Located at Mile 8, this outstanding butterfly breeding, education, and interpretive center is run by Dutch biologists Jan Meerman and Tineke Boomsma. Green Hills (tel. 501/820-4017, meerman [at] btl [dot] net, www.green-hills.net , 8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, US$10).
The standard tour of the center takes about an hour. There’s also a walk into the forest to see Maya artifacts and the impressive mahogany reforestation project.
Your entrance fee (family discounts available) grants you access to the 3,000-square-foot butterfly house, blue morpho breeding facilities, botanical garden (with over 100 labeled species), hummingbird observation spot, and a display on the life cycle of a butterfly (egg-caterpillar-pupa-butterfly).
Between 25 and 30 different species are raised at the center, including the tiny glasswing, the banana owl (the largest butterfly in Belize), and of course the magnificent blue morpho. Arrive early enough in the morning and watch a butterfly emerge from a pupa right before your eyes.
Or time your visit with “caligo hour”—a unique event that begins one hour before sunset (in December around 4:45 p.m., in summer about 5:45 p.m.) when the owl butterflies become very active and synchronize their flight; owl butterflies can have wing spans of up to seven inches, so it’s quite impressive.
Jan literally wrote the book on Belizean butterflies (Lepidoptera of Belize, Gainesville, Florida: ATL Books, 2000), and both he and Tineke can be available to give lectures to student groups.
Green Hills is a must-stop for anyone traveling to and from other sites on the Chiquibul Road; it’s worth it for the hummingbird garden alone, where you can watch an amazingly active assortment of hummers buzz in and out all day long. Picnic facilities available.