Belize bills itself as Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret, and for good reason. Scores of reef, beach and inland activities are suited for all ages and activity levels. Marine adventures include scuba diving, snorkeling, wind or kite surfing, para-sailing or cruising on a catamaran; inland you can zip-line though jungle canopies, explore a mysterious cave, or lazily canoe down a peaceful jungle river observing nature.
Water adventures in Belize all start with the Belize Barrier Reef. At 295 kilometres, it is the longest unbroken reef in the western hemisphere and accessible from virtually any part of the country’s coastline or hundreds of offshore islands, from from the northern tip of Ambergris Caye to the Sapodilla Cayes in Belize’s southernmost region. There are seven UNESCO World Heritage sites on the Reef and divers are likely to meet up with nurse and reef sharks, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles as well as elegant drum fish, grouper, jacks, snapper and white-spotted toadfish, a species only found in Beliz. Fluorescent barrel sponges and coral heads the size of small houses are home to emerald moray eels, butterfly angelfish and delicate purple/yellow damselfish.
Belize Tourism Board
As for those Mayan ruins, they are everywhere, hosting visitors and archaeologists alike. Visit Altun Ha, where the largest carved jade object in the Maya area was found; or the pyramid temples, palaces and ball court of Cahal Pech; Caracol is the largest archeological site in Belize, and one of the largest in the Maya world; or El Pilar, once one of the most important sites of the Maya civilizations, it is now one of the best places for bird watching in Belize.
Getaway To Ambergris Caye
On Ambergris Caye “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” is more than a marketing phrase, it’s a way of life. The largest of the cayes in Belize, Ambergris is about a kilometre west of the northern end of the Belize Barrier Reef and is surrounded by prominent dive and snorkel sites.
The largest town on Ambergris Cay is San Pedro, (population 9,000) renowned for its barefoot lifestyle. The town boasts cobblestone streets instead of asphalt; some of Belize’s hippest restaurants, funkiest bars and a whole host of boutique hotels; and the primary mode of transportation are golf carts as opposed to cars.
Families go sailing, fishing, bird watching, shopping, kayaking and snorkeling at nearby Shark-Ray Alley in Hol Chan Marine Reserve where you can snorkel up close with docile rays and gentle nurse sharks.
For more information on Belize, visit www.travelbelize.org.
As the slogan says, “No Artifical Ingredients” in Costa Rica. Diving and water sports are also big here. On the country’s Pacific Coast magnificent beaches beckon families, surfers, divers, beachcombers, anglers and adventurous souls looking for a wide range of water fun.
But true adventurers head inland to a collection of national parks that harbour a diverse collection of wildlife, plants and natural wonders. Fly into Liberia in the North Guanacaste region, and head to the hills for hikes, river rafting, wildlife spotting and memories to last a lifetime.
Michael Woodruff/ShutterstockVolcanoes and the richness of plant and animal life they support are the main attractions for Guanacaste National Park, Rincon de la Vieja National park, Volcan Tenorio National Park and Volcan Miravalles Protected Area. See fumaroles, mud pots and craters, and take a dip in natural hot springs that are the result of the thermal activity. Dry forest, wet forest and cloud forests are all accessible within these parks, along with spectacular views, and, with the proper permit, a climb to the top of a volcano. Plant species include palms, ferns, bromeliads and orchids. Animals like white-faced and Congo monkeys, giant anteaters, pumas, tapirs and peccaries can be seen and birders look for a variety of trogon birds and bellbirds.
The Santa Rosa sector of Santa Rosa National Park houses the largest tract of tropical dry forest in Central America and wildlife includes white-tailed deer and Congo and white-faced monkeys, as well as olive ridley turtles that come to nest on Nancite beach.
Peter Wollinga/ShutterstockNesting giant leatherback turtles are the main tourist attraction in Las Baulas National Marine Park, while the mangrove swamp is the highlight of Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge. These mangrove forests are ideal breeding grounds for fish, crustaceans and mollusks. Tours are available for observing nesting leatherbacks.
If bugs are your thing, then Lomas de Barbudal Biological Preserve is the place for you. Several different habitats – savanna, riverine forest, gallery forest and deciduous forest – make this an entomologist’s paradise.
But this is the Pacific Coast, so the beaches here are second to none, with fabulous sunsets, soft sands, tranquil waters for bathing, great winds for surfing, kayaking and, of course, excellent dive sites. Sportfishing is huge here, with many tournaments in which several world billfish records have been broken.
For more information on Costa Rica, visit www.visitcostarica.com.