Half the country of Belize is covered in lush, dense rainforest, which is populated with unique wildlife and features jungle lodges and Mayan ruins. Here are four ways to experience the rainforest.
Stay at a jungle lodge
The Cayo district, with 356,000 hectares of parks, rainforests and nature preserves, is a popular destination that features a variety of accommodation types.
Budget-friendly: Table Rock Jungle Lodge near the town of San Ignacio is located on a small reserve on the Macal River. The lodge offers complimentary bikes, river tubes and canoes for guests and operates its own working fruit farm.
Luxury: Also near the town of San Ignacio is the luxurious Chaa Creek resort. It features 25 spacious cottages, some with a private jacuzzi, plus a pool, spa, open-air restaurant, butterfly exhibit and horse stables. Chaa Creek also offers 10 rustic, secluded cabins at a lower price.
Unique: Located in the western Cayo District is Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge. There is a variety of accommodation options to choose from here, but The Belize Tree Houses are excellent. These one- and two-bedroom tree houses are situated 61 metres above the tree canopy and offer valley, river and mountain views.
Hike through the rainforest at night
Much of the wildlife in the rainforest is nocturnal, so book a jungle hike after dark for your best shot at catching a glimpse. Jungle lodges and resorts like Chaa Creek, Black Rock Lodge and Caves Branch offer guided night hikes. Expect to be followed along the way by buzzing fireflies and encounter creatures such as red-eyed tree frogs, tarantulas, armadillo, snakes, wild boar, deer and spider monkeys.
Tour Mayan ruins
Belize was the centre of the Mayan civilization; is it believed that more than one million Maya people inhabited the country between 250 AD and 900 AD. Ruins of this ancient society’s stone structures can be found throughout the country. Here are two must-visit sites.
Altun Ha: Just an hour north of Belize City, wander through 13 temples and structures adjacent to the Mayan-built Rockstone Pond reservoir.
Xunantunich: Located on a hilltop in the Cayo District, this is one of the country’s largest Mayan ruins. Climb to the top of the 40-metre-high El Castillo temple where, on a clear day, you can see nearby Guatemala.
Go cave tubing
Visitors to Belize can indulge in underground river float trips through caves beneath the country’s rainforest. Several tour operators, including Splash Wave Tours Belize and Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Company, offer excursions through the Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve. Its series of limestone caves is located along the Caves Branch River that the Mayans believed was the home of the gods. Start with a short hike through the rainforest, then float on inner tubes beneath ancient stalactites, past underground waterfalls and former ritual sites.