If you ask anyone on our Go Ahead staff, they’ll tell you: Belize is an underrated vacation destination. There are so many hidden gems in Belize—from Maya ruins that date back to 800 B.C. to one of the biggest coral reefs on the planet.
That’s why we’re going to take you through the six little-known things to do in Belize on tour. Get a notepad, because you’re going to want to start planning your trip today.
1. The Lamanai Mayan ruins
Lamanai is one of the oldest continually inhabited archeological zones in the Mayan World—making it one of the top things to do in Belize. Explore the partially restored trails of this once prominent pre-Columbian city and listen to the howler monkeys as you learn about life in 200 A.D.
There are three main temples to explore: the Jaguar Temple, the Mask Temple, and the High Temple. You’ll see impressive carvings, as well as one of the carved Mayan calendars that “predicted” the end of the world in 2012. You can even climb to the top of the High Temple and soak in views of the jungle, where many ruins have yet to be discovered.
Fact: Lamanai is one of the only Mayan ruins close to a body of water. The word Lamanai comes from the Yucatec Maya word Lam’an’ain, meaning submerged crocodile. It’s no surprise, then, that crocodiles cruise the nearby New River Lagoon.
2. Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Admire views of the sparkling blue water and snorkel through the “little channel” of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world. Locals created this reserve to control overfishing and diving activities in the area—and the preservation efforts have paid off.
Today, you can search for local wildlife, including turtles, dolphins, rays, and over 160 species of fish that call the reserve home. You’ll also learn about the country’s commitment to preserving the reef. It’s one of the top things to do in Belize for a reason.
3. Any Mayan chocolate factory
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! This hidden gem in Belize is for you. Visit a Mayan chocolate factory like we do on our Belize tour to learn about the history of one of the country’s most delicious foods.
You’ll see how cacao is produced, harvested, and turned into chocolate—a process that’s taken place in this area since 1500 A.D. Of course, you’ll also get to taste the sweet treat, too.
Fact: The ancient Mayans made liquid chocolate from crushed cacao, chili peppers, and water because they didn’t have sugar in Central America at the time. They do now!
4. Jaguar Paw
Nowhere else in the world can you float on a river through a network of ancient underground caves like you can at Jaguar Paw. Our Ruins, Reefs & Rainforests trip will take you right into the heart of it all.
Sit back, relax, and cool off a bit as you learn all about the Mayan history, local geology, birds, plants, and animals. It’s an unforgettable opportunity to see the local flora and fauna up close (and from an entirely unique perspective). The water is crystal clear, the local guides are fun, and the views of the pointed stalagmite formations reflecting on the sparkling river will make you feel like you're on another planet.
You’ll even get to visit the secret spots where the ancient Mayans worshipped and sourced their sacred water—though the Mayans didn't travel there on an inner tube.
5. San Antonio Women's Cooperative
This nonprofit in the Cayo District’s San Antonio Village is one of the most rewarding hidden gems in Belize. Here, more than 25 women dedicate their lives to preserving Maya traditions, building awareness of Maya culture, and generating ethical income for the community from your visit.
During your visit, you can shop for meaningful souvenirs like handmade embroidery and pottery crafted with the ancient techniques and even try your hand at it. If you’re feeling hungry, the women here would be delighted to prepare you an authentic lunch. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
6. San Ignacio
If you’re looking for an artistic experience, add this vibrant village in the Cayo district to your bucket list. Everywhere you look, the town’s walls depict Belize’s rich culture. You’ll see gorgeous murals that showcase everything from the city’s evolution to the story of a midwife who delivered over a thousand local babies.
Every Saturday, San Ignacio also hosts the biggest market in the entire country. Watch the district come alive with a vibrant blend of colors and crafts, try some fresh dragonfruit juice from a local vendor, and maybe even bring home some handmade jewelry as a unique souvenir from your Belize trip.