Belize is a Central American country bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. As a tourist destination, it's known for its wide variety of ecosystems fit for just as many different activities, from lounging on the beach to hiking through the forest, from scuba diving off the coast to exploring one of its more than 450 cayes (islands). Belize is also home to a number of archaeological sites of the Mayan people, whose civilization was in full swing when Spanish explorers arrived in the 1500s. Today, tourism is the second-largest industry in the nation, which saw more than 1.5 million visitors in 2018. If you're planning a trip to Belize, make sure you purchase Belize travel insurance to protect yourself against the unpredictability of international travel.
Belize, formerly known as the British Honduras, was part of the British Empire until it was granted independence in 1981. However, it still remains a member of the Commonwealth, and its highest government is the British monarchy. Its population stood at just over 385,000 as of July 2018. Its capital is Belmopan, but Belize City is the largest city in the country and the gateway to its culture and appeal. The official language of Belize is English. Currency-wise, the Belize dollar is locked at a rate of $2 Belize to $1 USD.
Natural Beauty at Sea
The Belize Barrier Reef stretches more than 190 miles long, the second largest coral reef system in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The country's top tourist destination, it's one of the most beautiful sites in the world for scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Underwater attractions include the Cat's Eye (a crescent-shaped sinkhole) and Shark Ray Alley, where sharp-eyed divers can spot sharks and stingrays.
The reef is also home to several destinations attractive in their own right. The Lighthouse Reef atoll lies at the easternmost part of the Belize Barrier Reef, made up of six cayes surrounding a breathtaking lagoon featuring white-sand beaches and coconut trees. Lighthouse Reef enjoys a reputation as one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. It’s also home to the Great Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole more than 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep. The hole began its formation more than 150,000 years ago across several glacial and interglacial periods (ice ages and non-ice ages). Legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau declared the Great Blue Hole one of the top five scuba diving spots in the world, and today, it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If your travel plans include scuba diving, you should research adventurous sports coverage in travel insurance. Many base insurance plans don't cover the risk of adventurous or hazardous sports, and it may be necessary to purchase an add-on package to stay covered.
The Ambergris Caye is the largest island of Belize and a tourism hotspot. The island consists of a ring of white-sand beaches around a central mangrove swamp. Offshore, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a popular site for diving, snorkeling, and viewing underwater wildlife. Scuba diving is such a large draw to the island that it has two hyperbaric decompression chambers. The main settlement is the fishing village of San Pedro, which offers hotels and cafes for its visitors. The town is also home to the Ambergris Museum and Cultural Center, which traces the island's history from Mayan times to the modern day.
Another popular island is Caye Caulker, featuring the town of Caye Caulker Village. Just five miles long and less than a mile wide, the island is still packed with tourist ventures like scuba diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, manatee tours, fishing, and backpacking. Hurricane Hattie struck the island in 1961 and divided it in two, creating an area known as the Split that has since become a public beach. The caye's laid-back atmosphere is perhaps best exemplified by the golf carts and bikes that travel the roads instead of cars.
Natural Beauty on Land
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, located in west central Belize, was established in 1944. The forest's high altitude means cooler temperatures and fewer mosquitoes, to many a welcome change from the tropical conditions of the country's beaches and islands. Hiking through the forests, visitors pass by gushing rivers, waterfalls, caves, and pools, including Rio On Pools, a popular swim spot. Wildlife includes cougars, jaguars, Baird's tapirs, crocodiles, toucans, falcons, and more. The reserve is also home to the scenic Thousand Foot Falls, which actually measures 1,600 feet high and is the highest waterfall in Central America.
The Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, located on the shores of the New River in north central Belize, contains the relics of a major Mayan ceremonial site. Lamanai means "submerged crocodile" in the Mayan language, and artifacts like buildings and pottery decorated with images of crocodiles have been uncovered. The site also features remains of temples like the Mask Temple, the Jaguar Temple, and the High Temple, the last of which is a stone, stairstep pyramid more than 100 feet tall that tourists can climb (with a tour guide present) to sightsee and take photographs.
Belize City is the country's largest city and commercial center. It was the capital of Belize until 1970, when Hurricane Hattie destroyed much of its infrastructure. Today, the port city welcomes cruise ships and is a popular tourist spot. Attractions include the Museum of Belize, an art and history museum housed in a former prison; the colonial structure of Government House, today a historical museum; St. John's Cathedral; the Belize City Swing Bridge, the oldest of its kind in Central America; and the Belize Zoo, which houses only animals native to the region.
Belizean cuisine is a hybrid of all the nation's ethnicities and the cuisine of their native cultures. One staple is Belize rice and beans, cooked in coconut milk with meat and signature spices and served with potato salad. Cochinita pibil is a traditional Yucatan-Mayan slow-roasted pork dish, marinated in orange juice and spices and wrapped in a plantain leaf before cooking. Tamales are a popular choice, as are Johnny cakes, Belize fruit cake, and ceviche. Make sure to save room for dessert options like Soursop ice cream, craboo ice cream, and cassava pudding. Cashew and craboo wines are also common.
Belize Travel Insurance
As you're planning your vacation, we highly recommend that you purchase travel insurance or travel health insurance. Travel insurance provides coverage for prepaid, non-refundable expenses and covers situations like emergency medical care, trip interruption, lost luggage, emergency cash transfers, rental car coverage, and flight accidents. Travel health insurance provides medical insurance while you're traveling abroad; standard benefits include coverage of trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation / repatriation, return of mortal remains, accidental death & dismemberment, and ancillary benefits like ID theft assistance, terrorism, and natural disaster relief. Make sure to read your plan all the way through for details.
Our licensed, experienced representatives will be happy to help you pick the plan that best fits your individual needs.