Sandwiched between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize was once just the bridge between those two countries. However, as visitors traveled through, they found a country so uniquely special. Today, the barrier reef off the coast of Belize draws thousands of scuba divers on its own while the landscape features beautiful tropical beaches, exotic wildlife and fascinating cave formations. With all of the hidden treasures in Belize wrapped up in a laid back Caribbean atmosphere, visitors will be sure to want to stop and stare.
Placencia is a popular sandy peninsula in southern Belize that is renowned as the home of the best mainland beaches. The eastern side of Placencia Peninsula is a long expanse of white sand beach while the western side is bound by a long, but narrow bay that is perfect for kayaking. While some come to snorkel the coral cayes offshore, even more visit to soak up the sun on the beach. There are three small villages on the peninsula that can provide visitors with entertainment, but the area is still lush with green tropical forests and marshland for those that desire a more natural adventure than the museums, art galleries and shopping malls in town. With affordable, abundant beachside bungalows and beautiful turquoise waters, it makes for one of the best places in the country to come and unwind.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
The Actun Tunichil Muknal, or the ATM Caves, is an intricate system of caves within the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve near San Ignacio. This cave system is actually once of the newest attractions in Belize. Of course, it's been there for thousands of years, but it was only discovered in 1992. Inside is not only a series of fascinating red and yellow sandstone and limestone formations, but the cave was used as a sacred site for the Mayan people. Hundreds of artifacts were left behind from their use including pottery, ceramics and stoneware, as well as several sets of human sacrificial remains. One of the most famous human sacrifices is the crystal maiden, who was almost completely covered in limestone crystals from natural cave processes when she was discovered. Many of the artifacts as well as the crystal maiden sit within the cave on display for visitors, making for one of the most fascinating caving experiences in the world.
Sitting 500 meters above sea level on the Vaca Plateau is Caracol, the largest Mayan site in Belize. As well as the largest site in the country, it was also once the largest of ancient Mayan cities, covering 168 square kilometers. The city was at its peak around the 5th century AD and was home to more than 150,000 people, which is twice as many as the capital of Belize holds today. Many of the houses and public buildings in the city are little more than foundations, but visitors will be drawn to middle of the city. Within the city centre is the largest pyramid of Caracol, the Canaa, or Sky Place. At only a small 43 meters high, Canaa is still the highest man-made structure in all of Belize. The Sky Place sits elevated among all the other structures, and from the top visitors can look over the sprawling ruined city as well as the vast hilly forest beyond.
For those that want to get away from the mainland for awhile, Caye Caulker provides the perfect escape. The Caye Caulker is a small coral island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of the Belize. It is only accessible by high speed water taxi or small plane. In recent years, the island has become a hotspot for backpackers and other penny pinching Belize tourists due to the cheap prices on the island's bars, restaurants and accommodations as well as its laid-back vibe. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, but because the island is so small, walking the well-defined trails is enough to get around. On foot, it takes around 20 minutes to cross the island, but for those who need to get somewhere quickly, bicycles are available for rent. This is the place to visit for those that want to enjoy a day in the sun or go for a swim in beautiful clear water without hundreds of other people crowding them.
Great Blue Hole
The aptly named Great Blue Hole is easily the most famous attraction in Belize, and for good reason. This massive sink hole off the mainland is surrounded by the Lighthouse Reef that creates a perfectly round circle of deep blue. The best view of the hole is from the air where visitors can fully grasp the majesty of it, but the helicopter tours of the area can be pricey. For the average visitor, the boat tours are the best option. As an eternally popular dive spot, it is easy to find a ride out. Those who are certified in diving will find a once in a lifetime thrill in the hole as they tour the unique limestone formations and bizarre stalactites within.