Lay of the Land
“If the world had any ends, [Belize] would certainly be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else. It has no strategic value. It is all but uninhabited.”~Aldous Huxley
Belize is an adventurer’s paradise with activities ranging from cave tubing and visiting Mayan ruins to snorkeling and diving along the world’s second largest barrier reef. The atmosphere throughout the country is slow and laidback, and hotels tend to emphasize ecotourism instead of decadent luxury.
Belize is bordered by Yucatán Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east, and is just 180 miles long and 70 miles wide. Despite being so small, because of its unique position between North and South America, Belize has a rich variety of microclimates and diverse flora and fauna. Nearly 40% of the country is under some form of protected status, 60% is covered in forest and its barrier reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Belize was a British territory until 1981 when it became an independent commonwealth, however the official language is English and Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait still resides on the Belizean dollar. Culturally, Belize is a melting pot of people and languages; Belizean Creole, Garifuna and several Mayan dialects are all spoken. There’s also a population of German Mennonites in several communities throughout the country. Belize’s geographical variety, warm locals and laid-back energy have made it a popular destination for expats and internationals.
Belize is divided primarily into six areas, but most travelers base their time in the Cayo District, Ambergris Caye or Placencia.
Cayo District: For properties located near San Ignacio, such as Ka’Ana and Chaa Creek, travelers can easily fly from Belize City to Maya Flats and then continue on a 10-minute car ride. The more remote properties such as Blancaneaux and Gaia Lodge are better accessed by car (both are located about a three hour drive from Belize City).
Ambergris Caye: Travelers will fly direct from Belize City to San Pedro on a 15-minute flight, sometimes stopping in Caye Caulker on the way. They then continue by boat roughly 10 – 25 minutes to reach properties including Cayo Espanto, Matachica, El Secreto and Victoria House.
Hopkins/Placencia: The best way to get from Cayo District to either Hopkins Bay Resort in Hopkins or Turtle Inn in Placencia is by car. The drive to both, which runs along the scenic Hummingbird highway, takes approximately three hours. If heading north to Belize City or San Pedro, a short 30-minute flight is the best option.
When To Go
The temperature is consistently hot throughout the year, hovering between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. November through May is considered peak season and June through October is off-peak. The rainy season is typically during September and October.
Who Should Go
Because of its myriad adventure activities, Belize is great for families with older children (some of the activities have minimum age requirements), while couples will appreciate its intimate, laid-back atmosphere. Serious divers and fishermen can take advantage of Belize’s world-class reef and diverse aquatic life.
Who Should Not Go
Those who need five-star service and over-the-top luxury. Even the best properties are rustic and many lack air conditioning. There is very little nightlife, so those who want to dress up for dinner may be disappointed. While the beaches are lovely, they can be narrow in places. The best swimming and brilliant clear blue water is out by the reef and reachable by boat.
United offers direct flights from New York to Belize City. Those flying from other U.S. hubs or internationally will typically connect through Miami, Atlanta, Dallas or Houston. From there, travelers connect to their final destination. While the country is small, the logistics of getting around can be tricky, so some transfers are better done by car and others by plane.