Mention Belize and most people think scuba diving in the Blue Hole or cave tubing outside Belize City. While these are two awesome activities that certainly warrant a spot on your bucket list, there’s so much more to do and see on mainland Belize and its surrounding islands.
Consider the following 4 off the beaten track destinations on your next trip to Belize. They aren’t the easiest to arrive at, but the journey is part of the adventure—and surely part of the reason why these hidden gems still exist.
This charming fishing village in northern Belize boasts beautiful beaches, crystal-clear water and rich culture. The spot was first settled by the Mayans to serve as an important trading route, and today the town gets its name from the 13 Mayan drinking wells found in the area. Most tourists make a stop here for the fishing, kayaking, sailing or nearby Mayan ruins. Sarteneja also boasts the popular Manatee Rehabilitation Center, a local NGO that takes in and rehabilitates orphan manatee calves as part of a national program to protect the threatened species.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is renowned for being the first jaguar reserve, established in 1990. The sanctuary is home to all five of Belize’s cats, including the jaguar, puma, margay, jaguarundi, and ocelot. While your chances of spotting one of these elusive cats is rare, there’s plenty other wildlife and scenic views to enjoy on the sanctuary’s 20-miles of hiking trails. If you’re really up for a challenge, try hiking the Victoria Peak trail, a four-day challenge only accessible with guide and permit.
The Snake Cayes
Take the arduous journey down to southern Belize and you’ll be rewarded with the pristine Snake Cayes. A group of four small islands protected by the Belizean government, the Snake Cayes get their name for the boa constrictors that can be found in the trees. But don’t worry—you’ll want to spend most of your time snorkeling in the crystal-clear water amongst coral, fish, turtles, lobster and other sea life. Most visitors to the Snake Cayes base themselves in Punta Gorda; be sure to go with a large group of friends to cut down on the cost of the boat to access the cayes!
Indian Church Village
Back in northern Belize, this small and friendly village is named for the historic Spanish churches recovered amongst Mayan ruins. Adjacent to the village is the popular Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, a 2-sq mile forest that encompasses the ancient Maya site Lamanai. The Indian Church Village itself is very poor with limited infrastructure. However, residents are eager to develop the community by increasing tourism to the area. Be sure to check out the Indian Church Village Artisans Center, a craft-training project with the goal to offer residents a positive and sustainable income. You can visit one of the four different studios, including jewelry, ceramic, sewing, and stone carving. There are also volunteer opportunities both at the artisan’s center and the village library.
Despite its relatively small size, Belize is jam-packed with things to see and do! These are just four gems to explore on your next venture to the country.
What would you add to the list?