Are you wondering where in the world Belize is located? If so, you’re not alone. Just ask your friends and family members if they know where Belize is. You might be a ton of wild guesses! In this blog post, we’ll show you where Belize is located and also offer a quick history lesson of this unique country.
First, let’s with a quick geography lesson. Many people seem to think Belize is in Africa, South America, even Eastern Europe. In fact, Belize is in Central America. Specifically, Belize is located on the northeastern coast, just south of Mexico, and east of Guatemala. Since Belize’s mainland stretches only 22,960 square kilometers, it is very easy to travel from one point to another. Belize is bordered to the east by the beautiful Caribbean sea, and there are even some islands that are technically part of Belize. Those islands are Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. On the mainland coast, there are also many popular beach towns including Placencia, Hopkins, and Dangriga.
However, there’s more to Belize than tropical, Caribbean beaches. Head about 2 hours inland from the coast and you’ll find tropical jungles where many Maya ruins are located. Many popular towns such as San Ignacio are only a 2-hour drive inland from Belize City, and just a quick walk away from the Guatemala border.
Brief History of Belize
Belize was once a major Mayan site from 1500 BCE to 800 CE. Many of those historic sites such as Xunantunich, Caracol, and Lamanai are major tourist attractions today. Later in the country’s history, Spanish conquistadors declared Belize a Spanish colony. It was later occupied by British settlers. In 1862, Great Britain declared Belize one of their colonies and named it British Honduras. Self-government was granted to British Honduras in 1964, and full independence was won in 1981. To this day, British presence remains in Belize in the form of 1,500 British troops who remain in Belize to protect it from the threat of Guatemala.
Today, Belize is divided into 6 districts:
- Orange Walk
- Stann Creek
The country’s capital is Belmopan, although the largest city is Belize City. In total, a little over 313,000 people reside in Belize. The population in Belize is largely made up of Mayans, Kriols, Garinagu, Mestizos, Mennonites, Indians, Chinese, and Whites. Despite the ethnic mix, English is the official language of Belize, although Spanish, Kriol, Garifuna, and Maya are also spoken.
Where to Stay in Belize
For most foreigners, it is advised to avoid spending time in Belize City due to violence. The other districts of Belize are largely safe and pose little to no threat. Popular destinations include the inland jungles of San Ignacio where many Mayan ruins can be found, or the Caribbean beach areas of Hopkins, Punta Gorda, and Placencia. For those seeking a beach getaway, the Belizean islands Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are very popular and easy to get to by boat.
Since English is the official language of Belize, it is not hard for English speakers to communicate. The official currency is the Belize dollar, but US dollars are accepted at most establishments.
If it’s a tropical island escape that you seek, you definitely want to head to the islands of Belize. From Belize City, you can either take a Tropic Air flight to the islands, or the more affordable water taxi. The first water taxi stop is a small Caribbean island known as Caye Caulker. There are plenty of white sandy beaches, turquoise ocean waters, fresh seafood, and a variety of water activities to keep you busy. Best of all, this island is more intimate and less hectic than its big brother, mentioned below.
Furtherest from mainland Belize is Ambergris Caye. Measuring 25 miles long and 5 miles across, this is the largest and most popular Belize island. Where it stands, it is about 35 miles northwest of Belize City. The great Belize Barrier Reef is to the east of Ambergris Caye, making it the closest land to this popular tourist attraction. As a result, the island is where you want to be for scuba diving, snorkeling, and other ocean-based activities.
The main town in the Cayo District, San Ignacio is 90 minutes away from the Belize City Airport, but it is a prime tourist destination for several reasons. First, it is closest to many Maya ruins, such as Xunantunich and ATM Cave. Second, San Ignacio is one of the last towns in Belize before you cross the Guatemala border en route to Tikal Maya ruins. Finally, it is a mountainous jungle town where lots of hiking, cave exploration, waterfall viewing, and zip lining can be done.
The largest town in the Stann Creek region, Dangriga is the main capital of the Garifuna people. As such, this town is the birthplace of punta rock, a unique musical fusion of electric instruments and acoustic Garifuna sounds. Thus, Dangriga is the perfect place for musical and cultural immersion, as well as serving as a gateway to mainland Belize beach towns.
About a half hour south of Dangriga is the tranquil beach village of Hopkins. Due to its slower pace of life, Hopkins is a more popular place for tourists to stay overnight as opposed to Dangriga. The Garifuna culture is still very strong in Hopkins. Visitors may enjoy Garifuna music, drumming, and cooking in the area. There are also ample opportunities to scuba dive, snorkel, and enjoy ocean sports.
Even further south of Hopkins (about 60 minutes) is the long, narrow peninsula of Placencia. A former fishing village, Placencia is a laid back coastal town. It is also a prime launch point to the Silk Cayes and the Gladden Spit Reserve where whale sharks come to spawn in May and June. Other nearby attractions include Monkey River and the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve.
The southernmost town of Belize is Punta Gorda. It also happens to be the capital of Belize’s Toledo District. The town is 2 and a half hours south of Placencia. The local population is truly a mixing pot consisting of Garifuna, East Indians, Creoles, Maya, and even Lebanese and Chinese. In terms of attractions, there are many rainforests, jungles, coastal lowlands, caves, and offshore cayes (islands) to discover.
Things to Do in Belize
Many visitors come to Belize to see Maya ruins. The historic site of Xunantunich is ever-popular and is often a gateway to Tikal Maya ruins, located next door in Guatemala. The pristine beaches of Belize and the famous Great Barrier Reef also attract scuba divers and those bold enough to swim with whale sharks.
But if you look beyond the surface, you’ll immerse into a version of Belize that few tourists get to fully experience. In addition to ruins, there are many other outdoor opportunities including caving at ATM Cave and Barton Creek, horseback riding in the jungle, canoeing, hiking, and so much more.
Now that you know a little bit more about Belize, be sure to check out some of our other tips for planning a trip to Belize, including a packing list of recommended items.