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.
1. Altun Ha Maya Ruins
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.
2. St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park
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.
3. Glovers Reef Atoll
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. Additionally, Glovers Reef is a part of Belize’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s fantastic for swimming, diving, seakayaking or snorkeling. Dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, live coral and reef fish fill the waters. The Caribbean Sea offers amazing visibility up to 200 feet. Glovers Reef offers outstanding fishing and spectacular surroundings. You can camp on the island if you’re with a specially licensed tour group.
4. 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 Cuelloshows 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 and the Cuello Rum Distillery. The best way to see them is to arrange a distillery tour.
5. ATM Cave and Crystal Maiden
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.
6. Billy Barquedier National Park
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 and authentic Garifuna food.