Belize is such a beautiful country with so many amazing destinations for travelers—so you might have a hard time choosing a spot or two for your first visit to this Central American, Caribbean nation. Hopefully our experiences can help you narrow it down.
The right spot will depend on your interests. Are you looking to fish, dive, snorkel, party and soak in the sun? Ambergris Caye and San Pedro might be right for you.
Do you want to ride a bicycle around a car-free island with a more bohemian feel? You’ll want to check out Caye Caulker.
Are you dreaming about an active adventure full of jungle treks, ruin exploring, tubing and zip lining? Or maybe you just want to enjoy a peaceful retreat on a river in the trees? The Cayo district and San Ignacio should be on your itinerary.
Want a local Garifuna vibe, Caribbean cuisine and a great cabana on a perfect swimming beach? Go to Hopkins Beach.
If you just want the best of everything, though, Placencia is the perfect paradise. So we’ll start with a review of our stay on this southern Belizean peninsula.
We stayed at The Ellysian in Placencia, which is on the main strip (called the Sidewalk). This lovely boutique hotel has 13 rooms, a refreshing pool and poolside bar, and a gorgeous restaurant, Muna, on the top floor overlooking the town and ocean.
While some of the rooms are ocean facing, we had a quiet 700 square foot condo on the other side of the building. We had a huge bathroom, partial view of the ocean from the bedroom window and one of the most comfortable beds we’ve ever had at an accommodation. The staff were so friendly and really went the extra mile. They also cleaned up the seaweed on the beach every morning, which made the beach beautiful and the water great for swimming. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and dinner with stunning views everyday at the hotel restaurant and really enjoyed talking to everyone who worked there and took the time to make it special. We also scheduled wonderful, relaxing massages at the spa.
So this sounds more like a review of The Ellysian than Placencia, but we really did love it that much. You can also walk to the Barefoot Bar and the Tipsy Tuna, which have great food and drink specials. There are plenty of shops to explore on the Sidewalk and you can arrange snorkeling trips around the islands off the coast, sunset cruises and more excursions.
The beach is fantastic for walking if you’re into long walks on the beach like we are!
The only downside is that Placencia is a bit far from the international airport. We hopped a small flight with Tropic Air, which was every easy and efficient.
2. Hopkins Beach
Hopkins has a great local feel. It’s smaller, less touristy and more tranquil. Experience the Garifuna culture, which is a mixed of African and Caribbean. If you get a chance, listen to the drums!
We loved the shallow and soft-sand beach here for swimming. To snorkel or dive, though, you’ll have to arrange for an excursion.
We stayed in a perfect little cabana on the beach at Coconut Row, which was really special. We slept with the windows open and listened to the sounds of the ocean and the tropical rain. The property had a fantastic staff and great restaurant with a delicious Belizean breakfast to enjoy while feeling the ocean breeze and gazing at the sea.
Ella’s Cool Spot is a great place for dinner, and Driftwood had the best pizza we’ve tasted in a long time.
3. San Ignacio
No trip to Belize would be complete without and excursion into the jungle. You probably don’t want to stay in San Ignacio proper, but there are plenty of beautiful jungle lodges in the Cayo District.
We stayed at Table Rock Jungle Lodge, which was a gorgeous property with walking paths along the river, really friendly staff and delicious meals at the on-site restaurant.
We highly recommend splurging on a river view bungalow for the serenity. We really enjoyed sitting on our balcony and listening to the sounds of the jungle and viewing nature.
Your lodge can arrange lots of different activities. We opted to take a day trip into Guatemala to explore the Tikal ruins. This is a very long day trip, but was absolutely worth it. We’ve visited many historic sites and ruins around the world and Tikal was one of the coolest.
4. Ambergris Caye
This is one of the most touristy spots in Belize, but it still has plenty of charm. On our first visit we stayed right in the heart of San Pedro at the SunBreeze Hotel. This spot has a great pool, restaurant and beach view.
Note that San Pedro is a party town with lots of traffic and activity, so if you want a bit more of a peaceful experience, head “north of the bridge.”
On our second visit, we stayed at White Sands Cove and absolutely loved it. (Hey Izzy, Ash & Rosie!!!) The condos here are perfect for a longer stay. The property has a great pool and bar and serves an excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are a few good restaurants in walking distance, too. We loved Aji Tapas bar for dinner.
Regardless of where you stay, you must snorkel or dive at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. We’ve snorkeled the best spots in the world and this is absolutely one of them!
5. Caye Caulker
If you’re bringing your travel guitar and wearing a flowy dress and want to ride a bicycle and enjoy a slower pace than the San Pedro bustle, Caye Caulker might be for you. This bohemian spot is super special. Our favorite moment was sitting at a picnic bench at a “restaurant” in someone’s backyard with travelers from around the world and sharing a whole fish and making our own drinks in the kitchen.
You can hang out at the split and watch the sun set at the Lazy Lizard. You even have a swimming beach near by, but like Ambergris Caye, there aren’t a lot of swimming beaches. Also, you can access the Hol Chan Marine Reserve from here, too.
How to Get Around
Belize is very set up for tourism. In some ways, this took away from our experience on our first trip because we like to stumble our way through different cultures and places with language barriers. But many people will take comfort knowing that Belize is an English-speaking country and most accommodations are ready to take care of their guests from arrival to departure. We find Belizean people to be kind and happy and genuine.
The easiest way to get from place to place is by (tiny) flight. We love Tropic Air. Go directly to their website to book flights and your accommodation can arrange ground transportation from the landing strip. You can also travel by shuttle and water taxi if small planes aren’t your thing.
If you’re going to San Ignacio from the international airport we highly recommend William’s shuttle.
We hope you love Belize as much as we do. Do you have a favorite spot? Let us know in the comments.