One week in Belize: The best itinerary for adventure and relaxation

One week Belize itinerary- sunrise in san ignacio

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.

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!).

a boat anchored in Caye Caulker, Belize

Things do in Belize: Days 1-3—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.

San Ignacio, belize main street. One week Belize itinerary

San Ignacio

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.

Belize Actun Tunichil Muknal ATM Cave Tour

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

Belize Actun Tunichil Muknal ATM Cave Tour skull

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.

Tikal, Guatemala day trip mayan ruins temple

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

Tikal, Guatemala day trip mayan ruins temple

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.

One week Belize itinerary- San Ignacio Resort Hotel pool

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

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.

One week Belize itinerary- San Ignacio Resort Hotel

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

What to do in Belize: Day 4-7Ambergris 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.

One week Belize itinerary- San Pedro beach

San Pedro

One week Belize itinerary- San Pedro

One week Belize itinerary- San Pedro palm tree

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

The Phoenix Resort, 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.

One week Belize itinerary- Great Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole

One week Belize itinerary- belize barrier reef

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

Catamaran cruise:

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.

One week Belize itinerary

One week Belize itinerary

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.

Caye Caulker:

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.

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize

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?

The Split in Caye Caulker, Belize

The Split

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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Jungle lodges, cave tours, Mayan ruins, snorkelling and the Great Blue Hole are just a few highlights of this one week itinerary for #Belize.


#Travel | #Caribbean | #SanPedro | #SanIgnacio | #GreatBlueHole | #CayeCaulker

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19 Responses

  1. hello@sometimeshome.com says:

    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!

  2. Anda says:

    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.

  3. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie says:

    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.

  4. Megan Indoe says:

    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!

  5. Tracie Howe says:

    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!

  6. Medha Verma says:

    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!

  7. Lois Alter Mark says:

    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.

  8. amit says:

    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 😀

  9. Sherianne Higgins says:

    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

  10. Paige says:

    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

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