Belize Travel Guide
Although Belize is best known for the Barrier Reef, clear turquoise water, snorkeling, scuba diving and palm trees, there are
a number of other attractions. Belize’s jungle, Maya ruins and wildlife may not be as pristine or abundant as the northern Guatemala Petén area, but they are worth visiting. Below are both popular and off-the beaten path places near the Western border and San Ignacio area, just a short distance away from Guatemala.
Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to almost 200 inches in the South. Although the rainy season is usually between
June and October and the dry season is between March and May, don’t expect it. In recent years global weather conditions and changes are making traditional predictions somewhat invalid. In general the weather is good, but if you happen to be there during any small tropical hurricane it can rain for several days.
If the islands are too bad take a trip to the San Ignacio area or Guatemala to get away from the coast. At the end of October, the weather does become cooler, and from November to February, it is generally pleasant with only light showers and cool fronts. Average humidity is 85%.
Getting To and From Belize – El Remate/Tikal
You can arrive to BZE airport from Miami, Atlanta, Houston and other international cities. For flights to/from Flores, Guatemala, check with Tropic Air or Maya Island Air.
Express buses operate the route between Flores and Belize City everyday.
For details, please visit our Travel Information page.
Places to Visit
Rio Frio & the 1000 ft Falls Area
Near the Mountain Pine Ridge, San Ignacio, Belize. The Mountain Pine Ridge forest is unique. It is at a higher elevation and therefore cooler. It makes for a nice side trip.
The falls are spectacular and the rapids at Rio Frio are beautiful, with giant chutes of water cascading over large basalt and granite rock formations. The water is cool and there are several nice pools for swimming or just cooling off. At the Hidden Valley Falls, better known as the Thousand Foot Falls, a significant stream falls over 1,400 feet into a lush, pine tree lined gorge. It is a great place to watch for wildlife and experience yet another of Belize’s attributes. From San Ignacio it is about a 20 minute drive and the visit will take most of the day, especially if you enjoy swimming and hiking.
Caracol Maya Ruins
Caracol is the largest Mayan archaeological site in Belize. During the Classic period it was one of Tikal’s great rivals. In recent years, several universities have been excavating and developing the ruins. Caracol was discovered in the 1930’s by a log
hunter, Rosa Mai, but it was not explored until the 1950’s by Linton Satherwaite of the University of Pennsylvania. Due to its difficult accessibility, excavations didn’t start until 1985, when Doctors Arlen and Diane Chase of University of Central Florida started working on Caracol. Caana (sky palace) is a massive structure at its base and towers above the jungle at over 145 feet high. Caracol was at its peak about the same time as Tikal and there were several battles between the two cities.
To visit Caracol, make arrangements with tour operators in San Ignacio. The trip can be done by horseback or 4-wheel drive except during some of the rainy season. The road is just a trail in parts, but you travel through lush jungle and through several mountain passes. The views are great. After exploring the main area of Caracol, a stop at Rio Frio can be arranged (see above) to cool off.
The Belize Zoo
This is located at mile post 31 on the Western Highway. As far as typical zoos go, this one is a real treat. It is obvious that the curator took a very dense jungle area and left it intact, carving small pathways through the jungle and using minimal wire enclosures to create the most natural setting you will ever find, save on the plains of Kenya. Most of the indigenous animals of Belize are displayed.
There are crocodiles, kinkajous, jabirus, pumas, scarlet macaws, tapirs, peccaries, sloths, small ocelots and margays, and two types of deer. It is a must see on any trip to Belize. They have several jaguars, including a black one that is alone worth the trip, a good group of howler and spider monkeys, and a long list of animals that are throughout Belize, but that are not likely to be seen by the average hiker. Cost is about $7.50 US.
From the Mayan village of San Jose Succotz located on the banks of the Mopan River just 2 miles outside of the border crossing Melchor, Guatemala you can board a small hand-cranked pontoon ferry to go across the river to Xunantunich (zoo-nan-too-nitch).
There is a resident guide on site and a museum. Look for the Iguanas in the trees along the river in this area.
After exploring Xunantunich, be sure to visit the nearby Butterfly Research Center at the Trek Stop, about 1/2 mile east on the south side of the road. There is a small hostel there that offers clean cabins with shared baths and showers outside for $24-$35 double. See over a dozen different species of Belizean butterflies and herbs. Also there are orchids unique to the area.
Just outside of San Ignacio there are some of the most architecturally diverse Mayan Ruins in Belize, Cahal Pech (ka-hall petch). View examples of the ‘corbelled’ arch (the Maya version of the Roman arch), walk into chambers where royalty slept, and see 2000 year old red plaster still intact on the walls.
Panti Medicinal Trail
The ‘Panti Medicinal Trail’ is also an interesting place to visit. The herbalist who lives there is from Ohio, but she studied with one of Belize’s greatest bush doctors, ‘Don Elijio Panti’, before he died. She has created a well-marked medicinal plant path and her tours are very interesting. She has several medicinal products for sale and you can learn about plants used by the Maya and still in use today for healing the body and spirit.
Often confused with the ‘Blue Hole’ off shore, this is a very small but nice place, and well worth the stop. Visit just to cool down after a hot day.
There are limestone caves throughout Belize and most have rivers that run through them at various times of the year. Occasionally the ground will cave in, allowing a look into an open air cave. This is what happened to create the ‘Blue Hole’. The water boils up on one end of the chasm and flows into a cave at the other end.
The water is a very deep turquoise blue due to dissolved minerals and it is cool and running swiftly. From the Hummingbird Highway about 19 miles south of Belmopan, there is a small roadside park. You pay an attendant about $4.00 park fee, and take concrete steps down 100 feet to the river bed. You can swim and watch birds and butterflies. It is a great place for a picnic.
Cristo Rey Canoe Float and Rafting
From the present day Mayan village of Cristo Rey you can float by canoe to San Ignacio. Check out Martha’s Kitchen & Guest House, and there’s river rafting at Clarissa Falls .
Cheers Restaurant, Belize – along the Western Highway, en route to Belmopan or San Ignacio/Guatemala border: www.cheersrestaurant.bz