Belize? Yes Please!
If Belize isn't on your vacation radar yet, it's only a matter of time. Bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea, Belize is one of the smallest countries in Central America but packs a mighty punch when it comes to beaches, jungles, ancient ruins and food. Airline competition and direct flights have made the destination more convenient and affordable than ever for Canadians. Plus, there's an influx of new hotels and resorts. (In 2018, look out for the opening of Blackadore Caye, a luxury eco-resort created by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and his business partners.) Here's what you need to know to start planning your Belizean getaway.
Claims to fame
You've probably seen the wondrous Great Blue Hole in all its aquamarine and turquoise glory on Instagram. Measuring a whopping 318 metres across, this giant circular submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize is a haven for divers and snorkelers looking to make progress on their underwater bucket list in this part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cave tubing is also a popular way to explore fantastic cave and rainforest scenery. And those romantic photos of wooden bungalows hovering over glass-like blue water? That’s likely Belize.
But Belize is not just for water lovers. With hundreds of ancient ruins, it’s one of the best places in Central America to learn about Mayan culture. Lush jungles in the interior keep the hearts of hikers, daredevils and zip liners racing.
How to get there (and get around)
From fall through spring, Air Canada flies directly to Belize City from Toronto -- a trip of less than five hours -- while WestJet flies direct from Toronto and Calgary. Once you've landed, it's fairly easy to explore by car. A little less than a two-hour drive from Belize City will get you into the heart of this country and the town of San Ignacio, close to the Guatemalan border, where you’ll find the famed Xunantunich Mayan ruins.
Two hours south of Belize City, you’ll find the seaside tourist hot spot Hopkins Village. And a three-hour drive will place you in the sleepy coastal region of Placencia.
Insider tip: If you’re short on time, skip the scenic drives and hop on a short-haul flight on Belize’s Tropic Air. These three- to 14-seater planes will take you all over the country in 30-45 minutes. If the idea of small puddle jumpers doesn’t frighten you, you’ll find you have more time to see what Belize has to offer.
Best time to visit
Mid-November through April is dry season in Belize, which equals prime beach, snorkelling and diving conditions.
But if you’re not averse to the chance of rain, try out the shoulder season in October and May-June. You’ll find smaller crowds and better deals. Be wary of August and September, though -- that's hurricane season in the region.
After spending a few days hiking in the jungle, trekking up ruins and swimming with nurse sharks (because that’s all in a weekend of fun in Belize), kick up your feet and relax in Placencia, a quiet, relatively untouched town along the southern tip of the Placencia Peninsula.
The palm tree-lined beaches come with a welcome breeze and beach bars dot the coastline, so lazy mornings in the hammock can turn into happy hour piña coladas come afternoon. If you're looking for a little more adventure, try deep-sea fishing or paddle around in a kayak. And be sure to pay a visit to the howler monkeys at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you'll also find waterfalls and hiking trails.
Insider Tip: Consider chartering a boat or look at one of the scheduled trips to the outer cayes. They range in size from places like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker which are full-on destinations in and of themselves, to tiny little desolate islands.
Ready to go? Check out Travelzoo's hotel deals in Belize.