Belize: the Maya Mountains & Ambergris Caye

Belize is unique among Central American nations; it is English-speaking, small (about the size of New Jersey) and un-crowded. It is also one of the world’s newest nations, independent since 1981.

Belize is famous for its warm waters, lush jungles, and laid-back style. The country is also known for its conservation efforts; after independence, the new government set aside 40 percent of the territory as protected land. Protection of pristine forest and marine habitats has continued with the establishment of many additional public and private reserves.

Known as British Honduras beginning in 1862, this territory had been an outpost for pirates and loggers since the early 17th century. Prior to European settlement, the Maya occupied this land for more than 3,000 years. Over the centuries, they erected dozens of cities around elaborate temples and plazas. Belize’s size—just 180 miles from north to south and 68 miles east to west—allows travelers to mix active adventure with relaxation. Visits to tropical forest and mountain lodges can be conveniently paired with downtime at luxurious island and beach hotels.

The Maya city of Xunantunich

The Maya city of Xunantunich

Belize can also be combined with extensions to other parts of the Maya World, such as Guatemala and Honduras. Flights to Belize from the USA usually connect in Houston (2.5 hours), Miami (two hours), Dallas (three hours), or San Salvador (60 minutes).

The best time to visit is from December to May. Rainy season extends from June to November, with hurricane potential from July to mid-November. Temperatures are fairly constant year-round, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the 70s. March can be windy on the coast.

When we visited with our family, we crossed the border from the Peten region of Guatemala for four nights in the Maya Mountains near the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. This area is fantastic for kids; think toucans, caves, river tubing, pristine forests, and Maya sites.

Morning at Pook's Hill Lodge, Cayo District

Morning at Pook’s Hill Lodge, Cayo District

We then flew to the island of Ambergris Caye for four nights. There we snorkeled, swam with sharks and stingrays, sampled key lime and coconut ice cream, rented a super fast golf cart, and spent a lot of time at the pool. We’d been to Belize before, but it was much more fun with the whole family!

Snorkeling trip to Mexico Rocks, Ambergris Caye

Snorkeling trip to Mexico Rocks, Ambergris Caye

Why We Love It

  • Wildlife
  • Maya sites
  • Cave tubing, forest hiking, zip-lining
  • Snorkeling with sharks and rays off Ambergris Cays (holding them in our arms and petting them like fat, slippery puppies)
  • Amazing water clarity and underwater fauna
  • Friendly people and good seafood

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