The Belize District: there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to the place that once housed the country’s capital city. Featuring everything from pristine lagoons to easily accessible Maya ruins, the district sitting at the heart of Belize is a hidden gem in itself. So, before you jet off to the cayes or make your way inland to Cayo, here are three itineraries to consider when it comes to exploring one of Belize’s more underrated destinations.
Itinerary 1: The Belize Zoo and Old Belize
The Best Little Zoo in the World
Here’s an itinerary that will satisfy both the aquaphile and the animal-enthusiast in you. Head out bright and early for a trip to the Best Little Zoo in the World. The Belize Zoo is just a quick 30 – 40 minute drive from Belize City. Located at mile 29 on the George Price Highway, it’s home to over 200 animals and more than 45 species native to Belize.
Founded in 1983 by the late Sharon Matola, the Belize Zoo has an origin story and a legacy that’s as unique as the friendly faces that inhabit it. Enjoy getting to know more about animals like the scarlet macaw, the spider monkey, the elusive jaguar, and even the majestic harpy eagle.
Taking A Dip At Kukumba Beach
After the zoo, head back down the George Price Highway to Old Belize, located at mile 5.5. (The signs pointing the way as you near the property are pretty unmissable). There, enjoy taking a refreshing dip at one of the only beaches near Belize City. When you’re done, grab a bite at the Old Belize Food Market. Choose from a variety of delicacies ranging from burgers and fries to classic Belizean eats.
And, if you’re feeling extra curious about Belize’s history, the Old Belize Train Ride is sure to be a treat. Travel back in time as you learn more about Belize’s many cultures and pieces of its past.
Itinerary 2: An Experience for the History Buffs
A City Tour
Take historical & cultural tour through central Belize City. A number of attractions sit not too far apart in the downtown area of the old capital. That includes St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Central America. Just across from it is the House of Culture. Then, right across town is the Museum of Belize, which offers visitors a glimpse into Belize’s colorful past.
If you’d like a more unique experience, you can switch out the city tour and opt instead for a delightful rum tour. The Travellers Heritage Museum has a tour that teaches visitors a bit about the history of the famed rum company. Plus, you get the chance to sample some of their products at the end.
Journey to Alun Ha
When you’ve gotten your fill of the city, make your way up the Philip Goldson Highway. One of Belize’s most easily accessed Maya ruins, Altun Ha, lies just 45 minutes outside of the city. The drive up is a scenic one, granting you views of the winding Belize River as well as a number of rural villages like Sand Hill.
Altun Ha is made up of two plazas with thirteen structures total, which means there will be plenty to see here. Believe it or not, though, you might have already seen at least one of the structures that lie within this popular Maya site. The Temple of the Masonry Altars (found in Plaza B) is proudly displayed on the labels of Belize’s Belikin Beer.
Itinerary 3: Exploring the Belize River Valley
This final itinerary involves a host of unique and eclectic villages that could each make for a day of exploration on their own. Nevertheless, the Belize River Valley is an underrated travel destination that is teeming with cultural experiences, historic sites, and close encounters with nature. Here are three locations in the valley that make for a great start.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
This off-the-beaten path gem of a destination is found in Crooked Tree Village. The wildlife sanctuary is every birder’s dream come true, being home to some 300 species of birds, including the jabiru stork. Plus, Crooked Tree Village is in itself a treat, boasting some of the best cashew wine alongside loads of rich Belizean culture.
The Community Baboon Sanctuary
History and nature all wrapped up in one, the Community Baboon Sanctuary is the ultimate destination for anyone wanting to get up close and personal with the loudest land animal in the world. Also known as the Howler Monkey Sanctuary, it’s unlike any other wildlife sanctuary in Belize. As the sanctuary’s official website puts it, “The nature and functioning of the CBS is completely embedded within the seven Belize River Valley communities that comprise it and it is inextricably linked to the Kriol culture and history of the region.”
Flowers Bank Village
This historic village was recently featured on the Belize Tourism Board’s new show Our People, Food, and Culture. The history of Flower’s Bank village is an intriguing one, and it’s intricately tied to Belize’s identity. That’s because it was the home of the Flowers Bank 14 – a group of men who helped make one of the most important decisions regarding the Battle of St. George’s Caye. Take a trip to the village for insightful history lessons alongside delicious Kriol foods and desserts.
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Belize Biltmore Plaza
A convenient choice of stay for any Belize District adventures, the Biltmore Plaza is located on the Philip Goldson Highway, just a few minutes away from the International Airport. Known for being a “home away from home” for guests, it sits far enough away from the hustle and bustle. But, it’s still close enough to popular day-trip destinations on any Belize District itineraries.
Choose from a variety of accommodations, including cozy junior suites and deluxe King or Queen rooms. After a long day of exploring, there’s nothing quite like having a warm, welcoming, and comfortable place to stay!
Featured Photo: Kukumba Beach at Old Belize. Image courtesy of property.