Belize City, Belize

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This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Belize City is the country’s commercial and cultural center, a lively town distinguished by fine examples of Victorian houses with gingerbread trim. One fine example is The Great House, a lovely colonial-style boutique hotel, a neighbor of the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina, the best luxury hotel choice. And close to both is Harbour View, perhaps the most creative and most expensive restaurant in town. The city shows off its heritage in the House of Culture, with displays of period decorative arts; St. John’s Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Central America; Government House; and the Supreme Court building.

But what pulls travelers to Belize every year lies beyond the capital is a magical trio of attractions—reefs drawing avid scuba fans, ruins appealing to the culture set, and rainforests calling all nature lovers and adventurers to sanctuaries of exotic flora and fauna. Popular day trips from the capital include the fabulous Belize Zoo, the Baboon Sanctuary at Bermudian Landing, and a boat trip through the marshes of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the jabiru stork, the hemisphere’s largest flying bird. The road to ruins leads to Belize’s grand inventory of Mayan sites. Altun Ha, with its dozens of temples, is the most accessible and can be combined with a slow boat ride up the New River to jungle-bound ruins of Lamanai. Belize’s Western Highway leads to the highlands and to San Ignacio, a good center from which to discover—on foot, horseback, mountain bike, canoe or kayak—the plunging waterfalls and spectacular caves of 300-sq.-mile Mountain Pine Ridge reserve, as well as the Maya site of Xunantunich. The island resorts of Ambergris Caye, a 15-minute flight away from Belize City, is the country’s leading scuba diving (and snorkeling) destination, understandable, of course, because the Barrier Reef—second largest in the world—lies just a half-mile offshore here.

Facts

  • Best time to go:
    The dry (and high) season, late-November through April
  • Fun fact:
    Belize speaks English, thanks to many years as a British Crown Colony
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta to Belize City
  • Entry documents:
    Valid passport
  • Currency:
    Belizean dollar
  • Must-try local food:
    Hudut, whole fish or fish stew, served in coconut milk broth, specialty of Garifuna people
  • Best buys:
    Paintings by local artists, jade jewelry, Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce
  • Information Please:
    Belize Tourist Board—travelbelize.org/belizenet.com