Receiving over 500,000 tourists last year in 2023, Belize is a growing popular destination in Central America that is known for its stunning barrier reef, ancient Maya ruins, and extensive cave systems.
Having spent an adventurous week in Belize, I share must-know travel tips that are especially useful for first-time visitors.
Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!
1. Best Places To Visit in Belize
Belize is a small country with amazing places to visit ranging from clear snorkeling sites and jungle adventures to deep complex cave systems and Maya ruins.
Below are Belize’s most popular destinations and the top things to see and do in each location.
Best Islands in Belize
Belize’s islands are known for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, an endless number of water-based activities, and abundant marine life.
📍 Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye, located in the Caribbean Sea, is Belize’s most popular island. Its downtown area of San Pedro is lively and filled with shops, local restaurants, and live music.
From Ambergris Caye, visitors can visit some of the top ocean attractions in the area, including:
- Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second largest one after the Great Barrier Reef
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which has a unique marine environment
- Great Blue Hole, a world-famous marine sinkhole
- Secret Beach, a tranquil beach located on the west side of the island
To visit any of the attractions above, you need to book a licensed guide or tour to take you. Not only do you need transportation, but you’ll also be in protected areas.
📍 Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is Belize’s second most popular island. It has a more relaxed and backpacker atmosphere than Ambergris Caye.
All the attractions mentioned for Ambergris Caye (e.g., Belize Barrier Reef, Great Blue Hole) are also accessible from Caye Caulker.
🍀 My Take on Belize’s Islands
I spent four days in Ambergris Caye doing an itinerary similar to this one. I particularly enjoyed snorkeling with nurse sharks as it was my first time being so close to them.
While four days was a sufficient amount of time for me, anyone who loves water activities can easily stay on one of Belize’s islands for a week or longer.
Best Mainland Area in Belize
There’s only one mainland area in Belize that is the go-to place, especially if this is your first time visiting.
📍 San Ignacio
The town of San Ignacio in the Cayo district is Belize’s most popular mainland stop. Due to its location, it’s a great place to access some of Belize’s best attractions:
- Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (the ATM Cave) is one of the world’s top sacred caves that leads visitors to Maya sacrificial remains. A licensed guide is required, so I did this ATM Cave tour.
- Xunantunich is a Maya ruin with one of the tallest structures in Belize. If you climb to the top of Xunantunich, you can see the Guatemalan border.
See how to horseback ride to Xunantunich.
- Caracol is a Maya archaeological site that features massive pyramids in lush rainforests and offers panoramic views. This well-rated Caracol tour also takes you to a pool and cave.
San Ignacio also has a smaller Maya ruin, called Cahal Pech, inside the town. It’s not as grand as other ruins, but it’s accessible and fun to explore.
- Belize Zoo is closest to the Belize City airport, but most visitors visit it as a day trip from the Cayo district. The zoo houses animals that are hard to find elsewhere (e.g., tapirs and pumas).
🍀 My Take on San Ignacio
I spent three days in San Ignacio doing some of its top attractions. The ATM cave tour is one of my favorite adventures ever and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to hike, swim, and go spelunking.
Best Beach Areas in Belize
The best beaches in Belize are found on the coasts instead of on the islands.
Placencia is on Belize’s east coast and is known for its soft white sand and clear blue water. It’s a popular place to snorkel, scuba dive, and relax at the beach.
A short drive away is Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, a tropical rainforest that became the world’s first jaguar reserve and one of Belize’s 17 national parks.
Hopkins is north of Placencia and it’s not as well-known, but also boasts beautiful sandy beaches. It has a more local atmosphere, making it an ideal place to experience Belize’s culture more intimately.
🍀 My Take on Belize’s Beach Areas
Based on my research and what my friends say, Placencia is the go-to place in Belize for a beach vacation.
I only had one week in Belize and prioritized visiting Ambergris Caye and San Ignacio over Placencia as the latter is further away from the main international airport.
2. Speaking English in Belize
Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, making it a popular destination for travelers from the United States, Canada, and some European countries.
Belize was formally called British Honduras when it was a British colony. However, Belize was originally inhabited by indigenous Maya people, so almost half of the local population also speaks Belizean Creole.
🍀 Traveling Belize With Just English
As an American, I had no trouble navigating or communicating in Belize.
I met several English-speaking expats, digital nomads, and retired people who chose to travel to Belize partially because of the language accessibility.
3. Entry Requirements for Belize
The entry requirement for Belize is straightforward for US citizens.
🛃 Belize’s Visa Requirements
A tourist visa is not required for United States citizens visiting Belize for up to 30 days.
💰 Belize’s Entry and Exit Fees
Belize doesn’t have an entry fee, but it has a $55.50 airport departure or exit fee for tourists flying out of the country. This amount is usually already included in your airline ticket under “taxes and fees”.
If the exit fee is not included in your flight ticket, you must pay it in cash at the Belize airport.
My Belize exit fee was included in my United Airlines ticket. Here’s a screenshot of my ticket’s taxes and fees section:
4. When To Visit Belize
Belize is a tropical destination with warm temperatures year-round.
☀️ Best Time To Visit Belize
The best and most popular time to visit Belize is during the dry season, which runs from December to May.
The dry season still has bursts of rain, but the rain is typically not enough to cancel or impact travel plans.
🌧️ Belize’s Seasons
Belize has two main seasons. Here’s a quick overview of them:
Here are some things to keep in mind about the seasons and climate in Belize:
- The dry season coincides with the country’s high season. Belize receives most of its tourists in March.
- During the low season, some tours and services are limited or can get canceled due to rain. At the same time, you don’t need to worry about popular tours being booked out and you will get better deals on tours and accommodations.
- During the wet season, the rain pattern varies by area and by each month.
- Hurricane season in Belize is at the same time as the rainy season, from June to October.
Learn what it’s like to travel to Belize in the rainy season.
🍀 My Experience With Belize’s Weather
I went to Belize in July during the rainy season and experienced intermittent rain, but the weather was mostly warm and sunny.
I got to wear mostly summer clothes with the occasional rain jacket.
5. How Long To Spend in Belize
Belize is a small country where visitors typically spend seven to ten days traveling.
🗓️ How Many Days Do You Need in Belize?
First-time visitors should spend at least a week in Belize to experience both jungle and ocean experiences for a more complete trip.
- With three to five days in Belize, you can visit only one area, likely either Ambergris Caye or San Ignacio.
Transportation times between different areas can take several hours, so it’s not worth moving around too much unless you have a week in Belize.
- With one week in Belize, you’ll have enough time to visit more than one area and experience a more complete trip.
See how to plan a one-week trip to Belize.
- With a week or more in Belize, you can visit more unique and off-the-beaten-path places like Hopkins.
🍀 How Long I Stayed in Belize
I visited Belize for one week. A week was a sufficient amount of time for me to enjoy a lot of the best things Belize is known for, including snorkeling, spelunking, visiting local markets, and visiting Maya ruins.
6. Budgeting and Cash in Belize
Belize is an expensive tourist destination for Central America.
💰 Expected Budget in Belize
Here’s approximately how much you can expect to spend when visiting Belize:
|Budget per Day
|Mid-Range Budget Travelers
Belize is the second most expensive country to visit in Central America, only behind Costa Rica. Part of the reason is that Belize imports almost everything, so prices are higher.
🏧 Do You Need Cash In Belize?
Credit cards are widely accepted in Belize, but cash is sometimes needed for tipping tour guides, eating at local markets, and making certain large purchases.
ATMs are widely available in tourist areas of Belize.
💵 Are US Dollars Accepted in Belize?
The local currency is the Belize dollar (BZD) and there’s no need to exchange US dollars. The US dollar is widely accepted, but you’ll often receive change in Belize dollars.
Belize is one of the few countries in the world that has pegged its currency to the US dollar at a constant exchange rate. The Belize dollar has had a 2:1 exchange ratio with the USD since 1978, so you don’t have to worry about getting a bad exchange rate when paying with USD.
🍀 My Belize Trip’s Budget
I break down all my travel expenses in this Belize budget breakdown. As an American, I didn’t find the prices in Belize unreasonable, but I was sometimes surprised by them compared to other nearby destinations.
Also, everyone l interacted with (e.g., street vendors, local guides, souvenir shop owners, waiters) used a $1 USD to $2 BZD exchange rate. My hotel was more than willing to exchange my Belize dollars for USD at the end of my trip.
7. How To Stay Safe in Belize
Here are safety tips to keep in mind when traveling to Belize.
⚠️ Is Belize Safe to Visit?
Like many countries in Central and South America, Belize is safe to visit in tourist areas, but it’s important to exercise some precautions and avoid places with high crimes.
Belize City, where the international airport is located, is not a recommended place to stay or visit by the US Department of State as it has a relatively high violent crime and robbery rate.
The most common crimes against tourists in Belize are petty theft such as pickpocketing. Violence against tourists is rare.
💵 Common Scams in Belize
Here are common scams to watch out for in Peru:
- Some vendors in tourist areas will overcharge tourists. This is especially easy to do since the $ sign can be applied to both BZD and USD, so make sure you’re paying in the intended currency.
- The distraction scam entails the scammer distracting a tourist (e.g., by spilling coffee on you) while pickpocketing them, so make sure to stay vigilant if this happens to you.
- The fake tour guide scam involves the scammer pretending to be a legitimate tour guide or tour operator when they’re not authorized or licensed to do so. Make sure to book tours with legitimate platforms like Viator.
💧 Is Tap Water Safe To Drink in Belize?
Belize’s tap water is safe to drink in some areas, but not all. Most hotels, restaurants, and tours will provide filtered or bottled water.
I brought my reusable water bottle, which I refilled at restaurants and my hotel with no issues.
🦟 Does Belize Have Mosquitoes?
Belize has a tropical climate, so mosquitoes are prevalent year-round, but are less common during the dry season. The country has disease-carrying mosquitos, so protect yourself as best as you can.
🍀 My Safety Tips for Belize
I didn’t have any issues with theft, scams, or violence in Belize. Based on my experience, I recommend these safety tips:
- It’s a good idea to pack insect repellent. I tend to get bitten and I find that the lotion works better than the spray alternative (per the CDC: “DEET offers the best protection against mosquito bites.”).
- If you’re traveling with just women, beware of cat-calling. My female friend and I were never approached or touched, but we experienced cat-calling almost every time we walked around. Other online forums seem to agree that cat-calling is common.
8. How To Get Around in Belize
You can easily travel around Belize without needing to rent a car.
✈️ Flying Into Belize
Belize has one international airport, Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE), in Belize City.
Getting To Belize’s Islands
From Belize’s international airport, you can get to the islands, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, by taking a water taxi or a short flight with a domestic airline.
🛥️ Option 1: Water Taxi
Water taxis are the most common way to get to Belize’s islands. This is a good option unless you get motion sickness like me.
Ambergris Caye is about a 90-minute boat ride and costs $30 USD per person from the airport. Caye Caulker is near Ambergris Caye.
🛩️ Option 2: Local Airline
The best way to get to the islands is by booking a domestic flight. There are two local airlines in Belize, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. They will transport you to the islands in small planes that carry about eight passengers.
The flight from the airport to Ambergris Caye takes about 20 minutes and costs over $100 USD per person, so it’s not a great budget option.
Belize’s local, small airlines operate on a schedule, so check their flight schedules in advance.
Getting Around Belize’s Islands
Once you get to one of Belize’s islands, you can get around by walking or renting a golf cart.
👟 Option 1: Walking
Both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are compact enough that their main areas can be explored on foot.
🚙 Option 2: Golf Cart Rental
There are generally no cars on Belize’s islands, so locals and tourists drive around in golf carts. If you want to explore areas outside of Ambergris Caye’s downtown area, San Pedro, you’ll need to rent a golf cart.
Getting To Belize’s Mainland Areas
From the Belize City airport, you can get to San Ignacio or Placencia by car, shuttle, bus, or flight.
🚐 Option 1: Shuttle
Booking a shuttle is one of the best ways to get to different areas in Belize. Several companies offer shared and private shuttles with budget and convenience tradeoffs.
🚌 Option 2: Local Bus
Belize’s only public transportation is the local buses and this is the most cost-efficient way to get around Belize.
✈️ Option 3: Local Airline
Both San Ignacio and Placencia have a small airport so you can take a local airline to them. This will save you significant travel time, but will cost you over $100 USD per flight.
🚗 Option 4: Car Rental
To rent a car in Belize, you don’t need an IDP (International Driver’s Permit) as your United States license is sufficient.
Getting Around Belize’s Mainland Areas
While in San Ignacio, you can get around by walking, calling taxis, relying on tour transportation, or renting a car. Placencia is similar, except that it’s easier to travel by foot and you can also rent a bike.
👟 Option 1: Walking
The downtown area of San Ignacio is small and walkable, so you can walk almost everywhere within the town center.
Placencia is similar and even more pedestrian-friendly.
🚕 Option 2: Taxi
Taxis in Belize look like ordinary cars, but have a green license plate. They are available in both San Ignacio and Placencia.
Belize does not have ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft.
🚐 Option 3: Tour Transportation
Almost all tour packages in Belize will include transportation to and from your hotel and the tour’s destination.
Unless you booked a private tour, you’ll likely be sharing a van with four to a dozen other visitors.
9. Essential Things To Pack for Belize
No matter where you go in Belize, here are the essential things to pack and bring with you:
- Insect repellent. Belize has a tropical climate and disease-carrying mosquitos. I tend to get bitten and I find that this insect repellent lotion works better than the spray alternative.
- Sunscreen. Belize receives a lot of sun and is a country with warm temperatures. Make sure to bring reef-safe sunscreen if you plan to go into the ocean, especially if you’re visiting the Belize Barrier Reef.
- Outlet adapter, if you’re not from the United States. Belize has the same outlet type as the United States (type A, which has two flat parallel pins).
- Reusable water bottle. Belize’s tap water is safe to drink in some areas, but not all. I brought my reusable, insulated water bottle, which kept my water cold for hours.
- Bathing suit. Belize has a lot of water activities and even if you’re in mainland San Ignacio, you’ll need a bathing suit for the popular ATM Cave tour.
This Belize rainy season guide has a complete packing list.
10. Food and Animals in Belize
When traveling to Belize, don’t miss out on local dishes to try and unique animals to try to see.
🥘 Belizean Food
Belize is a melting pot and its local dishes reflect a fusion of different cultures. Local dishes to try include:
- Fry jacks (fluffy, deep-fried dough)
- Belizean breakfast (includes eggs and sausages)
- Fish ceviche (very fresh on the islands)
- Jerk chicken
Belize also has fresh, delicious fruits that you can buy at the side of the road. Some fruits to try include soursop (one of my favorites), mango, papaya, pineapple and dragon fruit.
🙊 Animals in Belize
Belize also has a lot of wildlife. Even if you don’t do a guided tour to specifically see these various animals, you will see them if you keep your eyes open.
While visiting Mayan ruins, hiking through rainforests, or snorkeling, you might see howler monkeys, coatis, dolphins, nurse sharks, and sea turtles.
11. Belize Itinerary Tips
When creating your Belize itinerary, keep these tips in mind:
- You’ll likely want to spend at least three to four days in each town or city in Belize.
While towns like San Ignacio are small, they’re also the gateway for other day trips.
- Belize has different regions with distinct activities and atmospheres. A well-rounded trip covers both jungle and water experiences.
- Unless you plan to take domestic flights, do not underestimate the many hours you have to budget to get from one region to another in Belize.
- It’s not necessary to hire a tour operator to plan your entire trip. But remember that many activities and attractions in Belize will require tour operators or entrance tickets, so book those in advance during the high season.
Belize Trip Planner
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.
The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Belize Travel Guides
- 🇧🇿 Belize Travel Tips: 10 Practical Things To Know
- 🐠 One Week in Belize: Itinerary + 12 Great Things To Do
- 💰 Trip to Belize Cost: 2024 Budget Breakdown
- 💀 ATM Cave Belize: What To Wear + Things To Know
- 🐎 Horseback Riding to Xunantunich: An Honest Review
- 🌧️ Visiting Belize in Its Rainy Season: What To Know & Pack
Lists by Lukiih is Readers-Supported
If you find my travel tips helpful, say thanks with a bubble tea🧋!