Looking to visit one of the safest parts of Belize with a majestic view of the mountains? Belmopan, the capital of Belize, is home to several intriguing and historical caves, flamboyant trees, a plaza with central government offices, embassies, consulates, Belize Zoo and Guanacaste Park. Take a look at this thriving city and get a thorough guide of things to do, see and eat in Belmopan.
History of Belmopan, “The Garden City”
Belmopan is the capital of Belize with a growing population of over 20,000 residents. This city was constructed with the aid of the British following the devastation of Hurricane Hattie in 1961 that destroyed approximately 75% of the homes and businesses in Belize City. The government of then, Prime Minister George Price promoted building a new capital that would be located more inland and away from tropical depressions or hurricanes. This new capital would have better terrain and provide for an industrial area. In 1962, a committee decided and chose Belmopan as the new capital. The new city was completed in 1970. In February 2005, the U.S. government built a new United States Embassy in Belmopan and inaugurated in December 2006. This U.S. Embassy is the largest and most modern embassy in Central America.
Today, 50 years later, Belmopan is known as the safest city in Belize. It is an evolving city that sits 250 ft above sea level, near the Belize River Valley, with cool climate conditions at night and a stunning view of the majestic Mountain Pine Ridge mountains.
Things To Do/See:
Belmopan Market Square
Rise and shine! Start your day bright and early at the local farmers market located near the bus terminal corner of Constitution Drive and Bliss Parade. Meet local vendors and farmers from nearby villages who start setting up their stalls from 4 a.m. with anything from fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, unique spices, local coffee, shoes, jewelry, clothing and much more. Interact with locals, eat authentic Belizean food and get great deals. The market days are Tuesday and Friday.
Mayan Chocolate Making
Experience an important part of this country’s culinary heritage as you make your way to the Lamanai Chocolate Cabana in Belmopan. The cacao bean, native to the jungles of Belize, has been cultivated and eaten by the Mayan people for thousands of years due to its energizing and medicinal properties. As you walk in, you are greeted by your hosts, indigenous Maya women, and chocolate experts. They will give you a brief history of chocolate in Belize and the importance it plays in our culture since ancient times.
Watch as they demonstrate the process from roasting the locally grown raw cacao to grinding on a thousand- year old stone and finally make this paste into a delicious and decadent sweet chocolate which is 100% organic. Learn about Belize’s Mayan heritage while tasting and watching traditional methods used throughout the generations to transform these raw cocoa beans into fragrant, savory and rich chocolate.
Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Discover the best of both worlds: Belize’s natural beauty and culture in one stop. It is the garden of Eden right on earth. Enjoy a 1 hour guided tour of the 15-acre Caves Branch Botanical Garden known to have the largest collection of plants such as the orchids and bromeliads. The tour then follows an on-property cheese tasting with 12 varieties of Artisan Cheeses made from locally sourced organic full cream milk. Indulge in the fresh and rich taste of each cheese aged to perfection in the Caves Branch aging cellar. Cheese can also be purchased at the end of the tour. Lastly end the day with an elaborate Old British High Tea set amid the garden, overlooking the Caves Branch River. Enjoy finger foods, delicious sandwiches, fresh fruits and sweet delightful choices of fragrant herbal teas surrounded by nature.
Nature and Parks
Guanacaste National Park
Named after a large Guanacaste tree, this 50-acre park is perfect for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. The park features many species of trees, colorful birds and more than two miles of hiking trails. It is located off the highway at the Belmopan turnoff framed by Roaring Creek and the Belize River.
St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park
Not to be confused with the Blue Hole near the Lighthouse Reef atoll, St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is a 575-acre forest with unique geological features rich with wildlife. The main attractions: St. Herman’s Cave and the Blue Hole are connected by an underground stream. Hike 200 yards into the cave and see massive underground caverns full of crystal formations and beautiful Mayan artifacts. After a tour through St. Herman’s cave, jump into one of Belize’s prettiest & most refreshing swimming holes,(Blue hole) formed by the collapse of an underground limestone cave.
The Belize Zoo
This zoo is home to more than 175 animals of about 48 species all native to Belize. Come and see animals unlikely to be seen anywhere else such as tapirs, gibnuts, scarlet macaws, white hipped peccaries, howling monkeys, pumas, Belizean toucans, and jaguars.
Banana Bank Horses & Belize Jungle Lodge
Located on the peaceful Belize River and surrounded by many acres of natural forest this elite horseback riding destination holds over 35 years of experience and over 80 horses. Banana Bank offers miles of diverse trails for riding. This lodge focuses on safety first while also providing an educational and fun experience.
Cave tubing & Ziplining at Jaguar Paw
Jaguar Paw is a mystical and flawless nature area that has rainforests and a deep cave with an underground creek running through it. Hike through the lush tropical landscape and listen to your guide share about the medicinal plants along the jungle path. These plants were used by the Mayans in ancient times and are still used by locals today. After a 30 minutes’ walk, jump into a tube, relax and float through this subterranean world guided by the tranquil currents of the Jaguar Paw Cave. Prepared to be mesmerized by the sparkling stalactites, stalagmites, and beauty of the complex cave formations.
Finally, climb the platforms located and placed high up in the trees where cables for ziplines are attached. Secure your harness and get ready to launch off into the air flying at high speeds through the rainforest. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you enjoy the view from up above.
Places to Eat:
$$$$ (higher-priced restaurants)
$$$ (medium-priced restaurants)
Grove House Restaurant at Sleeping Giant $$$$
Delectable cuisines with a stunning view of the jungle treetops and outline of the sleeping giant mountain. Ranked #1 restaurant in the area by Trip Advisor Grove House is a must for eating. Groves House concept is “a field-to-table eatery”. Every dish is fresh from their 600-acre farm, neighboring villages and local markets. The food is inspired by indigenous Mayan people and the Central American immigrants that migrated to work on these local farms with a unique spin on authentic Central American cuisine. This restaurant offers North American and Belizean inspired cuisine using top local and organic ingredients and opened daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Cheers Restaurant & Cabanas $$$
An open-air patio-style restaurant surrounded by gardens offering local and Caribbean cuisines. They are famous for their mouth-watering rice and beans and offer vegetarian-friendly dishes as well as vegan options. Great variety of seafood, burgers and local dishes with a family-friendly environment.
Pasquale’s Pizza & Ultimate Wingz $$$
A laidback hangout spot serving freshly baked pizza made with local ingredients. Other items on the menu are salads, wings, pasta, subs, calzones, and cold drinks.
Casa Café $$
Looking for a lighter meal option or a smoothie drink on the go? Casa Café is a vegetarian café serving lighter meal options and snacks. They provide a wide selection of drinks: Frozen coffee, milkshakes, fruit smoothies and different type of teas. They also sell desserts and homemade ice cream.
Belmopan is a tranquil and safe city filled with many wonders, adventures, sights, and tastes. Bask in the sight of Belize’s historical governmental buildings, wildlife, flora and fauna, jungles, caves and mountains all in one city.
Written by Jiyoung Chehade