If you’re visiting Belize for the first time, then let me be the first to tell you, you are in for a TREAT!
Belize is an absolute oasis in Central America with stunning rainforests, beaches and coral reefs that will blow your mind. It’s a safe, English speaking country with a million things to do.
You’re going to have an epic time, but if you only have one week, it’s going to be tough to cram everything in!
Thankfully, Belize is only a small country with fantastic roads and if you really want to see a bit of everything, you can!
If you’re mostly thinking of going for the snorkelling or diving, then you’ll probably want to stay to the North of the country and explore the barrier reef; did you know Belize has the world’s second largest barrier reef, next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Seriously, the sealife is out of this world.
This one week Belize itinerary is a bit more well rounded though, so in this post we’ll show you how to explore Belize with a bit of sun and sea, a bit of rainforest and a bit of culture.
A trip of two halves
To best enjoy everything Belize has to offer, I definitely recommend spending half of your adventure by the sea, and half of it inland in the jungle. There is so much to see, but if you split your trip in two, you can really make the most of your time.
For our trip, we spent the first 3 nights by the coast in Placencia, followed by 4 nights inland in the rainforest. If you’d prefer to spend the last few days of your trip by the ocean, then you might prefer to switch this around and do the rainforest first.
As I mentioned, I think the best way to fully explore Belize is to split your trip into two halves. Many of the best things to do in Belize are either on the coast or in the rainforest, so it makes sense to stay near the coast for one half and then relocate to the rainforest for the second half. Switching your base will save you a lot of driving in the long run.
So for our first half, we stayed 3 nights on the coast in a town called Placencia.
As our first day was a travel day, we landed at the main international airport and then hopped onto a small plane to travel to Placencia.
Placencia is a really relaxed part of Belize by the coast. It’s about 30 minutes south of the airport by plane or almost 3 hours by car. If it’s in the budget, I’d definitely recommend hopping on a flight with Tropic Air and taking a look at the incredible coastline.
By the time we’d finished all the flights, the sun was setting and there wasn’t really much time to do anything other than check into our hotel and have dinner.
While we were in Placencia, we stayed at Naia Hotel and Spa. It’s just a few minutes from Placencia but has an incredibly relaxed vibe that’s away from most of the hustle and bustle.
For Dinner, we ate in their fantastic 1981 restaurant, named after the year Belize became independent from the UK. The food is tasty, with a lot of fresh seafood. This was the first of many times I tried conch in Belize, and their lobster was in season as well!
This was where Louise had her first of many Pina Coladas, and of the 7 or so she had on our trip, 1981’s was definitely her favourite.
I chose to try the Mayan Hot chocolate for dessert, which was a spicy hot chocolate. The server seemed surprised that I enjoyed it, but it was an interesting (arguably way more authentic) version of modern day hot chocolate. Worth trying if you have a chance!
For your first full day in Placencia, you have plenty of options. We originally intended to spend a full day fishing in the sea, but unfortunately wind conditions meant we couldn’t go out. This can happen quite often, so I definitely recommend making a backup plan on dry land in case your reef excursion falls through.
Instead of heading out to sea, we took a short drive to Mayan World Adventure Park, where we tried ziplining and horseback riding to the Mayan King Waterfall.
Ziplining at Mayan World Adventures
The ziplining at Mayan world is operated by Mayan Sky adventures and takes you on 7 breathtaking ziplines across the South Stann Creek River. It’s an absolutely breathtaking way to experience the jungle and incredible Belizean wilderness.
As it was just the two of us, we flew through the tour and were finished within about 35 minutes, but if you’re in a big group it’s worth budgeting a couple of hours.
Anyone can do the ziplining, but there are quite a few stairs to climb to reach the start of each line, so be prepared for a little bit of exercise!
Cost: A zipline and river tubing package begins at $125USD per person.
Horseback Riding at Mayan World
The horseback riding at Mayan World begins at the entrance, next to a paddock of horses. You’ll quickly be assigned a horse and given the basics of horseriding and then it’s “high ho silver, away!”
If you’ve had very little experience on horses before, these horses are extremely calm and experienced, and even the most inexperienced riders will be absolutely fine.
The trip takes you down the main road in Mayan World, alongside some orange groves. If you want to pick up the pace and gallop on the horses, all you have to do is ask and you can absolutely fly down the road.
Along the way, you’ll hopefully see plenty of birds and nature. On our tour, we saw a number of rare birds, including Belize’s national Bird, the Toucan!
Your guide will have plenty of experience with nature, and will point out anything interesting along the way. In our case, we came across a huge leaf cutter ant nest and plenty of wild birds. It was really a relaxing yet entertaining way to experience the jungle!
The final destination of our horse ride was the Mayan King waterfall. A beautiful waterfall and plunge pool that’s perfect for a dip after a hot and sweaty trek through the rainforest. While we were swimming, our guide appeared with some fresh oranges for us to eat. It was an awesome experience.
If you’re going to spend any time in the jungle, I would 100% recommend wearing long trousers and/or bug spray. In my infinite wisdom, I did neither and my legs got absolutely eaten alive by botlass flies. I didn’t notice I’d been bitten until later, when I noticed my legs were bleeding. I don’t think I’ve ever had such itchy bites. Ignore my advice at your peril!
This is probably as much adventure as you’ll need for the first day, so I’d recommend going back to the hotel and chilling for a bit before dinner.
Dinner in Placencia: Rumfish Y Vino
Rumfish Y Vino is a great restaurant in the heart of Placencia. An enthusiastic staff will greet you and seat you on the upstairs open air deck, overlooking the bustling streets of Placencia.
The menu is a fantastic mix of options. We had fish tacos and Lionfish crudo (which I was very excited to try). Whatever you order, you can’t go wrong. The key lime pie for dessert was also excellent! I would happily have come back here again if we’d had time.
The Tipsy Tuna
After dinner, we ended up heading to Placencia for a drink at the Tipsy Tuna. It’s the place to be on a saturday night with live music and a great vibe.
Somehow we ended up cracking a beer with Miss Earth 2021, who happened to be from Belize (the first and only Belizean to ever win one of the major beauty pageants), and sat with her and some friends while we watched the Miss Universe pageant!
If you’re looking for a bit of nightlife and buzz, this is the place to go!
Belize Island Hopping Tour with Splash Adventures
Breakfast is always my favourite meal of the day and I am a HUGE fan of Belizean breakfasts. Naïa Resort did a fantastic refried beans mixed with coconut, served with fry jacks that I could eat every single day. If you haven’t tried fry Jacks, trust me, they’re amazing (a sort of light puffy fried bread).
For the island hopping tour, it’s an early transfer to the Splash Diving Centre. We hopped into a covered speedboat and zipped out to the reefs.
Our first stop was Silk Caye; a reef that was quickly eroding before the locals stepped in to protect and rebuild it.
After a short briefing by the island staff, we jumped into the entry point and went for a snorkel. The sea here is absolutely teeming with life!
The local Placencia government is doing everything it can to save and restore the reefs and it really shows. Coral reefs out here are the spawning grounds of over 30 species annually, so losing them would be disastrous!
After a long snorkel around Silk Caye, we hopped in the boat and ate lunch over a secret turtle spot. Sure enough a turtle soon appeared!
We finished lunch and decided to jump in, just as a nurse shark appeared. I’ve never swam with sharks before, and that thing was huge! A little scary but apparently they prefer eating lion fish!
A quick stop at Ray Caye
On our way back, we made a quick stop at Ray Caye for a drink and a go on their massive water slide. It’s a private hotel that doesn’t always allow drop ins, but we were lucky it was a quiet day.
Laughing Bird Caye
Last stop was Laughing Bird Caye. This was another amazing snorkel spot in a similarly protected area. We saw a huge lobster, squid and plenty of beautiful tropical fish.
As far as snorkelling goes, it’s right up there with some of the best I’ve seen. In particular, the restoration work they’ve done on the coral (planting new coral as well) has created a huge area of abundant sea life. Definitely worth exploring if you have time to take a day into the islands.
What to pack for a day of island hopping and snorkelling
Although towels were provided, I would definitely recommend bringing a spare one or two. You’ll be in and out of the water several times throughout the day, so it’s nice to have a dry towel if you get cold.
I’d also recommend bringing an extra warm layer. Even though the sun was out, it still got quite chilly on the boat when we were flying at full speed.
Definitely bring sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to protect you from the elements!
A dry bag isn’t a bad idea too if you have one. Electronics hate salt water!
Dinner at Maya Beach Bistro
Maya Beach Bistro is in a fantastic location right by the beach in Placencia. It’s a stunning location with some of the most attentive staff I’ve encountered in a long time. I think 3 or 4 people tried to take our orders!
I had a delicious crispy coconut shrimp entree and Louise had a really unique watermelon and feta salad.
For our main course, Louise had a jerk chicken with pasta. The peanut brittle ice cream cake was unreal and served at a perfect temperature. Perfect for sharing! Bear in mind, this is a busy restaurant so reservations might be a good idea!
This was our third and final night in Placencia, before we made the move to the rainforest and San Ignacio.
I could have quite happily spent another week at Naïa, exploring the barrier reef, but I guess it’s an excuse to come back again!
Naia Resort and Spa: Where to stay in Placencia
Naia Resort and Spa is a secluded hotel resort on the coast of Placencia. It’s an oceanfront resort with a long white sand beach and palm trees. You feel immediately like you’ve escaped to a desert island, and the cabins are absolutely stunning. There’s plenty of wildlife around; tropical birds and even an agouti that said hello to us each morning. Most importantly, it’s a mere 5-10 minutes from the town of Placencia
Most of the rooms are beach houses, just footsteps from the beach. Each comes with everything you could need in a room, including a glorious heated outdoor shower.
The grounds are teeming with wildlife, including a cute little agouti we made friends with.
And don’t forget the food. The breakfasts here were my favourite of the trip. Each came with a fresh glass of coconut water and a sea breeze!
The dinner restaurant, 1981, was one of our favourites of the trip, and I would have absolutely eaten here every night if we’d had time.
Overall, Naia is a fantastic hotel if you’re looking for a quiet, unpretentious hotel with a wonderful coastline.
Day 4 was a travel day to San Ignacio. Don’t worry, it’s only about 2-3 hours to get there, so there’s definitely time to do something along the way.
Che’il Mayan Chocolate
If you have ever wondered how chocolate is made, this tour is for you! Did you know the first chocolate was made by ancient Mayans in Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula? It was even used as currency!
Che’il Mayan Chocolate products is a chocolate factory that still farms and prepares cacao and turns it into chocolate. The tour starts on the farm, where you learn how the fruit grows, how to pick it and prepare the seed for chocolate making.
Once you’re an expert on Cacao farming, you can head back to the shop where you’ll learn how to actually turn a dried bean into chocolate! You’ll make it using traditional tools (mano and metate), and you’ll be able to make it in the style you like too. We chose to make ours 75% cocoa with natural sugar and it was some of the most delicious chocolate I’ve ever tried.
Mayan cooking class
Part two of our tour was in the mayan cooking school. We used traditional vegetables and tools to make a delicious chicken soup and traditional mayan hot chocolate.
Traditional Mayan chocolate is actually made with Masa (crushed corn) and isn’t sweet. It’s actually closer to oatmeal than what you might typically think of when someone says hot chocolate.
We made traditional corn tortillas as well from the masa and made an absolutely delicious lunch. I’d absolutely recommend coming here if you’re staying in Belize for a while or want to learn how to cook a traditional Mayan lunch!
On our way to San Ignacio, our guide took a quick detour to his hometown of Hopkins. It’s a coastal town with a predominantly Garifuna community.
The Garifuna community was a new culture created out of escaped afro-carribean slaves that first escaped to St. Vincent and then later settled in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Garifuna culture has a strong focus on music and dancing, and we made a quick stop at the Garifuna cultural centre on our way through town. We watched a short drumming display while another group made a traditional Garifuna lunch. If we had more time, we would have loved to have come back and spent more time in this beautiful, sleepy coastal town.
Check in to Blancaneaux Lodge
For the second part of our trip, we stayed in Blancaneaux Lodge.
It’s a hotel owned by the famous Godfather director, Francis Ford Coppola. His famous attention to detail as a director shows here as a hotelier, because absolutely every detail here is perfect.
It’s absolutely one of the most beautifully decorated hotels we’ve stayed in, and let’s not forget the beautiful rainforest setting! More on this stunning hotel later!
For dinner, it’s important to note that this is quite a remote part of the country, so there aren’t a ton of restaurants in the area. Instead, we ate at the hotel every night. But don’t worry, the food at Blancaneaux was fantastic and there was plenty of variety to keep things interesting!
Barton Creek Caves
Barton Creek Caves are definitely one of the most unique experiences available in Belize. It’s a fantastic combination of adventure and history and well worth checking out.
The trip starts with an off road adventure, and to do this tour you would definitely want to use a tour company or rent a vehicle capable of driving through rivers! We used Yute Expeditions and their trusty Toyota called ‘Whitey’.
After a bumpy trip through the jungle, you’ll arrive at small bright green pool and a cave. Hop into a canoe and your guide will guide you into the darkness!
Caves were a very sacred part of Mayan culture and it was believed to be a link to the underworld. In particular, they believed that the rain god, Chaac lived there.
Unfortunately, the decline of Mayan civilisation was brought about in part because of drought, so when times got very tough, the Mayans would come to these caves and make human sacrifices!
Our guide, Elias, explained the history and practices in these caves, and even showed us a human skull embedded in the rocks!
The cave goes on for miles and miles but we only explored the first couple of kilometres. It was an absolutely spectacular experience that I would absolutely recommend and Yute Expeditions were the perfect guides.
Rio On Pools
On the way back from the Barton Creek Caves, we stopped at Rio On Pools. They are a natural swimming area in a massive cascading waterfall. There were no flies and the water was beautifully cool after a hot day in the sun. The rocks were so smooth, it honestly felt like it could have easily been something man made at Disneyland.
Louise and I bobbed around for a couple of hours, floating in the rapids and climbing into the waterfalls. Make sure you find time to swim in these beautifully clear waters!
Visit the ancient Mayan City of Caracol
This was 100% the part of the trip that I was most looking forward to. I’ve always wanted to visit some ancient Mayan Temples and Caracol is one of Belize’s finest examples. What’s more, it’s completely buried in the middle of the Belizean rainforest!
It’s literally a two hour drive down a remote, bumpy road, with absolutely nothing else along the way but trees. It’s hard to put into words how remote it is. But that just adds to the adventure!
Caracol is not the same today as it was several thousand years ago. What is now jungle was once supposedly cleared of trees and was more than likely part of a city of over 100,000 people.
Caracol was one of hundreds of Mayan cities sprawled all across the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s hard to fathom now, but it’s estimated that there were more buildings during the Mayan civilisation than there are currently in Belize. And the amazing thing is that so much of it has yet to be discovered!
What really makes Caracol special, in my opinion, is the remoteness and also the quality of the restoration of the site. What has already been unearthed is already astonishing, with just the main temple taking over 300 years of man hours to excavate. It’s an astonishing feat of architecture that is hard to fully grasp until you see it in person.
Even today, the main temple remains the tallest man made structure in Belize, standing 143 feet tall. The top of the temple is above the treetops and from the summit, you can see all the way to Guatemala.
As you walk around, the sounds of the jungle really stand out. In particular, the sounds of the howler monkeys are an unforgettable experience. Their roars are used for dinosaur sound effects in Jurassic Park, and it’s honestly hard to believe they come from a small monkey!
The area is steeped in history and culture, and having a guided tour really makes all the difference. Our guide, Elias from Yute Expeditions, was truly a qualified historian with a passion for MesoAmerican history. Louise and I grilled him about everything we could think of any he was an absolute wealth of knowledge and experience.
Visiting Caracol was a wonderful experience, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone with an interest in Mayan history.
What to pack for Caracol
Caracol doesn’t have much shelter at all, so that means pack plenty of sunscreen, bug spray and possibly a hat. Also bring plenty of water if it’s going to be hot. Similarly, if it looks like there’s rain in the forecast, it might be worth bringing a raincoat!
Big Rock Falls
Big Rock Falls are conveniently just a few short minutes from Blancaneaux Lodge, and are part of the same river that runs through the hotel. The water is clear and cool and the perfect swimming spot after a long, sweaty day at Caracol. There are plenty of rocks to jump off. Some people climbed ridiculously high while we were there and jumped into the plunge pool, so there’s some serious cliff diving there, if you’re that way inclined.
The rocks aren’t super easy to walk on barefoot, so I’d probably recommend bringing some water shoes with you if possible. The walk down to the falls is down several rickety, wooden staircases, so having decent footwear is essential!
River Tubing at Blancaneaux Lodge
For our seventh and final day in Belize, we decided to take it easy in the hotel and really make the most of everything Blancaneaux had to offer. If you follow this itinerary religiously, believe me, you’re going to need a rest day.
With every booking at Blancaneaux Lodge, every guest is given a complimentary river tubing experience. This takes place down the river on the hotel property and is perfect for anyone looking to just slow things down for a couple of hours.
It begins with a short walk to the top of the river while carrying your tube. If you want to bring beer or wine along (you can buy canned Coppola wine at the hotel!), your guide will have it ready for you as well.
Then once you’re at the top of the river (not very far at all), you get a little time to paddle in the cool pools at the top.
When you’re ready to float, hop into your donut and start heading downstream! It’s very, very calm and the water is quite shallow, so it’s pretty appropriate for almost anyone.
It seems like river tubing is quite a popular activity in Belize, and there are a number of places you can find it across the country. If/when we come back again, I will make a point of trying the cave tubing, which I hear is an amazingly unique experience!
Massage at Blancaneaux Lodge
Our final activity in Belize was a massage at Blancaneaux’s spa. Louise and I had a couples’ massage and it was just what we needed. Hopefully my snoring wasn’t too distracting!
Where to stay near Caracol?
We stayed at Blancaneaux Lodge and had an absolutely wonderful experience. This hotel is truly a jungle paradise, with a number of thatched cottages for guests. Each room is meticulously decorated and it truly feels like you’ve gone back in time.
Rooms include real espresso machines (which I fell in love with immediately), hand made soaps and shampoos, hammocks, and some even included telescopes for stargazing (the stars in Belize are absolutely mind blowing, by the way). There are also no TV’s, but there’s wifi if you really need to stay connected.
The grounds of the hotel are truly unparalleled. Blancaneaux has a beautiful river running through it, which guests can swim, tube or float in, as well as an orchid garden and stunning grounds for roaming.
As I mentioned, this is quite a remote part of Belize, so it’s easier to just eat in the hotel; either in the Guatemaltecqua restaurant (Guatemalan food), Montagna restaurant (italian food) or the Garden Spot (vegetarian restaurant). The food was absolutely fantastic, with plenty of variety. For drinks, there is an extensive wine list, with a substantial portion coming directly from the Coppola family vineyards.
What makes this hotel even better are the personal touches. The waiters make a real effort to learn your names and greet you each night. And then each night, there is a hot water bottle waiting for you in your bed!
It was a truly unforgettable experience.
What’s the weather like in Belize?
The weather in Belize is very seasonal. The wet season is typically June to November, and the dry season is December to May. We visited towards the end of January and it didn’t rain at all.
We expected a visit to the jungle to be humid and sweaty, but actually the heat was quite dry.
It’s worth knowing that, particularly in the mountainous area, although it’s hot in the day, the weather cools off significantly at night. It was cold enough to need a hot water bottle in our bed! In general, the highs during the days ranged between about 25-30C or 77-86F.
At night, supposedly the temperature fell to about 18C or 65F, but in the jungle it was almost definitely colder. I would highly recommend packing a sweater or something warm for once the sun goes down.
As I mentioned, it didn’t rain at all while we were in Belize, but it’s called a rainforest for a reason, so I’d recommend bringing some wet weather gear.
What should I pack for a trip to Belize?
Here are some absolute must pack items for belize:
- Sun hat
- Bug spray (the more DEET the better)
- swimming shorts/bikini.
- long, lightweight pants for jungle trips (protect you from bugs)
- light long sleeved shirt (protection from sun/bugs)
- US dollars/Belizean dollars for payments and tips
- A raincoat, just in case!
Is Belize expensive?
I would say that in general, Belize might be considered expensive for Central America. The currency is strong and once converted, prices aren’t too different from prices in the US.
In general, it’s helpful to have some cash for tips and paying people that don’t accept cards, but we found even in the markets people had card readers. Just make sure that if the price is quoted in Belizean dollars and you’re using credit card, they actually charge you in Belizean dollars!
At this time, Belizean dollars are 2:1 for US dollars, and they use the currencies interchangeably. You could pay in USD and get your change in BZD or vice versa.
Is Belize a safe country?
We had an extremely positive experience in Belize, although somewhat sheltered. Whenever we were driving between places, it was always with a guide. We absolutely never felt unsafe or had a negative experience. I’m told that some parts of Belize City can be unsafe, but for the most part, the rest of the country is quite safe.
Is it safe to drive in Belize?
We didn’t drive ourselves and used Get to know Belize Adventures for the first part, and Yute Expeditions for the second half. Both were absolutely fantastic.
With that being said, I would have not hesitated at all to rent a car and drive myself around the country. The roads are very well maintained and driving seemed very unintimidating compared to many other places we’ve driven around the world.
I would, however, recommend going with a tour company if you plan to do any of the jungle adventures. These roads are not well maintained and can be very muddy/treacherous in wet weather. Much better to go with an expert!
Are the bugs bad in Belize?
Generally speaking, we had a very bug free trip but I did get eaten alive on the first horse riding trip into the jungle. I decided I would risk it in shorts with no bug spray and I REALLY regretted it.
I was eaten alive by Botlass flies (not to be confused with botflies). You don’t feel them as they bite you, but my god they were probably the itchiest bites I’ve ever experienced.
After that experience, we religiously applied bug spray and never had any issues again. Definitely pack or buy bug spray. You will not regret it.
Aside from bugs that bite, we did not see any creepy crawlies whatsoever. Part of me is disappointed that we didn’t see any tarantulas or interesting bugs, but to be honest I’m more relieved!
What is the food like in Belize?
The food in Belize is fantastic. There is amazing seafood, with more lobster and conch than you can shake a stick at. Pretty much every menu has seafood ceviche on it, and everything is as fresh as humanly possible.
Restaurants tend to have influences from every culture, but there is a very strong central american influence (for obvious reasons), which means a lot of tortillas, burritos, tacos, beans, stews and soups. Try everything, it’s all delicious.
There is also a national obsession with a Belizean grown hot sauce called “Marie Sharp’s” hot sauce. It is literally on every table in every restaurant and comes in a range of spice levels. We quickly fell in love with it as well and brought a huge supply home with us.
Overall, the food is fantastic, so don’t expect to lose weight while you’re there!
Can Canadians get direct flights to Belize?
In amazing news, Westjet is now flying direct to Belize from Canada, so what used to be an all day journey now takes less than 5 hours from Calgary. We took off at 9am and arrived at Belize Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport by 3pm the same day (Belize is one hour ahead). Belize is now more accessible than ever!
To get to Placencia, our final destination, we had to jump on a small plane run by Tropic Air. It was an incredible 30 minute flight with amazing views of the coastline. and rainforest at sunset. Highly recommend this instead of a long, stuffy bus ride.
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There are so many fantastic ways to enjoy Belize. It’s a paradise that probably needs multiple trips to fully appreciate, but hopefully this itinerary has given you a few great ideas for things to do while you’re there!
If, like me, you have some trepidation about spending more time in the jungle, don’t! It was absolutely the best part of the trip, and it’s extremely quiet because so many people gravitate towards the reefs. It’s an amazing place to safely experience the rainforest and Mayan Culture without the crowds.
All in all, I highly highly recommend a trip to Belize and can’t wait to go back! Thanks so much again to the Belize Tourist Board for hosting us!