South of Mexico and on the east coast of Central America, Belize is home to the kinds of beachy, all-inclusive resorts you’ll find in other popular Latin American destinations. Tourism is the country’s main industry, but that doesn’t mean a trip there has to be touristy. There’s a lot more to Belize than a beach and bottomless, rum-based drinks (though they’ve got those, too).
The mix of Creole, Garinagu, Mestizo and German Mennonite cultures along with the country’s rich Mayan history means you can immerse yourself in the kinds of historical, cultural and culinary experiences you won’t find anywhere else. And at the end of a full day, you’ll still have time to hit the beach.
Unforgettable things to experience in Belize (besides going to the beach)
Explore the ATM cavesThe Actun Tunichil Muknal caves, an hour outside San Ignacio, were sacred to Belize's ancient Mayans, who swam and hiked into their depths to perform rituals and sacrifices. The guided cave tours let you swim past incredible crystallized stalactites until you get to the grand finale: the Crystal Maiden -- the skeleton of a Mayan sacrifice that looks as if it was coated in crystal.Belize Tourism Board
Canoe Barton CreekFor a less physically demanding cave experience, opt to canoe through Barton Creek cave instead. The shorter tour means you can stay dry (though swimming's an option if you're into it) while still getting to see incredible cave formations.Belize Tourism Board
Climb the ruins at LamanaiThe site of a major Mayan civilization dating back to 4th century B.C., archaeologists from the Royal Ontario Museum began excavating the site's temples — Jaguar Temple, Mask Temple and High Temple — in 1974. Today you can take a boat ride there with a guide who'll introduce you to Belize's diverse animal and aquatic life.G Adventures
Snorkel off Caye Caulker's coral reefThe island of Caye Caulker, a 45-minute ferry ride from Belize City, is home to the world's second largest barrier reef. Guides from National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures will get snorkelers up close to nurse sharks, sting rays, eels and the kind of colourful tropical fish you've only seen in Finding Nemo.G Adventures
Meet monkeys in the rainforestThe Black Howler monkey, referred to as a 'baboon' by locals, is the second loudest land mammal after the lion (its growl stood in for Jurassic Park 2's velociraptors). A guided tour of the Community Baboon Sanctuary is the best way to see these little guys with BIG voices and contribute to their continued conservation.G Adventures
Visit the women's pottery co-opLocated in the village of San Antonio, the cooperative aims to empower local women and girls while maintaining Mayan traditions. The result is a scenic studio — supported by the Planeterra Foundation — where visitors learn about the art form and get a tutorial in tortilla-making, too. Bonus: you get to eat what you make for lunch. G Adventures
Take a bike tourBike With Purpose is another Planeterra Foundation initiative where high school students in Caye Caulker earn money by leading bicycle tours around the car-free island. See where the seahorses hang out, get insider info on the best eats, and check out the local school where yoga and meditation are taught alongside robotics and tech. G Adventures
Learn to drum in HopkinsWhat does 19 years of drum practice look like? A blur of fast-moving fingers and hands. What does it sound like? Perfection. While you might not achieve the same levels of proficiency after a single lesson, a visit to Hopkins' drum school is a must — its teachers have performed at festivals across the world.G Adventures
Get serious about hot sauceMarie Sharp is the only woman in the Hot Sauce Hall of Fame (yep, that's a thing). She started the business from scratch on her farm where everything grown gets turned into jams, chutneys, wine and hot sauce. Take a tour and stock up — her stuff is the BEST and not available in Canada.Belize Tourism Board
Explore Latin American city lifeClose to Belize's western border with Guatemala, San Ignacio is a diverse town and cultural hub in the country's Cayo district. Here you'll find Mayan, Indian, Creole, Chinese and Lebanese influences blending to form the town's unique vibe — not to mention the exciting options for foodies.Shutterstock
Hit the beachIf you are craving the stunning beaches of Belize, you can take advantage of WestJet's direct flight from Toronto to Belize City to see them for yourself. Trust us, you'll want to spend at least a little bit of time here during your trip.Belize Tourism Board