This Central American Country Has Some Must-See Natural Wonders

by Megan Rodden

The seven countries that comprise Central America make up a fascinating region with varying landscapes and diverse cultures.  Framed by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Central America is an isthmus that joins North and South America. Its countries share both intriguing ancient and modern histories.  The region is heavily influenced by colonial roots, but each country’s particular history is unique and has played a significant role in shaping very different identities among the neighboring countries.  You’ll find a rich array of different customs, languages, music, dance, and cuisine.  This area is also characterized by noteworthy natural wonders as well; tropical forests, rugged mountains, coastal lowlands, pristine jungle, and astonishing geological features.  All of Central America is worth visiting, but you should plan a trip to the country of Belize to explore these must-see natural wonders.

Natural Wonders Across Belize

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize is a small country on the eastern side of Central America so its coast is on the Caribbean Sea.  The geological nature of this specific area and the rise and fall of sea levels over the millennia have given birth to a spectacular and diverse seascape that is difficult to rival.  The Belize Barrier Reef System is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere. 

The reef system comprises a complex network of diverse and uncommon ecosystems.  It is home to a dizzying number of species including many endemic and endangered species, making it an important area for conservation.  In addition to the healthy barrier reef, patch reef, faros, pinnacles, and rare deep-water corals, the BBRS is home to one-of-a-kind atolls such as the famous Blue Hole.  The eerily beautiful marine sinkhole is not only acclaimed for its beauty from above, but also its mysterious allure under the water’s surface.  A world-renowned scuba diving and snorkeling destination, the Blue Hole is a must-see site on many diver’s bucket lists.

belize barrier reef
Image via Wouter Naert on Unsplash
Belize’s Maya Mountains

Enchanted by Belize’s crystal-clear water, thriving coral and marine life, and a multitude of pristine white-sand cayes, many visitors overlook the astonishing natural beauty of the country’s interior.  The compact biodiversity of inland Belize rivals that of its offshore wonders.  Anyone with an appreciation for nature will relish the country’s vast tracks of unmolested jungle, savannah, and wetlands. 

The Maya Mountain Range is an especially alluring natural wonderland to explore.  Mostly maintained in its pristine condition, the range spans much of the country and extends into northern Guatemala.  Much of the mountains are protected areas, running through 17 parks, reserves, and sanctuaries in Belize.  Owing its interesting topography to a specific geological constituent of limestone, sandstone, granite, and shale, the mountain range is riddled with rivers, waterfalls, and caves all secreted underneath a thick canopy of broadleaf tropical forest.

Photo by Tom Hines

An easily identifiable landmark along a singular stretch of the Maya Mountain Range is a formation dubbed The Sleeping Giant.  Visitors usually get their first glimpse of the peaks’ silhouettes from the Western Highway when heading towards Belmopan or Cayo District from the International Airport.  The ridge of the hills that form the Sleeping Giant can be seen from other areas. The Hummingbird Highway, however, gives spectators the best view of the slumbering mountain-man.  If you are fortunate and adventurous enough to take an expedition into the thick jungle and up the steep slopes of the Sleeping Giant, you will be rewarded with little-visited waterfalls, reclusive wildlife, and picturesque vistas.

Victoria Peak natural monument

On the summit of Victoria Peak. Photo courtesy Kevin Quischan Photography

The Chiquibul Cave System 

Belize’s Maya Mountain Range guards a secret subterranean labyrinth that modern researchers and explorers are still probing.  Far under its highest points of Doyle’s Delight (3,688 ft) and Victoria Peak (3,670 ft), the Chiquibul Cave System is the longest system in Central America. It also includes two of the world’s largest caverns.  Deep within the country’s largest national park, which encompasses the archeological site of Caracol, the Chiquibul Cave System is remote and not easily reached.  This has helped preserve its unadulterated natural state and has contributed to its mysterious reputation. 

Entrance to Actun Kabal inside Chiquibul. Image via The Nature Conservancy

Archeologists, spelunkers, and scientists are still mapping and gaining an understanding of this marvelous underground maze.  The ancient Maya that inhabited this region viewed the cave network under their ancestral homeland as a sacred place to commune with their gods and as an entrance to the Underworld.  The sheer size and intricacy of the cave’s formations, passages, and networks are enough to amaze you. But, you’ll also find remarkably well-preserved artifacts from a thousand years ago in chambers once used for ancient ceremonies.

A nature-lovers paradise, the small country of Belize is big on natural wonders and biodiversity both above and below the surface of the warm Caribbean Sea.  

Related Articles