It’s hard to believe that paradise could exist on Earth – until you travel to Belize. This part–Central American, part-Caribbean dream destination has everything you could ever want in a vacation: luxurious beaches, unique culture, thrilling adventure, natural beauty, and so much more. Few Americans have more than 10 days to dedicate to a trip, despite the fact that no sane person would ever want their Belize vacation to end. Here is your 8-day schedule for an excellent Belize holiday without further ado.
Day 1: San Ignacio Town
As soon as you touch down in Belize, you should make your way to San Ignacio. The hub of the Cayo District in western Belize, San Ignacio Town is a bustling city in the middle of the rainforest. By far, San Ignacio is the best destination for adventure-seekers because there are dozens of high-adrenaline activities within easy reach. However, you should take it easy on your first day, so you can adjust to the climate, food, and time zone.
Day 2: Mayan Ruins
Though Mexico is better known as a hotspot of Mayan activity, Belize boasts some of the best preserved Pre-Colombian ruins in Central America. Here are a few of the best sites to visit near San Ignacio:
- CahalPech. Located within San Ignacio Town, CahalPechdates to 1500 B.C.E., making it one of the oldest ruins in Belize.
- Xunantunich. Easily one of the most breathtaking archaeological sites in the world, this Mayan ruin towers over the surrounding landscape.
- El Pilar. Sprawling across more than 100 acres, and boasting 25 distinct plazas, El Pilar is one of the most extensive Mayan sites.
- Caracol. Exceedingly well-preserved, this site is a good place to learn about the history of the Maya in Belize.
- Tikal. Just across the border in Guatemala, Tikal is perhaps the most famous of the ruins in this part of Central America.
Day 3: Jungle Trek
The rainforests of the Cayo District are indeed worth an entire day of exploration. By far, the most worthwhile trek through the jungle is that of the ActunTunichilMuknal (ATM) cave, where it is alleged that Mayans performed ritual sacrifices. This tour requires 45 minutes of hiking followed by underground swimming and bouldering, so you should start getting in shape now.
If ATM seems out of reach, you can also enjoy a more laid-back jungle trek. Several tour groups take visitors on journeys on horseback or by canoe, both of which provide extraordinary looks at Belize’s natural beauty.
Day 4: Hopkins Village
Now it’s time to move back toward the beach. However, before you kick back on the sand near the surf, you should spend some time understanding one of the world’s most unique (and most endangered) cultures, the Garifuna. The Garifuna people are mixed descendants of African and Caribbean slaves who escaped from shipwrecked Spanish ships and established colonies in Belize.
Hopkins Village is one of the last remaining outposts of Garifuna life. Here, you can see, hear, and practice Garifuna drumming, taste some Garifuna cuisine, and respect people who are still fighting for space to be free and thrive.
Day 5: Placencia
Offering the best beaches in the country, Placencia, Brazil is not to be missed. Still, Placencia is likely to be much busier than many of the places you’ve already visited, so you should be prepared to fight crowds for some coveted beach space, come face-to-face with aggressive vendors, and pay higher prices than you have come to expect. With some planning, Placencia can be gorgeous and relaxing, but you shouldn’t look forward to beachy solitude.
Day 6: San Pedro
If you get tired of Placencia – and you probably will – you should journey to a group of islands called Ambergris Caye. At its center is San Pedro, a charming tourist city that connects Belize to the Caribbean. Though the town lacks paved roads, it is well-equipped with hotels and resorts, restaurants, shops, and even an airport. You should spend a day exploring San Pedro, getting to know the Caribbean side of Belize.
Day 7: Great Blue Hole
Named one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Blue Hole is an enormous marine sinkhole in the middle of the Belize Barrier Reef. Almost a fifth of a mile across, the hole is stunning from the air and fun to explore with flippers. Though you are unlikely to see the colorful corals and fish that populate the nearby reefs, you are likely to spot some sharks and some unique and interesting underwater rock formations. Then, you can splash over to the reefs, where you can watch (not touch) another world wonder before it disappears.
Day 8: Your Choice
Depending on the time of your flight back to reality, you might have a few extra hours to enjoy the beauty of Belize. I would recommend spending time on Caye Caulker, the best spot for the deserted island feel. Alternatively, you might enjoy a catamaran tour around the gorgeous Caribbean waters. As long as you finish your Belize vacation doing something you love, you will almost certainly make plans to come back soon.