Sometimes, we don’t need an entire day to make the most of a quick vacation. The perk of Belize being a small country means you get to do more activities in a short period of time, transfer time included. A good rule of thumb is to stay in a central hub, such as Hopkins or San Ignacio, where many popular attractions are nearby. This way, you could experience half-day tours and spend the afternoon on Belize time, lounging by your resort’s pool. We’ve curated some ideas below to keep in mind when booking a Belize vacation.
As one of the most popular attractions in Belize, cave tubing offers thrill and adventure with a side of relaxation. Wake up bright and early and head to Nohoch Che’en Caves just outside of the city of Belmopan. This experience is ideal for groups or families, since you’ll all be strung together in your river tubes and pulled along by the guide. Each guest receives a headlamp to gaze upon the crystallized stalactites decorating the cave’s ceiling. The arctic water will be a nice refresher from the heat, and after coming across mini waterfalls, pools, and even the occasional bats, this hour-long tour culminates with lunch on-site. If you have some time leftover, you can always pair this activity with ziplining as many tour operators offer this as a package.
Great for those staying in San Ignacio or nearby, Xunantunich is an easy 15-minute drive from downtown. This Maya site is one of most sought after in Belize, with its “El Castillo” temple being the main background in many Instagrammers’ selfies. Drive up to San Jose Succotz and cross the ferry over the Mopan River before driving the rest of the way on-site. Spend a couple of hours touring the main plazas and climbing all the way to the top of El Castillo. Drink in the views of the surrounding jungle canopy and nearby Guatemala before making your way back down. By the time your guide has shared all the fantastical historical facts about each structure, it’s time to grab some authentic Belizean grub at a Succotz diner.
It’s not your average museum, but Old Belize offers a unique glimpse into what Belize used to be like, or rather, then-British Honduras. A crash course on the cultural melting pot Belize is, the Old Belize Train Ride glides you through a tropical rainforest straight into the past: Maya artifacts, the old capital of Belize City, through logging camps for export, and even sugar mills used by chicleros. After, your half-day tour, spend time in the sunshine at Kukumba Beach, which filters the Caribbean Sea for the only (manmade) beach in Belize City.
About an hour’s drive away from the international airport is the world’s best little zoo. Home to jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, and the giant jabiru stork, The Belize Zoo prides itself in taking care of rehabilitated and rescued animals. Visitors often spend about an hour or two visiting each exhibit and making friends with all the furry and feathered residents on site. Depending on the date and time, there are also special animal encounters involving some of the animals. You can book a sort of meet-and-greet with the jaguar ambassador, or maximize a photo op with Belize’s national bird, the Keel-Billed Toucan. The Zoo also has its own on-site gift shop, café, and even a jungle lodge for accommodations.
Arguably one of the best ways to spend the better part of an hour is learning exactly how chocolate is made and having a delicious reward at the end of that experience. In San Ignacio, you can book a chocolate-making class with Ixcacao chocolate and grind cacao beans to your heart’s content until you’re sipping on true hot chocolate. Not only is the class fun and tasty, but it’s also educational as you get to learn the history of the way Mayans used cocoa for currency and how they eventually came to produce everyone’s favorite sweet treat.
In Belize’s southeast region, you have the easily accessible yet gorgeous Mayan King Waterfalls. About a half-hour from Hopkins, these cascades require no hiking or long drive whatsoever. Once you have driven up the undulating mountain, you can walk right up a set of stairs to see the beautiful waterfall enshrouded in the canopy of the jungle. Picnic tables are available for a quick lunch at the end of this only-in-Belize half-day swim. Driving back to your hotel in either Hopkins or Placencia, you will come across a unique bamboo “cathedral” as the locals call it, which makes for a great pit stop for photo ops.