Belize continues to fascinate visitors who marvel at its scenic beauty, historical importance and rare, precious ecosystems. Here are 10 amazing places that prove Belize is truly a rare adventure destination to explore in 2021.
Famed sea explorer Jacques Cousteau was the first to explore this amazing natural sinkhole in 1971. Almost 50 years later, Cousteau’s grandson Fabien was part of another expedition that attempted to penetrate the Blue Hole’s deepest mysteries. This natural depression in the sea measures almost 500 feet deep and 900 feet across. It is located close to the equally impressive Belize Barrier Reef. These and other attractions are part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Blue Hole lies at the center of Lighthouse Reef, which is one of Belize’s offshore atolls. Atolls are islands that form from rings of coral. The Blue Hole looms large in the imaginations of scuba divers the world over, many of whom list it as a “Bucket List” experience. It’s recommended only for experienced divers, but you can visit the surface by boat if you’re not a diver.
This Maya dig is famous as the discovery site of the famous Crystal Skull, a large skull artifact whose origins are still unknown. There are many legends about the crystal skull, including the ones that gave rise to the 2007 Indiana Jones movie, but most of them have no basis in reality. Why should you visit the digs? Lubaantun is an important archeological site for the many pottery pieces and other handcrafted items unearthed there.
It’s unusual for Maya sites in Belize because its residents abandoned it after 200 years. Most other Maya cities in Belize lasted for thousands of years. It’s also unusual because of its black slate, mortarless construction. If you have an interest in Maya history, put Lubaantun on your list. Lubaantun is in Belize’s rural Toledo District. While you’re there, visit some other attractions in the area like the Belize Spice Farm or the coastal town of Punta Gorda.
Shark Ray Alley is a 1280-acre protected marine reserve close to the dazzling Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Both locations are famous for their clear waters and the many fish that congregate there. Shark Ray Alley, however, is less crowded and has even more spectacular sea creatures. You’ll spot an incredible array of sea creatures including barracudas, stingrays, nurse sharks and sea turtles. This is also the ideal location to see whale sharks, the enormous gentle giants that visit Belize’s protected waters during their annual migration. Shark Ray Alley is a top snorkeler’s destination and a must-see for any lover of the ocean.
Although it’s a small country, Belize has many unique ecosystems. The Mountain Pine preserve will remind you of pine forests in the eastern US with its rock formations, lush pine trees and natural cave formations. It’s in the wonderfully scenic Cayo District. Pine Ridge is a favorite destination for hikers, zip-liners, mountain climbers and adventure travelers of all kinds. The reserve is well-known for its many natural pools, rushing rivers and waterfalls, which make wonderful places to stop and cool off during a long hike.
Belize was home to many important Maya cities and settlements. It’s hard to pick just a handful to visit, but sprawling, magnificent Altun Ha should top your list. Once home to more than 10,000 people, this city was a wealthy metropolis with homes, temples and recreation centers. With its tall stone structures and impressive towers, Altun Ha is one of the most photographed sites in Belize. The Maya built a huge water retention system here that’s now home to native crocodiles. You’ll spot wildlife and birds of all kinds in the jungle surrounding this ancient city. Altun Ha is about 30 miles north of Belize City.
Don’t confuse this Blue Hole with the Blue Hole on the barrier reef. This one is a natural pool at the base of a cave system. St. Herman’s is a 575-acre protected forest that’s home to hundreds of bird species and a safe haven for jaguars, ocelots, tapirs and armadillos. Unlike other cave systems in Belize, St. Herman’s is easy to enter. As you explore, you reach the sparkling Blue Hole, which is 100 feet deep and 300 feet across. You can also reach the Blue Hole through a stairway that avoids the cave. Walk through the park, climb down the stairs and cool off in the pool. It’s a wonderful place to swim, relax and enjoy nature. Along with the other six protected areas under Belize Audubon Society’s co-management, St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is a Gold Standard certified tourism site.
Belize’s offshore cayes and atolls are renowned for their pristine beauty. Glovers Reef gets its name from the pirate brothers John and Rodger Glover, who used it as a base of operations in the 1750s. Glovers Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s fantastic for swimming, diving, sea kayaking or snorkeling. Dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, live coral and reef fish fill the waters. The Caribbean Sea offers amazing visibility up to 200 feet. Additionally, Glovers Reef offers outstanding fishing and spectacular surroundings. You can camp on the island if you’re with a specially licensed tour group.
8. Cuello Maya Ruins
These ruins are small but historically and archeologically important. Residents lived there until the year 500, which makes it one of the longest occupied Maya sites in Belize. First discovered in the 1980s, Cuello has revealed many new findings about the Maya. Historians have discovered Swasey ceramics here. Swasey is the oldest pottery in the Maya lowlands and one of the oldest ceramic traditions in Central America. Its discovery at Cuello shows that the Maya built settlements as early as 2400 BC. Other surprising findings have emerged from the vast burial and ceremonial sites at Cuello. The ruins are on private property belonging to the Cuello family.
National Geographic called the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave one of the most important sacred caves in the world. This impressive cave was an ancient Maya ceremonial site. A tour of it is a chance to learn about history. Experienced cavers and those in excellent physical condition will enjoy this challenging tour. The cave holds many important artifacts and skeletons. The most famous is the so-called Crystal Maiden. This is the skeleton of a young girl whose bones appear to be sparkling because of calcification.
Over the years, careless tourists have damaged or destroyed important relics in the cave. As a result, the Belize government forbids shoes or cameras in the ATM. You can only visit with a specially licensed guide. It’s worth the trouble. The ATM is an unforgettable experience.
If you enjoy spotting birds, reptiles and wildlife, you can see them all at this national park. It features over 1600 acres of preserved tropical evergreen forest. It’s also home to one of the most famous waterfalls in Belize. Located at Mile 17 off the Hummingbird Highway, the waterfall is about a 20-minute hike from the main road. Walk through the peaceful green forest to the huge waterfall and the large, sparkling pool. Dive in and enjoy. You can camp overnight in the park. Spend the following day at nearby Hopkins Village, where you’ll find unspoiled beachfront, authentic Garifuna food and the Palmento Grove Cultural and Fishing Lodge.
Enjoy Belize’s Amazing Adventures In 2021
When you’re ready for an amazing vacation, Belize will be ready for you. These attractions are open all year, so start planning your 2021 getaway now.