South of Belmopan lies Belize’s most rugged terrain. Population density in this part of Belize is low, with most of the towns and villages located on the water. Dangriga, the largest settlement, is home to the Garífuna people and is the transport hub for much of the region. Further south, the Placencia peninsula is the area’s focus for coastal tourism, boasting some of Belize’s only true beaches, and is also the departure point for the south’s idyllic cayes. The Southern Highway comes to an end in Punta Gorda, from where you can head to Guatemala or visit ancient Maya sites and present-day Maya villages.
Inland, the Maya Mountains form a solid barrier to land travel except on foot or horseback. The Belizean government, showing supreme foresight, has placed practically the whole massif under some form of protection. The most accessible area of rainforest is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, a reserve designed to protect the area’s sizeable jaguar population.