Bathed by the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, Belize is in Central America, south of Mexico, and east of Guatemala. About the size of New Jersey, and with a population of less than 400,000 people, Belize sits just to the south of the popular and well-developed Yucatan peninsula. Despite its closeness to Mexico, Belize is very different culturally, with a rich Caribbean flair, and an identity all of its own.
Belize offers so much more than 240 miles of coastline, and countless islands off the Caribbean Sea. Typically, visitors to Belize fall love with its laidback vibe and Old-World charm, with some areas remaining unchanged for hundreds of years. Belize is also one of the least populated countries in the world, and when you drive through jungle-covered hills, and see tiny Maya villages dotting the jaw-dropping landscape, you’ll certainly feel it.
Placencia and Ambergris Caye are two of the most popular tourism and expat hotspots in Belize, and with good reason. Placencia has the postcard perfect good looks, with warm, friendly people, brightly-colored wood houses, and lush beautiful beaches. And Ambergris Caye has everything from a quirky, fun downtown area, to lush beaches and resorts.
How do I get to Belize?
Getting to Belize is straight forward, accessible with a quick two-hour flight from Miami, Atlanta, or Houston. From Philip S.W. Godson International Airport, you can take an air-conditioned shuttle to anywhere in the country, and within two to three hours, be at your destination.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of the “puddle jumper” regional flight system in Belize, and be across the country in less than 45 minutes.
Where Should I Visit in Belize?
There are several hotspots in Belize that are highly recommended for a visit. Most people will fly into Belize International Airport and take a water taxi to Ambergris Caye for a few days. But, going to Caye Caulker, a smaller but well-known island near Ambergris, is a must-do. Whether you take the ferry there for a day or for a few nights, Caye Caulker is an island that is universally loved for its warmth, tropical atmosphere, and go-slow attitude.
On Ambergris Caye, check out the three neighborhoods on the island. There is the very fun, fast-paced, energetic, downtown area of San Pedro, the fun south neighborhood, and the tranquil neighborhood of Tres Cocos.
From the cayes, you can take a shuttle out to Cayo/San Ignacio and try the ATM Cave tour, or stunning Xunantunich, which are regarded as some of the most spectacular experiences in the country. You can also check out the Mennonite farms and the world-class adventure excursions. There are many small towns in Belize that look like they haven’t changed for centuries, and Cayo is considered the “wild west” of Belize, with remarkable jungles, mountains, and outdoor adventures.
From there, you can enjoy the spectacular drive down the Hummingbird Highway to Placencia. Placencia, with a population of less than 2,000 people, sits at the end of a 16-mile peninsula, lined by palm trees, beach, and the sparkling Caribbean on either side. Visitors tend to fall in love with Placencia’s vintage, charming, and funky feel. Here, you can visit the national parks, tube down a natural river, or go see crocodiles in Monkey river. Make sure to also check out some traditional Garifuna drumming.
The village of Sittee River is similar to Placencia, but slightly less modern. It’s becoming popular for fishermen and expats, with a world-class marina, new housing developments, tourist village, resorts, and restaurants. Visitors love the ability to easily travel to Hopkins for authentic local experience, while also enjoying the resort area. The village of Hopkins is a quiet, traditional Garifuna village that borders Sittee River. It is not known for tourism, but many people fall in love with the authentic, vintage charm.
Corozal sits on the bay in northern Belize, and although it experiences less tourism than other parts of Belize, there are many housing developments with reasonably priced homes, and a strong expat community. You will find some of the best prices in Belize for expats here, and with the accessibility to Mexico, some find that this gives the best of both worlds. Punta Gorda, in southern Belize, offers an authentic Belizean experience, and has a small but consistent population of expats who enjoy its peace and tranquility, as well as fishing and boating.