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Belize Travel Guide: A local’s take on the best foods, places & things to do in Belize

Jul 06, 2023 by Emily Houston

Nestled along the Caribbean Sea in the northeastern corner of Central America sits Belize—a country that beckons beachgoers, history buffs, and nature lovers. How does one country hit the travel trifecta? Well, we chatted with a Belizean Tour Director to find out. Hint: It has a little something to do with all the immersive activities on our A Week in Belize: Ruins, Reefs & Rainforests tour.

Where we got our Belize travel tips

For our Belize Travel Guide, we tapped into Tour Director Efrain, a Belize native and one of the experts who guides our Belize tours. “I’ve been leading EF tours for about eight years now, which has been a life-changing experience for me,” said Efrain. “I love meeting new people and sharing my country’s history, culture, and food with them.”

Looking for specific travel tips? Jump to any section in our Belize Travel Guide!

Belize Travel Guide basics

Before we get into what to do in Belize, here’s some helpful info you should know before setting off on our Belize tour.

  • Where is Belize located?

    “This tropical wonderland is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the west and south by Guatemala, and to the east is the beautiful Caribbean Sea,” said Efrain, “We are the gateway to the Caribbean and Central America.”

  • Is it safe to travel to Belize?

    “I’ve been doing this for many, many years, and most travelers I’ve met say they feel very safe while they’re here,” said Efrain. “Belize is extremely safe and while we are on tour we are always in places that are safe.”

  • Is Belize a good destination for solo travelers?

    Short answer, yes! “There are a lot of solo travelers who join this type of tour,” said Efrain. “Groups on the Belize tours I lead are not large and we become a family very quickly.” Since this is one of our Small Group Tours, the group size is capped at 12–22 travelers.

When to travel to Belize

No Travel Guide for Belize is complete without a brief intro about the type of weather you can expect based on when you decide to visit. Spoiler Alert: There will be lots of sunshine and warm temps.

  • What is the best time to go to Belize?

    “To me, the best time to come to Belize is November, December, January, and February,” said Efrain. “The reason is because it’s cooler, but sunny—the sun is always shining in Belize.”

  • When is the rainy season in Belize?

    “Rainy season coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, which is from June to November,” said Efrain. “Around that time we might have a tropical depression, a tropical wave, or some disturbance in the atmosphere, and we’ll get rain. When that has passed, it’s bright and the sun is shining.”

  • What’s the weather like in Belize?

    While it’s humid in Belize, the daily temps will shift based on where you’re staying. “Along the coast it’s cooler, like in Belize City,” said Efrain. “Inland, it’s a little bit warmer, but I would consider Belize to have mild weather.”

Spend a week in Belize

Tips for using cash & credit cards in Belize

Whether you’re picking up a souvenir at one of the many Belize landmarks or paying for dinner, these are the basic money tips to know before you travel to Belize.

  • What is the currency in Belize?

    Belize dollars (BZD). The exchange rate is tied with the U.S. dollar (USD), and two BZD equals one USD.

  • Are U.S. dollars accepted in Belize?

    “99.9% of places accept USD,” said Efrain. (The fact that you can use USD on our Belize tour is what makes it one of the best international trips for first time travelers!) “It’s recommended that you have small denominations because if you’re buying a souvenir off the street, they might not have change for large bills,” said Efrain. He also added that you may receive change in BZD, or a mix of BZD and USD.

  • Are ATMs widely available in Belize?

    “ATMs are not widely available, especially when we’re traveling southbound,” said Efrain. “In San Pedro, Belize City, and the western part of the country, you have access to more ATMs. Additionally, most places will accept credit cards, but it’s best to have cash to use at smaller establishments.”

What to pack for Belize

Efrain’s number one tip in our Belize Travel Guide is to pack light. “You need space to take that extra souvenir back,” he said with a laugh. “Packing light is good especially if you need to go up steps.” Here’s what to toss in your suitcase so you’re comfortable—no matter which Belize attractions you’re going to see.

  • Rain gear.

    “We’re going to be venturing into rainforests and there might be a little bit of rain, so make sure you have a light poncho or raincoat with you,” said Efrain.

  • Sun protection.

    “To me, in Belize, the most dangerous thing is the sun,” said Efrain. “If you’re not careful you can get a very bad sunburn, so make sure you have sunblock for all of our Belize activities.”

  • Bug repellent.

    “It can get buggy, especially in the jungle area, so make sure you have your bug repellent,” said Efrain.

  • Walking shoes.

    “Having a hiking shoe or a good tennis shoe with a nice grip or sole when you’re walking on uneven grounds or up steps would be great,” said Efrain.

  • Water shoes.

    “This is recommended for cave tubing,” said Efrain. “You can rent them, but it’s recommended you have your own pair so that you can use them along the beach at other points in the trip, too.”

  • A dry bag.

    “This is very important if you want to take your electronic stuff with you cave tubing, snorkeling, or during any water activity,” said Efrain.

  • A reusable water bottle.

    “We always recommend that you bring your reusable water bottle because we want to limit plastic waste,” said Efrain. “At the hotels, there’s always a water fountain for you to refill your bottle with purified water.”

  • Medicine.

    “Bring it in your carry-on and if you are prone to seasickness, bring some medication for that as well,” said Efrain.

  • A small, packable towel.

    After visiting Belize attractions like the caves or the barrier reef, it’s good to have a towel to wipe off any sweat or water.

Plan your Belize trip

Where to go in Belize

Many famous Belize attractions are found along the coast and in the rainforest. Here are four top places where you’ll get to experience the best things to do in Belize while seeing many sides of the country.

  • Belize City.

    “You’ll be spending the first night in Belize City on our A Week in Belize: Ruins, Reefs & Rainforests tour,” said Efrain. “This is the jumping-off point to all of the other destinations throughout the country. We’ll have a welcome dinner here, as well as a good night’s rest, and get ready for an awesome adventure the following day.”

  • Ambergris Caye.

    “Ambergris Caye is one of the most popular islands to visit and the largest island in Belize,” said Efrain. “It sits next to the barrier reef, so most visitors come to Belize to visit Ambergris Caye to snorkel and dive. In Ambergris Caye, we’ll be snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, one of the best snorkeling spots in the world. It’s protected and filled with marine critters, fish, and rays.”

  • Southern Coast.

    “We’re going to be staying along the white-sand beaches of the Southern Coast,” said Efrain. “The resort we’ll be staying at is awesome. They have a lot of fun activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, tubing, or having a local beer at the pool bar. Prince William and Princess Kate even stayed at this same resort on a recent trip to Belize!”

  • Cayo District.

    “After leaving the Southern Coast, we’ll be traveling west to the Cayo District,” said Efrain. San Ignacio, the town we often stay in, is right near Guatemala and is one of the hidden gems of Belize. This region is a hub for top things to do in Belize centered around Mayan culture.

Join us on tour in Belize

Things to do in Belize

The shining jewel of our Travel Guide for Belize is this jam-packed list of what to do in Belize. Join our A Week in Belize: Ruins, Reefs & Rainforests tour to experience all of these activities.

  • Embark on a wildlife cruise on the New River Lagoon.

    “We’ll be on an open-air boat with a canopy, traveling on a winding river like we’re going on an Indiana Jones adventure, looking for wildlife,” said Efrain. “Belize is made for birders and while traveling along the winding river, there are so many beautiful, tropical birds. We’ll also look for the Morelet’s crocodile, which lives along the river, and the beautiful green iguana. The nearby Lamanai ruins got their name from the Morelet’s crocodile, as ‘Lamanai’ in Yucatec Mayan means ‘submerged crocodile.’”

  • Temple-hop at the Lamanai Mayan ruins.

    “The New River Lagoon opens up to a large lake in front of the ancient Mayan city of Lamanai,” said Efrain. “This city was occupied for over three-thousand years. It was built before Christ was born and it was also occupied until the Europeans arrived. At the top of the High Temple you can see a panoramic view of the canopy along with the beautiful lagoon and river that leads to Lamanai. Mask Temple is one of the most popular temples. The mask is 13-feet tall and it has the facial features of an Olmec (the people who occupied the area from 1500 B.C. to about 400 B.C.), with curved lips and a wide nose. A ruler was buried inside this temple with jade and shell offerings. A female was also buried nearby, which shows that at Lamanai, they had both female and male rulers.”

  • Snorkel at Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

    “Hol Chan is an area rich in biodiversity—it’s like you’re in an aquarium,” said Efrain. “You can see all the tropical fish, like Blue Tang. The turtles love to eat the seagrass so there’s a high possibility of seeing green turtles at the site. You’ll also see nurse sharks, which are very docile and will never attack. While snorkeling, more than likely, you’ll see a number of them in the water.” Other things to see in Belize’s barrier reef include southern stingrays, eagle rays, moray eels, and if you’re extra lucky, Antillean manatees.

  • Support orange farming traditions.

    “The family that runs the farm we visit on our Belize tour has cultivated oranges for many generations,” said Efrain. “They’re trying to bring back the industry, which was heavily affected by diseases. We help them with this venture by visiting them and planting our own trees as a group to bring up the number of trees that they have.”

  • Feel the beat during a Garifuna drum lesson.

    “When you’re here, you get to immerse yourself in the Garifuna culture,” said Efrain. “The Garifuna people are pro-African in the sense of being influenced by Africa, and drumming is a big part of their culture. You’ll learn about their drumming, the different types of drums they have, and the different rhythms they make, and partake in dancing and beating your drum.”

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth at a Mayan chocolate factory.

    “We’ll stop at a cacao farm and make our own chocolate the way the Mayans did in the past,” said Efrain. “We’ll visit a farm where you’ll taste the cacao from the tree and learn about all the health benefits. Then you’ll go to the Mayan factory where you’ll use Mayan utensils that have been used for hundreds of years, grind your cocoa nibs, and make your own chocolate while tasting and learning how healthy chocolate is.”

  • Preserve Mayan culture at the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative.

    “This is a Mayan village run by the Yucatec Mayan,” said Efrain. “The women came together to try to preserve their culture, food, pottery making, and language. You’ll get to grind your own corn using traditional utensils and make your own corn tortilla—which is awesome with salt and a drizzle of coconut oil on top. You’ll also get an idea of what they’re doing to bring back their culture. To top it off, you’ll get a beautiful Mayan lunch: Mayan tamales, a pico de gallo sauce with corn-fried tortillas, and lettuce and vegetables from their garden. The juices are from the fruits in the area. This is an awesome, healthy meal.”

  • Sneak a peek at Guatemala from the Xunantunich Mayan ruins.

    “We’ll be visiting Xunantunich and the Mayan Temple called El Castillo, which is less than a mile away from the Guatemalan border and the second-largest Mayan temple in Belize that has been excavated,” said Efrain. “Climbing on the top of this temple is one of the most popular things to do in Belize. You can see a panoramic view of the forest canopy and the valley, and you can also see into Guatemala.”

Take a look at our Belize tour

What to do in Belize during your free time

Whether you’re looking for responsible wildlife experiences or the best place to catch the sunrise, here’s what to do during your pockets of free time on our Belize tour.

  • Add the Cockscomb Basin & Jaguar Preserve Hike excursion.

    “One of the popular things to do in Belize is visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Efrain. “The area is good for people who love nature, hiking, and smelling the fresh air in the jungle. It ends at a waterfall where you can immerse yourself in the water, take that beautiful picture, and just enjoy the moment in nature. It’s also the jaguar preserve, but these cats are elusive, so they may see you, but you won’t see them.”

  • Get to the heart of Garifuna culture in Hopkins.

    “The hotel we stay at on the Southern Coast is about a 5–10 minute cab ride, or 30-minute walk, away from Hopkins village,” said Efrain. “It’s a Garifuna village, home to seafaring, Afro-Caribbean people who are mixed with Arawak and Carib Indian. There are a lot of souvenir shops, restaurants, and opportunities to get to know the people and culture.”

  • Sign up for the Jaguar Paw Cave Tubing excursion.

    “The cave tubing experience is one of the most popular things to do in Belize,” said Efrain. It’s also one of the top excursions to add to your trip. “You’ll visit Xibalba, which in Yucatec Mayan means ‘the gateway to the underworld,’” said Efrain. “While traveling through the river, which flows under the cave system, you’ll listen to the guides share Mayan history as it relates to the cave system and look at the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. It’s so relaxing because the guides will take you through while you just lay back, relax, and listen to the history of the area.”

  • Watch the sunrise on the Southern Coast.

    If you’re wondering what to see in Belize, don’t miss seeing the sunrise over the Southern Coast. “I always like to wake up early in the morning, see that sunrise, and get that beautiful picture,” said Efrain. “Just walking along the beach, feeling that nice sea breeze in the air, wetting your feet in the water—you’re literally in paradise.”

Explore our Belize tour

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What to eat in Belize

Are you hoping to get some responsible dining tips from our Belize Travel Guide? “Buying locally—local cuisine from local restaurants—is a good way of contributing to the community,” said Efrian. Here’s what to order while eating out on our Belize tour.

  • Grilled lobster.

    “I am a seafood person and I believe that anyone who comes to Belize must try the grilled lobster,” said Efrain. “On the Caribbean spiny tail lobster, all the meat is in the tail.” It’s grilled with light seasoning, garlic, and butter. “I can’t say enough,” said Efrain. “It’s so tasty!”

  • Ceviche.

    “It can be conch, lobster, shrimp, or different seafoods all mixed together,” said Efrain. “Eating this with a nice Belizean beer on the beachside is just an awesome experience.”

  • Hudut.

    “It’s a Garifuna fish dish, usually snapper, in a coconut stew,” said Efrain. “It’s served with habanero pepper for spice and mashed green and white plantains. It’s so tasty, and getting it from an authentic Garifuna restaurant will give you a real feeling of the culture.”

  • Stewed chicken with rice and beans.

    “You’ll get to experience this on night two of your A Week in Belize: Ruins, Reefs & Rainforests tour after you visit Lamanai,” said Efrain. “This is free-range, stewed chicken with coconut rice, beans, and Belizean salad with fried plantains. This is more of a Caribbean flavor, but the entire country has adopted this as the national dish of Belize.”

  • Tamales.

    “Another cultural food is the tamale, which is a little bit different than what people might know from other countries,” said Efrain. “Seasoned chicken, beef, or pork is wrapped in plantain or banana leaves. It’s a very tasty corn meal of the Mayans.” Opt to make this vegetarian by ordering it with vegetables and peas.

  • Lionfish.

    “Lionfish are an invasive species, so there’s no known predator in the Atlantic,” said Efrain. “The Belize government has trained chefs to cook it. Lionfish are killed by fishermen, brought in, and sold at the restaurants so you can buy them and know that you’re contributing to taking them off the reef.”

What to drink in Belize

Do you need to know what to drink alongside your authentic meal? Of course our travel guide for Belize has you covered! Sip all of these local favorites on your trip to Belize.

  • Belikin beer.

    “My favorite drink is the number one beer in Belize: Belikin beer,” said Efrain. “The recipe for this beer was from a German brewmaster and we have kept the recipe and never changed it.”

  • The Ripper.

    “One of the most popular cocktails in Belize is the Ripper, which is made from our local coconut rum and pineapple juice with a cherry on the top,” said Efrain. “Very simple, but it’s on the sweet side. I like sweet drinks so the Ripper is a favorite of Belizeans and myself.”

  • Soursop juice.

    “It’s a healthy drink and it’s from the soursop fruit, which is called guanabana in Spanish,” said Efrain. “It’s packed with antioxidants. This is a very tasty drink. It’s not sour at all. It’s like strawberry and pineapple together. We make a nice ice cream flavor from it, but the best way to have it is as a drink.”

  • Blackberry wine.

    “We like to ferment all of our fruits and my favorite way to enjoy them is the blackberry wine,” said Efrain. “I love to have a glass of this stuff before my dinner.”

Plan your trip to Belize

Best souvenirs to buy in Belize

“While traveling, you can buy souvenirs from the Mayan area or the Garifuna area and they have things specific to their culture,” said Efrain. Here are the top souvenirs to bring back home from your trip to Belize.

  • Wood carvings.

    “We have some beautiful wood carvings from the ziricote tree, which is only found in Belize and parts of Honduras,” said Efrain. “You can get them in any size you’d like. There are artisans on the beachside who sell these.”

  • Woven baskets.

    These come in a variety of sizes with some more simplistic, and others infused with pops of color. “The Garifuna and Mayan people are very good at basket weaving,” said Efrain.

  • Jewelry.

    “Because the Garifuna are seafaring people, you can buy accessories like shell earrings from them,” said Efrain. He also recommended picking up rings, chains, or bracelets from the Mayans.

  • Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.

    “The souvenir I brought back to my family was Belizean hot sauce, and I love it,” said staffer Daniela. “I had it every morning on my eggs and then I brought it back and it’s delicious.”

Join our Belize tour to have the chance to travel with Tour Director Efrain!

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About the author | Emily Houston
Emily loves the simple travel moments—like watching hours pass by in minutes while sharing a meal and a laugh (or many) with her friends and family. Outside the office, you'll find Emily listening to anything and everything John Mayer, attempting to cook a New York Times recipe, or dreaming up her next trip.

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