Belize has been a scuba diver’s best kept secret for a while now. However in recent years, tourism in this small country in the Caribbean has been booming. It’s a haven for tropical adventures with wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls, jungles to explore, Mayan ruins, caves and zip lining. Belize is home to the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), making it a prime destination for snorkeling and diving.
Located just south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize’s mainland is only 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. Despite its small size, the number of tourists Belize attracts annually now triples its population. If you still aren’t convinced to add it to your bucket list, here are a few interesting things about Belize that may change your mind!
A Nature-lovers Paradise
- As I mentioned earlier, Belize is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest in the world. The reef is 185 miles long and is the primary habitat for over 400 species of fish, some of the rarest variety.
- Half of Belize is covered by dense rainforest with 80% of its rainforest under government protection, much of it unexplored. Overall, 42% of the country’s land is protected including marine and terrestrial national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and archeological and nature reserves.
- Belize is home to over 500 distinct varieties of birds, more than any other country in the world. It also has the world’s only Jaguar reserve, known as the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary.
- Belize is one of the best places to go if you want to swim with sharks! Don’t worry, most of them are harmless nurse sharks. The best time of the year to go is during the rainy season: April – July. We went at the end of December and it was still amazing, but we had to change our dive dates due to storm warnings. Just keep that in mind!
- Belize has around 900 ancient Mayan sites. Yes, you read that right – 900. The tallest building/structure in Belize is actually a Mayan temple.
- Belize’s government is both a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, making the Queen of England the Queen of Belize as well.
- Before Belize got its current name, the country was known as British Honduras until it was officially changed in 1973.
- Belize City was the original capital of Belize but after it was hit by a devastating hurricane in the 1960s, the city was thought to be too unsafe to serve as the location of the capital. Belmopan is now the capital of Belize, centrally located within the country.
A Diverse and Interesting Culture
- It is considered rude to greet someone by their first name when meeting them for the first time in Belize. You should always use their surnames until you become familiar with each other.
- Belize isn’t a fan of fast food chains. You won’t find a McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks or KFC anywhere in the country. Props to them!
- Belizean folklore tells of a 3-foot tall, evil dwarf called El Duende. The thumbless dwarf is said to live in the forest and punish any children who kill animals, reflecting how protective Belizeans are as a society of their wildlife.
- Close to 1 million tourists visit Belize annually (70% of which are American), 3 times more than the national population.
- Belize is also the only Central American country with English as its official language, most likely due to the fact that it was a British colony until 1981. However, you’ll still hear a mixture of Creole, Spanish, Garifuna and Mayan languages spoken on the street. It’s thought that most Belizeans speak at least 3 languages, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in Central America.
So… Belize is Pretty Awesome
As a scuba diver, my initial interest in Belize was to dive the Great Blue Hole. I was pleasantly surprised by everything else this amazing country has to offer, making it one of my favorite travel experiences thus far. It’s been a hidden gem for adventure travelers for some time, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case for much longer. You can’t have a bad day traveling when the water looks like this 🙂