Our month in Belize was much better than expected. Our initial plan was to go diving in the Great Blue Hole, but for various reasons it didn’t happen. Luckily, there’s no shortage of exciting activities and tours in Belize. We took tours into the jungles, mangroves, cayes (islands), and some spectacular ruins. For such a small country, Belize has a lot to offer!
If you are looking for things to do in Belize, here is a selection of activities and tours to give you a taste of this wonderful country.
ATM Cave Tour – Rivers, Caves and Mayan Artifacts
Location: Near San Ignacio – Cayo, Belize
ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal (The Cave of the Stone Sepulchre), a system of caves. Not for the faint hearted or the weak kneed! ATM was discovered in 1989 and is one of the most exciting and popular sites in Mayan history. Getting there is an adventure – hiking through jungle terrain and wading through rivers. If you’re an enthusiastic traveler, this is an experience you don’t want to miss. You crawl through caves, squeeze through impossibly narrow spaces and then dive down into the splendor of a vast space that the Mayans used for their ceremonies. Abundant artifacts and the famous ‘crystal maiden’ skeletons are evidence of the ancient Mayan presence. To learn more about this tour, visit the Mayawalk Tours official website.
Lamanai Ruins and New River Tour – Temples and Spectacular Views
Location: Orange Walk, Belize
The excitement of this tour begins even as you set out with a boat ride down the New River. During the 26 mile journey you get to see exotic birds, perhaps some crocodiles, and out into a lagoon through the thick growth of mangroves and tropical forests. Then on to a refreshing walk through the forest for about half a mile, which brings you to the ruins.
The Lamanai ruins date back to between 1500 BC to 1680 AD. This is the third largest site in Belize, not completely excavated, and consists of over a hundred major and minor buildings. There are two important temples – The High Temple which is 112′ high and a smaller one called the Jaguar Temple that is distinguished by sculptures of Jaguars on either side at the base of the temple. Be prepared to climb to the top of the temples – you will be rewarded with a spectacular view. You will find more pictures of our tour here.
Mood Mud Massage – A Muddy Bit of Fun
Location: Maskall Village, Belize
The Maruba Resort Jungle Spa is one of its kind, and the first to introduce this unique mood mud massage. It is a massage quite unlike anything you’ve ever had before. Cool mud is massaged into the skin for an hour and topped off with body painting. Your bits and pieces are then creatively concealed by leaves and flowers, and voila – you suddenly turn into Tarzan and Jane, taking a walk on the wild side!
What I found unique about this treatment is that you can take pictures while you get massaged, and believe me, it is a rather entertaining sight being all painted up and decorated with flowers! The products used are made of herbs indigenous to the area.The massage leaves you feeling revitalized and your skin, shiny and soft as a baby’s bottom. You can read a full article of the mood mud massage here.
Cook Your Catch Tour – A Tour With a Twist!
Location: Hopkins, Belize
Being in Belize, its only natural to spend a lot of time snorkeling, diving, swimming or going birding. But this is a tour with a difference – snorkel, swim, see interesting birds AND catch your own fish! What you catch is what you eat, and not just that – you get to lunch in the middle of nowhere, on the delightful little private island of Bread and Butter Caye.
A boat takes you into the bay, and the captain helps you cast off to fish for your lunch. When you’re done fishing, you go snorkeling in the reef to spend time with the colorful marine life before heading off to Bread and Butter Caye, where you lunch on freshly caught fish. Read more about this tour here.
Visiting a Mennonite Colony – A Step Back in Time
Location: Barton Creek – Cayo, Belize
Many years ago I had heard about Mennonite colonies and I was really happy to come upon a settlement in Belize. They are a minority group and live in traditional colonies that take you back in time. It is easy to spot a Mennonite settlement because of their distinct ethnicity. There are two kinds of Mennonites – the traditional and the progressive. In the Cayo area, the traditional live in Lower Barton Creek and the progressive in the Spanish Lookout. I went to Lower Barton Creek and I was filled with wonder at how they function so well without depending on technology and other conveniences that we, in the rest of the world, can’t do without. They hold to their culture and beliefs and are admired for their work ethic. It was an unforgettable experience that really made me think about the over-complexity of our modern world.
If learning about different cultures interests you, a day in a Mennonite settlement will be time well spent. As far as I know there are no organized tours to visit these colonies, but you could easily rent a car, hire a driver, or taxi for the day.
Caracol Ruins, Rio Frio Cave and Rio on Pools Tour
Location: Chiquibul Reserve – Cayo, Belize
This unforgettable, all-day “variety” tour begins at the Caracol ruins – after 2 hours of bouncing around on unpaved roads, the Caracol ruins are the largest Mayan excavation in the country. The journey there takes you through the jungles and pine forests into the Mayan mountains. This massive site has over a hundred tombs, residential complexes, an observatory that was used for astronomy…. but the best here is Caana, or sky palace. This structure is 140′ high and a climb to the top puts you 42 meters above the surrounding jungle. You can’t even begin to imagine just how awe inspiring a sight it is, standing there over this majestic view.
Rio Frio cave is the next stop on this tour, and the experience is worth every minute. This quaint cave has a huge entrance with a river flowing into it. Stepping inside takes your breath away, almost taking you back into the magical days of your childhood fantasies.
This tour ends perfectly with a cooling off dip in Rio on Pools. These are a series of naturally formed pools, invitingly coddled between granite boulders, I’d say this is the perfect way to round off the trip to Caracol. To join this tour check out Mayawalk Tours.
Super Snorkeling and Diving in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Location: Close to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker
You wouldn’t be in Belize if you didn’t love the water, would you? If your passion is snorkeling and diving, this is a tour perfectly suited for you. Hol Chan is the oldest marine reserve here. Hol Chan means ‘ little channel’, because it actually is a little channel cut through the reef.
There are over a hundred species of fish, sea turtles, corals, sponges and nurse sharks in this reef. If you’re in San Pedro, a ten minute boat ride takes you right up to the reserve, leaving you to spend lots of time making fishy friends. More information? Here is a full review.
Altun Ha Mayan Ruins – Sunset on the Ruins
Location: Belize District, Belize
Altun Ha is the smallest of the Mayan excavations and wasn’t discovered till the 1950’s. A leisurely walk through the ruins makes it one of the best places to learn about the Mayan civilization. There are two plazas, several tombs and temples to explore, one of them is the ‘green tomb’ in which over 300 jade artifacts were found.
For that unhurried walk, schedule your tour for the later part of the day, to coincide with a beautiful sunset sitting atop the Masonry Altars. You can read more about this tour here..
Xunnantunich Ruins – Castles and Ghosts
Location: San Ignacio – Cayo, Belize
Xunnantunich means ‘stone woman’. Stories abound about of the ghost of a woman dressed in white, with fiery red eyes, who appears in front of El Castillo and disappears into the stone wall. Interesting, huh?
Be prepared to spend time absorbing the lore and history of the Mayans who once lived there, perhaps if you listen, you can hear the rustle of the spider monkeys in the trees.
Cave Tubing & Blue Hole National Park – On Rivers and Through Caves
Location: 42.5 mile Hummingbird Hwy.- Belmopan, Belize
Set aside a day to go cave tubing and discover the Blue Hole National Park (not to be confused with the The Great Blue Hole) – yes, you can combine these two. From the station on the highway, a ten minute walk through the jungle brings you to the cave systems where you go tubing.
You get to hike through dark passages, but be prepared to see some amazing cave formations and sparkling rocks. The most exciting part was experiencing a gentle float down the river, sitting in our tubes, in utter darkness with our headlamps turned off.
A mile-long walk through the jungle or along the highway takes you to the intensely blue water of The Blue Hole. You could have a delightful swim in the company of small fish with a green leafy canopy overhead. You will find more about this tour if you visit the Upside Down Tours website.
Horseback Riding – You Can’t Say ‘Neigh’ to This!
Location: Maskall, Belize
When in Belize you have to experience it all. After all, it is a land of jungle and sea…and some very gentle horses. This jungle excursion takes you through jungle trails, a river and the savannah.
This is the perfect way to see the exotic flora and get to learn of their medicinal uses, hear the sounds of the varieties of birds, and the territorial calls of the howler monkeys. I’m sure it has appeal, especially to the horseback riding enthusiast, but the horses are gentle enough to put the least inclined at ease. You can find out more about this unique horseback tour through the jungle at Maruba Resort Jungle Spa’s official website.
Disclaimer: We were able to join each of these tours mentioned here at the invitation of the following: Maruba Resort Jungle Spa, Mayawalk Tours, Belize Pro Diver Center, Upside Down Tours and Hopkins Bay Resort. Our experience on each of them was wonderful and memorable and justifiably fuel our recommendations.
If you have been on any of these tours (or have suggestions for other things to do in Belize), we’d love to hear from you. Feedback and suggestions always add to our knowledge! Let’s hear what you have to say!
- A step back in time – into the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha, Belize
- Snorkeling & Diving at Hol Chan Marine Reserve – San Pedro, Belize
- Gone fishing in Belize – A great way to experience the Caribbean Sea!
- Our Tour of Lamanai – Mayan Ruins in Belize
- Mud Massage in the Jungle of Belize
- Belize – 10 Irresistibly Unusual Luxury and Boutique Hotels