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  • Belize-Blue-Hole.jpg - The Great Blue Hole is a large submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-Horseback-stream.jpg - Horseback riding near the Banana Bank Lodge in Belize.
  • Belize-toucan.jpg - A keel-billed toucan in Belize.
  • Belize-Caracol-Maya-pyramid.jpg - The Mayan pyramid of Caracol, Belize.
  • sailboard-ambergris-caye-belize - Sailboarding on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
  • Belize-coral.jpg - Fantastic coral off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-rainforest-creature.jpg - A critter in a tree in Belize.
  • Norwegian-Jewel-Belize-Altun-Ha - Explore the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha in Belize during a Norwegian Jewel cruise.
  • maya-ruins-belize - Mayan ruins at Xunantunich, about 80 miles west of Belize City. This site features a 130-foot-tall pyramid.
  • laughing-bird-caye-belize - The island of Laughing Bird Caye National Park in Belize, on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Belize-Corozal.jpg - Corozal, Belize, is an easygoing seaside town 9 miles from the border with Mexico.
  • Belize-sunset.jpg - Sunset over the Caribbean Sea in Belize.
  • Norwegian-Pearl-Belize-zipline - Ziplines in Belize and other adventures await when you cruise the Caribbean on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.
  • howler-monkey-belize - A howler monkey in Belize.
  • goffs-caye-belize - Goff's Caye, a small island off the shore of Belize City, Belize.
  • hardluck-charlie-belize - Hardluck Charlie's in the late afternoon in Belize.
  • belize-city-belize - Local boats in Belize City, Belize.
  • Belize-Zoo-jaguar.jpg - A jaguar in the Belize Zoo.
  • Belize-beachfront.jpg - Sparkling sand on the coast of Belize.
  • aracari-belize - A Collared Aracari, a type of toucan, at Chaa Creek near San Ignacio, Belize.
  • belize-city-canal-belize - The Belize City canal in Belize.
  • snorkel-nurse-shark-belize - Snorkeling with nurse sharks, Belize.
  • pine-ridge-creek-belize - Pine Ridge Creek, Belize.
  • rush-hour-belize - Rush hour in Belize.
  • Belize-Caye-Caulker-Lazy-Lizard.jpg - The Lazy Lizard on Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-Lamanai.jpg - The Mayan ruins of Lamanai, Belize.
  • Belize-Lamanai-boat-trip.jpg - A boat trip to Lamanai, Belize.
  • Belize-Laughing-Bird-Caye-crab.jpg - A crab on Laughing Bird Caye, Belize.
  • Belize-deep-sea-catch.jpg - Deep-sea catch off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-Xumantunich-Maya.jpg - Xunantunich is an Ancient Maya archaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles west of Belize City, in the Cayo District.
  • Belize-ziplining.jpg - Ziplining in Belize.
  • Belize-sea-turtle.jpg - A sea turtle off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-Placencia.jpg - Placencia, Belize.
  • Belize-Cayo-Rio-on-Pools.jpg - Rio on Pools near Cayo, Belize.
  • Belize-San-Pedro-lunch.jpg - Lunch in San Pedro, Belize.
  • Belize-Shark-Alley.jpg - Snorkeling in Shark Alley, San Pedro, Belize.
  • Belize-Ray-Alley.jpg - Ray Alley near San Pedro, Belize.
  • Belize-nurse-sharks.jpg - Nurse sharks in Shark Alley, Belize.
  • Belize-Ambergris-Caye-Victoria-House.jpg - The beach at Victoria House on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
  • Belize-jaguar.jpg - Of the five native species of wildcats found in Belize's rainforest, it's the magnificent jaguar that visitors to Belize most want to see.
  • Belize-waterfall.jpg - A refreshing waterfall in Belize.
  • Belize-waterfowl.jpg - Birdwatching in Belize.
  • girl-in-Belize.jpg - A young girl in Belize.
  • Hobie-craft-in-Belize.jpg - Set sail in Belize.
  • monkey-in-Belize.jpg - The Black Howler Monkey of Belize.
  • snorkeling-in-Belize.jpg - Belize offers some of the clearest waters in the world for snorkelers.
  • belize-turneffe-reef.jpg - A giant barrel sponge in Turneffe Atoll in Belize.
  • Zipliner-in-Harvest-Caye.jpg - A zipliner zips across the beach and surf at Harvest Caye, Norwegian's private island in Belize.
  • beach-accessible-wheelchair.jpg - Using a beach-accessible wheelchair at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-at-all-aboard.jpg - View of Harvest Caye in Belize from Norwegian Jade at sunset.
  • harvest-caye-checkers-and-chess.jpg - Guests can play on oversize checkers and chessboards at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-entrance.jpg - The entrance to Harvest Caye, Norwegian's private island in southern Belize.
  • harvest-caye-flighthouse-2.jpg - Go ziplining across the water from the Flighthouse at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-land-shark-bar.jpg - Closeup of the Land Shark Bar at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-lighthouse-and-beach.jpg - Go ziplining across the beach and water from the Flighthouse at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-parasail.jpg - A parasailer skies above crystal waters at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-pedal-boat.jpg - A couple takes out a pedal-powered boat at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-pool.jpg - The expansive pool at Harvest Caye in Belize includes a great swim-up bar.
  • harvest-caye-water-park.jpg - The water park at Harvest Caye, a pristine 75-acre playground in southern Belize.
  • harvest-caye-zipliner-2.jpg - A zipliner takes off from the Flighthouse at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • harvest-caye-zipliner.jpg - A zipliner enjoys a trip across the inlet at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • landshark-pool-bar.jpg - The popular Land Shark Bar at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • mermaid-snorkeler.jpg - A mermaid snorkeler at Harvest Caye, Norwegian's private island in Belize.
  • norwegian-jade-at-harvest-caye.jpg - Norwegian Jade seen in the distance at the 75-acre oasis Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • norwegian-jade-harvest-caye.jpg - Norwegian Jade docked at Harvest Caye in Belize.
  • tree-root-Belize-rainforest - A tree in the Belize rainforest.
  • Belize-island.jpg - A small isle off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-scuba.jpg - Scuba diving off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-Great-Barrier.jpg - Fish in the Great Belize Barrier Reef.
  • Belize-spider-monkey.jpg - A spider monkey in the rainforest of Belize.
  • Belize-Zoo-jaguar2.jpg - A jaguar in the Belize Zoo.
  • Belize-Big-Rock-Falls.jpg - Big Rock Falls near in Mountain Pine Ridge about 50 miles from Belize City.
  • Belize-birds-beach.jpg - Beachcombing birds on a Belize beach.
  • Belize-Caye-Caulker-people.jpg - Residents of Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize.
  • Belize-Caye-Caulker-people2.jpg - Local residents of Caye Caulker Village, Belize.
  • Belize-Caye-Caulker-dining.jpg - Waterside dining in Caye Caulker Village, Belize.
  • Belize-drum-beach.jpg - Drum playing on a beach in Belize.
  • Belize-Orange-Walk-dancers.jpg - Dancers in Orange Walk Town, Belize.
  • Belize-drum-lessons.jpg - Drumming lessons on Caye Caulker, Belize.
  • goffs-caye-belize - Goff's Caye, a small island off the shore of Belize City, Belize.
  • aracari-belize - A Collared Aracari, a type of toucan, at Chaa Creek near San Ignacio, Belize.
  • belize-city-belize - Local boats in Belize City, Belize.
  • belize-city-canal-belize - The Belize City canal in Belize.
  • hardluck-charlie-belize - Hardluck Charlie's in the late afternoon in Belize.
  • howler-monkey-belize - A howler monkey in Belize.
  • laughing-bird-caye-belize - The island of Laughing Bird Caye National Park in Belize, on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • maya-ruins-belize - Mayan ruins at Xunantunich, about 80 miles west of Belize City. This site features a 130-foot-tall pyramid.
  • pine-ridge-creek-belize - Pine Ridge Creek, Belize.
  • rush-hour-belize - Rush hour in Belize.
  • snorkel-nurse-shark-belize - Snorkeling with nurse sharks, Belize.

Belize: Spectacular diving, wildlife scenery & total relaxation

our guide

The vibe

Though best known as a world-class snorkeling and diving location, Belize also offers spectacular natural attractions and the authenticity of a genuine Caribbean getaway. Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Belize is one of the few remaining unspoiled places on earth.

Off shore, Belize offers the longest barrier reef in this hemisphere, home to the Great Blue Hole, as well as hundreds of islands, and snorkel and dive locations. On land, Belize has hundreds of ancient Maya sites — both excavated and jungle-covered — as well as lush tropical rainforests with many species of birds, and exotic tropical flora and fauna.

If you’re looking for an adventurous vacation, Belize has it all, from soft to extreme play, from an adrenaline-charged experience zip-lining though jungle canopies, to exploring a mysterious cave or Mayan ruins, to lazily canoeing down a peaceful jungle river observing nature. Marine adventures are suited for all ages and activity levels, including scuba diving, snorkeling, wind or kite surfing, para-sailing or cruising on a catamaran. The breathtaking colors of Belize’s waters are an invitation to immerse yourself in nature for a safe and enjoyable adventure.

Located on the border between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America after El Salvador. As more than half of the mainland is covered with dense forests, Belize is known for offering many different options that tourists can experience in the same day. 

Belize City, with its wooden and brick buildings, exudes colonial charm, but is considered to be dangerous for tourists to navigate on their own, especially after dark. For cruise passengers, Belize City is primarily a jumping off point for tours and excursions to its many natural and historical attractions.

Cruise ships that call on Belize

  • Crystal Cruises: Crystal Serenity, Crystal Symphony
  • Princess Cruises: Emerald Princess, Caribbean Princess
  • Royal Caribbean: Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Vision of the Seas
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Pearl
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Deliziosa, Costa Luminosa
  • Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, Carnival Pride, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Valor, Carnival Vista

Top reasons to go

  • Altun Ha is the name given ruins of an ancient Maya city in Belize, located in the Belize District about 30 miles (50 km) north of Belize City.
  • Ambergris Caye is the largest of several hundred islands in the northernmost waters of Belize, Central America. This simple island is a top destination in Belize for tourists worldwide, and its lack of high-rise hotels or big city public transportation gives the island a relaxed, laid-back feel.
  • Old Belize is a landmark attraction, offering a total Belize experience for locals and tourists.
Ziplines in Belize and other adventures await when you cruise the Caribbean on Norwegian Cruise Line ship.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineZiplines in Belize and other adventures await when you cruise the Caribbean on Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

Relaxed culture & friendly people

Belize’s history from ancient Maya to recent events are presented in museums, galleries, visitor centers and street-side stalls, offering insight into the friendly Belizeans you will meet. And while you may not find the sophisticated nightlife of other vacation destinations, Belize’s varied cultures, love of music and many holidays and celebrations give ample opportunity to relax your inhibitions and be one with the people of Belize.

The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Ladyville, about 10 miles from Belize City, serves American, Continental, Delta and US Airways, and is a two-hour flight from Miami, Houston and New Orleans. The best way to get from the airport is by taxi; although an airport bus service exists, it is infrequent and unreliable. Once in Belize City, arrangements can be made for a car rental or other transportation options. Belize City Airport also offers regional service to other cities in the country, as well as Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.

Best bets for dining

Belize is known for its simple yet flavorful cuisine. Most meals include rice and beans (usually red beans, not the black beans which are more common elsewhere in Latin America) and peppers — the hotter, the better. If a dish is not hot enough for you, a bottle of the ubiquitous Marie Sharps is likely to be on your table to spice things up. The menus also include fresh seafood and chicken, and fresh fruits and vegetables from local markets.

One of the newer notable restaurants is El Fogon, in San Pedro, which features a menu dedicated to the home-style cooking of Belizean Creole and mestizo food, all prepared in an open-fire hearth. For breakfast, try Cindy’s Café on Caye Caulker, where you can browse the collection of books while enjoying bagels with jam or creamy cheese, yogurt with fresh tropical fruit and granola, a gorgeous chocolate brownie and a wide selection of coffee or tea. For more upscale dining, the Blue Lotus in San Pedro offers a mouthwatering blend of Caribbean cuisines, including chicken tikka masala and Bombay saffron shrimp curry, in an elegant beachfront setting.

Best time to go

Goff's Caye, a small island off the shore of Belize City.
Graeme Douglas / Creative Commons BYGoff's Caye, a small island off the shore of Belize City.

Belize has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons, although there are significant variations in weather patterns by region. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean. Average temperatures in the coastal regions range from 75 degrees in January to 81 degrees in July. Temperatures are slightly higher inland, except for the southern highland plateaus, such as the Mountain Pine Ridge, where it is noticeably cooler year round. Overall, the seasons are marked more by differences in humidity and rainfall than in temperature.

Average rainfall varies considerably, ranging from 53 inches in the north and west to over 177 inches in the extreme south. The dry season is shorter in the south, normally only lasting from February to April. A shorter, less rainy period, known locally as the "little dry," usually occurs in late July or August, after the initial onset of the rainy season.

The busier time of the year for travelers to Belize is November to May, which are the winter months of the Northern Hemisphere. Still, many visitors prefer the more quiet days of the summer months from June to October for their vacation in Belize. Both times of the year have their own unique attractions and the choice of when to visit is totally up to you, your budget and the adventure you crave.

Fun facts

  • Don’t buy items that are made from sea turtle shells, black coral or Triton’s trumpet shells as they are prohibited.
  • Belize has the highest concentration of Mayan sites of all the countries in Central America.
  • Formerly the colony of British Honduras, Belize is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean (only the Caribbean Sea to its east).
  • The national beer of Belize, Belikin, is inexpensive and very good.
  • The name for the islands, caye, is pronounced "key."

When you arrive

Docking information

All cruise ships tender at Belize City, with the boat ride into town taking about 20 to 30 minutes each way.

Getting around

Taxis are often available at Market Square and Swing Bridge in Belize City, and are easily identifiable by green plates indicating their status as an official taxi. While there are official rates of $2.50 between any two places for one person, and $0.50 for each additional person, it is best to confirm the fare before you get into the taxi as they do not have any meters. Due to the road conditions, you’ll find it easiest to catch a bus on the Phillip Goldson (Northern) and George Price (Western) highways. To catch a bus, hail it on the side of the road and tell the driver where you’d like to go.

There are also water taxis and ferries that depart from the Marine Terminal to the outlying cayes, including the larger resort cayes such as Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. A trip from Belize City to San Pedro, the largest town on Ambergris Caye, takes around 80 minutes and should cost about $17.50 per person. A trip from Belize City to Caye Caulker will cost about $12 per person.

Free wi-fi

  • Click & Sip, located in the Belize Tourism Village, charges may apply. On Caye Caulker, many cafes and bars offer free wi-fi.

Need to know

General store opening hours: You can expect to find most stores in Belize to be open between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm, with many closing during the lunch hour and on Sundays. 

Safety advice: Belize City has many seedy neighborhoods and travelers are advised to be careful, especially after dark. Don’t carry valuables or flash your cash around. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t leave tourist areas. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date and get a prescription for malaria prevention before you go.

ShoreFox contributed to this guide.

Your take

Have you been to Belize? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? Please share in the comments below.

See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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The Cruiseable editorial team consists of award-winning travel writers, cruise bloggers and journalists.

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Overheard

“The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is one of the largest in the world, stretching from Cancun in Mexico all the way down to Honduras. One of its most impressive features is The Great Blue Hole, which lies off the coast of Belize, 60 miles from Belize City in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll.”

Porthole magazine

“I can't sit on the beach all day, so we booked lots of excursions. Blancaneaux's concierge set us up with a trip to Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, know for its crazy network of caves. While in Placencia, Mama Noots Bocawina arranged a 2,300 foot zip line through Mayflower Bocawina National Forest. I'm not that into birds, but it's pretty cool watching toucans fly past you!”

AFAR magazine

 “I immediately headed for Ambergris Caye, an island in the Caribbean that is home to the second-largest coral reef in the world. Here I found the bliss promised by postcards: the sea was a color normally seen in sports energy drinks. I spent the day on the beach, where hammocks cradling tourists cradling piña coladas were strung next to thatched-roof palapas.”

AFAR magazine

“Dive sites where I can look a nurse shark in the eye are a quick boat ride away in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserver, and a nice-looking fish looks back at me from my plate each night.”

Islands magazine

“South Water Caye Marine Reserve: This tiny island is off the beaten path, even for Belize — and you'll be rewarded with incredible diving. ”

Travel + Leisure

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