When you start looking up “Belize” for your travel itinerary, you’ll more than likely bear witness to a host of ads for cruises, all inclusive joints, and tours galore. If you prefer to be the captain of your own ship, though, you might be left dead in the water with what you should do or check out in Belize that doesn’t require a tour group. Luckily for the lot of you who prefer that, Belize is absolute heaven for adventurers.
We’re well known to be a wonderland for those daring enough to dive deep into the wilderness, check out some of our favorite adventurous things:
1 Wildlife in Cockscomb Basin
Cockscomb basin is, as you may have heard, recognized as the world’s very first jaguar preserve. That being so, they don’t just protect jaguars there, but the entire eco-system that makes an area habitable by them including the natural trees and bushes that the jaguars climb and their prey eat. Now, before you go running off to spot some jaguars (get it?) we should let you know that the chances of finding one of our freckled friends in the jungle are slim. However, you are very likely to see other wildlife such as a variety of birds, tapirs and maybe even monkeys that reside there, because let’s face it, it’s a lot less scary to be confronted by a few spider monkeys in the jungle than a jaguar. Cockscomb Basin is filled with other wonders that you can take in while you scan the environment for evidence of big cats, the extensive nature trails take you to fresh water ponds, waterfalls, and streams that make their way through the reserve. An added bonus to all the merriment on the trails and in the streams, Cockscomb is also the starting point for an ascent of Victoria peak, the second highest (only by a bit) summit in Belize. The hike up to Victoria peak is a days-long journey through dense jungle and up the mountainside that is reserved only for the bravest.
2 Mountain Pine Ridge
Belize is a tiny country, but in that tiny landmass lies a vast variety of landscapes from swamps and marshlands to mountains and valleys. Speaking of the latter, our Maya Mountain range is home to the Mountain Pine Ridge forest reserve. It is what it sounds like, a pine forest, on a mountain that is protected and sustainably logged. It’s not just trees, though, Pine ridge is home to a great many adventure resorts (we’ll talk about those later), rivers, waterfalls, caves, wildlife and even a Mayan archaeological site. Caracol ruins are set on one of the higher inclines on the range and is a literal mountain fortress, it was one of the largest sites in existence here and was a great rival, and often the victor over the famed city of Tikal. Belize’s 1000ft falls and big rock falls are also in the Pine ridge mountain range. 1000ft can be seen from an outlook in the crest of the valley it falls into and also provides a prime roost for bird watchers who want to get a proper lay of the land. Big Rock falls is an oasis within an oasis; the falls are dampened by rocks enough at the bottom to enable visitors to swim up (with some effort) under it and enjoy the calming white noise and fresh spray it gives off. Rio On pools and Pinol beach are local favorites for a Sunday swim, easy to access and the chilly spring waters are the right remedy for warm humid days that are prevalent in Belize. There are also a few hidden gems in the Pine ridge, but perhaps we should let you find them yourselves, what is an adventure after all if you know exactly what you’re walking into?
3 Limestone Caves
The ancient Maya who lived here believed in a physical underworld, a place of darkness that could be accessed via actual “gates” in our world. The limestone caverns that formed here were considered by them to be those gates. Xibalba as they called it literally translates as “place of fear” where the dark gods and demons lived. For centuries the inhabitants of this land would perform ceremonies at the mouth of and deep within cave formations believing that they were somewhere other than the mortal plane. Today in places like Aktun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave) and Barton Creek caves house evidence of human sacrifice, but don’t be alarmed – it wasn’t recent. There are many ways to experience these caves as well – yes, you get to explore them! You can cave tube through certain ones, giving you a relaxing break from the sunlight, you can canoe through Barton Creek Cave, that gives you a slightly more involved experience and enables you to stay dry and control where and how fast, or you could go all in and swim, climb and crawl through ATM. All in all, the limestone caves are each worth doing for their own draw, you just have to figure out which one is for you, if not all.
4 Great Blue Hole
Speaking of swimming and limestone, Belize’s Great Blue hole would have otherwise been just any other cenote were it not for the fact that its 140m deep and out in the Caribbean sea near our reef. If you like scuba diving this is a definite must do in Belize, even if you can’t scuba and just want to snorkel there it’s a worthwhile venture. Diving down into the recesses of this formation will require you to be a licensed diver, of course, so it’s definitely not for beginners in that sense. What will you see down there? A lot; you’ll witness the result of thousands of years of natural processes as well as a multitude of different life forms that live at the different depths of the cave. One of the coolest parts? You’ll get the sensation of diving in deep, open ocean without really having to, so there is little danger to you.
5 Uninhabited atolls
Have any of you watched Pirates of the Caribbean? Or Perhaps Black Sails? No – none of them have anything to do with Belize directly, what they do have, though, is uninhabited Caribbean islands that made us all wish we could push our dingy ashore and take a load off on a perfectly undisturbed beach away from the eyes and voices of others. The best part of this fantasy? It’s not as far-fetched as one would think it is. Many Atolls and small islands dot the inner Belizean waters Behind the reefs and many of these remains protected areas which also means that animals live there, we don’t. Day visits are possible to most of these small islands, and on one or two of them you can even set yourself up a tent and camp under the stars like you once would a few hundred years ago. We can’t promise you a pirate ship, but a hammock and sea breeze all to yourself? Definitely.
6 Adventurous Resorts
There are resorts in and around Belize that offer tours and excursions to all the local attractions, with great guides and perfectly tuned schedules. Does that make a resort adventurous? Not quite when you have contenders like Bocawina, The Lodge at Chaa Creek and Calico Jack’s (to name a few). So why if you stay there and embark on adventures from there is it not an ‘adventurous’ resort you’re probably wondering. Because you can’t wake up, walk out of your room and go Horseback riding then on a jungle tour, nor can you go rappelling down waterfalls on-site, nor fly through the air on over 2000 feet of zip-line. In Belize, you can find experiences within the overall experience that connect you even closer to where you are through not only adrenaline rides but adventurous takes on human interaction. Traveling, of course, is about the people in the place just as much as the place where the people are.
7 High Flying adventures
If you weren’t convinced yet, perhaps this mention will. Warning: Not for those who suffer vertigo or acrophobia, unless you’re scouting for something to help you get over those conditions. Starting from tame; you can get a bird’s eye view of any of Belize’s attractions by booking a fly-by tour via airplane or Helicopter. Our recommendation is definitely a Helicopter tour if you want to hover, take photos and truly feast your eyes from the air instead of just zipping past and on to the next one. Looking for something slightly more liberating? Try Parasailing off the coast of one of our many beaches, there’s no real flying involved and you’re already in a parachute, the only way down is slowly. If you’re a real thrill seeker, then how about skydiving? Yes – Skydive Belize now offers skydiving, into the Blue hole, or back on to land on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. At $299(usd) to jump per person what more motivation would you need?!
8 Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is a stretch of coral reef that’s about 180 miles in length, the largest reef formation on this side of the planet and the second in the world. Our reef has just recently celebrated 20 years of being a UNESCO world heritage site so named because of the pristine conditions it exhibits and the overall rarity of its existence. What is there to do here? It really depends on what part of “here” you are, generally snorkeling and scuba diving, swimming as well. Some spots behind the reef on shallowly submerged patches of sand fly fishing is a favorite and on the parts of the reef with atolls, bird watching is prime. If you’re a scientific adventurer who happens to be in the field of marine anything, our barrier reef is probably one of the most interesting seascapes you’ll get to see for a while!
BONUS! La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge
Surely if you’re into adventure then you’re familiar with insane challenge competitions like Ultimate Ninja Challenge and the Spartan Race, but we dare say we have a one-up to those shows. Cue in The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge – a grueling 4 day endurance time trial canoe race that spans the entirety of Belize’s longest river. La Ruta Maya, if translated literally means, “The Mayan Route” which mimics the downstream route that Mayan traders would have taken to reach the sea for trade. La Ruta Maya has grown from a small cult following to a very much awaited and celebrated event every march on the weekend of sovereigns day in Belize.