
minutes from San Ignacio and around 2.5 hours from Belize City.
Limestone caves - Cave of the Crystal Maiden (Actun
Tunichil MuknalNatural Monument or ATM) is located in the Tapir
Mountain Nature Reserve, 45 minutes from San Ignacio, which is itself
about 1.5 hours from Belize City. A 45 minute hike is
necessary to reach the cave. Nearby, the Caves Branch River cuts a
river cave through the limestone that is large enough for cave tubing,
except in the dry season from Feb - June.
It's a 45 minute hike to this site. Two tour companies from San
Ignacio operate in the ATM - Pacz Tours and
Hole National Park is located close to Caves Branch River and it
offers caves, waterfalls and a small blue pool. This is not the
same as the Great Blue Hole, which is located in the barrier reef.
Also try Chukka
at Jaguar Paw for cave tubing on the Caves Branch River, plus
Rafting, canoeing and kayaking - The
Mopan River and the Macal River merge to form the Belize River,
providing many opportunities on all three of these rivers.