Belize, formerly British Honduras, is located just south of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on the Caribbean Sea. Although tiny (8,867 sq. mi.), the beautiful county of Belize boasts the second-largest barrier reef in the world, thousands of Mayan ruins, secluded islands, mountains, pristine jungle and pine forests–with 42% of its land under protected status.
This English-speaking country truly is the hidden gem of the Caribbean, perfect for spending a week practicing yoga amidst some of nature’s most spectacular scenery.
Over 93% of Belize’s land is under forest cover, and it is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. While only 8,867 sq. mi. in size, it contains over 70 types of forest, mostly pine forest, mangrove forest and broadleaf forest (rainforest).
The Maya Mountains run across all of south-central Belize, and are home to many of the country’s national parks and preserves. Belize is home to the largest cave system in Central America, with several containing an incredible array of ancient Mayan artifacts.
Belize’s Caribbean coastline is bordered by a 180-mile long barrier reef–only Australia’s great barrier reef is bigger. Dotted along the coral reef are hundreds of islands and three of the western hemisphere’s four atolls. Located in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Great Blue Hole is one of the world’s most spectacular spots for diving.
Belize naturally contains an abundance of wildlife. Birdwatching is excellent, as there are over 500 types of birds, including parrots, toucans, ospreys, harpy eagles and the 5-foot tall jabiru stork.
There are many exotic mammals in Belize, including the tapir, coati, howler monkey, gibnut, kinkajou, ocelot and jaguar–with Belize having the world’s first jaguar preserve.
Belize’s coral reef is teeming with aquatic life–on snorkeling trips you are certain to see multitudes of brightly-colored angelfish, parrotfish and damselfish. You may even see a sea turtle or the gorgeous spotted eagle ray. Manatees are located in the shallow waters off of the mainland, and in the springtime, harmless whale sharks (the largest fish in the world) are found off the coast of southern Belize.
Spiny lobster, queen conch and snapper are fished commercially, but much of Belize’s reef is protected and fishing is prohibited in such areas.
Formerly British Honduras, Belize gained its independence in 1981 and is still a part of the British Commonwealth. It is the only English-speaking country in Central America.
The culture of Belize is a unique blend of Latin America and the Caribbean. You’ll just as likely hear reggae as you will punta rock or latino dance music. It is the blend of peoples that makes Belize unique unto itself.
The majority of peoples in Belize are Mestizo, Creole, Mayan and Garifuna. The result of this European-African-Mayan melting pot can be an eclectic blend, but it is a decidedly mellow country, with an easy-going, friendly feel.
Nothing moves fast in Belize–it is truly a place to slow down and watch the world go by.
Belize is very much dedicated to eco-tourism. Currently, 42% of Belize’s land is under protected status–more than any other country in the world. Belize is also home to the world’s only jaguar reserve.
Much of the Belize barrier reef is protected, and any sort of fishing is prohibited in those areas. These conservation efforts have been put in place to ensure that Belize maintains its position as one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world.
Many homes and hotels in Belize are ‘off the grid’, utilizing solar, hydro and wind power. Rainwater is regularly collected and used in Belize, and is essential on the many islands.
With English as the national language and the Belize dollar pegged to the U.S. dollar ($2BZ=$1USD), Belize is quite possibly the easiest Caribbean or Central American country to visit. It is unnecessary to exchange money, as U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Prices are often quoted in U.S. dollars.
Only two hours from Miami or Houston, all international flights land in Belize City. Belize has four paved highways and one non-paved highway, and travel off of the highways can be incredibly bumpy. Short, 10- to 45-minute domestic flights are often used to travel between cities.
The weather in Belize is subtropical, with the average high temperature around 80 degrees all year round. It can become cool in the mountains, so some lightweight layered clothing is recommended.