Belize, a small Central American nation that was once known as British Honduras, is a veritable treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and historical significance.
From the brightly-colored beachside buildings and tropical palm trees that line the coast, to the ancient Mayan ruins that dot the interior, there is much to explore in this idyllic destination.
Traveling in a rental car around Belize was an unparalleled experience personally, as the country is popular not just among budget travelers, but also vacationers, diving enthusiasts, and honeymooners alike. The country’s small size and ease of navigation make it a great destination for travelers of all stripes.
In addition to its picturesque beaches and lush jungles, Belize is also renowned for its world-class diving, with the country’s barrier reef drawing in enthusiasts from around the globe. Wildlife enthusiasts will also find much to admire here, as many of the country’s national parks are a birdwatcher’s paradise.
But Belize is not just about natural beauty; it also boasts a rich cultural heritage. As the primary language is English, visitors will have an easy time communicating with the locals. The country’s history is also fascinating, as it was annexed by the British in 1840, which has left a lasting impact on the culture.
For those with an interest in archaeology, the Mayan sites of Altun Ha, Lamanai, and Caracol are sure to fascinate. And for those looking for a relaxing, yet affordable, vacation destination, Belize is an excellent choice.
In this Belize travel guide, I have compiled my best tips and insights to help you plan your next one week in Belize vacation, and to ensure that you travel cheaper, better, and smarter during your time in this wonderful country.
Belize Travel Planning
For those of you who know me, I am a detailed planner but it was a bit different for Belize. I booked the flight 4 hours before its departure and didn’t have much time to plan and ended up booking first night and rental car during my US transit.
For booking my last minute flight, I searched using Google Flights which in my opinion is the best place to find the best flight deals especially as we can choose a different date combination.
And finally, for the rental car, booking through QEEQ can save you some money by showing renters the best deals in any region. However, after finding a good price, always check on the car provider site directly for details and a price compariosn.
Arrival, Picking Up Rental, and First Day In Belize
After landing in Belize, and going through the normal customs and immigration procedure which took less than 20 minutes in total, I headed out of Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport and went to pick up my rental car from AQ Belize Rental.
I have a different feeling about AQ Belize Rental. The car was reliable and worked fine even though it had many scratches which I didn’t mind at all. However, they surprised me with two unexpected charged. One was a non-refundable $30 USD charge to cover their transaction fees.
And the second surprise was that they didn’t put a hold on my credit card but actually charged the security deposit. They returned this amount later and I actually made some money due to the currency fluctuations. I also used a no FX fee credit card which saved me 5% in fees.
However, for someone without a no foreign exchange fee credit card, this would have ended up with an extra $80 USD. Another con was that the car wasn’t full and it was so confusing to figure out how much gas I need to put to bring it to the same status. I ended up filling up more.
My first day plan was to tour the old capital Belize City before driving to San Ignacio which is an almost 2 hours drive.
What To See In Belize City
Belize City is the largest city and former capital of Belize, located on the eastern coast of the country on the Caribbean Sea. It is the most populous city in Belize and serves as a major cultural, commercial and financial center for the country.
The city was founded by the British in the late 18th century and was once a major port for the logging and mahogany industries. Today, it is a bustling city with a diverse population, including Creole, Garifuna, Maya, East Indian, Mestizo, and Mennonite communities.
Belize City offers a mix of historical and cultural attractions, including the Museum of Belize, which tells the story of the country’s history and culture. Visitors can also explore the colonial architecture of the city, including the St. John’s Cathedral, which is the oldest Anglican church in Central America.
The city is also a great base for excursions to nearby attractions, including the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, and the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha, one of the most important archaeological sites in Belize.
Visitors can also take a boat trip to one of the many nearby cayes or islands, such as Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, to enjoy the beaches and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Belize City has a tropical climate and is hot and humid throughout the year. It can be a bit overwhelming for some visitors, but it is a great destination for those looking to experience the vibrant culture and natural beauty of Belize.
After finishing the my tour of Belize City, I started my drive towards San Ignacio with a potential stop at Belize Zoo.
Unfortunately, I arrived late at the zoo and they didn’t let me in so I kept driving towards my booked accommodation. Finally, I made it there around 5 PM. The hostel was a hotel and hostel combination which was totally empty. It had a nice and clean pool and a pond as well.
Day 2 Of One Week In Belize
Today, I decided to go to the most amazing Mayan Ruins in Belize, Caracol. The road is only about 80 km but takes about 2.5 hours due to the condition.
I packed my breakfast, lunch, and snacks and left around 6 AM. I had plans to stop at many places along the road to enjoy the scenery as well. There was absolutely no army escort when I went there despite almost all blogs mentioning you need an escort.
After driving for 1.5 hours I arrived at the magical Rio On Pools around 7:30 AM. I will leave the description to the amazing photos of the pools and small waterfalls in the region. There is also place to change clothes which is nice.
After swimming in the pools all alone, I headed towards my final destination through a very scenic but narrow mountain road. Gladly, I did my research and rented a 4WD car full of scratches so wasn’t too worried.
Caracol Mayan site is an amazing site to visit for anyone coming to Belize and interested in history and archelogy. The entrance was 15 BZD which gives access to the whole site and its small museum at the entrance. Only cash is accepted.
I walked around this amazing Mayan Ruins of Caracol in Belize for about 3 hours. I tried to explore the forest as well with its interesting biodiversity.
After this exploration, I headed to my car and had a great chat with two rangers who needed a ride to their base. The young men joined me in the car and we started our journey out of Caracol. They got off after seeing their pick up truck.
I have an addiction to caves and the region is full of caves I couldn’t resist. I ended up visiting 3 caves in the region and wish I wasn’t alone to go deeper and deeper in some of them.
And my final stop was the Big Rock Falls which is another beauty of the region. There is a campsite at the top of the stairs on the other side of the river which can be used by campers.
On my way back to San Ignacio, I noticed many abandoned houses in the region. It was interesting to take a look at these houses from inside.
And what’s better than enjoying a drive back with the rainbow view.
Day 3 Of One Week In Belize – Day Trip From Belize to Tikal, Guatemala
After I arrived at my room on my adventure from Caracol, I started contacting multiple tour operators for visiting the most amazing Mayan ruins in the world, Tikal in Guatemala.
I initially planned to drive to Tikal and also spend a night in a jungle hotel to enjoy a sunset or sunrise tour of Tikal, Guatemala. However, after realizing the associated costs of taking the rental car to Guatemala, I opted in taking my only tour to Tikal.
If you’d like to get a tour to Tikal, you can use Viator as a source of finding tour operators. You can also ask your accommodation for recommendations.
The company I used cost me $125 USD for the day tour to Tikal, Guatemala. This included entry into Tikal Ruins and lunch. The only expense I had to pay was the $20 USD exit fee from Belize.
There was no entry or exit fee to and from Guatemala. There was also no entry fee for Belize.
Tikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites of the Mayan civilization located in the Petén department of Guatemala. It is considered one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites in the Americas and was likely a major religious and political Mayan center.
The site encompasses a large area and contains a variety of structures, including temples, palaces, plazas, and an impressive network of paved roads and causeways. The most well-known structures at Tikal are the large pyramids, the tallest of which is the Temple IV, which stands at around 70 meters tall.
Tikal was likely inhabited from the 4th century BCE to the 10th century CE, and was likely abandoned due to a combination of overpopulation, warfare, and environmental factors. It was rediscovered in the 19th century and has since been the subject of extensive excavation and research.
There are many wildlife in Tikal and I was lucky to meet some of them.
Below is the sunset view for those doing the sunset tour of Tikal. Imagine sitting on top of a temple while looking out at other Mayan temples among the lush green jungles of Guatemala.
After our visit of this majestic Mayan site, we headed out for lunch before driving back to Belize. It is worth noting that when we took the tour, we had to change cars at the border.
Day 4 San Ignacio Tour
Today, I decided to tour San Ignacio and the Mayan sites in the region. It was supposed to be a slow day without spending too much energy.
My first stop of the day was Cahal Pech. This ancient Mayan site features a museum and several dozen surviving structures. It is very easy to get to Cahal which has its free parking. There are also many guides which can provide fascinating facts and information about the Mayan civilization and all the building in Cahal Pech.
I spent about 1.5 hour in Cahal Pech Mayan ruin site before heading to Xunantunich Archeological Reserve. This site includes several impressive stone structures, including the main pyramid, known as “El Castillo,” which stands at 130 feet (40 meters) high and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
The main plaza of the site is also home to several other important structures, including the Temple of the Sun God, the Temple of the Masks, and the Palace.
Xunantunich was likely a major political and economic center during its time of occupation, which is estimated to have been between 600 and 900 AD.
The most interesting part of this site is the method to access it. I used a hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River with my car before driving the 1.5 km to reach the site.
After finishing my visit, I decided to drive out of San Ignacio towards Placencia. This was supposed to be a 3 hours drive. However, I decided to stop at Blue Hole National Park and visit the Herman’s Cave.
The entrance is only $5 and is very much worth it. There is a nice short hike to the entrance of the cave. After visiting the cave I kept walking on the longer hike to reach the exit of the cave.
It was fascinating to reach the entrance of the famous Crystal cave in Belize. However, there are clear signs saying it is illegal to enter this cave without an authorized cave guide.
After enjoying (not really) a very heavy pouring rain in the forest and getting soaked, I left the park to my hotel in Placencia. This was another hotel with no guests which I really enjoyed as I got upgraded freely from a hostel dorm to a private queen room.
Day 5 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
After a relaxing evening and a much needed peaceful sleep, I decided to go for another adventure in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This nature reserve is known for its Jaguar population.
The sanctuary is located in the Maya Mountains and covers an area of approximately 150 square miles which was established in 1990 as a protected area for jaguars, but it also serves as a habitat for other wildlife species such as tapirs, peccaries, and several species of birds and reptiles.
The sanctuary is open to visitors and offers guided tours, hiking trails, and camping facilities. One interesting fact is that they say the Jaguar at the entrance is possibly the only one visitors can see when touring the sanctuary.
After enjoying the waterfall and amazing views, it was time to head out of the park and drive back to the hotel. I got there around night and tucked in bed to get ready for another day.
Day 6 Placencia Tour
I decided to take this day easy and enjoy Placencia like a tourist. I woke up late, had a swim in the pool of the hotel, and then started my drive around the region.
Placencia is a small town in the Stann Creek District of Belize. It is situated on a narrow peninsula on the Caribbean coast of Belize, and is known for its beautiful beaches and clear waters.
Placencia is a popular destination for tourists seeking relaxation and adventure, as it offers a variety of activities such as snorkeling, diving, fishing, and kayaking. The town also boasts a vibrant nightlife, with a variety of bars and restaurants.
I also decided to roam around to see how the locals live beyond the main street of Placencia.
Day 7 Mayflower Bocawina National Park (MBNP)
After a relaxing day exploring the area, it was time for another adventure. This time I decided to go visit the MBNP. The park is situated in the Maya Mountains and covers an area of approximately 7,715 acres and is known for its diverse wildlife, including a wide variety of bird species such as toucans, parrots, and hummingbirds, as well as monkeys, tapirs, and jaguars.
It also has several waterfalls, including the stunning Antelope Falls and Bocawina Falls. It offers a variety of activities such as hiking, bird watching, and swimming. The park is also home to the ancient Maya ceremonial center of Bocawina. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the park and learn about the natural and cultural history of the area.
The hike to see the above view is truly exhausting because of the steep. I really didn’t expect it to be so difficult but it is very much worth it. Don’t give it to be rewarded with this view. After this amazing view, I kept hiking to waterfalls after waterfalls.
The waterfalls were so beautiful and peaceful especially as there was no crowd around. It is worth getting early to the park to do the full waterfall hike around the park.
After this amazing waterfalls hikes, I felt ready to head to Belize City and get ready for my following day flight back home.
I hope you enjoyed reading my list of things to do in Belize via my one week in Belize guide. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.