10 Great Ways to Explore Beautiful Belize

Once a hidden gem, Belize is becoming one of the hottest destinations in the Caribbean.

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Photo By: Belize Tourism Board

Photo By: Belize Tourism Board

Photo By: Barry Guimbellot/Belize Tourism Board

Photo By: Belize Tourism Board

Photo By: Belize Tourism Board

Photo By: Alaia

Photo By: Banyon Bay Suites

Photo By: Belize Tourism Board

Photo By: John Haynes/San Pedro Tourism Board

Photo By: Belize Tourism Board

Laughing Bird Caye

Tourism is booming in Belize, thanks to this central American country's crystal-clear waters, fascinating Mayan ruins, Caribbean cuisine and exotic wildlife. You can dive or snorkel, hike a jungle trail, go cave tubing, sail between more than 100 islands or just lounge on a sunny beach. Laughing Bird Caye, on the Placencia peninsula, is a stunning island and home to a national park filled with coconut trees, bright purple morning glories, ghost crabs, herons and yes, laughing gulls.

Blue Hole

Belize's Blue Hole is one of the world's top 10 dive destinations. This giant sinkhole is some 43 miles from the mainland, so you'll need a boat to get there. Sharks, colorful fish and other marine creatures inhabit its 400-foot-deep waters. Sir Richard Branson and Fabien Cousteau are teaming up with Aquatica Submarines this year for a historic research dive to the bottom of the Hole; their project is expected to begin in December.

Belize Barrier Reef

The many shades of blue in the Barrier Reef waters are spectacular. It's home to whale and nurse sharks, corals, rays, turtles and many species of tropical fish. Go diving in October or November, which is mating season for thousands of groupers, or in low season, August to October, when prices drop and crowds thin out. High season runs April to June, but Belize's warm waters and subtropical weather make diving possible almost anytime.

Cacao Festival

Cacao beans are native to Belize, and the southern district of Toledo has some of the best for making high-quality chocolate. Sample the chocolate at Toledo's yearly cacao festival, held in May, or take a farm tour to see how cacao goes from beans to (chocolate) bars.

Mayan Ruins

Step back in time at the Mayan ruins in Belize, where a vanished civilization built incredible stone temples, palaces and pyramids. Make a day trip from Ambergris Caye to Caracol, in western Belize, to see the 140-foot-high "Sky Palace," the tallest manmade structure in the country. Other great choices for archeological sight-seeing: Lamanai, Xunantunich, Altun Ha and Santa Rita.

Alaia Belize

New resorts with modern amenities are popping up in Belize, and many give their guests an authentic "Belizean" experience. Alaia, shown here, opens in 2020 with a rooftop suspended pool and lounge, the first in the country. Itz'ana Resort and Residences, a Hemingway-inspired property, recently opened in Placencia. Another luxury resort is coming in late 2018 or early 2019; located on Blackadore Caye, it will focus on health, wellness and sustainability.

Pier 366 Seafood House

French chef Laurent Girard heads up the just-updated Pier 366 Seafood House, one of the best restaurants on Ambergris Caye. Look for it on the beachfront at Banyan Bay Suites, a luxury resort with fully furnished two- and three-bedroom villas. After you sip a cocktail and watch the sun go down at the beach bar, dine on fresh grouper, red snapper, conch, lobster, octopus or other catch of the day.

Belize Zoo

More than half of Belize is covered by rainforest, where crocodiles and ocelots prowl, monkeys howl and hundreds of species of birds soar overhead. Book a tour with expert guides to learn about the wildlife and native plants, or stroll through the Belize Zoo to encounter animals like this black jaguar. Before you leave, snap a selfie with a toucan or feed the tapirs.

San Pedro

Explore the charming town of San Pedro while you're on Ambergris Caye. Rent a golf cart or bike, or walk around and stop in the local shops and eateries. This is the place Madonna sang about in "La Isla Bonita," a destination where tropical breezes blow and visitors need little more than sunscreen, bathing suits and flip-flops. San Pedro also makes a great base for fishing, diving, snorkeling or sailing.

Harvest Caye

In late 2017, a multi-million-dollar pier opened on Harvest Caye. Located in southern Belize, Harvest Caye is a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. Passengers coming off cruise ships or other large vessels can arrange all kinds of exciting tours and excursions here, from cave tubing trips to zip line adventures. Want more? Ask about snorkeling with turtles or swimming with nurse sharks.

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