Sunday, 01 March 2015 00:00

Discover Belize

Written by  Amy Yacullo

A rising star on destination wish lists, Belize seems to have it all, inviting visitors to enjoy its sun-drenched shores and crystal-blue waters, tropical rainforests, and ancient ruins. Belize is a small country of about 341,000 people, located in Central America, between Mexico and Guatemala. With most direct flights lasting 4.5 hours or less, Belize is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the United States. Additionally, the country’s official language is English, making it ideal for tourists who want to experience the Latin American and Caribbean cultures, but who are not fluent in Spanish.

The largest city in the country, Belize City, is the gateway to tourism. As the location of the largest port in the country, this is where many cruise ships drop anchor and tender tourists. For those who are interested in history and education, the city boasts several museums: the Bliss Institute, Image Factory Art Foundation and Gallery, The Museum of Belize, and the Maritime Museum all call Belize City home.

Belize’s eastern border lies on the Caribbean Sea, offering amazing snorkeling and diving opportunities. With over 500 varieties of fish and marine life, Belize’s crystal blue waters are host to the Belize Barrier Reef and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which encompasses 13,632 acres of reefs, mangroves, and sea grass beds to explore. There, you can see several types of endangered species, including Loggerhead Turtles, Nassau Grouper, and coral. The famous Blue Hole, a 407-foot deep sinkhole filled with tons of fish and (gasp!) sharks, is one of the most amazing dive sites on earth (and a favorite of Jacques Cousteau himself).
Belize’s forestation hosts amazing biodiversity with ample flora and fauna. If trekking through the actual rainforest isn’t your thing, you can see the amazing animals of Belize at attractions such as the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary or the top-rated Belize Zoo. There are tons of tropical birds to see, and you may even encounter a monkey or two!
The North Islands are where you’ll want to go to kick back, relax, and forget about life for a while. Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize, with the best dining and nightlife in the area. Located right next to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, you can spend the day snorkeling, and the night showing off your moves on the dance floor.
History buffs will absolutely adore the Mayan history that permeates Belize. In the ATM Cave in the Cayo District, adventurous spelunkers can see “The Crystal Maiden,” the calcified skeleton of a Mayan teenager. Altun Ha, the closest Mayan archeological site to Belize City, is home to a jade carving of the sun god Kinich Ahau. The moss-draped stone ceremonial site of Cahal Pech will take you back in time, and the main temple at the Caracol Archaeological Reserve offers an amazing view of the jungle that surrounds the temple at ground level. There are many more sites to be seen than the ones mentioned here, so if you’re into archeology, Belize is the place to be.

If you find yourself in Belize in September, you’re in for a real treat. On September 10th, you’ll be treated to Battle of St. George’s Caye Day celebrations. September 21st marks Belizean Independence Day. Festivities (which last for almost the entire month) include food, drink, dancing, music, parades, and much more. Belizeans all over the country are proud to share and celebrate their heritage.
Belizean cuisine is one not to be missed. With so many cultures converging in one spot, Belizean food is a figurative “melting pot” of deliciousness! Fresh fish and chicken abound, with local fruits adding tons of sweet flavor to local favorites. Don’t be surprised if you find your meal has a bit of a kick-Belizeans love their curry and habaneros too. And don’t forget to sample the delicious breads, which are commonly made with cassava
or cornmeal.
With something to offer to everyone, Belize is an excellent choice for the tropical getaway your clients have been craving. Just think, five hours from now (or less!), they could be on a beach, sipping a tropical drink and sunbathing. They could be hiking through lush rainforests, coming face-to-face with a toucan, a Howler Monkey, or a building that has stood for over 1,000 years. If  your clients are  looking for something different, tropical, and exciting, then Belize might just be the adventure they’ve been seeking.

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