Combining lush rainforests, Mayan cities, remote jungle hideaways and dream-like underwater coral reefs, Belize is the perfect post-lockdown getaway for 2021. Next year will also mark 40 years of Belize’s independence from Britain, with festivities beginning on 10 September to commemorate the Battle of St George Caye, and Independence Day taking place on 21 September. The events are celebrated with parades, vibrant costumes, dancing, music and fireworks across the country.
For those looking for inspiration for their bucket list trips for next year, look no further than this Central American gem. Here, the Belize Tourism Board highlights its top picks for 21 things to do in 2021.
Private island getaway
You can’t get much more remote than Bird Island. Located just 18 minutes from the village of Placencia, Bird Island’s protected beautiful waters and total privacy is what makes it unique. With no neighbours or staff, the island hosts up to six guests at a time, and guests can snorkel and kayak over the multi-coloured coral or take out a fishing boat and attempt to catch their next meal.
Give in to your cravings.
Some experts say Belize is the “Cradle of Chocolate”, meaning it was first used here and Maya kings consumed large amounts of chocolate thousands of years ago. Explore how chocolate is made and the best kinds to enjoy on a tour of cacao plantation and a taste testing experience at AJAW Chocolate in San Ignacio.
Home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef is a haven for marine life. From schools of fish to turtles and even the occasional nurse shark, there’s so much going on underwater, and there’s ample opportunity to explore the reefs and atolls. Guests can scuba dive or snorkel the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is within a 15-minute boat ride from Ambergris Caye.
For those looking to explore the Belize Barrier Reef System from the surface, stand-up paddleboarding is the perfect option. Glide along to explore the creeks and inlets of one of the thousands of mangrove cayes and even spot eagle ray or glimpse the back of a diving turtle.
Spend a day out in the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave system. The cave was used by the Maya for sacrificial ceremonies and comprises of various rivers, sinkholes, and tunnel ways. An active guided tour will show you the artefacts, skeletons, and so much more. A moderate level of fitness is required and involves some swimming.
Night-time adventure brought to new heights.
Belize is home to Central America’s longest zip-lining course located in the Mayflower Bocawina National Forest. With the system covering 2.5 miles, guests can experience the excitement of zip-lining both by day and by night. At night, guests can hear nocturnal animals bring the forest to life.
Take a walk on the wild side.
Witness the world’s first Jaguar reserve at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary spans over 128,00 acres of rainforest and is home to Jaguars, pumas, ocelot, tapir and hundreds of different kinds of birds.
Mark your calendar for the Placencia Lobster festival that is held annually in June. The three-day event encompasses Belize’s culturally inspired foods, performances and a chance to meet the friendly locals. Aside from the enticing aroma of sizzling lobsters, arguably the main attraction of the festival is the fishing competition where local anglers will compete to find the largest lobster.
Hike some history
The excellent classical Maya site of Xunantunich, overlooking the Mopan River is home to more than 25 Maya temples and palaces. Meaning ‘Stone Woman’ in Mayan, Xunantunich’s central plaza is dominated by the El Castillo – a 40-metre pyramid which can be summited and offers breathtaking views over the surrounding forest and Maya mountains.
Drum to the Belizean beat
The Garifuna people arrived in Belize from St. Vincent in the early 19th century, adding a vibrant blend to the country’s cultural makeup. Visit the WARASA Garifuna Drum School in Punta Gorda to discover the rich history and heritage of the Garifuna and learn the different traditional drumbeats and dances that influence music throughout Belize and the rest of Central America.
Sleep in the jungle
Nestled in the foothills of the mountains alongside the Sibun River, the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge offers 31 suites and rooms in their 10,000-acre reserve. The surrounding green tropical foliage provides a sanctuary for many native birds and wildlife and an exciting retreat for those wishing to indeed head off-the-beaten-track. With several activities including caving, tubing, hiking and horseback riding on offer, guests can enjoy small group or even private tours with expert guides.
Discover the rainforest and Crystal Cave
The Blue Hole National Park is filled with beautiful forest and blue waters for visitors to explore. Try the Crystal Cave Tour to hike nearly an hour through the tropical forest before exploring the gorgeous Crystalline Cave within the jungle.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in the Cayo District is home to Rio on Pools and Big Rock Falls, both of which are the ideal place to cool off after wandering through the many winding trails of the forest. Relax in the vast, shallow stream of Rio on Pools or for the more adventurous, head to Big Rock Falls, so-called because of the giant granite boulders on its banks and take a dip in the mountain spring water.
Support local communities
The San Antonio Women’s Group is made up of nine Mayan women. They started the group to find a way to earn an income, learn new and exciting skills, and share their traditional knowledge not only with visitors but with the younger generation. Visit to learn about their traditional pottery methods and how they make tortillas (and even coffee) from corn.
Kick-back on Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker offers balmy breezes, fresh seafood, azure waters and a fantastic barrier reef on its doorstep. With a robust Creole presence on the island and the soothing sounds of reggae music, this has long been the spot to kick-back, relax in a hammock and sip on an ice-cold Belikin beer.
Cook like Marie Sharp
Learn about the cuisine and food culture of Belize during a cookery lesson inspired by pepper and hot sauce icon, Marie Sharp in San Ignacio. Start with a visit to the local market, before preparing a variety of dishes using recipes from Marie Sharp herself. Learn about the diverse Belizean cultures, try traditional preparation techniques, sample essential spices and feast on the creations with the full product line of hot sauces, jams and jellies.
Explore the Belize Botanic Gardens
In San Ignacio, the Belize Botanic Gardens covers more than 45 acres of land and includes a tropical fruit orchard, native plants, orchid house, a Maya medicine trail and much more. On a guided tour, guests can learn more about the garden’s conservation plans or even a tea-tasting time.
Canoeing on the Macal River
Meander down the Macal River in the Cayo District taking in the sights and sounds of the verdant rainforest, with the chance to spot wildlife including iguanas, hummingbirds and Belize’s national bird, the toucan.
Explore Reflective Blue Water
Five Blues Lake National Park is home to howler monkeys, tapirs, giant, peccaries and armadillos and lakes that are incredible shades of blue. Set in 4,000 acres of limestone hills, discover Orchid Island or the village of St. Margaret’s.
Hanna’s Stables in San Ignacio offers daily guided horseback riding tours, including leisurely horse-riding around San Lorenzo Farm. This 400-acre expanse contains organic gardens and crops, including bananas, cacao, coffee, chaya, amaranth, and much more. Learn more about the types of farming and agriculture in Belize, including sustainable vertical farming during this half-day tour.
The sweet life
You cannot travel to Ambergris Caye without stopping off for a sweet treat at D&E’s frozen custard and sorbets. Choose from strawberry, mango, raspberry, watermelon or pineapple, to name but a few. They also serve delicious shakes, mouthwatering sundaes, and banana splits – the perfect cool treat to enjoy after a day in the tropical sunshine.