This sparsely populated nation in central America – 334,000 people in a country of just under 23,000 square kilometers – is an alluring wonderland for those busy, hard-pressed city dwellers looking to escape autumn in the northern hemisphere.
With its myriad terrestrial and marine species, and the diversity of its eco systems, Belize is a magnet for tourists wanting to connect to nature. The top attraction is undoubtedly the Belize barrier reef, described by Charles Darwin in 1842 as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.” Home to one of the most diverse eco-systems in the world, the reef – the second largest barrier reef in the world – has 500 species of fish and 70 hard coral species, although it’s estimated that only 10 per cent of existing species have actually been discovered.
The wonderful climate, the reef and its 450 offshore cayes (islands), abundant fishing opportunities, jungle and wildlife reserves, and opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, rafting, kayaking as well as hiking, bird watching, and exploration of Mayan ruins make this an unbeatable attraction.
Here are 5 destinations ideal for dive and adventure exploration.
Placencia is the perfect place to come for world-class diving, but also as a base for visiting Belize’s inland treasures. As the Barrier Reef veers south along the coast of Belize, it separates itself further from the mainland. The result is an expanse of coral reefs with channels that go down from 90 to 110 feet, but rising to produce shoals and cayes that are ideal for scuba divers. Whale sharks can be seen in the waters off of Placencia around the full moon in April, May, and June, making this one of the best places anywhere to see the friendly giants at that time of year.
Currently there are at least 20 diving sites in the southern waters off Placencia, bursting with untouched coral and abundant fish life. From Placencia you can also visit Mayan ruins such as Lubaantun, nature sites such as the Monkey River and Cockscomb Basin Jagaur Preserve, and you can even enjoy cave tubing at Cave’s Branch.
#2 St. George’s Caye Resort
This is an isolated haven out of an escapist fantasy. Supreme relaxation and extreme adventure are at your fingertips. Situated on the sandy beaches of a private residential island, St. George’s Caye Resort offers breathtaking views from every angle.
The resort’s location just off of the reef will allow you to explore the magnificent undersea world within minutes of arrival. If scuba diving is your passion, then the resort’s staff can advise you on every facet of your itinerary.
#3 San Pedro
Situated on Ambergris Caye, the largest (25 miles long) and most northern of Belize’s islands, the main town of San Pedro is about 36 miles from Belize City, and it is situated within sight of the reef. Like nearby Caye Caulker, Ambergris is a limestone coral island fanned by cool tropical breezes with its toes literally in the reef.
Ambergris is one of the liveliest islands with luxurious hotels and a bustling night life. Tourism has now definitely replaced fishing as the most lucrative source of income. But that’s not to say that crowds stand shoulder to shoulder; charter dive boats and underwater guides can take you to many peaceful spots on the reef to indulge in diving and snorkeling.
#4 Journey’s End Resort
This is another gem, also on the island of Ambergris Caye but a few minutes outside of San Pedro. Journey’s End has a unique combination of away-from-it-all seclusion and opulence. The warm Caribbean waters lap the resort that has many private bungalows on a beach that is a short distance away from the reef.
The resort is very eco-friendly with rain water collection and the farming of organic herbs and vegetables in the gardens and the use of non-toxic, biodegradable insect repellent.
This resort has to be home to one of the most beautiful beaches – all of 12 miles! – in the region. This is the ideal place to explore the attractions of the reef as well as inland attractions. Here you can enjoy your scuba diving, nestled between the lush Maya mountains and the transparent blue waters of the Caribbean, and surrounded by tropical flora.
Onshore, like Placencia, the resort has much to offer too. There are the Mayan Ruins, virgin rain-forests, caves with ancient artifacts, exotic plants and animals, all close enough to be seen on day trips from the resort.
The whole of Belize is truly a delight to the senses!