Belize is a popular country for two very different kinds of holidays. The islands and beach areas are great for snorkeling, diving, sailing, water sports, as well as just relaxing. The cities and interior of the country are filled with unique flora, fauna, and terrain. There are quite a few important Mayan ruins here, but also a large selection of outdoor activities and nature tours.
Ambergris Caye – (click on the link for more details) This is the largest and most popular island for visitors. There are some budget hotels here, but most of the accommodations are in the mid-range and upper prices ranges for the country. The village that is more or less in the center of the island is called San Pedro, and often people refer to the island and that village interchangeably, even though Ambergris Caye spreads far out in both directions from the San Pedro village center. The beaches here aren’t great, but are slightly better than on Caye Caulker.
Belize City – The former capital and largest city still only has about 70,000 residents so it’s not a major urban center. The international airport is on the outskirts of town and the harbor in the city is a major aquatic transit point, so most Belize visitors at least pass through here, but for most that’s all they do. Belize City looks quite run down and there aren’t too many attractions here, so don’t plan on staying in the city unless you have a reason to do so.
Belmopan – This is the tiny capital of the country and not much else. It was built starting in the 1960s so everything is new and pleasant, but unless you’ve got a specific business or passport-related matter to attend to, it’s probably best to just cruise on through without an overnight stay.
Caye Caulker – At about 6 miles long, Caye Caulker is about a quarter the size of Ambergris, and it also attracts a different kind of crowd. This is where hippies and backpackers usually go in Belize, and when you spend some time on the island you’ll notice that many of them never left. There are a few fancier places to stay, but most of the accommodations here are budget and funky. Great diving and snorkeling make up for the lack of sunbathing beaches here.
Corozal – This small town sits 9 miles from the Mexico border, overlooking a crystal clear bay. Its proximity to Mexico makes it a major hub for visitors, but there aren’t a ton of activities available here so don’t book in Corozal unless your main goal is to relax and hang out in a sweet little town near the border.
Placencia – This is a long peninsula jutting into the Caribbean in the south of the country, as well as the name of the small village at the tip of the narrow peninsula. It’s more complicated to get here than to the close-in cayes, but the country’s best beaches are here in addition to excellent snorkeling, diving, and sailing.
San Ignacio – This city, along with the adjacent town of Santa Elena, are near the Guatemala border, and are quite a contrast from the beach and island areas. Some Mayan ruins are nearby, and great kayaking and nature hikes keep visitors occupied in this forested region.
San Pedro – This is the name of the town/village on Ambergris Caye, and in some senses they are synonymous. Even though most of the hotels and resorts on the island aren’t technically within the village, many places on Ambergris call themselves San Pedro anyway.