Belize is not a very complicated place to visit. There’s just one main north–south highway, parallel to the coast, while another road sets off inland, running west to Guatemala. In addition you can either fly or take a boat out to the islands. That gives you three basic itineraries of between a week and ten days each, which can be combined to create a longer trip.
In a ten-day trip to southern Belize, you can combine time on the beach with an island trip or two enjoy jungle hikes with visits to ancient site and experience Garifuna fishing communities and Maya farming villages. Base yourself for a few days in each of Hopkins, Placencia and Punta Gorda, as well, ideally, as some sybaritic island resort.
1 Mayflower Bocawina National Park
A delightful little reserve with great hiking and zip-lining as well as its own excellent overnight accommodation.
This appealing relic of colonial days is also the prime centre for Garifuna culture.
3 South Water Caye
Of the countless tiny islands off southern Belize, this palm-studded beauty has the best mix of upscale lodging and pristine sands.
Fishing village turned backpackers’ idyll, Hopkins holds beachfront hotels to suit all budgets.
5 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
You’d be lucky to see any of the jaguars that roam the jungles here, but the wilderness trails are exhilarating in their own right.
This relaxed and very likeable resort boasts the finest beaches on mainland Belize.
The most impressive ancient site in southern Belize is the supposed home of the legendary Crystal Skull.
8 Maya villages
Many of the remote settlements where the Maya of rural Toledo still live now welcome overnight visitors.
9 Punta Gorda
This sleepy port, served by regular boats to and from Guatemala and Honduras, boasts a vibrant market.
The idyllic islands of the Barrier Reef are the most popular destinations in Belize. Give yourself at least four nights to enjoy Ambergris Caye and/or Caye Caulker, and a few more days to explore the sites and wildlife reserves on the mainland.
1 Belize City
Almost every visitor flies into and out from Belize City. Spend a night or two in this ramshackle colonial port to see the treasures in its museum and meet the local wildlife at its excellent zoo.
2 Ambergris Caye
Readily accessible by plane or boat from Belize City, the country’s largest island faces directly onto the Barrier Reef, with beach resorts lining its western shore.
3 San Pedro
Still small enough to explore on foot, this lively former fishing village holds superb seafood restaurants and nightlife.
4 Caye Caulker
A sunny, sleepy little island renowned for its fresh-caught lobsters, Caye Caulker abounds in well-priced hotels.
5 The Blue Hole
No diver can resist a descent into this deep circular shaft, to reach the labyrinth of caves beneath Lighthouse Reef, Belize’s outermost atoll.
6 Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Belize is a magnet for birdwatchers, and there’s no better place to see species like the enormous jabiru stork than this diminutive sanctuary.
Canoe down the river to reach this ancient Maya site, festooned with images of crocodiles.
This attractive colonial fishing village is perfectly poised for spotting wildlife in the nearby swamps and lagoons.
Allow a week to explore the rivers and rainforests of western Belize, and you’ll have time to visit remarkable ancient sites and sample Cayo District’s renowned jungle eco-lodges.
1 Caves Branch
To experience the natural splendour of the rainforest, spend a night or two at the riverside Caves Branch Lodge, or simply join one of its tours.
Wherever in Cayo you’re staying, it’s easy to arrange an adventurous day-trip to this extraordinary subterranean Maya site.
3 Mountain Ridge Pine Forest Reserve
Home to luxurious eco-lodges, this vast wild area is a wonderland of rivers, mountains and waterfalls.
Standing atop the multi-tier temple of Caana, looking out over the endless jungle, is an unforgettable experience.
5 San Ignacio
Bursting with hotels, restaurants and activity operators, this lively little town makes the perfect base in western Cayo.
6 Macal River
Along the banks of this remote river lie rainforest lodges, fascinating nature trails and botanical gardens.
Reached via a hand-winched ferry across the Mopan River, this exquisite Maya site holds some amazing carved friezes.
Don’t miss the chance to cross the border into Guatemala – even if it’s just for a day – to see the magnificent Maya city of Tikal.
It’s well worth spending an extra night or two in Guatemala to visit this delightful little lakefront colonial town.