Despite being a relatively young and not-yet-popular destination, Belize is chock-full of hundreds of years of history and myriad unique experiences. Among them are unmissable picks we strongly recommend for first-travelers to the small-but-mighty Caribbean country. Below you will find a few suggestions on what to do for your first trip to Belize to help you get a lay of the land.
There’s no better introduction to the Central American country than taking a short trip to the Museum of Belize in Belize City. Here, you’ll get a better understanding of how Belize came to be and how it’s now home to diverse people from all backgrounds.
With so many Maya sites peppered throughout the country, this activity is something we recommend you take advantage of every time you’re in Belize, not just the first time. But the experience is a definite can’t-miss if you’re a first-time visitor. Belize was once a Maya stronghold thousands of years ago and you can glean so much information (and stunning photos) by summiting a ruin.
While you can hop on a puddle-jumping plane from Belize City to the popular islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker, it’s almost a rite of passage to use the water taxi instead. You’ll share the ferry with fellow Belizeans and enjoy the relaxing experience of speeding across the waves. The rides usually take about an hour for Caye Caulker and an hour and a half for San Pedro.
Mountain Pine Ridge continues to be the jungle-laden jewel of the West. This forest reserve contains hundreds of acres of pine trees and broadleaf forests all up for your exploration. You’ll find gushing waterfalls, natural pools, hidden caves, and rich biodiversity unlike anywhere else.
Ever wanted to create history? You know can by snorkeling in the world’s second-largest Barrier Reef, right after Australia’s. Take your pick from countless spots for snorkeling off Belize’s coast. One suggestion is South Water Caye Marine Reserve which holds a slew of rainbow parrotfish, stingrays, nurse sharks, lobsters, and more.
Belize is a tropical destination, after all, and its silk-sand beaches will not let you forget it. When looking for the best spot to sunbathe and spend the day lounging while sipping a cocktail, opt for Ambergris Caye’s Secret Beach. The not-so-secret beach sits about an hour north of the town of San Pedro. Rent a buggy, a.k.a golf cart, and drive north to bring your paradisiacal fantasies to life.
You may see Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve on most of the must-do itineraries in Belize but it’s for a reason. Snorkeling in this protected area is considered a once-in-a-lifetime experience most never forget. You’ll share your elbow room with docile nurse sharks languidly circling you. But don’t worry, their diet consists of mostly small fish and crustaceans.
Nohoch Che’en Caves is located near the capital of Belmopan and has long been considered the go-to attraction for first-time spelunkers. The archaeological reserve has an extensive network of limestone caves engulfed in lush jungles. Plant your butt on one of the rubber tubes and let your guide gently pull you atop the Caves Branch river through dark caverns filled with history.
Thrill-seekers will want to add soaring through Belize’s jungles hundreds of feet in the air to their itinerary. In fact, you can pair this adrenaline-inducing activity with cave tubing. Strap on your harness and helmet and be ready to fly through the dense rainforest with some of the most dazzling views beneath you.
It may be a splurge, but you can’t come to Belize for the first time and not visit the marvelous Blue Hole. While you can certainly snorkel the historic cenote, one unique way of appreciating it is seeing it from above. Book a flyover Tour with Maya Island Air for a trip where you’ll see the spectacular Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe Atolls in addition to the Blue Hole. And if a flyover tour is not enough, you can always book an all-day diving excursion to the World Heritage Site.