For Belize’s section of the famous things across the globe series, we have asked our fellow travel blogger Annick Lenoir-Peek of the common traveler “What is Belize famous for?” This is her incredible response.
A long-time favorite destination for divers, Belize is gaining popularity as a destination for thrill-seekers, retirees, expats, history buffs, and everyone in between. Located a short distance from the United States and Canada, and with a laid back attitude, Belize is a great travel option.
Belize is unBelizeable and should be added to every traveler’s bucket list. So what is Belize known for?
20 Things Belize Is Known For
#1 Belize Barrier Reef
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Belize’s Barrier Reef is home to over 500 species of fish. The second-largest coral reef system in the world spans 190 miles. Divided into seven protected areas, the reef serves as home to several endangered species.
The islands, atolls, and neighboring land areas house bird colonies and other animals that impressed the likes of Charles Darwin during his trip across the world in 1842.
#2 Great Blue Hole
While part of the Barrier Reef, this place is worth its own separate mention. Famously explored in 1971 by Jacques Cousteau, divers have explored this giant (1,000-foot wide) marine sinkhole for the rich marine life found in its depths. More recent interest was brought by Fabien Cousteau and Richard Branson in 2018.
But whether an aquanaut or a casual diver, visitors can spend a day observing Caribbean species while swimming among stalactites. If you’re not a certified scuba diver, the best way to see the Blue Hole is to fly over it to get a better sense of its size and importance.
#3 Caye Caulker
With a motto like “Go Slow,” the island of Caye Caulker is a favorite for those looking for a laid-back vibe. With hardly a vehicle on the island, visitors walk, bike, or ride golf-carts to their destinations. Visitors spend their day at The Split enjoying their favorite beverage, playing a pickup game of volleyball, or making new friends from around the globe. It’s so laid back and close to the mainland that the airplane isn’t called to come to pick up passengers at the airport until they have arrived at the terminal.
#4 Biodiverse Jungle
Belize conservation efforts haven’t been restricted to its shorelines – it protects the diversity of the varied population that calls its jungle home. Don’t be surprised if you come across a jaguar crossing sign while driving on the highways! The world’s sole jaguar sanctuary – Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary – where jaguars and ocelots rule the cat world, is located here.
Howler monkeys let their presence be heard clearly from three miles away. And as one of the most sparsely populated countries, that leaves a lot of room for the rich wildlife to run free!
#5 Mayan Ruins
The Mayans were active in the area now known as Belize. Caracol, Lamanai, and Xunantunich, are among the most famous of the remaining Mayan ruins. As active archaeological sites, visitors can learn about this ancient culture. Visitors can get close and even climb some of the sites, although efforts at preservation are limiting these more and more. Because of the density of the overgrown jungle, new discoveries are frequently made.
Caracol alone is estimated to have housed over 200,000 inhabitants and about 35,000 buildings have been identified, though not all excavated yet. That’s more than half of today’s population for the entire country of Belize!
#6 Unusual tallest Structure
Unlike many countries, where skyscrapers grace the skylines, Belize’s tallest building isn’t a modern structure in the largest city, Belize City. Instead, the tallest building is Caana, meaning Sky Palace, found at the Caracol Mayan site. Standing 141-feet tall, this pyramid deep in the jungle was built around 1200 BCE.
#7 Ambergris Caye
If you’re familiar with Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita,” then you’ve already heard of Ambergris Caye! As Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye attracts vacationers and expats alike. A short flight or boat ride from Belize City makes this the perfect home-base for those planning adventures both on the mainland and at sea during their trip. While there are a few cars on the island, the primary mode of transportation is the golf cart.
#8 The ATM Cave
The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave is part adventure, part archaeological treasure. Visitors must be accompanied by a guide in order to enter the cave and groups are limited to eight at a time. Explorers need to hike, swim, climb, and crawl through narrow passages before being rewarded with ancient Mayan pottery and calcified skeletons in situ. The ATM Cave serves as a great classroom about history, biology, and geology while being a unique adventure.
#9 Official Language
As a former British colony known as British Honduras, Belize is the only English-speaking country in Latin America. While several other languages are spoken here, including Spanish and Kriol, those with a working knowledge of English will be able to communicate easily with Belizeans.
#10 Belizean Currency
The Belizean dollar is tied to the United States dollar at an exchange rate of 2 to 1. This makes it easy to convert prices in your head and also means that travelers do not need to convert their US dollars for their travels to Belize.
#11 Adrenaline Junkie’s Paradise
Belize offers a little of everything for the adventure-seeker. Whitewater kayaking? Cave tubing? Zip lining? Waterfall rappelling? Rappelling into a black hole? Belize offers all these things to thrill-seekers.
Kayak along the whitewaters of the Moho River. Admire stalagmites and stalactites while floating on your own inner tube as rivers meander through caves. Or ride zip lines high above a jungle canopy, including night zip-lining when the jungle comes alive. Antelope Falls provide a 1000-foot waterfall, though visitors can rappel down a 250-foot section with gushing water. Or plunge into darkness by dropping into a sinkhole with rappelling ropes.
#12 Thriving Mennonite Population
Estimated at about 10,000, and living primarily in ten communities, Belize’s Mennonites started arriving in 1957. Some communities have remained conservative, shunning electricity and modern conveniences while others are more progressive. Most are identified by their traditional clothing with women wearing long dresses covered by an apron with a bonnet over their hair while the men wear black pants, checkered shirts, and hats.
The Mayans created chocolate by using the seeds from the cacao trees. Modern-day Belize has kept the tradition alive by producing some of the world’s best organic chocolate. The annual Chocolate Festival of Belize, held in April, attracts chocolate lovers from all corners of the world.
#14 September Celebrations
Celebrating independence day on September 21st, Belizeans like to stretch the celebration throughout the month of September. While officially kicking off on September 10th, the Battle of St. George’s Caye Day commemorating the battle between the Spanish and the Brits, many other events kick-off even earlier.
The makers of Belikin, the national beer, often kick off the celebrations with a three-day Belikin Beer Bash. Municipalities celebrate by hosting carnival parades throughout this month. This also means that September is tourism off-season, as many businesses are closed. But it is one of the best times to visit Belize.
#15 No Starbucks or McDonald’s
Whether your addiction is Starbucks, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, or any other fast-food chain, you won’t find it in Belize. Instead, visitors can gorge on delicious, fresh food. Imports cost a lot more than products brought in daily by the fishermen or raised by local farmers.
#16 Fry Jacks
A typical Belizean breakfast wouldn’t be complete without fry jacks. These fried pieces of dough are typically served as circles or triangles. They make a nice accompaniment to eggs and are frequently served topped with eggs or beans.
#17 Rice and Beans
What differentiates Belize’s rice and beans from all others is the use of coconut milk and red kidney beans. Traditionally served at lunchtime, you may also see it included in menu options at breakfast or dinner. For good measure, splash a dash of Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce, made here in Belize from local peppers.
#18 One International Airport
The Phillip S.W. Goodson International Airport (BZE) located outside of Belize City is the only international airport serving this country. Connecting domestic flights leave from the terminal next door to the international one.
Hurricane Hattie in 1961 destroyed much of Belize City. Construction of the new capital, Belmopan, began in 1967. Belize gained its independence in 1981. Even today, Belmopan is only the third-largest city in Belize, behind Belize City and San Ignacio.
#20 Expats Paradise
With laws that encourage expats relocating to Belize while protecting Belizean employment and property rights, Belize is a modern-day melting pot. Reasonable guidelines concerning income and assets allow many foreigners to easily meet immigration requirements. The cost of living is low while the standard of living is high for those willing to embrace the Belizean lifestyle.
We hope we have inspired you to explore Belize – it is one destination that has kept us returning time and again. It truly is unBelizeable!
Growing up as a third-culture kid, Annick Lenoir-Peek caught the travel bug early. She aims to travel to all 7 continents by her 55th birthday (she’s at 6!) and inspires those of us with regular jobs to explore the world in The Common Traveler.
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