Looking for attractions and activities to do in Belize? This Central American country is known for its incredibly dense jungles, ancient Maya ruins, and stunning beaches. A visit here will not only be filled with adventure, but also offer you a chance to learn about the country’s unique culture. In this article, I’ll share 14 of the Best Things to Do in Belize. This list includes both popular tourist attractions as well as lesser-known gems that are definitely worth a visit.
Things to do in Belize
1. Visit the Maya Ruins in Cayo District
The Maya people were some of the most advanced civilizations of their time. They had a complex system of writing, mathematics, and astronomy. They also built incredible cities and temples. Today, you can see the ruins of some of these ancient cities in Belize. Cayo District is home to two of Belize’s most popular Maya ruins: Caracol and Xunantunich.
Caracol is the largest Maya site in Belize and one of the largest in all of Central America. It’s located in the foothills of the Maya Mountains and surrounded by dense jungle. At its peak, Caracol had a population of over 150,000 people and was one of the most powerful Maya city-states.
Xunantunich is located just across the border from Guatemala. It’s a smaller site than Caracol, but no less impressive. The main pyramid (El Castillo) at Xunantunich is the second-tallest structure in Belize. It’s 127 feet tall and has a stunning view of the surrounding area. This was the ceremonial center of the site and would have been used for religious rituals and festivals. There are also several temples and plazas that you can explore.
The Maya ruins are the top tourist attractions in Belize, so you definitely won’t want to miss them. I suggest hiring a guide, as they can share a lot of interesting information about the Maya people and their culture. Plus, they know the main attractions at each site and can help you make the most of your visit.
2. Cave tubing at Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve
Cave tubing is one of the most unique things to do in Belize. It involves floating through caves on an inner tube while admiring the stalactites and stalagmites. The Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is one of the best places to do this, as it features a number of caves to explore.
The reserve is located in the Cayo District, about an hour’s drive from San Ignacio. Once you arrive, you’ll be outfitted with a life jacket, headlamp, and inner tube. Then, you’ll hike through the jungle to the entrance of the cave. Once inside, you’ll float through the cave system admiring the strange Maya paintings high on the cave ceilings, stalactites, and schools of eyeless cave fish.
The tour lasts about 1.5 hours and ends with a refreshing swim in an underground pool. If you’re up for more adventure, you can go zip-lining through the jungle before or after your cave tubing tour.
There are several operators offering cave tubing tours, so be sure to do your research and choose one that is reputable. I did my tour with San Pedro Belize Tours and highly recommend them. They provide top-notch equipment and guides who are both knowledgeable and fun.
3. Explore the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave
When you think of unique activities to do in Belize, exploring the ATM Cave is definitely one of them. The hike to the cave is not for the faint of heart, as you’ll have to swim, climb, and crawl your way through it. But trust me, it’s worth it.
Once you make it through the cave, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most incredible sights imaginable. The cave is full of Maya artifacts, including pottery, bones, and even sacrificial altars. And, of course, there are the famous crystal skeletons, which have been preserved in the cave for over 1,000 years.
We toured part of the three-mile-long cave with a guide, who shared the fascinating history of the Maya people and their beliefs. He also showed us how they used the cave for religious ceremonies and human sacrifices.
This is definitely not a tour for everyone, as it requires physical strength, good swimming skills, and a sense of adventure. But if you’re up for it, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
The ATM Cave is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, about an hour’s drive from San Ignacio. Note that the cave is only accessible by an experienced guide, as there are many areas that are dangerous and require special equipment.
4. See Jaguars at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a pristine jungle reserve in southern Belize and the world’s first jaguar preserve. The sanctuary encompasses over 128,000 acres of the Stann Creek District and is home to a variety of tropical plants and animals, including the elusive jaguar.
Different trails wind through the jungle, so you can explore at your own pace. And although you’re not guaranteed to see a jaguar on your visit, your chances are pretty good. The best time to see them is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they’re most active. Take a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide who will help you spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
And even if you don’t see a jaguar, you’re sure to see plenty of other wildlife, including howler monkeys, Tapirs, and macaws. The sanctuary is also home to over 400 species of birds, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.
If you’re interested in camping, there are several campsites located within the reserve. I highly recommend spending at least one night in the jungle to really experience all that Cockscomb Basin has to offer.
A visit to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best things to do in Belize and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed. And don’t forget your mosquito repellent.
5. Dive or snorkel at the Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Belize. It’s a large underwater sinkhole with crystal clear water. The hole is more than 400 feet deep and is surrounded by a coral reef.
There are several ways to explore the Blue Hole. You can take a helicopter tour, which will give you a bird’s eye view of the hole and the reef. This is a great option if you’re short on time. You can also go on a diving or snorkeling tour, which is one of the most popular activities here. This is a great way to see the reef and the fish that live there. I recommend doing a snorkeling tour, as you’ll have a guide who can point out all the best things to see. I did a tour with Frenchie’s Diving Services, and they were amazing.
Most diving companies offer packages that include diving and snorkeling, so you can do both. If you’re a certified diver, you can also dive down to the bottom of the hole. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss.
And finally, if you want to swim, you can do that near the Blue Hole. I only saw a few swimming, as most people come here to dive or snorkel.
6. Hike to Big Rock Falls
One of the things I love most about Belize is its natural beauty, and there’s no better place to experience that than at Big Rock Falls. Located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Big Rock Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls that flow into natural pools, perfect for swimming.
The hike to the falls is about 20 minutes, and it’s a moderate level of difficulty. The trail is well-marked and not too steep. And the best part is that you’re surrounded by pine forests the entire time.
When you reach the falls, you’ll see why coming here is one of the most popular things to do in Belize. The massive 150-foot waterfall is simply stunning, and the natural pool below the falls is the perfect place to take a dip. Best of all, this place is still relatively unknown, so you won’t find too many people here. There were only three other people during my visit, which made the experience even more special.
Since there are no amenities at the falls, remember to bring your own food and water. Also, be sure to wear hiking shoes and bring a swimsuit.
7. Soak Up the Sun at Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye is the largest of Belize’s offshore Cayes and the most popular tourist destination in the country. The island sits just a few miles from the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world. So, it’s no surprise that Ambergris Caye is a mecca for scuba diving and snorkeling.
But there’s more to Ambergris Caye than just underwater adventures. The island is also home to beautiful beaches with a laid-back atmosphere. So you can spend your days lounging on the beach, swimming in crystal-clear waters, or exploring the island. And because Ambergris Caye is so popular with tourists, you’ll find all the amenities you need, including plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops.
In addition to all the things to do on Ambergris Caye, the island is also a great jumping-off point for exploring some of Belize’s attractions. Take a day trip to the nearby Blue Hole or Lamanai Maya ruins, or head out on a multi-day trip to one of Belize’s many national parks.
8. Explore the jungles of Belize
The jungles of Belize are some of the most biodiverse places on the planet. There are countless things to do in Belize’s jungles, but some of the most popular activities include hiking, bird watching, and jungle safaris.
One of the best places to explore the jungle is at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can hike through the rainforest and see an array of animals in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is also home to the world’s only jaguar preserve, so keep your eyes peeled for these elusive cats.
Another great place to explore the jungle is in the Maya Mountains, where you can hike to the top of Victoria Peak, Belize’s second-highest point at 3,400 feet. The views from the summit are simply breathtaking. There are also several trails that wind through the jungle, past waterfalls, and swimming holes. Plus, you can even go camping if you want to overnight in the jungle.
The jungles of Belize are truly a sight to behold, and there’s no better way to experience them than by getting out and exploring. So put on your hiking shoes and get ready for an adventure.
9. Spot Scarlet Macaws at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Another one of the top activities to do in Belize has to do with its amazing wildlife. The country is home to an incredible array of animals, including howler monkeys, manatees, jaguars, and more. But one of the most popular animals to see in Belize is the scarlet macaw.
The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places to see scarlet macaws in Belize. The sanctuary is a nature reserve and wetland located in northern Belize. It’s home to a variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas, and over 300 species of birds. Take a boat tour through the mangroves to see the scarlet macaws in their natural habitat.
In addition to the incredible wildlife, Crooked Tree is also a great place to hike. The sanctuary has a network of hiking trails that wind through the jungle and offer up-close views of flora and fauna. Along the way, you might even spot howler monkeys doing their thing in the treetops.
Pro tip: The best time to see the scarlet macaws is from February to April.
10. Visit the Belize Zoo
Sticking with the theme of animal encounters, another top-rated thing to do in Belize is visit the Belize Zoo. This unique zoo is home to over 150 animals, all native to Belize. And since it sits on 29 acres of tropical savannah and rainforest, it feels more like a safari than a zoo.
The zoo was founded in 1983 by Sharon Matola, a former circus performer who was determined to rescue animals that were being mistreated. Today, the zoo is a beloved national institution and a top Belizean attraction. The animals here are enclosed in naturalistic habitats, and you can get up close and personal with many of them.
You can explore the zoo via a guided tour (which I highly recommend) or on your own. Either way, you’re sure to see some amazing animals, including jaguars, howler monkeys, tapirs, and more.
The Belize Zoo is also home to the Jaguar Rescue Center, where you can learn about their work to save this endangered species. Therefore, I highly recommend visiting the Belize Zoo, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
11. Explore the underwater world at Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Home to an abundant array of marine life, exploring the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is definitely one of the top activities to do in Belize if you love snorkeling.
Hol Chan, which means “little channel” in Maya, is one of the seven Belize Barrier Reef Reserve systems. It was established in 1987 to help preserve the natural beauty and diversity of the underwater world. The reserve covers an area of about 18 square kilometers and is home to over 150 species of fish, including nurse sharks, barracudas, and stingrays.
In addition to the fantastic array of marine life, the Hol Chan is also home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. The reefs are teeming with color and life, and you’ll definitely want to spend some time snorkeling and exploring them.
You’ll find several tour operators in San Pedro offering snorkeling tours of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and I definitely recommend going on one. I did a tour with New Day Adventures, and I had an amazing experience. The tour includes snorkeling and a stop at Shark Ray Alley, where you can swim with nurse sharks and stingrays.
Overall, exploring the underwater world at Hol Chan Marine Reserve is an unforgettable experience. After all, this is one of the best things to do in Belize, which combines adventure, education, and relaxation.
12. Sunbathe on the Placencia Peninsula
There’s no better place to relax and soak up rays than on the Placencia Peninsula. This 16-mile coastal strip is home to some of the best beaches in Belize, and it’s the perfect place to lounge around and enjoy the Caribbean sun.
This region features golden-sand beaches flanked by palm trees and turquoise waters. This makes it a great place for swimming, sunbathing, and strolling. This peninsula is also a great place for watersports. You can go snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and more.
When you’re ready to take a break from the beach, head into town for some delicious food. The Placencia Peninsula is home to some of the best restaurants in Belize, serving fresh seafood, Caribbean cuisine, and international fare.
Most visitors stay in the village of Placencia, which is located on the southern end of the peninsula. This quaint village has a laid-back vibe and is home to several restaurants, bars, and cafes.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, look no further than Maya Beach Hotel. This hotel sits right on the beach and features an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, and a restaurant. For something more luxurious, check out Turtle Inn, a boutique hotel owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola.
13. Belize Botanic Gardens
Who doesn’t love a good botanical garden? I know I do! And the Belize Botanic Gardens is one of the best places in Belize to see a wide variety of plants and flowers. The gardens span 45 acres of land and feature over 2,000 species of plants.
What truly makes this botanic garden one of the top attractions in Belize is that it’s not your typical botanic garden. In addition to the vast array of plants, you’ll also find different sections dedicated to Maya culture, medicinal plants, and the palm area.
The medicinal trail was my favorite part of the gardens. It features over 100 species of medicinal plants, many of which are used in traditional Maya medicine. I was also fascinated by the orchid conservatory, which houses several species of orchids, including some that are indigenous to Belize.
Other highlights include the Palm area, which features over 100 species of palms; Zingiber Alley, home to over 50 species of ginger plants and the heliconia; and Cycad Circle, which contains several ancient and endangered species.
The Belize Botanic Gardens also offer a variety of educational programs, including gardening classes. You’ll also find benches throughout the gardens where you can sit, relax, and take in the beauty of your surroundings. So don’t forget your camera as there are plenty of photo ops!
14. Chill at the Split at Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is one of those places that you go to and instantly fall in love with. It’s a small, relaxed island off the coast of Belize with endless things to do. However, the one thing that everyone comes here for is to chill at The Split.
The Split is a narrow channel of water that divides the island in two. It got its name from Hurricane Hattie in 1961, which split the island in two. Today, it’s a popular spot to relax, swim, and socialize. It’s also the perfect place to sunbathe and take a nap on one of the many hammocks that are strung up.
If you’re looking for more things to do, Caye Caulker is also a great place to snorkel, scuba dive, go fishing, or explore the mangrove forests. Many of the things to do are centered on The Split, making it the perfect place to relax and soak up the Caribbean vibes.
I recommend staying at one of the many small, family-run guesthouses on the island. You’ll get a more authentic experience and save some money too. In addition, the island is home to a number of small restaurants and bars, so you can easily find a place to grab a bite or enjoy a cold drink.
Do you have a trip to Belize planned? I hope so! And this list of the top things, attractions, and activities to do in Belize should give you a good start on what to see and do. Just remember to add plenty of time for relaxing on the beach and enjoying the incredible food.