Adventure tours, restaurant and bar hopping, hotel stays and spa visits are all items to consider in your Belize vacation planning, but it’s helpful to know about some of the free and low-cost attractions in the country that can definitely add some cushion to your travel experience!
Visiting Ancient Maya Archaeological Sites
Ancient Maya temples and pyramids are among Belize’s top attractions, and they can easily be incorporated into your budget activities! While we highly recommend booking at least one tour to sites such as Caracol, Xunantunich or even the ceremonial cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal with an expert Belizean guide specializing in Maya history, you can always stop at a few easily accessible spellbinding sites on a self-guided adventure.
With a road map or your favorite smart phone GPS app, take a trip to Lubaantun or Nim Li Punit off the Southern Highway in Toledo. In the Cayo district, consider a stop at Cahal Pech in San Ignacio Town. In the Belize district, visit Altun Ha (which also happens to be the featured temple on the popular Belikin beer bottle) and located close to the international airport. And, if you plan on going north, stop in Corozal where you can enjoy a view of the coast at Santa Rita. These visits will give you extra room in your wallet calling for a BZ$10 entry fee!
Visiting Belize’s national parks located inside the famous barrier reef are definitely worth spending a few hundred dollars or more along with the required tour guide and boat captain, but you can also visit a few parks on land that will cost just a nominal fee. An easy stop is the Guanacaste National Park in Belmopan where the entrance fee is just BZ$20 per person. Centrally located, the site is managed by the Belize Audubon Society, and boasts two miles of maintained trails through lush tropical vegetation.
Interpretive displays and identification signs will allow you to appreciate every plant and tree during your stroll, and there’s also a bird watching deck on site, as well as a picnic area if you’d like to take a pack lunch or breakfast with you. Don’t forget your bathing suit! You can enjoy a swim here too where the Roaring Creek and Belize River converge.
Going up a bit further north along the George Price Highway is the Belize Zoo where just BZ$30 per adult and BZ$10 per child will provide a one to two-hour tour of Belize’s incredible wildlife – 175 animals representing 45 species to be exact! At the “Best Little Zoo in the World” you’ll see our famous wildcats (including our magnificent jaguars), our national bird, the keel-billed toucan and our national animal, the tapir. Spider monkeys are also swinging around to entertain you! You can also feel great knowing that these animals are all rehabilitated rescues that were discovered orphaned or sick in the wild.
How about the Blue Hole? And no, we’re not talking about the natural monument located along the second largest barrier reef in the world, but the more budget friendly option located along the Hummingbird Highway. At the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park, you can enjoy a cool and refreshing dip in the sapphire waters of a collapsed limestone cave. The site is easily accessible and convenient for an unguided adventure at a mere fee of just BZ$8.
History buff? Go beyond your gleanings of ancient Maya culture and find out more about the other people and stories that have shaped Belize by visiting a few cultural centers and museums. In Dangriga Town, you can stop at the Gulisi Garifuna Museum. For just BZ$10, you’ll learn the fascinating history of the Garinagu people who exiled to Belize and continue to lead a vibrant life full of drumming, unique customs and the Garifuna language.
Passing through Belize City? A stop at the Museum of Belize managed by the Belize National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) is a must-do! At this former prison built in 1857, you’ll learn a wealth of knowledge about Belize’s colonial history that will prepare you well for your adventures around the country and understanding the story of the Creole people. You may also catch a special exhibit celebrating some other part of Belize’s heritage here too. Plan on dedicating at least 30 minutes to take in all the information. It’s worth the BZ$10 entry free!
NICH also manages a few cultural centers elsewhere in Belize that are worth visiting during your travels for further education at a bargain. Consider a stop at the Benque House of Culture in the Guatemala-Belize border town of Benque Viejo Del Carmen, the Corozal House of Culture, Banquitas in Orange Walk, the San Ignacio and Santa Elena House of Culture in Cayo and the San Pedro House of Culture on Ambergris Caye. At these cultural centers you’ll gather a wealth of knowledge about the Mestizos of Belize.
You may be walking, bussing, cabbing or driving in a rental, but there are stops in Belize that you can enjoy for free!
If you’re in Belize City, visit the Baron Bliss Lighthouse along the seawall in the old colonial neighbourhood of Fort George. During your gift shop visits, you’re bound to find a postcard of this famous landmark that was established in 1885 in memory of a generous benefactor who loved Belize’s waters. As per his instructions, his fenced granite tomb is also on site.
Another popular landmark in the city is the St. John’s Anglican Cathedral. This is the oldest Anglican church in Central America and is famed for its stained glass windows and brick walls. Built in 1812, the church is considered to be one of the few remaining physical structures that tell of Belize’s colonial past.
Got enough of history? How about food culture?! Market day in San Ignacio Town will you give you a good crash course on the fresh produce available in Belize and that you’ll find deliciously prepared during your restaurant hops. Browse over a hundred stalls on Saturday and immerse yourself in the bustling farm culture of rural Belize. This is a wonderful place to take photographs, and it’s just a stone throw’s away from the Macal River where you’ll see locals enjoying a refreshing swim on a hot day.
Feeling adventurous? Explore Punta Gorda Town in Toledo. Located in what was called, “The Forgotten District,” Punta Gorda will introduce you to the East Indians of Belize better than any other destination. While no House of Culture exists in this community yet, there’s plenty of history here, and you’re best learning from talking to the locals. In Punta Gorda and its surrounding villages you can find remnants of intriguing Confederate and colonial activities. It’s typically a surprising fact for many that a group of Confederates moved to the area following the U.S. Civil War and worked with the British to bring indentured Indian laborers to Toledo. While this isn’t free, if you want to get an authentic taste of Belizean-Indian curry, this town is a great place to start. One curry lunch at a local restaurant complete with the famous cohune-cabbage (the heart of the popular rainforest palm tree) can cost you less than BZ$20.
Lastly, a beach experience in Belize doesn’t require a boating tour. If you’re staying in Hopkins Village or along the Placencia Peninsula on the mainland, you can take as many beach strolls as you wish for free among the coconut trees. On a clear night, you’ll also enjoy the stars for an added bonus.
At Captain Jak’s, we offer a wide variety of jungle and water tours to help you round out your itinerary. From the number one tour in Placencia – Monkey River – to diving and snorkeling, from zip lining to the Ruins, our experienced local guides can help make your trip truly unBELIZEable…and definitely unforgettable! Contact us today to start planning your adventures!