your perfect Belize itinerary
Planning a trip to Belize and trying to work out your perfect Belize itinerary?
In this blog post I am sharing a great itinerary, covering beach towns, islands as well as jungle and forest destinations.
I added recommendations on how many days to spend at each place, this of course can be adjusted according to your plans at each destination as well as the total amount of time you have available for your trip to Belize.
Even though Belize is a very small country, I recommend spending AT LEAST 10-14 days here to be able to see many of the beautiful and diverse places this country has to offer.
Let´s get started!
1. Belize City, 1-2 days
Chances are, you will start your trip in Belize City, flying into Philip Goldson International airport.
To be honest, I did not like Belize City itself much and there is not a whole lot to do there. Also it is considered a rather unsafe place, so you probably don´t want to spend a whole lot of time here.
From Belize City you can start your itinerary in basically every direction. Either heading straight to one of the islands such as Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye or even a private island, or start exploring the mainland first.
As for the mainland, a rental car would definitely come in handy, Even though the country is small, there are many places that are worth a stop while on the road.
If you are headed to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye first, boats are leaving from Belize City multiple times a day.
It might be worth staying in Belize City for 2 days, if you are planning to visit the nearby Altun Ha ruins (about 1 hour drive).
How to get to Belize City?
You will likely arrive to Belize City by air, landing at the only International airport in Belize – Philip Goldson airport.
Where to stay in Belize City?
There are a few options to stay in Belize City.
If you have a flight that arrives quite late in the day, you might want to stay for a night and head out from here the next morning. If you have an early flight, I would probably make my way towards the next destination on the next day. In case you want to visit the Altun Ha ruins (about one hour drive from Belize City), consider staying there for an additional day.
What to do and see in and around Belize City?
- Downtown Belize
- Altun Ha (one hour drive)
2. Caye Caulker, 2-3 days
One of the most famous islands in Belize. Caye Caulker is known as the “Backpacker island” and famous for it´s typical Caribbean vibe and chilled atmosphere.
The island is rather small and you can walk to almost everywhere. Many people hire a golf cart at the boat dock and explore the island this way. However, due to the short distances on the “main island”, I do not really think it is necessary.
There are only a few cars on the island, mainly used for construction sites etc. So you either walk, rent a golf cart or a bicycle.
Caye Caulker does not offer the typical white sandy beaches you would expect in Belize. Water levels are quite high and you can pretty much only get into the water from some docks.
The most famous place for swimming on the island is “The Split”. This is where Caye Caulker is basically split into two separate island and you can get to the other side (which is much bigger and less inhabited) by boat.
To be honest, I did not really love Caye Caulker but I also came with the wrong expectations.
Having done too little research in advance, I assumed that it would be a dreamy Caribbean island with white sand beaches and everything you would expect from the ideal tropical getaway.
However the reality was that there are basically no beaches suitable for swimming, when I visited (in September) there was a lot of seaweed and the water was quite murky.
I did however enjoy the Caribbean, laid back vibe and still recommend adding Caye Caulker to your Belize itinerary.
How to get to Caye Caulker?
The most popular option is to get a boat from Belize City (there are at least two different operators doing the route multiple times a day) to Caye Caulker.
There is also a small, domestic airport on the island, in case you prefer flying.
I went with a boat of the company Caribbean sprinter, return tickets were about 70 Belize dollars (35 USD) and duration of the boat ride was only about 30 minutes.
Where to stay at Caye Caulker?
There are quite a few options, not many luxury but a bunch of hostels and budget friendly hotels (for Belize standards – compared to other Central American countries, Belize is really expensive).
Due to the island´s small size and it´s popularity, accommodation sells out pretty easily, so make sure to book in advance.
I stayed at Go Slow Guesthouse/ Hostel – not the greatest hostel experience I ever had, but definitely ok for a few nights.
What to do and see at Caye Caulker?
- check out the Split
- go on a snorkling tour
- find a manatee
- explore Caye Caulker´s night life
- try freshly caught lobster
- Enjoy the Caribbean vibe
- have bagels & coffee at the famous Ice and Beans Cafe
3. Ambergris Caye, 3-4 days
One of the most popular and touristy places in Belize – Ambergris Caye.
Even though being known as the biggest island in Belize, Ambergris Caye is actually a large peninsula, connecting to Mexico in the North.
Due to being a popular tourist destinations, Ambergris Caye offers many resort style hotels.
It is home to many beautiful beaches and is, due to its size, best explored by golf cart.
The capital San Pedro is a bustling town with many shops & restaurants as well as bars.
San Pedro is also where you will arrive either by boat or by plane.
For me personally, Ambergris Caye was a bit too touristy and expensive. But I still enjoyed my time here and recommend adding it to your Belize itinerary, if you don´t mind being among many other tourists.
How to get to Ambergris Caye?
You can either hop on a domestic flight from Belize City to Ambergris Caye or arrive by boat from Belize City or Caye Caulker (the same boat that starts in Belize City and goes to Caye Caulker, continues to Ambergris Caye). I did take a boat, as it is a very fast and convenient option.
Where to stay at Ambergris Caye?
There are many options in Ambergris Caye, mostly quite pricey. I did stay at two Sandy Point Resorts as part of a collaboration (X`Tan Ha and Coco Beach) and really enjoyed my stay at both of these resort-style hotels.
What to see and do at Ambergris Caye?
- explore San Pedro downtown
- visit Secret beach (not really a secret, but actually very popular but beautiful)
- ride around the island by golf cart
- go scuba diving
- go snorkling
- take a tour to the nearby Hol Chan Marine reserve
4. Private island (optional), 3-4 days
Belize is one of the countries, where it is possible to stay on a bunch of privately owned islands.
This certainly is a once in a lifetime experience and if you have some extra time and budget, I highly recommend making a stop at a private island for a couple of days.
As you can imagine, renting a private island is not exactly cheap. Prices start from about 1500 USD per night to rent an entire island.
Check out the above mentioned blog posts for more details about renting your own private island.
Getting there will depend on the location of the island, some have their own helicopter pad, but mostly you will arrive by boat.
5. Hopkins, 2-5 days
Hopkins should definitely be a part of your Belize itinerary and here is why:
It is a relatively small village with only around 1000 inhabitants and much less popular than Placencia for example, but has a great Caribbean vibe and beautiful beaches.
It is also one of my favorite hidden gems in Belize.
This village has been voted “the friendliest village in Belize” and I absolutely felt that during my visit. Everyone is super happy, greeting everyone and just having a good vibe! Not that the locals in other parts of Belize were not friendly or welcoming, but the people in Hopkins are another level!
The Garifuna culture is very present in this village and there are many shops with typical handcrafts and souvenirs.
From Hopkins it is a relatively short distance to some amazing places like the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and the Cockscomb Basin. I have put 2-5 days for recommended days in the area, depending on if you will explore some of the nearby attractions from Hopkins or stay overnight closer to them.
How to get to Hopkins?
Hopkins is located a relatively short distance from Dangriga airport, if you wish to fly.
However, to make the most out of your time and to be able to explore the surroundings, I highly recommend renting a car while exploring Hopkins and the Belize mainland in general.
If not renting a car and exploring places like the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and Cockscomb Basin from here, I recommend staying at those places overnight and not miss out on them! On the way to Hopkins from Belize City, you will drive along the Hummingbird Highway, which is home to a bunch of attractions and a really beautiful drive with amazing views!
Where to stay in Hopkins?
Hopkins has due to it´s small size not as many accommodation options as other, more touristic, places in Belize. However there are quite a few budget friendly as well as very luxury options (like the Jaguar Reef for example).
What to do and see in and around Hopkins?
- Take in the Garifuna culture
- Stroll around the main road
- Check out the beach
- Go snorkling or scuba diving
- Kayak through the Sittee river
- Explore the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and/ or Cockscomb Basin from here
6. Placencia, 2-3 days
The Placencia peninsula is a very touristy region with many resorts and beautiful beaches.
As you guys probably noticed, I usually prefer the less visited places, off the tourist path. But I am still happy that I did actually have Placencia on my Belize itinerary, as the beaches there are really beautiful.
There are many resorts and hotels to choose from, most of them being quite expensive.
Activities on and around the peninsula include snorkling, diving, kayaking and much more!
A lot of the properties in Placencia will have kayaks and paddleboards available for rent or even included free of charge for their guests. Make sure to take advantage of it!
How to get to Placencia?
Placencia has it´s own airport, so you can choose to arrive by domestic flight, if you prefer. If you have a car rental, Placencia is located about one hour South of Hopkins.
Where to stay in Placencia?
There are many options, as this area is pretty touristy. Most are quite expensive, but if you book far in advance, you might be able to get a good deal!
Mariposa does have a great pool with ocean views and an amazing restaurant and bar and has much less rooms than Naia.
Naia is a huge beach front property with great accommodation options and an amazing Spa.
What to do and see in Placencia?
- check out the beaches in Placencia
- have a meal and drinks at Tipsy Tuna
- go snorkling
- go scuba diving
- stroll around Placencia downtown
6. Cayo district (San Ignacio and/ or Mountain Pine Ridge), 3-4 days
San Ignacio is located in the Cayo district, close to the Guatemalan border.
The Cayo district is home to many beautiful and interesting sights and attractions. I highly recommend adding this area to your Belize itinerary.
This area of Belize is also very rich in Mayan culture and a great place for shopping local crafts and souvenirs.
Either, San Ignacio or the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve are a great base to explore the surroundings. Ideally, you could spend 2-3 night at each of these places to make the most out of it.
As I am more the nature person than city person, I preferred staying outside of San Ignacio.
How to get to San Ignacio and Mountain Pine Ridge?
San Ignacio is the last bigger town before the border to Guatemala. If you continue your travels to Guatemala after you have been in Belize, you can just add another stop here. San Ignacio does have an airport, so you can take a domestic flight there, if you do not have a rental car.
To explore the surroundings of San Ignacio, a car will definitely come in handy!
To get to Mountain Pine Ridge, a car is essential, in case you are not on a guided tour.
Where to stay in the area?
As I am more the nature person rather than a city person, I preferred staying outside of town. I did stay at a wonderful Airbnb called Alma del Rio as part of a collaboration and HIGHLY recommend it.
There are a bunch of hotels in the area and it should be simple to find something to fit your needs.
While visiting Mountain Pine Ridge, I stayed at the amazing San Miguel Campground. But there are also a few hotel options within the reserve, the most popular being Pine Ridge Lodge.
What to do and see in the area?
Mountain Pine Ridge:
- 1000 foot falls
- Big Rock Falls
- Rio on Pools
- Rio Frio Cave
- ATM Cave
- Caracol ruins (drive through the reserve and further South)
in and around San Ignacio:
- Cahal Pech Ruins
- San Ignacio Market
- Xunantunich Ruins (outside of San Ignacio)
Put together your perfect Belize itinerary?
Make sure to check out more blog posts about Belize to help with planning your perfect trip: