Belize may be pint-sized, but it's packed with natural beauty, thriving culture and endless adventure. Situated in Central America and sandwiched between Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea, it's often described as one of the last unspoiled places on earth.
From ancient Mayan sites and lush jungle reserves to one of the world’s largest barrier reefs, second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, our experts have rounded up the best places to visit in Belize to admire it's stunning landscapes.
With an average yearly temperature of 29°C, combine exploring with time spent relaxing on the impossibly picturesque coastline, lapped by warm Caribbean waters.
When is the best time of year to visit Belize?
As it's hot and humid all year round, the best time to visit Belize is whenever you want to! To avoid prolonged rain showers, it's best to plan a trip between December and May.
1. Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve
Gladden Spit in Belize is one of very few places in the world where whale shark sightings are almost guaranteed. Take a boat ride from Placencia village to discover this protected area of the Belize Barrier Reef, where tropical fish, dolphins, loggerhead turtles and the occasional shark flourish. Come spring, this spot becomes a feeding frenzy for migrating whale sharks, thanks to a mass snapper fish spawning event.
Watch these gentle giants in their natural habitat whilst snorkelling or diving as they get their seasonal fill of fish eggs. The whale sharks may look frightening—reaching lengths of around 15m —but they're really just gentle giants that feast on plankton.
Belize is perhaps most famous for its beaches, with untouched sand softer than icing sugar and warm Caribbean waters. Take a trip to Placencia, often named the best beach in Belize. Here, sunbathe or rest in one of the palm-tree suspended hammocks and picnic at palapa-covered tables. Explore this seaside village while sampling gelato or conch fritters, or swim in the crystal waters. Placencia village streets are also lined with artisans selling their handmade crafts, which make wonderful souvenirs.
Xunantunich is one of Belize’s most accessible Mayan sites, overlooking the Mopan River and the Cayo District. The site was said to be occupied as early as 1,000 BC and the large architecture seen today began around 7th century AD. Follow the marked trails to the top of the main pyramid, El Castillo (the Castle), for picturesque vistas towards Guatemala and Caracol in the Pine Ridge Mountain Reserve.
4. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Whether you take to the waters around Belize or you're on terra firma, you’re sure to see some astounding wildlife in the myriad of nature reserves. The Stann Creek District is home to the world’s first, internationally recognised Jaguar Preserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Covering an area of 150 square miles of tropical forest, it's believed roughly 60 of Belize’s 700 jaguars live in the sanctuary, so you'll have a good chance of spotting one, especially in the evening. Birders will find plenty to admire too, with more than 500 tropical birds to spot on the marked trails, including the scarlet macaw and the keel-billed toucan. Those with a keen eye may even spot Belize’s resplendent national bird – the showy toucan, in all his colourful glory.
5. Barton Creek Cave
Another of the best places to visit in Belize is Barton Creek Cave in the Cayo District. Said to be an ancient Mayan ceremonial cave and burial site, it can only be reached by canoe. Accompanied by a guide, gently paddle along the scenic creek to take in amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations. Along the way, you may even spot artefacts and calcified skeletons on the cave ledges.
6. Ambergris Caye
Belize has around 450 beautiful islands called cayes, that stud the 185-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef. Tobacco Caye, Swallow Caye and Goff’s Caye are all beautiful, but the most well-known and largest island is Ambergris Caye, where golden sands run parallel to Belize Barrier Reef.
Formerly a fishing village, visit the island's only town of San Pedro which showcases technicolour houses, shops and bars. You'll meet warm locals who will greet you like an old friend and discover a vibrant foodie scene with the freshest lobster and locally produced chocolate. Don't leave Ambergris Caye without taking a golf cart to Secret Beach!
7. Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
At the southern tip of Ambergris Caye, Hol Chan Marine Reserve means "Little Channel" in Mayan and is a prime spot for snorkelling and superb diving, alongside many other watersports. Watch docile nurse sharks and graceful rays gliding through the shallow, crystalline waters of the aptly named, Shark Ray Alley passage, and keep an eye out for over 500 species of kaleidoscope fish, including angelfish, clown fish, butterfly fish and parrotfish. For those seeking a real thrill, there's also abundant sea life at the famous Great Blue Hole. This giant underwater sinkhole, surrounded by a ring of coral, was made famous by world-renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, and is so large it can be seen from space.
8. Caye Caulker
The tiny remote island of Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye's lesser-known sister island, encouraging visitors to 'go slow' with its laid-back atmosphere. Just a short water taxi ride from Belize City, Caye Caulker is one of the best places in Belize to relax on beautiful beaches and cycle amongst traffic-free surroundings. Caye Caulker's proximity to Belize Barrier Reef means it's also of the best snorkelling spots. Explore the nearby reefs from the Split to the north of the island, then take in a fiery orange sunset from one of the beach bars.
“Great for honeymooners, sun worshippers, families, wildlife lovers and adventure seekers alike, Belize really packs a punch. Its small size means it’s easy to travel around, with relatively short road distances and convenient domestic airline flights across the country. There's even boats and horses available, should you wish to really get off the beaten path!” Rainbow's Latin America Travel Specialist
Stroll around Caracol, the country’s largest Mayan archaeological site close to the border with Guatemala. Covering 30 square miles, it was once one of the most powerful cities in the entire Maya world with an estimated population of around 150,000.
It's now shrouded in thick jungle, where towering pyramid Caana (Sky Place) rises over 140ft, making this the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize. Climb the pyramid to admire stunning views, then cool off in one of the nearby freshwater pools.
Although not as big as some other Mayan sites, Lamanai was once a thriving city, home to 20,000 people for over 3,000 years. Set in the remote Orange Walk District, it's perhaps the most fascinating Maya site in Northern Belize, where impressive temples overlook the New River Lagoon. The highest temple rises an imperious 33m above the dense jungle canopy, providing excellent views over the river and the surrounding countryside. As you wander, listen out for beloved howler monkeys high up in the trees and spot lizards, colourful birds and butterflies.
Feeling inspired to stay in beautiful Belize? This compact country on the Caribbean coast of Central America is still relatively undiscovered. Explore the white-sand beaches, authentic beach town and miles of nature trails and marine life with the help of our Travel Specialists. They have the expert knowledge to help you see it at its most incredible.