Not many places boast Mayan temples, lush rainforests, white beaches, and legendary diving all in one place. The small country of Belize is a myriad of cultures, sights, languages, and foods. Since Belize is made up of islands, knowing what you want to do and see within the country will determine your travel itinerary.

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Most likely, you’ll fly into mainland Belize, which is where the jungle and temples are. The capital, Belize City, is still considered third world even with the growing tourism. Recently, ecotourism has flourished in this area allowing visitors to see the extensive cave systems, raft through the clear rivers, trek through the rainforest, and visit several ancient Mayan ruins.

For a more tropical beach getaway, there are many small islands or “cayes” surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. With an extensive range of coral and fish species, this area makes for the best snorkeling and diving. These islands are all bordered by a barrier reef. Outside the reef, the bottom drops hundreds of feet. The water turns from light blue to navy and the waves become more tumultuous.

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I spent most of my time in Belize on San Pedro Island. This beautiful slice of heaven is a 20-minute flight from Belize City airport via a small 10-person jet. The flight has stunning aerial views of the reef system. When you land, you will be greeted by a two-room airport, an open-air baggage claim, and golf carts everywhere. This little community decided instead of cars and trucks most of the population would travel by foot or golf cart.

The people who live here are a mixture of Hispanic, Creole, Afrikaans, and mestizos. With a variety of people comes a variety of languages including English, Spanish, Swahili, Creole, and local tongues. The food is a Caribbean and Hispanic fusion with delicious choices such as rice and beans, chicken stew, plantains, jerk chicken, coconut infusions, “BBQ”, and all the types of fish you could hope for.

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Downtown San Pedro is full of family owned restaurants and beach bars. This is also where you will find tourism offices, dive offices, and boat rentals. If you are a certified scuba diver, there are some seriously beautiful places to dive here including the infamous Blue Hole. Diving is legendary here. Inside the barrier reef there are several lovely spots to dive or snorkel like Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Mexico Rocks, Shark-Ray Alley, Caye Caulker, and many others. Since these are protected areas, you are likely to see hundreds of fish species, sea turtles, rays, eels, and sharks.

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If fishing floats your boat (pun intended) then this is a dream destination. With plenty of boats for hire right out of downtown, there’s the choice to troll for medium fish, reef fish for smaller catches, or deep sea sport fish. During my trip in March, I had success catching a few types of snapper, blue stripe, and squirrelfish.

This little island is also a perfect destination to relax and explore. The beaches are quaint and breezy. Spending an afternoon walking around town can also lead to adventures and help you get to know the locals and their culture. Regardless of what you are looking for, this beautiful country has so much to offer. So, pack your bathing suit, a good book, and a sense of adventure and jet off to Belize!