With hundreds of tropical islands, lush rainforests on the mainland, and an incredibly diverse landscape, it’s no wonder that Belize is rapidly becoming one of the hottest Caribbean destinations anywhere. Add to the mix ancient Maya ruins only recently reclaimed from the jungle, a diverse population renowned for its friendliness and hospitality, and some of the freshest, most delicious food you’ll ever taste, and it’s easy to see why so many people are coming to Belize for a fabulous vacation.
Just off the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, laidback Ambergris Caye is the largest of Belize’s 200 cayes and a prime tourist destination. Off the coast, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one of Belize’s most visited diving and snorkeling sites. It’s named after the Mayan for “little cut” and is one of seven reserves within the Belize Barrier Reef system, which is the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Top attractions in the reserve include a cut in the reef with steep coral walls; Cat’s Eye, a crescent-shaped sinkhole.
Set in natural forest, 31 miles from Belize City, the Belize Zoo is one of the finest zoos in the Americas. Many of the animals in Belize Zoo are wild animals that were kept as pets by individual collectors and the zoo tries to recondition such animals for a return to the wild. It enables visitors to see the native animals of Belize at close quarters, housed in spacious enclosures that closely resemble their natural habitats. Unless you’re a seasoned wildlife photographer, this is likely to be the best place to get excellent photographs of the animals of Belize.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll and the Blue Hole
The farthest from shore of Belize’s three atolls, Lighthouse Reef Atoll is nirvana for nature-lovers and divers. Six cayes surround a turquoise lagoon with gleaming white-sand beaches, coconut palms, and fascinating coral formations. The top draw here is the famous Great Blue Hole, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Natural Monument. Plunging into the sapphire-toned sinkhole, divers can see bizarre limestone stalactites protruding from the steep walls, and if they’re lucky, the resident school of reef sharks. Half Moon Caye is the most visited caye of the atoll.
San Pedro Town
Ambergris Caye is the largest of several hundred islands in the northernmost waters of Belize. The island is the top tourist destination in Belize, and its lack of high-rise hotels or big city traffic gives the island a relaxed, laid-back feel. Most people get around Ambergris Caye by simply walking. There’s a great deal of quality hotels in town, and many resorts on the island are less than a mile from the town of San Pedro, the only urbanized area on the island. Many travelers enjoy renting golf carts, which are the dominant form of transportation, next to bicycles.