After you get out of the city and into the jungle, you will obviously step back in time. Also, you'll be entering the home of the true Mayan residents, the animals.
In the jungles, there will be plenty of birds, lizards, crocodiles, etc. One of the biggest draws is the howler monkeys.
Particularly in the late afternoon, they will be a bit more active and noisy. The picture in this post is from the Lamanai ruins. The monkeys are found in many places, but the trail to the Mask Temple at Lamanai is a great chance for seeing them.
In my opinion, Lamanai ("submerged crocodile" in Yucatec Maya language) would be good choice to visit. It is large enough to keep your attention and small enough that you can comfortably walk the area in an afternoon.
The walk around the ruins will be good. The largest of the temples (called the "High Temple) can be climbed and you can see the jungles and horizon from above. To this day, High Temple remains the second tallest structure in Belize.
The Jaguar Temple and other courtyards are impressive too. Also the large face sculpted on the Mask Temple is famous.
Lamanai has been occupied in various amounts between the 4th century BC, up to the 17th century AD.
The Cays are a must see if you can afford to spend a night or two.
Brodies off of Albert Street - It has everything and then some that you can imagine.
Water Taxi - That's always a great things to do even if its for the day.
Belize was one of the stops while on our cruise, so we were only here 8am-4pm. We booked a trip that took us on a boat safarie on the Rio Wallace and then onto Altun Ha. While on the river we saw manatees, iguanas (HUGE ones) alligators, rare birds, monkeys, and lots of interesting flowers. It was fantastic. I just wish I had a hat or visor, since our boat did not have a cover. Our guide, Ms. Jay, was great in finding and pointing out all the wildlife.
This was a very breathtaking place. When we got their with our well informed tour guide Oscar he gave us two choices on how to reach the cave. Either take the hard way or the easy way. Of course we were all ready for the hard way first and the easy way on the way back. Smart move for us!! This cave has archaeological importance because the Maya used it during the Classic Period. Pottery vessels, spears, and torches are among some of the artifacts that have been recovered by the Department of Archaeology.
The hard way, you did a lot of hiking and lots of steep inclines. Of course some of the people had a little problems going this way. Had some tight spots where you had to climb up and down sideways or fall down (which a few kids did. No they didnt get hurt).
Make sure that you wear lots of bug spray. It is very hot in the rain forest and humid but it was all worth it for the views.
A little background that we learned on the tour was....
That Mayan priest will not go into this cave. They believe that there is nine levels of hell, and of course the first level is water underground (that is why you hear that when they find burial they usually have a boat near it) and they have to go through all the levels of hell to shoot up and become a star in Heaven. So he told us that when someone tells us to "Go to Hell" we can say Thanks but I have already been there and made it through!
Though the cruiseline offered many trips, I prefer to book independently whenever possible and this was a super pick! Major Tom has a great operation here. We were met at the ship by our guide, who was a truly wonderful man. He was a native of Belize, but world travelled and entertained us with his knowledge of Belize and the world.
I'd been a little worried about whether my mom and great aunt would be up for the physical part of the excursion, but the staff were wonderfully accommodating and the trip was very manageable. Our trip through the rain forest was wonderful and the guides continuously checked to make sure the slower travellers were not left behind. Once we hit the water, the guide led us, pushed us, pulled us and did every and anything necessary to make sure we had a great ride through the caves. Once outside the caves, he was wonderful in making sure my mother (who is more than a little nervous in water) felt safe. She ended up wanting to go again!
However, there was a wonderful lunch awaiting us - with chicken grilled in a traditional manner while we enjoyed the music. We left full and fully satisfied.
I can't say enough about this tour! And, for $35 per person it was more than a steal.
There are several unique and fascinating things to do in Belize. One of the most unique is the river cave tubing; if we ever return to Belize, this type of day trip is definitely on my list!
If you are not on a ship, stop at tourist info. office for brochures or watch for tour operator signs advertising this adventure. Cave tubing tours takes you to a river where you will hike upstream for probably a half hour to reach a designated cave. During the 2 hour drift back downstream you will enter caves and seeing underground waterfalls and on the River Tavern, see Stalagmites and Stalacites.
If you are especially fit, try hiking up to a farther cave (you'll be climbing inside some caves for this adventure) which will take approximately 1.5 hours with the drift back downstream lasting about 2 hrs or more.
This type of tour may be offered by several companies so be sure to check out the length of the tripsand cost per person, making sure also that you leave yourself adequate time to get back on your ship, get back to the airport, or get that last ferry to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye! Expect to pay in the neighborhood of about $65 for a day trip like this. NOTE: Don't forget to wear a bathing, suit or shorts and t-shirt and tennis shoes are suggested because of the climbing involved. You might also want to bring along extra clothes and a towel and don't forget a disposal underwater or waterproof camera.
We covered quite a bit of ground in Belize and, in doing this, found that the country is really not very big. This, combined with excellent roads and transportation systems, means that it is quite easy to venture out of Belize City to sample some really interesting things!
This photo shows part of Hicks Cays (islands) to the north of the city as our flight from Atlanta neared the international airport. Caye Caulker, with it's sandy streets and no-cars policy, was one of our best experiences in the whole country and is located only 21 miles from Belize City. It is easily and cheaply reached by either water taxis or flights on the local airlines. See my 'Caye Caulker' and 'Ambergris Cay' pages for more details.
The second photo shows part of the 20-miles of protected forests along the Belize River, near Burmudian Landing. This area of Belize, is only 27 miles northwest of the city and hosts a thriving community of endangered Black Howler Monkeys. The villagers living there have banded together to form the Community Baboon Sanctuary, providing themselves with another source of income as they take tourists on guided walks through the forest for sightings of these animals - whose howls can be heard for up to 3 km! My 'Belmopan' page has the details.
Finally, the crocodiles and other animals of the Belize Zoo are well worth a 30-mile drive toward Belmopan on the Western Highway. Located away from civilization in the tropical pine savannah, this Zoo only looks after creatures native to Belize that were either injured, became too difficult to keep as pets or were seized from their owners. Accommodations are available nearby and it is also possible to take night tours of the zoo. They have a great collection of Jaguars, Pumas and many other cats (also detailed in my 'Belmopan' page)!
The bus ride out to Jaguar Paw might freak you out but it is well worth it. After a hike through the rain forest with your inner tube you come to the mouth of the cave. The river can be higher depending if they have had alot of rain. This also means the potential for piranah, but they wont bite you. It is a relaxing float through the cave, a wonderful experience.
Cave Tubing is quite fun! You can negotiate a day trip tour with one of many companies or individuals in town. Ours was with a local named Ernesto. He gave us a quick tour of the city in his van, then drove out to the jungle, where we had a pleasant hike (carrying our tubes) to get to the caves. We saw tons of birds, leaf-cutter ants, and colorful lizards. There we jumped into a lovely lagoon and floated down the river through various caves and leafy, sunny open areas.
It was very simple. You just sat in your inner tube and let the current take you down stream through caves. We were provided with a life vest, although much of the trip is in waters in which you could stand up. They also provided a headlight, so you could see while in the caves. It was a very unique experience. The water warm.
Once your at Belize city I would highly sugguest going out to one of the cays they have off the coast. They have lots of cool restaurants and everywere you go there are white sand beaches. In fact the entire cays are made of sand.
Take a 20 minute hike through the jungle with your inner tube, and then float as you drift in and out of caves. Headlamps are worn so you can see the inside of the caves. Depending on the time of year, the current is either very slow (have to paddle with your hands to keep moving), or fast.
At Barton Caves we put in canoes and paddled the outflow slowly through this limestone cave.
Saw limestone flows and stalactites. Water is murky clear with some fish. The cleft ceiling was very high, at least 100 feet. The cave was surprisingly warm.
Several spots have natural stone bridges, one bridge a shelf over the river. The ancient Maya enhanced a sloping wall to make steps to a ledge where skeletons were found: one a 60 yr old woman, several of men and women- possible sacrifices when the Mayan empire was in decline.
Stone Maiden, Xunantunich
At the ruins a mound looked like a “volcano” where an 'archeologist' in late 1800's used dynamite to blow up the center to loot artifacts. Walked to the top of the main pyramid El Castillo for an outstanding view of Guatemala about 1 mile away. Looked the same as Belize.
Small museum with stone carvings. Several tall excavated Mayan ruins restored. Other mounds.