With the arrival of 2024, thoughts of resolutions, goals, and maybe even a dream vacation or two are at the forefront of many of our minds. But what about those bucket lists? If you’ve got your eyes set on Belize for this year – or any year, for that matter – be sure to add these seven spectacular places to your travel bucket list. Whether offering breathtaking views, one-of-a-kind experiences, or hidden travel gems, each of these Belize destinations is sure to leave a lasting impression on you long after your visit.
“In A.D. 562, Caracol was also able to defeat the powerful kingdom of Tikal, just to the west in what’s now Guatemala.”
– National Geographic
Hidden away inside the dense vegetation of Belize’s Chiquibul Forest Reserve lies what was once one of the most powerful cities of the Mundo Maya. Today, Caracol holds the title of being home to Belize’s tallest manmade structure: Caana (the sky palace).
Venture down the winding (and newly paved) Chiquibul Road in Cayo to get to this magnificent wonder. As gorgeous as it is far-flung, Caracol is well worth the two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Ignacio Town. To get there, utilizing a 4WD vehicle is highly recommended. For the best experience though, plan to visit this bucket-list-worthy Maya site by booking a tour or hiring a guide.
2. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
“People who understand the value of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary know that it is much more than a natural area set aside for jaguars”. – Belize Audubon Society
Belize’s Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is 128,000 acres of verdant foliage, rolling mountains, waterfalls, hiking trails, and, of course, a world of biodiversity. Not only is this national reserve the world’s first and only jaguar preserve – established by the late Alan Rabinowitz – but it is also where intrepid hikers and nature enthusiasts can conquer one of Belize’s greatest natural wonders.
With striking views both along the way and at the top, the journey to the summit of Belize’s second tallest mountain – Victoria Peak – is a bucket-list-worthy adventure in itself. If you’re not up for the 3-4 days-long challenge, though, the Cockscomb Basin still promises plenty of unforgettable experiences, including some of the best hiking trails in the country.
Travel Tip: The Entrance to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is found at Mile 12 on the Southern Highway. The Entrance Fee is $10.00 BZ ($5.00 USD) per person for visitors and $2.50 BZ ($1.25 USD) per person for locals. Additionally, camping costs $20.00 BZ for visitors and $10.00 BZ for locals.
3. Half Moon Caye
Both an island and a natural monument, Belize’s Half Moon Caye is noteworthy for several reasons. For starters, it was the first nature reserve ever established under the country’s National Park Systems Act in 1981. Secondly, it has been hailed, time and time again, as one of the most beautiful locations in the Caribbean alongside the Great Blue Hole.
In fact, a trip to this crescent-shaped island is almost always combined with a visit to the Blue Hole, since both are found inside the Lighthouse Reef Atoll some 52 miles off the mainland coast.
Travel Tip: Best visited with the aid of a dive shop or on a planned group excursion. For the extra adventurous, consider camping on the island – you’ll be one of the first people in the country to watch the sunrise.
4. Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve
“The idyllic sand beaches of the Silk Cayes, the shallow clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and prolific seagrass provide habitats for many marine species”. – BIOPAMA
The waters of Southern Belize are as uncrowded and teeming with life as it gets in the country. Witness the beauty in biodiversity when visiting the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. This protected area is found off the coast of the Placencia Peninsula, and it’s most renowned for being the go-to spot for whale shark sightings in April and May.
Today, the existence of the protected area itself is rooted in community action and togetherness. It was founded in the early 2000s as a result of lobbying by a community-based organization. And, much more recently, the idyllic Silk Cayes were saved from complete erosion through the efforts of Eworth Garbutt and the Placencia community.
5. Crystal Cave
“Explorers will witness evidence of ceremonies that took place thousands of years ago which include potteries, fire pits, charcoal ash, and human remains. At the end, you will be amazed to walk inside a crystalized chamber called Wonderland.” -Belize Caving Expeditions
A spelunking adventure that might not be for the faint of heart: while many have visited – and tubed through – St. Herman’s Cave at the eponymous Blue Hole National Park, the Crystal Cave, which is also found in the park, is a dry cave offering spectacular formations to those daring enough to explore. Venture deep below the earth’s surface and enjoy a truly otherworldly experience thanks to shimmering crystal and karst formations all around.
It begins with a 50-minute hike that then gives way to more strenuous activity, including some heart-pumping climbing, steep drops, and tight squeezes. In fact, many have said that Belize’s Crystal Cave makes the much more popular Actun Tunichil Muknal look and feel like a walk in the park. The reward at the end, however, is priceless.
6. Actun Loch Tunich
“As you slowly descend, take the time to admire the grandeur all around you. Take in the beauty of the expansive emerald forest before passing through the top of the canopy into what seems at first to be darkness.” – CC+L
If you love a good rush, be sure to put conquering the “mother of all caves” at the top of your Belize travel bucket list. Actun Loch Tunich is another adventure that’s not for the faint of heart, as it involves rappelling down into a massive sinkhole in the middle of the jungle. The view as you do so, however, is simply breathtaking.
The outer edges of this collapsed cave sit 200 feet above the forest canopy. Getting to it involves a steep uphill hike that takes about an hour. It’s impossible to see the bottom of the sinkhole at first, which is how Actun Loch Tunich got its name. Your guide will connect you to a safety harness and a system of secure rappelling ropes. From there, there’s nowhere to go but down. For the first ten feet, you rappel down the side of the rock face. And then you step off, with nothing below you.
7. The Wit
“Drawing the attention of international divers and snorkelers, as well as creating a natural, protected haven for our vibrant wildlife, it won’t be long before this wreck is cemented in our underwater landscape.” -Blackbird Resort
One of the Caribbean’s newest attractions, The Witconcrete is a wreck dive site that was opened in December 2021. The 16-chamber ship was once used for sugar transportation and molasses storage. On December 10th, however, the 375-foot tanker became one of the largest wreck dive sites in the region when it sank to the ocean floor in the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.
According to the BTB, before The Wit’s sinking, great care was taken to thoroughly remove and dispose of potentially hazardous materials. Plus, the location of the dive site was also intentionally selected to eliminate coral reef impact. In fact, the dive site is managed by the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA) – an organization dedicated to safeguarding Belize’s marine protected areas.