On the Eastern coast of Central America, this often-overlooked gem is host to an array of amazing sights. From sandy white beaches and vivid coral reefs to intricate Mayan temples and lush jungle, Belize is full of options for every kind of adventure. This enchanting coastal country is easy to access with many direct flights coming from all around the United States, and both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors are welcome as long as you provide evidence of a negative covid test. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to see these stunning sights for yourself!
Great Blue Hole
In the massive Belize Barrier Reef, the Great Blue Hole is a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving. The Barrier Reef itself is the second-largest reef system in the world and home to a multitude of tropical fish, sharks, turtles, manatees, and more. The crystal clear waters of the Great Blue Hole make it a great place to scuba dive deep into the 124m abyss and admire the vibrant aquatic plants and animals.
Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary
Just outside of the charming town of Hopkins you will find the world’s only jaguar preserve, Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary. Although the stealthy jaguars are rarely spotted along the main park trails, bring your binoculars to get a good look at the ocelots, pumas, howler monkeys, and tapirs who call the park home. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of the area and discover fresh jaguar tracks, or trek the trails on your own – for a refreshing dip in the park’s waterfall pool head up the Ben’s Bluff Trail. If you have your heart set on seeing and hearing a jaguar, your best bet is to sign up for the Night hike to see the nocturnal animals such as foxes and kinkajous.
The coastal village of Placencia – located on the southern peninsula of the same name – is a popular eco-destination hosting an array of outdoor activities. Hike through the rainforest and kayak along the riverside in Stann Creek or take a boat tour out to Silk Caye and Laughing Bird Island for swimming and snorkeling in the sun. Placencia is also a great place for Caribbean fishing, a local guide can show you the best reef spots to catch your big barracuda!
If you are looking for a relaxing day with an interesting pit stop, take a Cave tubing tour down the winding Belize river to Xunantunich historical ruins. Xunatunich, once a Mayan ceremonial site, now hosts the ruins of more than 20 temples and palaces. The greatest – El Castillo – towers over the rest and from the top you will find a spectacular panoramic view of the Macal, Mopan, and Belize River Valley.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize’s oldest marine reserve, provides the unique opportunity to swim with sharks and stingrays. The narrow reserve (only 25 yards wide) snakes through a channel in the pristine reef, giving divers a glimpse into the underwater world. Tour guides are often seen feeding and “playing with the nurse sharks, rays, and other aquatic wildlife in the area who have become accustomed to human presence.
Bocawina National Park
The 7,000 acres of Bocawina National Park sprawls across the Belize countryside from the Maya Mountains to the shimmering coast. The park is an exceptional place to hike, camp, and explore the three Mayan ruins and waterfalls. Bring your own camping gear to sleep out under the stars in the heart of the jungle.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
The untouched nature of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is home to majestic waterfalls, colossal caverns, and the country’s largest Mayan temple. Bring along your binoculars to spy some of Central America’s rare and exotic birds as you hike your way along the mountain trails to the majestic Big Rock Falls. Trek through the jungle to the massive Rio Frio Caves. And take your time as you tour through Caracol, the largest man-made structure in the country. Then freshen up with a dip in the revitalizing Rio On Pools.
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
Much more than your average cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal was once the site of ritual sacrifice for the Mayan people. Get a glimpse into ancient Mayan culture on an exhilarating Cave experience tour. Swim, climb and crawl through the cave to find the remains of an ancient Mayan altar, spiritual artifacts, and mysterious human remains.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com