With one foot planted in the Central American jungles and the other dipped in the Caribbean Sea, Belize combines the best of both worlds.
With its Spanish-speaking neighbors to the south and west and the laid-back Caribbean to the east, Central America’s youngest nation offers a cultural mélange – including Maya, mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, Mennonite and more – unrivaled in Central America. Belize is home to verdant jungles, from the Maya Mountains in the southwest to the Shipstern Nature Reserve in the northeast, not to mention ancient ruins, remnants of bygone days as part of the greater Maya kingdom. Then there are the beaches, miles of white sand and blue sea dotted with a nigh-uncountable number of islands big and small.
The Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest in the world, and is home to more than 100 different kinds of coral and some 500 species of fish. This alluring underwater world is undoubtedly the top attraction in Belize. Snorkelers swim through translucent seas, gazing at a kaleidoscope of coral, fish and turtles; divers go deeper, investigating underwater caves and walls and the world-renowned Blue Hole.
Belize is also home to one of the world’s most mysterious civilizations – the ancient Maya. The country is sprinkled with archaeological sites that date to the Maya heyday, known as the Classic Period (AD 250–1000). Enormous steps lead to the tops of tall stone temples, often yielding 360-degree jungle views. Curious climbers can explore excavated tombs and examine intricate hieroglyphs, while adventurers can descend deep into natural caves to see where the Maya kings performed rituals and made sacrifices to the gods of their underworld.