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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Belize Bucket List: 15 Ways to Mix Culture, History, and Luxury for the Ultimate Getaway


Jaguar sleeping in the jungle


In high school, my good friend's adult sister lived in Belize. This fascinated me. Every summer my friend would visit her sister for an extended period, and I would hear a smattering of her stories throughout the school year. Today, the name "Belize" still conjures up those memories for me.


Belize, the Central American gem that's as intimate as a secret handshake and as culturally rich as a buffet of spicy tacos, is nestled between Mexico and Guatemala. This former British colony (British Honduras to be exact) invites you to dive into its vibrant tapestry of history, culture, and warm-hearted locals. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of excitement as I present fifteen activities that will leave you craving Belize's irresistible charm.


Mayan ruins of El Castillo in Belize

Explore the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich.

If you're looking to immerse yourself in the history and culture of Belize, visiting the ancient Mayan ruins of Xunantunich is a must.This impressive archaeological site boasts several structures including the towering El Castillo pyramid, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding jungle and the nearby Guatemala border –the views from the top are truly breathtaking! Walk through the stone-carved temples, plazas, and courtyards of one of the most important Mayan archeological sites in the country.

Pro tip: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water for the climb up El Castillo. Additionally, consider hiring a local guide (we can book that for you) who can share their expertise on the history and significance of the site.


Learn about Belizean Culture at a Garifuna Settlement.

When it comes to immersing yourself in the vibrant and unique culture of Belize, a visit to a Garifuna settlement is an absolute must. The Garifuna people are descendants of African, Carib, and Arawak (Taino) peoples who settled in Belize after being exiled from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent by the British in the 18th century.


At a Garifuna settlement, you'll have the opportunity to learn about the history, music, dance, and cuisine of these fascinating people.Don't miss the chance to try hudut, a traditional Garifuna dish made with fish and coconut milk, or to witness the mesmerizing drumming and dancing performances that are an integral part of the culture.

Pro tip: When planning your visit to a Garifuna settlement, consider staying with a local family or booking a guided tour that includes a homestay (we can help you arrange an experience like this). This will allow you to experience the culture firsthand and connect with the local community on a deeper level.


Attend a Garifuna drumming performance

If you're looking to experience Belizean culture at its finest, you simply can't miss a Garifuna drumming performance. They have a unique culture and way of life that is reflected in their music and dance. Garifuna music and dance were declared a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO in 2001.

Pro tip: Be sure to arrive early to the performance and secure a good spot close to the stage. The drumming is intense and the dancers will be right in front of you, giving you a truly immersive experience. Don't be afraid to join in and dance along with the Garifuna people -it's the best way to fully immerse yourself in their culture.


Visit the Museum of Belize

The Museum of Belize is a must-visit for anyone interested in the country's rich history and culture. Housed in a former colonial prison, the museum features exhibits on everything from the ancient Mayan civilization to Belize's struggle for independence. Did you know that the prison was built in the mid-1800s by Mayan slaves using coral rock?

Pro tip: Be sure to check out the museum's collection of ancient Mayan artifacts, including pottery, jade, and stonework.The museum also has a gift shop where you can pick up souvenirs and books on Belizean history and culture.


Take a horse-drawn carriage tour in San Pedro Town

San Pedro Town is a charming coastal town located on the island of Ambergris Caye. Once a small fishing village, it had since grown into a thriving tourism hub. Today, the town is known for its sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and barrier reef. You can best explore this town’s colorful history and people by taking a leisurely horse-drawn carriage tour.

This mode of transportation adds a touch of nostalgia to your visit and takes you back in time when life was slower and simpler.

Pro tip: Be sure to book your horse-drawn carriage tour in advance as they can sell out quickly. You'll want to bring your camera along as you're sure to capture some amazing shots of the town and its charming architecture.


Whale shark swimming, surrounded by divers and fishes

Snorkeling with Whale Sharks

Snorkeling with whale sharks is an unforgettable experience and an absolute must-do while in Belize. Belize is home to one of the largest aggregations of whale sharks in the world, making it the perfect spot to get up close with these gentle giants. Did you know that whale sharks aren't actually sharks? Despite their name, whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, growing up to 40 feet in length!

Pro Tip: The best time to snorkel with whale sharks in Belize is from April to June when they are most active. For those who are hesitant to get in the water with these massive creatures, don't worry, they are completely harmless and feed mainly on plankton. We will be sure to plan and book your excursion in advance, as spots fill up quickly.


Walk on the Wild side in the Belize Zoo

If you're looking for a unique experience in Belize, visiting the Belize Zoo should definitely be on your list.Founded by an American zoologist who rescued injured or orphaned animals, the Belize Zoo focuses on the conservation and preservation of local wildlife, allowing you to see animals that are endemic to Belize.

Pro tip: Make sure to visit the zoo early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the animals are most active. We can organize tickets for you. We can aso book a behind-the-scenes tour (we know the best in town) where you can get up close and personal with some of the animals and learn about their care; or a visit during a night safari to see nocturnal animals.


Explore the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Caracol

One of the most fascinating experiences you can have on your Belize vacation is visiting the ancient Mayan ruins of Caracol. Located deep in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, Caracol was once the largest city-state in the region, with a population of over 150,000 people. Today, it stands as a testament to the incredible engineering and architectural prowess of the ancient Mayans. The name "Caracol" is derived from the Spanish word for "snail shell," a nod to the winding roads that lead up to the city. The ruins were discovered in the 1930s, and much of the site has been excavated and restored over the years.

Pro Tip: Consider a guided tour. While you can certainly explore the ruins on your own, a guided tour can provide valuable insights into the history and significance of the site. Many tours also include stops at nearby waterfalls or hot springs, making for a full day of adventure. Caracol is located about 2.5 hours from San Ignacio, the nearest major town, and the roads can be bumpy and rough. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and water for the journey (another reason to join a guided tour). Don't forget your camera - the views from the top of Caracol's tallest pyramid are simply breathtaking, and you'll want to capture them for posterity.


Indulge in a Chocolate Making Workshop

I'm not going to let you opt out of this one, because one of the most delicious experiences you can have while in Belize is indulging in a chocolate-making workshop. The country is known for producing some of the world's finest chocolate, and learning how to make it is an absolute must for chocolate lovers. Belize was once home to the ancient Maya civilization, and chocolate was an integral part of their culture.They believed it was a gift from the gods and used it in religious ceremonies.

Pro Tip: Check out the Belize Chocolate Company in San Pedro, where, you can learn how to make your own chocolate and even customize it with a variety of toppings.The workshop is led by knowledgeable guides who will teach you all about the history of chocolate in Belize and how it's made.


Aerial view of the underwater sinkhole known as Blue Hole.

Dive in the World-Renowned Great Blue Hole

One of the most notorious destinations in Belize is the Great Blue Hole. Discovered by Jacques Cousteau, this awe-inspiring, almost perfectly circular underwater sinkhole is a natural wonder that is best appreciated by scuba diving enthusiasts.If you're not an avid diver, you can still enjoy this stunning underwater marvel by snorkeling or taking a glass-bottom boat tour.The aerial view of the Great Blue Hole is also breathtaking. Take a scenic flight tour for a unique perspective.

Pro tip: Plan your visit between November and April for the best diving conditions. If you're not an experienced diver, you can take a diving course or book a guided tour to explore the Blue Hole safely. Let me know your preference and we’ll take care of it for you.


Stargaze at the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in Belize is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the country's natural wonders. This reserve boasts some of the most breathtaking views in all of Belize and is home to many unique species of wildlife, including jaguars and ocelots. It is also the largest pine forest in Belize and spans over 300 square miles.

Pro Tip: For an unforgettable experience, I recommend taking a night hike through the reserve to see the stars in all their glory. This is an amazing opportunity to escape the bright lights of the city and witness the Milky Waystretching across the sky.


Try fly-fishing for the elusive bonefish on Turneffe Atoll

Fly-fishing on the Turneffe Atoll is an absolute must for any angler visiting Belize. Known as one of the best flats in the world for bonefish, you're sure to have an incredible experience in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean. Fun Fact: The Turneffe Atoll is home to more than 500 species of fish, making it one of the most biodiverse marine environments in the world.Your guide will know the area well and can take you to the best spots.They'll also be able to provide you with the necessary equipment and teach you the best techniques to catch the elusive bonefish.


Explore the Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves

If you are a fan of adventure and ancient history, a visit to the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave in Belize is a must-do activity. This natural cave system served as a sacred site for the ancient Mayans and was used for ritual sacrifices and offerings. Inside the cave, you can witness the remains of ancient Mayan offerings, including ceramics, human remains, and the famous crystal maiden.

Pro Tip: This will be a guided tour as it is a protected archaeological site and can only be accessed with a licensed guide. Wear appropriate footwear as you will be walking and climbing on uneven and wet surfaces.


Experience Cave Tubing in the Caves Branch River

For an adventure unlike any other, you simply have to try cave tubing in the Caves Branch River. It's the perfect way to combine thrilling exploration with an idyllic natural environment, as you float lazily through lush jungle scenery while also taking in some of the most fascinating caves in the world. Some of these caves were once used by the ancient Maya for sacred rituals.

Pro tip: We recommend wearing water shoes with good traction, bringing a waterproof camera, and being ready for an unforgettable journey through history and natural beauty.


Stroll around Placencia

Placencia, located on the southern coast of Belize, is a must-visit destination for travelers looking to immerse themselves in the local culture. With its picturesque beaches and charming village atmosphere, this quaint town is the perfect place to relax and shop for souvenirs, local arts, and crafts. Placencia was once a fishing village and has since become a thriving tourist hotspot

Pro Tip: Don't forget to bargain! Local vendors often offer higher prices to tourists, so try negotiating for a better deal. Witness the creativity of local artists and artisans firsthand at the Placencia Sidewalk Art Festival, which takes place every February


From exploring ancient Mayan ruins to snorkeling with whale sharks and indulging in chocolate-making workshops, Belize offers a wide range of unique experiences that are sure to make your trip unforgettable. So what are you waiting for? Let us start planning your your adventure to ensure that you make the most of your bucket list getaway to Belize.

Bonus Tip: With English being the official language of Belize, exploring the culture and history is easy!

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'til next week.


 

Did you miss any of my articles? They are all here.

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Contact Juliet: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES


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