From Rainforest to Reef: The Best of Belize in 7 Days

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Advisor - Anne Travous
Curated By

Anne Travous

  • Belize

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Couples Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Honeymoons

  • Nature Escapes

  • Outdoors

  • Relaxation

  • Beach Town

tropical jungle on a clear blue day
Curator’s statement

I first visited Belize in March 2016 on a girls trip and absolutely fell in love with the country's beautiful mix of exotic, lush jungles, crystal clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. I've since been back to visit, and it never ceases to lose its magic. The people are friendly, the cuisine is delicious, the landscape pristine, the wildlife abundant, and there's an activity to please everyone. Whether you're an adventure seeker ready to scuba dive the Blue Hole and swim with sharks, or you're simply looking for an idyllic place to lounge in a hammock and read a good book, Belize has you covered. Located just south of Cancun, Mexico, it's an easy flight (only 2 hours from Houston, Atlanta, or Miami) and you don't have to worry about jetlag because you're on East Coast time. The only thing you need to worry about is what you'll do first in this exotic yet approachable destination.

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Day 1: Arrive in Belize

two wicker chairs on a balcony overlooking the jungle on a sunny day

Fly into Belize City & get car service to your jungle hotel (about an hour away from the airport). Once you check into your hotel, get settled with a welcome cocktail and explore the lush grounds. If you're feeling so inclined, take a dip in the pool or lounge in a hammock by the river. Relax with a book or hike through the jungles on property, checking out the suspension bridges that cross the rivers below.

Suggested Activities: If you'd prefer to have an activity lined up when you arrive, I recommend a Jungle Safari After Dark tour. These typically begin in the early evening and only last about an hour and half. A local guide will take you on a walk through the jungle in search of native nocturnal wildlife, which can include howler monkeys, wild boar, and even large cats like the majestic jaguar.

Dining Suggestions: I recommend dining on-site at your hotel for most meals during your jungle stay, simply for convenience. Both resorts have superb dining options, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to branch out once you reach the island. Try Grove House Restaurant (Sleeping Giant) or Gaia's Restaurant (Giaia River Lodge).

Day 2: Caves & waterfalls adventure

large cave next to trees during daytime; an adventurous activity for a 7-day Belize itinerary

The jungles of Belize have no shortage of adrenaline-pumping adventure available at your fingertips. Today, check out one of the many cave or waterfall tours located nearby. There are tours that range from three hours up to eight hours, and intensities rated from moderate to intense and vigorous. Some options include:

  • St. Herman's Cave Tubing - A short 10 minute hike through the jungle takes you to the entrance of the cave, where you'll float on inner-tubes along the underground waterways in the caverns below.

  • Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave) - An intense 8-hour day where you will swim, hike and climb your way through the caves, witnessing ancient artifacts along the way - including the Crystal Maiden, the skeleton of a perfectly preserved sacrificial victim that has laid to rest there for more than 1,000 years.

  • Sleeping Giant Waterfall - Hike through the rainforest, crossing Silver Creek multiple times before arriving at the first of many waterfalls. Take a dip in the refreshing pools below the falls before you head back.

  • Additional Activities: Zipline through the jungle canopy, kayak down the river, or rappel into a 500-foot deep sinkhole called the Black Hole.

Day 3: Mayan ruins or cultural immersion

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize

Today, immerse yourself in the Mayan culture, either by exploring one of the many ancient Mayan ruins located nearby, or through cultural experiences built to showcase the Mayan way of life and gain an appreciation for their heritage. Some suggested activities include:

  • Xunantunich Maya Site - This archaeological site is excellent for all ages. The ruins include six Mayan plazas and 25 temples. Amazing views await those who are brave enough to scale to the top.

  • Tikal Mayan Tour - If you truly want to visit a majestic Mayan ruin and you have a full day at your disposal, consider taking a tour across the border to the neighboring country of Guatamala to explore one of the greatest Mayan city ruins in existence. This site houses the tallest ruin in the Mayan world, and was considered a major center of the Mayan civilization.

  • Additional Activities: Take a Mayan cooking class, tour a Mayan cacao farm and make your own chocolate, go horseback riding through the jungles or or take a horse and buggy tour to visit the suspended jungle bridges.

Day 4: The island of San Pedro

white sand beach with empty volleyball net on a clear blue day

On Day 4, pack up your belongings and take a car service back to the Belize City airport. From here, you will embark on a brief 20-minute flight on a small aircraft that will soar over the gorgeous waters below before landing in San Pedro, on the island of Ambergris Caye.

This is your home for the rest of the trip. Taxis are available on the island, but I recommend renting a golf cart to get around the island for the duration of your stay. Drive your golf cart to the hotel, check in, and then get ready to head into the town of San Pedro to explore and do some shopping!

Pro Tip: Wear your swimsuit! As soon as you are hungry, I recommend heading directly to The Palapa Bar & Grill. The overwater open-air restaurant also has a large deck out back with stairs that lead directly into the ocean. You'll find innertubes anchored to the ocean floor. From there you can float in the crystal blue water while friendly servers lower your Belikin beers to you in a bucket. This will quickly become your favorite place on the island and you'll likely return here for more great food, live music, and excellent casual Caribbean ambience throughout the rest of your stay.

Suggested Activities: Consider a sunset sail around the island and enjoy the views from the water while sipping on the adult beverage of your choice.

Day 5: On the water

boat on the shallow waters of the shore moored to a small dock

Today, I would suggest booking a full day tour on the water that includes snorkeling at the Hol Chan Barrier Reef (a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful reefs in the world), swimming with nurse sharks and manta rays, and so much more. Hand feed the tarpins, fish from the boat, check out the protected seahorse preserve, and enjoy a homemade bbq (complete with fresh fish and conch ceviche from the day's catch) and explore the neighboring island of Caye Caulker before returning home from your adventures. Most tours will include all of these things as a part of your full day's experience.

Pro Tip: One of the many things Belize is known for is it's art scene and the island of Caye Caulker has many galleries full of beautiful, vibrant, colorful paintings that they will happily ship directly to your home so you don't have to worry about bringing it back with you!

Suggested Dining: Elvi's Kitchen - Right in the heart of San Pedro, this restaurant has a drool-worthy menu that includes some of the best seafood around. Try the red snapper in garlic sauce for dinner, you won't regret it.

Alternate Activities: Book a scuba diving tour that will take you to the Blue Hole. From there, you can dive into a wildly diverse vertical ecosystem, and you may also get the chance to swim with whale sharks (depending on the season).

Day 6: Enjoy the beach

tropical beach with beach chairs and umbrellas

After breakfast, take a golf cart to the northern part of the island and spend some time at Secret Beach (which, despite it's name, is quite the happening place to be). Full service lounge chairs beckon you, and tables and hammocks sit out over the water so you can fully enjoy the water while relaxing with a delicious frozen beverage (I love the frose but the frozen mai tai's are also delicious).

Once you're ready to leave the beach, make a stop at the Truck Stop for some food and awesome ambience. The Truck Stop is a food truck park and beer garden that has a large outdoor games area and live entertainment, including music, trivia, and more.

Head back to your hotel, get freshened up and take a quick nap if needed, but head into town before sunset for your last night. You absolutely must experience the Universal Chicken Drop (in front of Estel's on Wednesday and Friday evenings) at least once (IYKYK), and then head to The Beach Bar for some trivia, cocktails and beachfront karaoke with the rest of your new friends on the island.

Suggested Dining: Estel's Dine By the Sea - Open all day, but famous for it's delicious and hearty breakfasts.

Day 7: Goodbye Belize

a path through a lush garden with pink tropical plants

Sleep in and then head to your last breakfast on the island. This can be at your hotel or at any one of the numerous restaurants found in town. Depending on when your flight leaves, you might have time for one more dip in the water at the Palapa Bar, or a swim at your hotel pool. Then it's time to pack up and head back to the airport.

Pro Tip: Head to the Palapa Bar before you leave to write your name on one of the wooden posts or eaves, a legacy and right of passage for all travelers who visit the island. Legend has it that if you write your name on the wall, you're guaranteed to find your way back to Belize again soon.

Advisor - Anne Travous

Travel Advisor

Anne Travous

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This itinerary is part of our ongoing series on travel to Belize. For more travel tips in Belize, check out Fora Advisor Laura Cox's guide, Family-friendly Adventures in Belize.