Wedged between Guatemala and Mexico with a Western Caribbean coastline, Belize’s humble 8,869 mi² overflows with natural beauty and cultural diversity for anything but average experiences. Like scuba diving the world’s second-largest barrier reef that hugs the entire coastline, hiding away three atolls and hundreds of cayes while running 185 miles. Or spelunking into Belize’s limestone-rich caverns of the earth—whether by rappel, canoe, inner tube, or on foot. Choosing between them can be a tough call, so if you can afford it, don’t. Instead, go beneath the surface with both above-average Belize experiences ( guaranteed to be extraordinary) by caving in Cayo with Ka’ana Resort, then scuba diving the South with It’zana Resort.
Caving in Cayo with Ka’ana Resort
A breath of fresh air, Ka’ana Resort sits directly off the Western Highway, just a 2-hour drive from the international airport. A gravel road, decorated with overhanging palm trees, opens to a quaint, boutique property of 17 secluded suites and villas true to Ka’ana’s Mayan translation: heavenly place. It’s a Small Luxury Hotel of the World—evidenced by the first-name-basis hospitality, details of your room (like an outdoor deep-soaking bath), or any of the intimate eco-adventures all to yourself.
And though the country holds hundreds, if not thousands of caves, west-central Belize has some of the most sacred, awe-inspiring chambers. Otherworldly, both dry and wet caves glisten with mineral-rich waters and even remnants of Mayan artifacts.
Though Ka’ana Belize offers tours to the Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve and Barton Creek Cave, none shine as bright as the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave—National Geographic’s choice for sacred places of a lifetime. Your 4-hour trek begins through gentle rushing crystal-clear waters, though this is not a tour for those afraid of tight spaces. In a sacrificial chamber to the ancient Mayas, you’ll walk right up to and next to thousands of years old pottery inside this ‘Cave of the Stone Sepulcher’. Skeletal remains of human sacrifices are expected, as are interesting geology. Darkness surrounds you and your guide walks you through the solemn respect that Mayas hold for Xibalba, translating to a place of fright, as an entrance into the underworld.
All of Itz’ana Resort’s rooms and villas put privacy center-stage, with wraparound terraces, airy indoor living spaces, and direct access to Placencia’s best beaches but most notably, the Southern Belize Barrier Reef is only 40 minutes by boat away. Beachfront villas, which range up to 3 bedrooms, and Penthouses overlooking the magnificent golden sands of the Peninsula are complete with private plunge pools, perfect for either thrill-seekers or chill-seekers.
At Itz’ana Belize, you’re invited to explore Belize’s Grand Channel by ocean tank, only 14 miles offshore. Moray eels, reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, jewfish, and even dolphins all await here as a diver’s playground. Located five miles south of South Water Caye is a cut called Grand Channel: a wall dive that is interspersed with sand channels and spur and groove sections. With your regulator secured and your Dive Master’s thumbs-down hand signal as the ‘go ahead’ to descend, you suddenly sink into the vastness of Belize’s depths and the mystery of what lies below. And yet, you’ve barely scratched the surface of diving into Belize’s reef system. You’ll find adrenaline surges at that simple thought but feeds into a fascination instead.