The first thing that most people ask when I mention traveling to Belize is, “Where is that?” Many people assume that the country of Belize is located in South America, or perhaps even Africa, but it is not. And while many people are quite familiar with the term “Caribbean,” few realize that Belize is actually part of this tropical paradise.
Belize is situated in Central America and is geographically quite close to the United States. It is right underneath Mexico and next to Guatemala. It is an English-speaking nation, and the whole country is about the size of the state of New Hampshire. However, the population is only about 300,000 people, or about ¼ that of New Hampshire.
Since this area is somewhat of a well-kept secret, many people are unfamiliar with the natural beauty and tropical attractions of Belize. Sound alluring? It is! Here are the top five things to know about Belize. Now, when someone asks you “where is Belize?” you’ll be ready to dazzle with your extensive knowledge!
(1) Belize is an awesome place to go scuba diving. The barrier reef off the shores of Belize is actually the largest and longest continuous mass of living coral located in the Western Hemisphere. In size, it is second to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
There are a whopping 185 miles of reef to explore in Belize, where you may spot countless species of colorful marine life. It is said that up to 90% of this reef remains to be explored and charted. The nearby Blue Hole, or underwater sink hole, was made famous when it was explored by Jacques Cousteau.
(2) You can visit a rare jaguar reserve in Belize. No, I don’t mean the car! Jaguars, as in the wild cats, are indigenous to Central and South America. They are often mistaken for the leopard, although they have a more massive build and larger head. These beautifully spotted cats were hunted in the 1960s and 1970s to the point of endangerment, as well as killed by farmers who considered them to be a nuisance.
In order to protect and preserve the jaguars, the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Reserve was established in Dangriga, right in the heart of the jungle. It features nature trails, camping facilities, and the chance to catch a glimpse of a rare and elegant jaguar.
(3) Belize is the home to many Mayan ruins. One of the most incredible things about the Mayan ruins located in Belize is that they are in excellent condition. Among the most visited historical spots are Altun Ha, which means Water of the Rock; Cahal Pech, which means Place of the Ticks; Caracol, meaning The Snail; Lamanai, or Submerged Crocodile; and Xunantunich (pronouned Su-nan-tu-nich), meaning Maiden of the Rock. Visiting these Mayan ruins is an amazing way to learn about the local history and people of Belize.
(4) More than 560 species of birds live in Belize, which makes it a fabulous place for bird watching. Just a few of the exotic birds you may spot are toucans, ibises, flamingos, storks, turkeys, quails, sandpipers, cuckoos, hummingbirds, and parrots. You may even get to see the unusual Jabiru Stork, which is the largest bird that lives in the Western Hemisphere.
Because Belize has savannahs, rainforests, riparian habitats, broadleaf forests, pine forests, and ocean coast lines, it provides a diverse habitat for these many different species.
(5) Belize is a great place to visit regardless of the season. Between June and October, there are fewer visitors to Belize. If you are looking for quiet, peace, isolation and serenity, then summer is a great time to visit. Summertime is the rainy season, but because the rain showers are sporadic and short in duration, they are not likely to ruin your vacation. Instead, they’ll just give you an opportunity for a catnap.
Belize is more popular during the winter months, when visitors flee cold and snow and instead escape to tropical, sunny skies.
Regardless of the time of year you visit, you’ll find that Belize is always extremely laid back. It’s unlikely that you’ll need much other than your passport, shorts, tee shirts, and a bathing suit!