The blue Caribbean Sea coast to the east, with the sun shining on you and the tender breeze warming your skin; dense rainforests to the west on the mountains, humid, deep and wild, the Central American Belize is a flawless tropical paradise, and with its delightful mixture of culture, history, and wonderful landscapes, it becomes the perfect place for exploring, whether you prefer to go by foot, by kayak or with a snorkel. Dive into this country’s jungles, ruins, and islands, and leave with memories that will last for a lifetime.
Like its bordering sisters Guatemala and Mexico, Belize is rich on Mayan heritage, with remarkable ruins like Caracol, Xunantunich, and Lubaantun. Wilderness parks lie right at the heart of the country, with jaguars roaming around; and on the coast, numerous low-lying islands called cayes giving off those tropical paradise vibes. With the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, and that typical laid-back Caribbean lifestyle sinking into you, there is no other country like Belize.
The wonders of nature everywhere
At the north-western corner of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, sitting above the Macal River and among dense rainforest, the beautiful Chaa Creek wilderness spa resort will offer you an extensive range of hiking trails, hours of exploring and passing through huge palm fronds and exotic plants, like the red ginger and its bright ruby red flowers, and the charming and intricate black orchid, Belize’s national flower.
Like in many rainforests around the world, it’s pretty hard to track down and witness wildlife, but the surreal blue morpho butterfly is hard to miss, its bright electric-blue wings catching your eye right away.
The Macal River is an affluent of the Mopán River and marks the southern limit of the forest reserve. At San Ignacio, they finally join, and kayaking or canoeing in this joining point is a unique afternoon experience. The water flows so gently that even first-timers can attempt the task safely. While navigating these waters, you can find plenty of birdlife and different animals, like river otters, pristine white egrets, and small kingfishers.
Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
Not so far from Chaa Creek, after a short trip on a hand-powered ferry across the Mopán River from the village of San José Succotz, stand the majestic Mayan ruins of Xunantunich or Stone Lady. Built during the Late Classic period, around AD 650-700, almost nothing is clear about who ruled this place, but it is known that the ruins were an important ceremonial center, until an earthquake hit the area in about 900.
The highlight of the ruins is definitely El Castillo, dominating the south side of the main plaza. The pyramid breaks the landscape with its 40-meter height, with a wide stone stairway right at the front. The climb up the pyramid is a bit tiring, yes, but once you get to the top and look over at the forest and into Guatemala, you’ll soon forget the exhaustion.
An astounding road trip down the flourishing Hummingbird Highway will take you past the Blue Hole National Park, a blue sinkhole fed by underground streams, hidden beneath verdant plants. Getting further south you finally arrive at the paradisiacal Placencia, an extremely thin peninsula where the ruling Garifuna culture awaits, totally untroubled and carefree. To the right, you see the bright turquoise Caribbean waters; to the left, the dark waters of a large lagoon dance with the breeze. What appears to be two different worlds, separated by a slim string of land.
But the tropical paradise vibes don’t end there; going north of Placencia, you’ll find Turtle Inn, a Balinese-inspired hotel that looks like a dream come true, with the Caribbean sitting right at its doors. There is no better place to see the sunrise over the remote cayes and the sunset over the dark lagoon.
Here, you get two options: do nothing or kayak. The first idea sounds pretty enchanting, but a couple paddles away you reach Placencia Caye, where pelicans dive into the water around you and huge mangrove swamps draw you in for a little detour. If you’re into snorkeling, a boat ride out to the crystal clear waters and pristine white sands of Laughing Bird Caye is an experience you can’t miss. But with cocktails at serve, comfy beds, delicious food and a sunset awaiting you at the Turtle Inn, it might be hard to stay out for too long or to even leave in the first place.
Unlike the rest of Belize’s Central American neighbors, English rather than Spanish is widely spoken by everyone, so there’s no need to spend days memorizing phrases in an unknown language. Chaa Creek accommodation options go from thatched roof cabanas and villas. It has a hill-top spa, and canoes are provided. Both Chaa Creek and Turtle Inn can be booked via Abercrombie & Kent, and don’t worry about getting there, many worldwide airlines fly to Belize City, including British Airways.
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