You Can Explore Both Sides of This Country’s Dual Identity With Just One Trip

by Giulissa Hernandez

Belize is a nation where the Caribbean’s vibrant soul meets the jungles and mountains of Central America. Who knew such a small country could boast such spectacular history and culture? Whether you’re savoring the rhythms of the Caribbean in coastal villages or uncovering the ancient mysteries of Maya sites, each step in Belize is a dance between two worlds. Here, we have what we call a dual identity – historically, culturally, and, of course, geographically.  


Embrace the duality, relish the contrasts, and let the tapestry of Belize’s cultural and geographical richness unfold before you. This country is a true testament to the harmonious blend of Caribbean and Central American identities.

A Harmony of Cultures, History, and Geography

Photo by the Belize Tourism Board

Belize’s Caribbean identity is rooted in its history, marked by influences from the Afro-Caribbean communities of the Creole and the Garifuna. Since Belize was a British colony, it shares many of the same historical roots as the Caribbean islands. Among these shared characteristics are cuisine, dialect, and heritage.

On the other hand, the Central American thread weaves through the country’s geography. Here you’ll find dense rainforests, majestic mountains, and ancient Maya sites that tell tales of an ancient past.

Additionally, just as how Belize became home to the Garinagu fleeing from St. Vincent, it also welcomed the Mayas who sought refuge from the Caste War in Mexico. This war also led the Mestizo people to seek sanctuary in Belize. You’ll notice the common theme here: Belize’s natural eagerness to provide a home for any who needs it. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Belize’s past!

How to Explore Belize’s Dual Identity

Tortilla Making with the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative. Photo by the Belize Tourism Board.

Of course, you’ll find that each town and village in Belize has an underlying culture solidifying the community. Immerse yourself in the tropical vibes by exploring the islands and coastal communities. Places like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker offer a taste of paradise with their turquoise waters and vibrant marine life. Have a taste of grilled seafood and mouth-watering dishes like ceviche These destinations highlight true Caribbean bliss.

Order yourself some fresh shrimp ceviche at Lily’s Treasure Chest in San Pedro Town

Next, explore Afro-Caribbean culture in Belize. The villages of the Belize River Valley, such as Crooked Tree, Burrell Boom, Double Head Cabbage, etc., all share heritage. Here, the spirit of the Caribbean shines through Creole cooking, community hubs, museums, and immersive nature experiences. 

Barton Creek Cave. Photo by CC+L

Then, head west and north to delve into Belize’s Central American soul. In the Cayo District, the lush landscapes of the west – including mountains, jungles, and caves –  provide a glimpse into the country’s geological and historical heart. Explore ancient Maya sites like Caracol, nestled deep within the Chiquibul Forest, and feel the pulse of Central America’s ancient civilizations. 

Similar: 24 Belize Travel Ideas for 2024

In Orange Walk and Corozal, discover your love for the Maya and Mestizo cuisine. Try a bite of pibil tacos, tamales, and escabeche to truly taste the spices!

Where to Stay

Listen to the waves at Matachica Resort

For a taste of the Caribbean, explore the beaches of Ambergris Caye with Matachica Resort. Or, head inland and discover the verdant landscapes of western Belize with Gaia Riverlodge. Can’t decide which you’d like to experience more? Opt for both, and immerse yourself in a sister resort stay that takes you from Reef to Rainforest.

Belize is truly a wonder of a country. While its size may not be intimidating, its kaleidoscopic culture fills in all the rest. Even if you spend a short time here, you’ll notice that it’s unlike any other country in the vicinity. Instead, it’s a beautiful amalgamation of all its encompassing history.

Featured photo by Gaia Riverlodge

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