Belize

From diverse diving excursions to zooming through the rainforest canopy, a ton of adventures await outdoor enthusiasts making their way to Belize.

Situated along the Caribbean coast of northern Central America, Belize is still somewhat undetected on most tourists’ radars. It’s comprised of more than 200 islands – many of them quiet and remote. Even the “busier” spots like Ambergris Caye have an unhurried, low-key vibe. Accommodations in Belize include everything from luxury resorts and casino hotels to quirky cottages and private villas.

Perhaps Belize’s most well known attraction, the Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole that can actually be seen from outer space. It boasts brilliant coral formations teeming with an abundant amount of species of marine life. Divers swim among nurse sharks, groupers, reef sharks, and varied other marine life.

Zipline canopy tours are also popular. Soaring through lush forests provides a bird’s eye view of the forest landscape. Several tour operators offer ziplining packages. Some also include another unique excursion – cave tubing. Maya priests believed the cave systems were the gateway to the underworld. As you meander through these eerily enchanting below ground wonderlands, it’s easy to see why.

Belize was once home to more than 2 million Mayas. Well-preserved ruins like Xunantunich and Caracol are absolutely worth a visit. Xunantunich, which means “stone woman” sits atop the Mopan River. It’s comprised of a series of six plazas encircled by over 26 palaces and temples. Located on the western edge of the Maya Mountains, Caracol (Spanish for “shell”) is the largest Maya center within Belize. Nestled within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, it’s tricky to get to, but your efforts will be rewarded. The site covers over 80 square miles and includes 30,000 structures.

For a walk on the wild side of Belize, consider a visit to the Belize Zoo, located in the Cayo District. It sits on 29 acres of tropical savannah and houses more than 150 animals (all native to Belize). High marks go to the zoo for their efforts to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned and injured animals.

Make sure to carve out time in your schedule for local dining – and lots of it. There’s so much good food in Belize it’s crazy. Elvi’s Kitchen is a perfect example. This island favorite started as a modest burger stand many years ago. Today, it’s the go-to restaurant for incredible local and international cuisine. Another popular spot, El Fogon serves traditional Belizean food. Also, don’t miss George’s Kitchen for insanely good breakfast sandwiches and burgers. They’ll even cook up your fresh catch for you. Belize is blessed with many memorable ice cream shops, coffee houses and bakeries, as well.

Islands located in southern Belize are generally less congested than the northern areas. Those seeking a sequestered, tranquil stay find what they need on Tobacco Cay. The Belize Barrier Reef it rests on provides unparalleled snorkeling opportunities. Tobacco Cay is ideal for couples longing for an Eden-like escape on which to reconnect – just a handful of hotels, a few bars, and no real shopping or nightlife.

A day trip (or two) to Laughingbird Caye is highly recommended. Named after the Laughingbird Gull that makes its home here, this protected national park boasts undisturbed beaches and remarkable snorkeling. Swim among stingrays, Barracudas, Angel Fish, Parrotfish, and other marine life.

The northern cayes, which include Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, tend to be a tad busier. Shopping, casual and gourmet restaurants, and varied hotels await visitors.

Outdoor lovers will certainly feel at home on Belize, and weddings are immensely popular here. Active couples looking to get hitched should consider a destination wedding-moon on this patch of Paradise.