The sun sets over the horizon turning a dramatic cloud covered sky from golden to deep purple.

Planning Your Time in Belize’s Northern Cayes

Once the favorite hideout and playground of pirates, the Northern Cayes are Belize’s greatest tourism draw, and with good reason. These postcard-perfect islands offer quick access to the Belize Barrier Reef and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a dizzying array of outdoor activities, and enough lodging, restaurants, and entertainment options to fit celebrity and backpacker budgets alike.

At sunset on the coast, the silhouetted statue of a fisherman hauling in his net.

Day Trip from Belize to Chetumal, Mexico

An exciting dose of culture shock is an easy 15 miles from Corozal. Chetumal, capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, is a relatively modern, midsized city of about 200,000. If you don’t come for the culture, then you must be here to shop in the new American-style mall, or see a first-run film in Chet’s brand new air-conditioned Cineplex, located in the Plaza de las Americas mall.

A boat is docked along a strip of shore surrounded by calm, clear water.

Discover Belize

If you’ve traveled in other parts of Central America or the Caribbean, forget them all. Belize is different: It is coconut shavings in your rice and beans. It is butter pooling in your conch soup—with a squirt of lime and a splash of hot sauce to make it bite. Belize is the hemisphere’s largest barrier reef; it is massive forests of giant cohune palms and prehistoric tree ferns, some amid ancient Mayan plazas.

Kriol stew. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

The Evolution of Belizean Food

The very idea of a national cuisine is as new as every other part of Belizean identity. Since the times of the Baymen, Belize has been an import economy, and with independence came renewed national pride where “Belizean” has been gradually applied to the adapted varied diet of many cultures.

Jaguar lounging in Belize. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Hiking Cockscomb Basin in Belize

The main draw of the Cockscomb Basin is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, commonly called the “Jaguar Preserve.” The area is alive with wildlife and hiking opportunities, from an easy hour-long stroll along the river to a four-day Victoria Peak expedition. Here’s how to get to the preserve, the best hiking trails, and necessary preparations for staying overnight.

The red-footed booby colonizes Lighthouse Reef's Half Moon Caye, a protected breeding site. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

How Travelers Can Help Stop Wildlife Poaching in Belize

You are guaranteed to see wildlife in Belize, whether in the wild or in captivity. However, some poached birds and wildlife are often sold on the international market, while others end up in Belizean homes or in businesses who want to add “color” to attract tourists. Here are simple ways you can help discourage animal poaching in Belize and all over the world.

Catch of the day on display outside Rose's Grill and Bar. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Enjoying Belizean Seafood

One of the favorite Belize specialties is fresh fish, especially along the coast and on the islands, but even inland Belize is never more than 60 miles from the ocean. There’s lobster, shrimp, red snapper, sea bass, halibut, barracuda, conch, and lots more prepared in a variety of ways. Here’s a quick overview on specialties to try and useful advice on enjoying them sustainably.

Aerial view of northern cayes. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Where to Go in the Belize Cayes

Regardless of where you go in the Belize Cayes, days are spent alfresco: kayaking, sailing, fishing, feasting on fresh catch, swimming alongside rays and turtles, gazing at magnificent frigatebirds hovering in blue skies. Or mastering the art of dolce far niente: the sweetness of doing nothing. Here’s an overview of island highlights.

Bone fragments found at the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

The Marco Gonzalez Maya Site, Belize

Those looking for a little Mayan history on Ambergris Caye in Belize can find it at the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site. History and adventure buffs will enjoy private guided tours of this virgin site, currently under study, which was inhabited by the Maya for 1,600 years.