You’ve booked your flights, made your reservations, and now it’s time to plan your adventure! There’s plenty to do in Belize, and it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to do and where to go. We’ve put together a Top 20 for you, so whether you’re coming for the food, culture, history, or adventure we’ve got you covered!
EAT! That’s right. Good food is always around the corner in Belize, a unique destination that can call itself both Caribbean and Central American. Enjoy a scrumptious coconut tart from a walking vendor, a comforting plate of rice and beans or hand-rolled tacos at the busy street stalls, or sit down and indulge in an internationally-inspired seafood fusion making creative use of fresh local ingredients at an upscale restaurant. No matter the weather, the trip cancellations or anything that puts a bump in your adventure, Belize’s increasingly diverse, flavorful and rich cuisine always delivers.
EXPLORE THE CORAL REEF: Boasting the second largest barrier reef in the world, this is a no-brainer! Strap on your dive tank or don your snorkel gear and join the wondrous underwater creatures of the Caribbean Sea. Expert guides working at tour shops located on popular islands along the coast or on the mainland in Hopkins, Punta Gorda and the Placencia Peninsula will know just where to take you for a memorable experience. At Captain Jak’s, we offer scuba certification, dive trips, and snorkel trips to several popular locations – including the Great Blue Hole! Speaking of…
SEE THE BLUE HOLE: Go big and visit the Blue Hole National Monument made famous by Jacques Costeau in 1971 and more recently by Richard Branson and The Discovery Channel. If taking a boat from Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker to snorkel or dive within the deep gorgeous blue can’t fit into your itinerary, try booking a flight tour for a breathtaking aerial view of the UNESCO world heritage site from the window seat.
VISIT AN ANNUAL FOOD FESTIVAL: Plan your trip to coincide with one of the many fun food celebrations in Belize. The royalty of food festivals in the nation is Lobsterfest! Choose among the Placencia, Caye Caulker or San Pedro Lobsterfests after the season opens on June 15. You’ll find the prized crustacean prepared in a myriad ways from lobster pie to barbecued lobster and lobster quesadillas, all being dished out in a mega party atmosphere. Placencia celebrates for three full days on the beach, and in 2019, the historically popular fishing village marks its 21st milestone starting on Friday, June 21.
Want more reasons to party and eat with the crowds?
Check out the May Crooked Tree Cashew Fest where you’ll not only find the popular nuts that have been hand-roasted in smoky barrels, but also its lesser known fruit prepared as a very potent wine or as a sweet stew or jams and jellies that you can enjoy from a wide selection of homemade pastries.
It doesn’t end there with fruit celebrations in Belize. The Hopkins Mango Fest, typically held during the first week of June, combines our favorite summer fruit with the Garifuna culture of Southern Belize, and the new March Coconut Festival in Corozal is already a hit, paying homage to an essential ingredient in pretty much everything Belizean. While it is derived from the cacao fruit, chocolate also gets its special place among the food celebrations at the Chocolate Festival held in Toledo every May.
TAKE A CHOCOLATE TOUR: But more on chocolate — because in Belize, we’re talking about a world-class confection. Belize’s rare varieties of cacao are used by only 20% of the global market and are highly sought after by international independent chocolatiers! Luckily, Belize has its own talented chocolate makers stocking the shelves and coolers of gift shops and supermarkets around the country. In southern Belize and just a short drive from the Placencia Peninsula are chocolate makers that will teach you how to make cocoa in the traditional Maya fashion, and you’ll get to engage in the entire chocolate making process from bean to bar!
CARNIVAL!: Inspired by Caribbean Mardi Gras, but held in September to join Belize’s Independence Day festivities, carnival in Belize is a ton of fun, especially on the Placencia Peninsula! This unique take on the nationwide event is held every Independence Day, Sept. 21, in Placencia Village and invites one and all to jump in line and dance – ALL DAY! The grand road parade, which runs parallel to the beach, sees organized groups dressed in vibrant, colourful, and risqué costumes performing their most provocative moves behind floats that are blasting the most popular selection of Soca music. The local beers and domestic rums imbibed along the way definitely makes for an entertaining show that you won’t want to miss from the road side!
ZIP LINE!: There are no roller coasters or amusement parks in Belize, so your best thrill and adrenaline rush comes from a much more eco-friendly activity! There are several options to choose from, but the Maya Sky Canopy Tour accessible just less than an hour’s drive from the Placencia Peninsula, is the most popular. This zip line provides impressive panoramic views of Belize’s forest canopy and features seven lines and 11 decks. Not only will you see the lush green tops of broad leaf vegetation, but you’ll also meet a number of exotic birds along the way!
GO FISH!: Because Belize is a sport fisher’s paradise! Fly fish, reef fish and deep sea fish with patient and fishing obsessed guides who’ll use the knowledge of their forefathers to find you the best spots! Belize’s protected Barrier Reef System and successful efforts to conserve mangrove nurseries allow for a thriving resource of your favorite catch.
SEE WHALE SHARKS!: Guess who else loves to go hunting for their catch underwater? Whale sharks that can be as large as a school bus, pass through every year to feed on the spawning aggregation of snapper near the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve located just 36 km from the coast of the Placencia Peninsula. Tour operators offer trips during the months of April and May for a snorkeler’s or diver’s chance to witness the majestic and humbling site. If you’re exceptionally lucky, you may even catch them outside that window during a normal tour at sea.
VISIT THE BEST LITTLE ZOO IN THE WORLD: And while it can be a gamble knowing whether you’ll see that whale shark in the wild, the Belize Zoo in the Belize district gives you a sure chance of witnessing the country’s most majestic terrestrial creatures. Jaguars, tapirs, pumas, spider monkeys and more are well taken care of at this sanctuary that also functions as an orphanage and rehabilitation centre for Belize’s wild animals.
SWIM WITH SHARKS AND RAYS: It’s not a zoo, but Shark Ray Alley in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve near Ambergris Caye is a popular hangout for many nurse sharks and rays, especially since they’re allowed to be fed! Expect friendly rays to swim towards your chest looking for some grub and nurse sharks that come close enough for you to feel their rough skin.
SPY ON SEA TURTLES AT THE SILK CAYES: You’re not going to want to touch these territorial guys, and you better keep a reasonable distance from their powerful beaks that can easily snap open a conch shell, but a sight of the glorious and protected loggerhead turtle keeps many tour guides busy at “Turtle Alley” near the Silk Cayes outside Placencia.
WAKE UP EARLY TO SEE SCARLET MACAWS: Waking up at the crack of dawn might not be your idea of vacation, but if seeing the breathtaking red and blue hues of the endangered scarlet macaws flying overhead in a lush jungle near a misty river tickles your fancy, then you might just want to make an exception. Red Bank Village, a Maya community located just a short drive away from the Placencia Peninsula, becomes a rich feeding ground for the birds every year in January and February, and the early part of March. Sadly, due to illegal poaching and destruction of their habitats, the numbers of scarlet macaws continue to dwindle. Catch them while you can!
RELAX: DO NOTHING. We mean it. Take one day or maybe just half a day to do absolutely nothing. Hammocks, beach towels or a comfy bed anywhere on the Placencia Peninsula are highly recommended.
ESCAPE TO THE MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE: For such a small country, Belize’s changing landscapes are a true wonder. From the tropical islands to marshes and mangrove wetlands, to the lowland and upland broad leaf forests and the wet jungles of Toledo, to our mainland beaches like Placencia and Hopkins and the dry grassy savannas to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve … Located within the Cayo district, the Pine Ridge is one of the most popular reserves in Belize attracting visitors with several stunning attractions where fresh water falls and pools cascade over granite boulders surrounded by pine trees. Here you can see the 1,000 ft waterfall, the tallest in the country and just downstream, shower under the breathtaking Big Rock Falls that can be intimidating for some. If you want to take a bit easy, you’ll enjoy the Rio on Pools, the perfect place to cool off during Belize’s sweltering summer heat.
TAKE THE MONKEY RIVER TOUR: We know! We just can’t get enough of showing off Belize’s wildlife! And speaking of showing off, the Howler
Monkeys of Monkey River Village can’t wait to give you a grand display of their good life swinging and feeding from branch to branch and well, howling of course. Most guides on this tour are natives of the village, and they will give you a compelling history of their community during a most picturesque cruise along the river of southern Belize that’s lined with its prominent and tall reeds set against a backdrop of lush jungle. See elegant egrets and a variety of other birds and wildlife, including plenty of iguanas and even the occasional crocodile on this cruise, which is just a short boat ride away from Placencia.
VISIT CARACOL: As if magical, cool fresh water pools and falls weren’t enough to see in the Pine Ridge, this incredible ecosystem was also appreciated by the Maya who built the powerful city of Caracol here, a city that rivalled the famous Tikal site in neighbouring Guatemala. This ancient Maya temple might not be as easily accessible as others from the Placencia Peninsula, but the long drive on unpaved road is surely worth the visit. You can explore 15 square miles of ancient Maya attractions at Caracol including Stella, tombs, ball courts and more, but you can also take advantage of the tall structure overlooking the lush Chiquibul National Park for incredible bird watching.
SEE ACTUN TUNICHIL MUKNAL: Another must-see archaeological site in Belize is the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave, also located in Cayo. ATM combines caving adventure with ancient Maya history, allowing you to experience two popular activities in one. Sheltering and preserving the full and partial skeletal remains of 14 Mayas who were brought to the cave for sacred ceremonies circa 700 to 900 AD, as well as other ancient Maya relics and artifacts, only a select group of authorized tour guides can take visitors to the sacred cave.
SEE A LIVE CONCERT! You’ll hear the DJs playing the local music at the bars and nightclubs or maybe your tour guide or taxi driver will introduce you to the trending tunes, but there’s nothing like catching a live show in Belize! A top act to see if they’re not touring internationally is The Garifuna Collective, Belize’s world music ambassadors playing soulful paranda rhythms. Other notable bands include Punta rock group, Sweet Pain and solo artist, Supa-G. If you enjoy reggae music, be on the watch for Mile 41, a band taking the reggae scene in Belize by storm. If in Placencia during the busier months from November to April, visit Cha Chi’s for the big acts. You’ll also find smaller groups that might be more of your speed playing at popular bars and restaurants in Placencia and other popular tourism destinations such as San Ignacio, San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
MEET THE LOCALS: It’s really hard not to. Your restaurant server, tour guide, bartender and hotel manager can all be so outstanding that you’ll remember them forever. Belizeans are well known for being friendly and welcoming people. If you can engage in conversation when out and about, feel free to make some friends. More than all the things to do in Belize, it’s the people that keep everyone coming back time and time again.
BONUS! PLAY MINIATURE GOLF: Ok, it’s selfish, but we couldn’t help a bonus on the list! In late 2019, our friends at Sirenian Bay Resort & Villas will open a new, professionally-designed, 18-hole miniature golf course. The only one of it’s kind in Belize, it’s challenging and fun for everyone. Play a round or two and then stop into Inky’s 19th Hole for lunch, a cold beer, or one of our signature cocktails. It’s a short drive in a golf cart up the Main Road on the Peninsula – so you’ll want to see by when you’re in Placencia!
We hope to see you soon – let us know if we can help with your plans, a place to stay, or a golf cart to explore the Peninsula!