Belize is located in eastern Central America and is bordered by Mexico and Guatemala. To the east, Belize has 240 miles (386 km) of coastline. Belize’s biggest draws are its islands and incredible dive sites, which include an expansive coral reef. The Belize Barrier Reef system spans the entire length of the country, and is part of the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. Inland, visitors can explore the ruins of Maya cities that once rivaled their Guatemalan neighbors.
The abundant and diverse marine life of Belize brings in divers, snorkelers, and fishermen from all over the world. Deep sea fishing off of Ambergris Caye, swimming with whale sharks in the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve, or relaxing on white sand beaches in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve — these are just a few of ways you can spend your time in this idyllic Caribbean paradise.
The mainland coast of Belize also has a number of attractive beaches to choose from. Placencia Village, Hopkins, and Maya Beach are some of the most popular. In addition to the offshore attractions, these small beach towns also provide easy access to ancient Mayan sites, national parks, and wildlife preserves.
Moving farther inland is the heart of the Maya Mountains, Belize’s top destination for adventure vacations. Thick, healthy rainforest, abundant wildlife, hundreds of bird species, dozens of Mayan ruins, and an extensive cave systems all provide nature-loving travelers with a long list of things to do and see. Hiking, horseback riding, zip lining, birding, and cave tubing are some of the most popular activities.
The northern lowlands are the least-visited areas of the country. While tourist amenities are few, the ancient Mayan site of Lamanai is one of the most unique in the country. Visitors also travel through this region en route to Mexico.
Most travelers arrive via the international airport in Belize City. The airport is located on the outskirts of town. Dozens of daily domestic flights leave from Belize City’s municipal airport, making it quick to get to the different regions in the country. Since Belize is so small, driving is also possible. The main highways in Belize are well-maintained, although not marked or well lit at night.
Unlike other Central American countries, clean tap water can generally be found throughout the country and in most tourist destinations. Additionally, most visitors find that they are free to enjoy the local food without serious digestive repercussions.
The country’s total size is 8,864 square miles (22,960 sq km), just slightly smaller than the state of New Hampshire. It is the second smallest country in Central America next to El Salvador. Belize’s landscape includes a thick, healthy jungle, agricultural land, the Maya Mountains, beautiful beaches, and countless offshore island atolls.
Since winning independence in 1981, the government has taken a proactive approach to conserving its natural resources through a variety of protective measures. Nearly 100 different protected areas have been established, including avian reserves, archaeological sites, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and marine reserves. In total, including land and marine resources, over 10 million acres are under some form of conservation management, totaling approximately 26 percent of the nation’s territory.
Belize’s climate is generally described as tropical or sub-tropical, with average temperatures fluctuating very little throughout the year. November to January tends to be the coolest months with an average high along the coast of 75° Fahrenheit (24° C), while the warmest months of May to September typically experience highs of 81° Fahrenheit (28° C). Thanks to the ocean breeze, the climate on the islands and along the coastline is considered comfortable year round. The hills of the Maya Mountains, with a high point sits of 3,688 feet (1,124 m) above sea level, often experience cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings.
Traditionally, the driest season lasts from January to May, while the wettest period occurs from June to December. However, changes in global weather patterns have uprooted these trends in recent years, making the weather more difficult to predict. The rainy season is generally characterized by increased humidity and periodic rain showers, with the southern part of Belize receiving significantly more rainfall.
The 2012 census reported that Belize has a population of 324,000. Almost half of the residents live in urban areas including Belize City, San Ignacio, Belmopan, Orange Walk, and San Pedro. The rest of the population resides in rural towns, remote islands, and small communities scattered throughout the countryside.
Belize was once dominated by the Maya civilization, with as many as 2 million Maya living throughout the country. While populations began to dwindle in 900 AD, the Maya persisted well into the late 16th and 17th centuries when European settlers arrived, bringing with them an onslaught of new diseases. The indigenous Mayan communities that still exist today are the Mopan, Yucatec, and Q’eqchi’ Maya who primarily live in southern Belize and engage in subsistence farming.
The official language of Belize is English, although throughout the country you will hear Spanish, as well as Kriol, an English based dialect stemming from various African languages.
Today, the Mestizo population, people of any Spanish and Maya descent, makes up more than 50% of Belize’s total population. The Mestizo are predominately Spanish speaking and live in northern Belize, including Corozal and Orange Walk. A large Mestizo population also lives on Ambergris Caye and in the Maya Mountain region around Belmopan and San Ignacio.
Belize also has a large Creole (21 percent) and a smaller Garífuna (4.6 percent) population. The Garífuna people, who are of any African and Caribbean descent, primarily live along the southern Caribbean coast in the communities of Hopkins, Placencia Village, and Punta Gorda. They are proud of their heritage and are known for their traditional drumming.
Finally, Belize is home to approximately 10,000 German speaking Mennonites who live throughout the northern lowlands. Belize Mennonites are seen in these areas wearing traditional clothing and driving horse-drawn buggies. The Mennonites have developed some of the most advanced agricultural techniques used in Belize and produce a large portion of the country’s agriculture.
Belize’s economy depends primarily on agriculture and tourism. Primary exports include cane sugar, bananas, and citrus, but there is a growing trade deficit. To compensate for this, there have been recent moves to develop the country’s oil deposits. In light of this, the government has enacted conservation policies in an effort to balance preservation of natural resources, sustainable development, and industry, but a growing tourism sector will help ensure that the country’s valuable natural ecosystems remain intact.
You can visit Belize at any time of the year. It never gets too cold for sightseeing around Maya ruins, the rain forests, and the Caribbean Coast. There are two seasons in Belize: rainy and dry. During the rainy season, it’s a little more difficult to visit the rainforest.Belize’s main season for visitors is from November to April. This is the dry season, and the best time to visit the beach. The height of the rainy season is from July to October, and Belize’s hurricane season happens from August to October.
The tourist high season happens during the dry season, which coincides with the winter season in the U.S. and Europe. If you’re looking for less crowded beaches, you can visit Belize during the rainy season. During the rainy season you can also expect pay somewhat less at hotels.
Belize is a subtropical Caribbean country. Belize’s landscape can be divided into four regions: the mountains, the rainforest, the Caribbean coast, and the Caribbean islands.Most of Belize is flat, but toward the west the landscape becomes mountainous. Doyle’s Delight is the highest peak, at 3,805 feet (1,160 m). Belize’s coast lies on the Caribbean Sea. You’ll find rainforest covers almost half of inland Belize.
Belize has islands off the coast called cayes (pronounces “keys”). These Caribbean islands have palm trees and mangrove forests. They are surrounded by bright-blue water that is studded with coral reefs and atolls.
Belize is in the Central Standard Time (CST) zone and is six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (UTC-6:00). There is no daylight savings in Belize, so during daylight saving in the U.S., the time in Belize is one hour behind CST in the U.S.
Yes. When leaving Belize on a flight, you have to pay a departure tax of $39.25. Most of the time, this is already included in the price of your flight, but it's a good idea to double-check anyway. If you're leaving Belize by land, you'll be charged a $15-20 departure tax, depending on how long you were in the country.
Belize does not have the same seasons as North American and Europe. There are only two seasons in Belize – the dry season and the wet season. The dry season lasts from December to May, and the wet season lasts from June to November. It rains almost three times as much in the southern portion of the country as it does in the north. You’ll typically experience the sunniest, nicest weather in Belize between the months of March and May.The temperature during the dry season is usually around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 C). It gets down as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C) during the wet season.
Belize, at 8,867 square miles (22,965 sq km), is the second smallest country in Central America (second to El Salvador). It also has the lowest population density in all of Central America, with only 340,844 permanent residents. This contributes to the tranquility of Belize’s forests and beaches.
You can stay for up to 30 days in Belize without a tourist visa. If you plan to stay more than 30 days you will need a tourist visa, which costs $25 USD per month for the first 6 months.If you stay longer than 6 months on a tourist visa, the monthly fee for your tourist visa will be $50 USD per month. For stays longer than 6 months, you may be asked to provide documentation to explain the length of your stay.
Yes, Belize is very family friendly. Belizeans share a fairly conservative culture, and every destination will have something for every member of your family, no matter what age.Younger children will be amazed by the variety of colorful plants and animals. Older children will leap at the chance to scramble up a Maya ruin, or zip-line through the rainforest canopy. Take the whole family to listen to the country's distinctively Caribbean style of music.
Belize is famous for its intense dive sites, but keep in mind that these marine reserves also provide an opportunity for swimming and snorkeling, or just taking a bike ride. But if you're interested in learning something new as a family, consider getting a professional dive master to show you the ropes at one of Belize's incredible reefs.
U.S. citizens are required to have a passport that's valid for their entire stay in Belize. Citizens from the U.S., British Commonwealth, Finland, Greece, Denmark, Italy, Iceland, Leichtenstein, Tunisia, Turkey, Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, and Luxemburg don't need a visa. You're given a 30-day tourist pass upon arrival; if you want to stay longer than 30 days, you can visit an immigration office in Belize to get a new stamp or else cross the border and return.All travelers are technically required to have proof of onward travel or return flights and proof of sufficient money, although this is rarely checked.
There are sometimes hurricanes in Belize, although they usually only take place during the rainy season. Belize’s rainy season lasts from June to November. Hurricane season happens toward the end of the rainy season, and hurricanes are most likely to happen between August and October.Belize’s most recent earthquake occurred in 2009, when a magnitude-7.1 earthquake destroyed several homes in the Toledo district. Earthquakes are not common in Belize, but they are possible – Belize sits on top of several fault lines and tectonic plates.