So, you’ve decided to visit the small yet abundant country of Belize! Home to friendly locals, lively coral reefs, diverse, culture-rich villages, captivating jungles, and tranquil Caribbean islands, it’s easy to understand why! Now, it’s time to answer the all-important question: Where should you go in Belize? What are the top destinations to visit to experience the best of Belize?
After exploring this beautiful Central American country in depth – and simultaneously overstaying my tourist visa (Oops… Belize is just that amazing!) – I can tell you with certainty which Belize destinations you can’t miss.
Ready for an un-Belize-able vacation? Whether you’re looking to unwind or get in touch with nature, here are the 5 best places to visit in Belize!
Top 5 Best Places to Visit in Belize
#1. Caye Caulker
Iconic crystal clear Caribbean Sea meets the sandy shore of this limestone coral island with the motto “go slow.”
On Caye Caulker, you’ll find a balance between chilling out and exploring the incredible underwater world of colorful coral, rainbow fish, nurse sharks, sting rays, and sea turtles.
While in Caye Caulker, take your pick: Snorkel. Scuba dive. Kayak. Drink a fruity cocktail at a swim-up bar. Hammock between palm trees. Feel the warm breeze on your skin as you explore this tiny island by bike, taking in the mellow energy of a sunny afternoon in Caye Caulker. Jump in the Caribbean Sea or enjoy a captivating sunset at The Split, the sparkling channel that divides the island in two. Take the ferry over to Northside Beach Club (previously Koko King Island) and indulge in a night of celebration (because, why not?).
Make sure you stay on Caye Caulker long enough to do it all… while reveling in the leisurely calm of island time.
HOT TIP: Rather than diving, the best way to experience Caye Caulker’s marine life is by snorkeling at sites like Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, Turtle Stop, Sunken Ship, and Manatee Watch. I wish I’d known this before spending much of my time on Caye Caulker getting dive certified!
Must-Dos In & Around Caye Caulker
- Snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve: You’ll be ready for a cold Belikin after a full day of snorkeling with stingrays, turtles, and nurse sharks on this boat trip to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve from Caye Caulker. Click here to book it.
- Aerial Tour of the Great Blue Hole: Take flight over the Belize Barrier Reef to admire one of Belize’s most treasured features: The Great Blue Hole. Flying over this massive sinkhole, measuring 300 meters (or 1,000 feet) across and 125 meters deep, is a core memory of the start to my travels in Central America.
- Scuba Dive in the Great Blue Hole: A bucket list dive site for scuba aficionados all over the world, the Great Blue Hole offers a mystery that can’t be found anywhere else. Take the opportunity to dive this epic site with Frenchie’s Diving, the friendliest and most skilled dive shop on the island! Be sure you have at least the Advanced Open Water Diving Certification before you book.
Hopkins, located in the Stann Creek District, is consistently ranked as the friendliest village in the country. It’s also considered the cultural capital of Belize.
Here, you will encounter tranquil, palm-tree-laden beaches and a melting pot of vibrant Garifuna, Creole, Maya, and Mestizo communities. From traditional Belizean food to Garifuna drumming and dance, there’s a lot to discover in this rustic, slow-paced, authentic fishing village!
Hopkins is also a convenient home base for water activities on Belize’s Barrier Reef and exploring the dense jungles of the mainland – including Mayflower Bocawina National Park and Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve.
HOT TIP: While in Hopkins, it’s a good idea to have a 4WD rental car! That way, you can easily explore the town and the surrounding national parks and nature reserves. Click here to book your rental car. *Make sure to set Belize City Airport as your pickup location!
Must-Dos In & Around Hopkins
- Zipline Adventure at Bocawina Rainforest: Ready for an adrenaline rush? One of the best ways to explore the Mayflower Bocawina National Park is by zipline! The Bocawina Rainforest will captivate your senses with the scent of earth and fresh air, texture of the jungle, and sights of untouched nature as you whiz through the treetops! Click here to book your ziplining tour!
- Barrier Reef Snorkeling: Brightly colored fish and vibrant coral gardens make up the underwater world of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. On this snorkel tour, you’ll visit three epic snorkeling spots and spend time on a white sandy beach. Click here your Belize Barrier Reef snorkeling adventure! *Don’t forget reef-safe, natural sunscreen!
- Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary: Hike through the jungle, tube down a natural rock slide, enjoy a delicious Belizean lunch, and get up close and personal with Belize’s wildlife in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. And keep an eye out for jaguars! Though they’re shy and sleep during the heat of the day, you never know when you might see one! Click here to book your trip to Cockscomb Basin.
Where to Stay in Hopkins
- The Lodge at Jaguar Reef ($$$)
- Hopkins Bay Belize a Muy’Ono Resort ($$)
- Cabañas at Latitude Adjustment ($)
#3 San Ignacio
The lush jungle of the Cayo District is home to San Ignacio, a must-visit town in Western Belize. I spent more than two weeks in this little town and still want to go back to see more!
In and around San Ignacio, you’ll visit various moss-covered ancient Mayan ruins, hike through lush rainforests, discover waterfalls and jungle pools, explore caves, and spot all kinds of wildlife. And in the heart of town (in between adventures!), you’ll experience authentic Belizean culture, food, and hospitality.
Oh, and I have to mention: San Ignacio (and the Cayo District, in general) is an eco-tourism hub, so there are plenty of luxurious eco-lodges to stay in. (Hello, The Lodge At Chaa Creek!) Get ready to immerse yourself in nature and soak in the views!
HOT TIP: San Ignacio is just an hour from the Guatemalan border, making it a perfect last stop for travelers continuing on to the magnificent ruins of Tikal and the cute island lake town of Flores, Guatemala. Taking a day trip to Tikal from San Ignacio is also a popular option!
Must-Dos Around San Ignacio
- ATM Cave Tour: No doubt, you’ll hear whispers about the ATM Cave tour as you travel. That’s because it’s one of the most amazing things to do in Belize! Cameras aren’t allowed in this sacred Maya ritual site, so you’ll have to uncover the mystery of this tour yourself. Swim through a spring-fed cave system to discover untouched ceremonial artifacts, beautiful stalactites, and unexplainable energy. When you reach the furthest point in the cave, you’ll witness crystalized human remains of a ceremonial victim. This spelunking tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t miss it! Click here to book your ATM Cave Tour.
- Caracol Ruins & Rio Frio Cave Tour: Knock out two of the most popular experiences around San Ignacio in one epic tour. First, explore Caracol, Belize’s largest Maya site. Take in the view from the top of the tallest manmade structure in Belize, the Caana, or Sky Palace. Then, on the way back to town, enjoy an afternoon at Rio Frio Cave and Rio on Pools. Sliding down the smooth, water-worn granite rock into pools of refreshing water is the best way to spend a long day under the sun! Click here to reserve your trip to Caracol & Rio Frio.
- Xunantunich Ruins & Cave Tubing Tour: Study the rock-carved faces as you make your way to the top of the Mayan pyramids of Xunantunich, just half-a-mile from the Guatemalan border. It’s a wild sight to see the armed border patrol guards amidst this ancient archaeological site. For the intrepid traveler, the cherry on top of this day spent learning and exploring is the exhilarating cave tubing adventure finale! Click here to book your Xunantunich and tubing tour!
- Jungle Pontoon Waterfall Adventure: While in the Cayo District, immersing yourself in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is an absolute must. Set out on a pontoon boat up-river to three waterfalls to cliff-jump, swim, and soak up the sun. Then, enjoy an authentic Belizean meal, made fresh on the boat! Keep an eye out for monkeys and crocodiles! Click here to book your jungle pontoon adventure.
Must-Sees in San Ignacio
Within the town of San Ignacio, there are a number of leisurely daytime activities you can walk to, too!
- Discover the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech
- Visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel
- Explore the traditional, local San Ignacio Market
- Take a traditional Mayan chocolate making tour at AJAW Chocolate
If you don’t mind hopping in a quick taxi, then make sure to check out these places too!
- Feel small amongst giant bamboo forests, learn about native medicinal plants, and stroll around the gorgeous grounds of the Belize Botanic Gardens
- Learn all about the impressive raptors in the Belize Raptor Center‘s rehabilitation care and take the opportunity to feed and hold some of these wondrous birds of prey
Where to Stay in San Ignacio
- The Lodge At Chaa Creek ($$$)
- Ka’ana Resort & Spa ($$)
- San Ignacio Resort Hotel ($$)
- The Old House Hostel ($)
Looking to drink, dine, and watch sunsets in the lap of luxury? Look no further than the slender peninsula of Placencia in southeastern Belize, also known as the “Miami of Belize.”
Beautiful beaches, world-class dining, and high-end resorts are aplenty here. Get the royal treatment with top-of-the-line spa treatments and massages on the beach, followed by romantic evenings at the many fancy tropical bars on the sand.
And of course, there’s no shortage of fantastic scuba diving and world-renowned snorkeling spots just off of Placencia’s coast!
Must-Dos In & Around Placencia
- Snorkel the Perfect Tropical Isle Silk Caye with Turtles, Rays and Sharks: Spend your day swimming and snorkeling the crystal-clear waters of the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. Spectacular live reef systems host a large variety of marine life, from crabs and lobsters to colorful fish and nurse sharks. On a good day, you can also expect to see turtles, barracuda, and eagle rays. Click here to book this epic snorkeling tour.
- Monkey River Wildlife Encounters and Manatee Watch: You’ll hear the black howler monkeys before you see them. (And you’re guaranteed to see them at the Monkey River Village – known for troupes of howlers!) On the scenic boat ride through the mangrove forest, keep a lookout for manatees too! This tour includes a trek through the jungle and a Belizean lunch for the ultimate wildlife and cultural experience. Click here to go to Monkey River!
- Snorkel and Island Experience at Laughing Bird Caye National Park: The three tiny islets that make up Laughing Bird Caye National Park set themselves apart from the other cayes because they’re faros – or angular atolls surrounding lagoons. Get ready for some of the most picturesque views you’ll find in and out of the water! Plus, the marine life here is said to be some of the most active and plentiful because of the park’s protected status. Click here to book your Laughing Bird Caye tour.
Where to Stay in Placencia
- The Ellysian Boutique Hotel ($$$)
- Caribbean Beach Cabanas – A PUR Hotel ($$$)
- Maya Beach Hotel ($$)
- Anda Di Hows Hostel ($)
#5 San Pedro (on Ambergris Caye)
San Pedro is a lively town of the northernmost island of Belize, the beautiful Ambergris Caye.
Though San Pedro is mostly celebrated for its nightlife, there is more to experience than just a killer party. San Pedro is a great jump-off point for sailing, snorkeling, and fishing trips, as well as a popular place to rent golf carts and adventure the island on your own!
I recommend visiting San Pedro for at least a few days so you can find out why Madonna named her famous song, “La Isla Bonita,” after this charming town!
Must-Dos In & Around San Pedro
- Fishing, Snorkeling and Beach Cookout: Can you imagine a more perfect day in Belize than this? On your own private boat, cruise the brilliant waters, go snorkeling, and catch some fish. Then, enjoy a traditional Belizean cookout on the beach… with the fish you just caught! Click here to book your snorkeling and cookout tour.
- Go for a Sunset Sail around Ambergris Caye: Enjoy rum punch and an epic sunset on this three-hour sailing trip on the Sirena Azul. Dolphins and sea turtles will likely make an appearance! On the sail home, you will gaze up in wonderment as the night sky begins to fall. Click here to book your sunset sail.
- Learn to Make Chocolate at Belize Chocolate Company: After learning so much about the Maya at the many Mayan ruins around Belize, surely you will want to learn how they transformed cacao beans into the chocolate we eat today. The first location of the Belize Chocolate Company is right here in San Pedro, come on in and take a chocolate-making class!
Where to Stay in San Pedro
- Alaia Belize, Autograph Collection ($$$)
- PUR Boutique Cabanas ($$)
- Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club ($$)
- Ambergris Sunset Hotel ($)
- Sandbar Beachfront Hostel ($)
FAQs: Best Places to Visit in Belize
Each of the five best destinations listed in this guide (Caye Caulker, Hopkins, San Ignacio, Ambergris Caye, and Placencia) are “the best” in their own way. Ideally, you will factor time into your vacation to visit and stay in each one.
The good news is, once you land at the international airport in Belize City, traveling around is a breeze! Buses, planes, ferries, and plenty of private taxis can take you from place to place within a couple hours. For mainland destinations, it is also a good idea to rent a car so you can easily explore the many national parks, nature reserves, and Mayan ruins.
Generally speaking, Belize is a safe destination for tourists to visit – especially the five tourist destinations included in this guide! If you use common sense and stay aware of your surroundings, you should have a very safe (and unforgettable!) time in Caye Caulker, Hopkins, San Ignacio, San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), and Placencia.
It’s important to note that Belize City (where the international airport is located) is plagued by gang violence and, statistically speaking, is not safe. Generally, tourists don’t spend much time here – or any at all. So it’s not something to be worried about!
It’s also worth mentioning that much of your time in Belize will be spent adventuring! Exploring the mystifying depths of the seas, jungles, and caves… Where anything can happen. Make sure that you take out a travel insurance policy before you travel to Belize.
There are seemingly endless sandy cayes and islands to explore off the coast of mainland Belize… But Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are definitely the two most developed and popular. These two islands are very different, so it just depends what you’re looking for! Caye Caulker is known for its motto “go slow,” while Ambergris Caye’s main town, San Pedro, is known for a good party. That fact alone may be enough to help you decide which island is better for you!
In my opinion, Caye Caulker is the winner. The slow island vibe, beach bars, restaurants, and proximity to the barrier reef are a few reasons why.
With its lush, captivating jungles, culture-rich villages, stunning white-sand beaches, and countless cayes, it’s impossible to say what the most beautiful part of Belize is! The entire country is abundant in natural beauty, culture, and friendly people.
Belize offers the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, so no matter where you choose, you’re sure to find a beautiful view and an amazing time. If I had to choose 3 top contenders, they’d be Caye Caulker, Hopkins, and San Ignacio.
Where to Go in Belize: The 5 Best Destinations in Belize
Now you know where to go in Belize! Whether you have five days or three weeks to spend in this tropical paradise, you can’t go wrong if you visit any (or all!) of these top Belize destinations.
From the awe-inspiring snorkeling around Caye Caulker to the dense jungles and ancient ruins surrounding San Ignacio, to the traditional food and culture in Hopkins, white-sand beaches in Placencia, and the parties and azure waters in San Pedro, get ready for the trip of a lifetime!
TRAVELING AROUND BELIZE? MORE INSPIRATION HERE:
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Belize ASAP!
- 26 Amazing Things to Do in Belize: Ultimate Belize Travel Bucket List
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