With its sun-soaked islands, lush jungles, incredible reef system and lively, colourful towns, it’s easy to see why Belize is one of the Caribbean’s most beloved getaways.
Whether you’re an adventure lover, wildlife watcher or sun-seeker, it’s the kind of place that has something for everyone and plenty of things to do, including jungle lodges, Mayan ruins, world-class diving and unforgettable animal encounters.
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While 7 days isn’t enough to see the whole country, it is enough time to see most of the main highlights, stretching from the Guatemalan border all the way out to the Caribbean Sea.
Here’s the best itinerary for spending an un-Belize-able week in Belize (sorry, I couldn’t resist!).
Things do in Belize: Days 1 to 3, Cayo District
After touching down at the airport in Belize City (BZE), grab your bags and head straight for the jungle which is about a two hour drive away. The Cayo district in western Belize is the place to be for adventure-seekers and history buffs alike, thanks to its concentration of Mayan ruins, caves for exploring, rivers to tube down and wildlife spotting: think toucans, howler monkeys, crocodiles and even jaguars.
What to do in San Ignacio, Belize:
ATM Cave Tour:
One of the most unforgettable Belize excursions is found here: the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave Tour. And it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
The cave was once frequented by the Mayans to perform human sacrifices—evidence of which remains today in the form of crystallized skeletons complete with bashed-in skulls (hey, no one ever said the Mayans were nice). To get there, visitors walk about 45 minutes through the jungle and swim across three rivers, before slipping on a headlamp to navigate through the pitch-black cave.
Inside, there are a series of obstacles like huge boulders and tight rock spaces to climb over or swim through, which makes for an exhilarating adventure. Combine that with a fascinating history lesson thanks to the ancient artifacts within an arm’s reach, and it’s easy to see why this is one of the country’s most popular tours.
READ MORE: Belize’s ATM cave tour: Where adventure meets Mayan sacrifices
Tikal Mayan ruins:
While it’s not technically in Belize, another popular day trip is to the ruins found in Tikal, Guatemala—plus, it’s an easy way to get another passport stamp! The journey through the scenic Guatemalan countryside takes about two hours from the town of San Ignacio, including stops to admire shimmering lakes and sample the coffee the country is famous for.
Nicknamed “Jurassic Park” and nestled among 60-thousand hectares of forests and wetlands, Tikal was once a stronghold for the Mayan civilization and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the sprawling site is home to impressive temples that visitors are welcome to climb to the top of, to enjoy incredible panoramic views of spots like the Great Plaza and Lost World complex.
Tikal is also popular with wildlife lovers, as the reserve is home to more than 300 species of birds plus jaguars, pumas, monkeys and those cute coati.
READ MORE: Belize to Tikal tour: A day trip to Guatemala’s ancient Mayan ruins
Other activities in the Cayo district include horseback riding over the lush hillsides, canoeing down meandering rivers, and exploring the Mayan sites of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech.
Best places to stay in Belize:
There are plenty of places to stay in Belize to suit all price points and needs, but the most important thing to keep in mind is how you plan to spend your days. For example, if you’re simply looking to relax or explore the surrounding jungle by taking part in activities like birding, then staying in a unique jungle lodge is a good choice.
Properties like the Caves Branch lodge has treehouses that soar 75 feet above a river and tree canopy, while the Gaia River Lodge has charming thatch-roof cabanas boasting views of tropical gardens and waterfalls.
However, if you plan on filling your days with activities like the ATM Cave Tour and heading to Tikal, basing yourself in San Ignacio is your best bet to cut down on driving time and get more of a local flavour.
A fabulous option is the luxurious San Ignacio Resort Hotel which is just steps away from the centre, yet feels like an oasis as soon as you step inside thanks to the gorgeous pool area surrounded by towering palm trees, which are frequented by the resident iguanas. Click here to book
The service is great, with staff being extremely responsive leading up to and during your stay no matter what your request is (rose petals and champagne in your room? Arranging a tour? No problem!). Best of all, the well-appointed, spacious rooms are gorgeous—seriously, you’ve probably never had a bathroom so big in your life, and the private outdoor patios are the perfect place to watch the sunrise.
What to do in Belize: Days 4 to 7, Ambergris Caye
Once you’ve had your fill of the jungle, pack up and head across the country to Ambergris Caye, which is one of the top Belize destinations. The group of islands is found off Belize’s east coast in the Caribbean Sea, with the main tourist hub being San Pedro.
The bustling town doesn’t have paved roads (like pretty much everywhere else in the country), so everyone gets around on golf carts which adds to the charm of this seaside spot. San Pedro is accessed via a 90-minute ferry from Belize City, and also has a domestic airport connecting it with spots like Belize City, San Ignacio, Caye Caulker and Belmopan.
Where to stay in San Pedro, Belize:
While Caye Caulker is also a good spot to overnight (more on that later), for convenience sake some might find it easier to stay put in San Pedro for the rest of the trip. From luxury resorts to beach bungalows and hostels, the island has an option for everyone. A top pick is the luxurious Phoenix Resort, an all-suite hotel with an envious waterfront location right in the centre of the island.
Modern units range from one to three bedrooms, making them ideal for groups of all sizes, and each one boasts beach views, a full kitchen, laundry and huge private balcony complete with a dining set and loungers. Amenities include Aveda bath products, complimentary SUP, kayaking, bike rentals and yoga classes, and even a nightly cocktail hour. Click here to book
READ MORE: 5 reasons to stay at The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro, Belize
What to do in San Pedro:
Great Blue Hole:
Belize’s most breathtaking and famous landmark is without question the Great Blue Hole. Found in Lighthouse Reef in the Belize Barrier Reef, the massive underwater sinkhole is more than 300 metres across and 125 metres deep, making it one of the world’s top dive sites.
Tour operators in San Pedro and Caye Caulker offer full-day snorkel and dive trips, but snorkelling in the Great Blue Hole isn’t the best way to experience it since it’s a long boat ride out and hard to see much from the water’s surface.
WATCH: A scenic flight over the Great Blue Hole in Belize
The ultimate way to see the Great Blue Hole is from the air, and companies like Tropic Air offer scenic flight tours from both Belize City and San Pedro. Taking off in a tiny plane from San Pedro, the hour-long flyover heads east over the Belize Barrier Reef, passes over Turneffe Atoll, then gets to Lighthouse Reef which is home to the Great Blue Hole.
There, the pilot does about a dozen circles around it, ensuring passengers on both sides of the plane get an incredible birds-eye view. Heading back to San Pedro, you’ll fly over tiny islands and a shipwreck, and the water is so clear that it’s possible to spot manatees, rays, sharks and dolphins. If there’s one experience in Belize worth adding to your bucket list, it’s this!
READ MORE: A scenic flight over the Great Blue Hole in Belize
Despite its perch on the Caribbean Sea, Belize isn’t known for its beaches which is why most activities involve hopping on a boat. One of the best excursions when it comes to seeing the highlights of Ambergris Caye is the full day catamaran tour offered by Tuff E Nuff Tours.
The first stop is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is like swimming in an aquarium, thanks to its incredible visibility, brightly coloured coral and underwater life including turtles, dolphins and more than 100 types of fish. Click here to book
Shark Ray Alley is up next, which is exactly what it sounds like: the chance to snorkel with schools of nurse sharks. They’re practically harmless and prefer to stay closer to the ocean floor, so you can put your fears aside and simply enjoy watching the beautiful creatures effortlessly glide below. There are also mantarays and plenty of tropical fish, which make for a captivating underwater scene.
The last stop of the day is a two-hour visit to Caye Caulker to have lunch and explore the island, before setting sail back to San Pedro with rum punches in hand.
You don’t need an organized tour to visit Caye Caulker, as it’s easily accessible from San Pedro via plane or a 45-minute ferry. This sleepy spot is the true definition of “island vibe,” the kind of place where holidays are spent lazily relaxing in the sun, paddling around the shoreline or saddling up to the counter at a beach bar surrounded by groves of palm trees.
There’s not a lot to do here, which is exactly why people come, and the tranquil island is so tiny you can walk around the whole thing in about an hour.
READ MORE: Caye Caulker, Belize: 5 reasons to visit the idyllic island
If you go, wander through the village to admire the colourful streetscape, then head to “The Split” which is the most happening spot on the island. Grab a drink at the Lazy Lizard and sip it under a palm-thatched umbrella propped up right in the water, surrounded by sun-seekers tanning on the neighbouring dock. How’s that for an un-Belize-able vacation?
Globe Guide explored Belize as a guest of some of the aforementioned resorts and tour operators. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
- Belize’s ATM cave tour: Where adventure meets Mayan sacrifices
- 5 reasons to stay at The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro, Belize
- A day trip to the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
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Great post! We did the ATM tour and agree – not for the faint of heart! Great to read about trips and such for Caye Caulker – we didn’t go there but it’s great to know you can reach it by ferry!
Thanks! So did you enjoy the ATM tour in the end?
Do you remember which tour group you used for ATM?
Nm found it.. you have to click through 3x to find the site.. https://www.mayawalk.com/belize-atm-cave-tour
Can’t wait! Looks so exciting!
Enjoy! It’s such a neat experience!!
Hmmm… Belize sounds very similar to the southern part of Mexico. When I visited Cancun I’ve got to swim in a cave and visit Mayan pyramids too. I’d love to visit Belize. From your list, the ATM tour seems to be the most exciting.
Yes, they essentially used to be the same country if you will, so makes sense!
Love how clear and comprehensive this post is. The jungle side of Belize looks great, plus I never realized a day trip to Guatemala and the Tikkal ruins was possible. Smart to base yourself in a central location to take advantage of this part of the country before settling in at the beach. The birds-eye view over the blue hole is incredible! I’d love to be able to do that but also spend time on another day doing some snorkeling, too. That water is just too tempting.
I want to go to Belize so bad, I have been wanting to go for years and we still haven’t made it! The caves and those ruins are calling me! The ruins look so fun to photography. I want to take a catamaran too! Everything here is something I would love to do!
I know, it took me forever to get to Belize as well, but they just introduced a direct flight so I booked it IMMEDIATELY 🙂
What a fantastic guide you have here! I love all the advice included with the suggested itinerary, like how best to see the Blue Hole and where to stay for specific activities. I appreciate your description of the ATM cave tour, but I can’t decide if I would go or not. Maybe I would suck it up and swim around in the dark once I’m with a group, who knows? Anyway, thanks for sharing! Pinning this!
Thanks Tracie, the ATM tour is definitely intense, but totally cool and memorable!
I kept scrolling down and thinking, this picture is awesome, wow, this one is amazing and it just keeps getting better and better! I’ve seen so many pictures of the great blue hole on Instagram, I can only imagine what it must really look like. I know people dive into it, but I don;t think I will be brave enough to do it, though I’d love to see someone do it. Catamaran cruise in those incredible waters is something I would totally love to experience. And the Tikal Mayan ruins too. There’s so much to do in Belize, I hope I am able to make it there someday!
Hahah aww thanks so much! It was such a great getaway, you definitely need to visit!
Your photos are gorgeous and make me want to book a trip to Belize right now. My son and his girlfriend visited last year and fell in love with it. Now I can see why. Those caves look magic, and the hotel looks like a beautiful place to spend the night after a busy day in paradise.
Thanks Lois, I want to go back already! We had such a fantastic time.
I regret that when I was in Central America I skipped through Belize, literally drove through it from Mexico to Guatemala – So many people I met stayed in Belize and loved it – The Atm Cave tour must have been an incredible experience, And the Ambergris caye – I need to go back and spend some time in Belize 😀
Oh no! Yes you definitely need to go back 🙂
I’m in the beginning stages of planning a girls trip and was considering Belize. It all sounds great but the Lazy Lizard looks perfect for us! Thanks for the Blue Hole tip, I would have done the snorkel trip and been disappointed, it looks amazing from the air
Perfect, hope you ladies make it down there!
Oh my gosh. You’re totally selling me on Belize. I’m thinking this is the perfect place for my husband and me. That cave tour looks so epic! I can’t believe that skeletons crystalized into the caves. I’m dying to do this! I’m out with the Shark Alley thing, though. Heck nah. Haha
Haha I promise the sharks don’t even look at you, they’re so neat to see!
Great last name, mine is Elliott too (: so my girlfriend and I are headed to Belize Jan 7-14. This will be our first time. We know we want to spend the first 3 days in San Ignacio and the last 4 in San Pedro. We are torn on booking hotels or air bnb’s. Our concer with air bnbs is transportation. If we wanted to fly to San Pedro from San Ignacio could we book day of, or would you recommend doing that in advance. We also definitely want to do Shark ray alley and probably Caye Caulker. We have been lookin at the blue tang inn in San Pedro and San Ignacio resort in San Ignacio. We have found several nice air bnbs too. We need help and suggestions. Lol. We want to go for as inexpensive as possible and spend more money on food and excursions vs. lodging. As I said, we feel atm is a must. Also my girlfriend is vegan. Think there will be plenty of food options for her? HELP. Lol.
Yes definitely do ATM! The tour company I mentioned in the article was wonderful, so I’d recommend booking through them. Also, you can actually drive to San Pedro from San Ignacio, which should help you cut down on costs versus flying and will be easier to book. We loved Shark Ray Alley so you should definitely do Caye Caulker- I believe accommodation there will be cheaper than San Pedro, so might be a good way to save a bit of money by staying in Caye Caulker for at least one night. Good luck and enjoy!
Thanks for the article! My husband and I are going in January. We plan on Lounging on the beach first and trekking the jungle last. Do people usually rent a car for their whole trip? Or would it be fine to do the whole San Pedro part of the trip on foot then rent a car for the jungle? Thank you!
Hi there! My husband and I are looking to do this itinerary this Christmas. Did you rent a car from BZE to the Cayo District? From there to San Pedro, did you drop the car off back at the airport and then take an air or boat transfer to San Pedro? On San Pedro, are the golf carts like Uber and you pay per use or do you rent it like a car? Thanks in advance for your help!
Hi Jennifer! The hotel we stayed at included transfers to and from San Ignacio so we didn’t need a car, and then took the boat over to San Pedro. Our hotel in San Pedro picked us up and took us to the hotel, and the island is so small we were able to walk everywhere we needed to go!
I’m 60 and dtr is 30. We are divers – Not Blue Hole level, but plan to dive a couple of days probably from Caye Caulker. Is 60 too old for the vibe there? Would also like to see Xunantunich. Thought we would stay on CC a couple of nights (probably walk everywhere, right?), then to San Ignacio. Can we get around on public transportation in San Ig? Can we get from the airport to CC, then to SI, then back to airport without renting a car?
Hi Kim, if you don’t rent a car you’ll have to hire some sort of driver/transfer since it’s a fair distance (couple hours drive) between the airport to San Ignacio. I have a full article on Caye Caulker you might want to check out- as you’ll see, you can DEFINITELY walk everywhere on the island, it’s so small, and a very laid back vibe 🙂 Enjoy!
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Going to Belize in late January/early February 2022… Love your itinerary! So, my husband really wants to do the ATM cave tour… It looks AMAZING! I’m a little bit hesitant… How fit do you need to be? I’m not the fittest, but okay. Hikes and walk a lot. Not afraid of swimming 🙂
Yay I’m excited for you, Belize is fantastic! The cave tour is very cool- I’d say you don’t have to be super in shape, especially if you hike and walk a lot. It’s more about if you’re brave enough! 😉 The tough parts for me were the darkness, and scrambling up ladders/boulders- it’s not like it required an immense amount of strength or anything, so I think you’ll be fine!
What is the best way to get from Belize City Airport to my hotel in San Ignacio Belize?
I would contact the hotel directly- the roads are pretty bad heading that way so they usually arrange a driver. Enjoy!