Lily and I sailed the Guiding Light, our Lagoon 410, through Belize for over three months and I wanted to share our favorite places in this fascinating country.
10. Xunantunich ruins – Located a few miles from the Guatemala border near the town of San Ignacio. This is one of the best Mayan ruins in Belize. While it does not have the size or importance of Chichen Itza or Tikal, it is a fantastic representation of a typical Mayan city. Plus, you get to ride a hand drawn car ferry across the river to get to it.
9. Turneffe Atoll – This is the closest of the three Belizean atolls to Belize City. It lies only seven miles from the barrier reef and helps protect the English Cay Channel. You have a choice of crossing the encircling reef towards the north end on the west side, where you will have the anchorage to yourself, or towards the southern end, where you enter through Blue Creek and anchor near the Turneffe Island Resort. Either way you will be treated to some amazing unspoiled snorkeling and diving.
8. English Cay – Laying just south of the entrance to the deep, natural channel that leads to Belize City, this small sandy island has seen every large ship on its way to the county’s largest city pass by it. On the island you will find a collection of buildings that house various officials and a light tower with one of the most impressive views of the Belize barrier reef, which is a World Heritage Site. The best part about making a lunch stop at English Cay is that the snorkeling is impressive all around the island.
7. Cay Caulker – A small town only four dirt roads wide on a mangrove island is what awaits you on Cay Caulker. There is a popular beach on the east side of the island and simply walking around town is a joy. But if you want more of a party atmosphere then head to the north end of the island next to “The Cut.” In the morning make sure to grab some cinnamon rolls for breakfast at Cay Caulker Bakery and if you take the mile and a half dinghy ride out to the barrier reef you will be greeted by dozens of nurse sharks and stingrays.
6. Ranguana Cay – This is a perfect little tropical paradise that has a great beach with a very personable bartender waiting to make your favorite cocktail. Given that the snorkeling around the cay is top notch you will have trouble pulling yourself away from this gem of an island.
5. Glover Atoll – This is the second atoll making the list and it is the least visited of the three. There are three entrances into the atoll. The southern entrance is fairly straightforward and is right next to the posh Manta Resort. The second entrance is midway up the eastern side and is tricky, but the wall dive is unbelievable. The third entrance is at the north end and should not be attempted. In the lagoon of Glover Atoll you will find over 600 coral heads and each of them are good snorkeling spots in their own right.
4. Sapodilla Cays – The Sapodilla Cays Marine Park is the southernmost group of islands on the barrier reef and it has everything you could want…except for other boats. The Tom Owens Cays have several excellent snorkeling opportunities including a 30-foot wall dive off East Tom Owens Cay and a large patch reef SW of West Tom Owens Cay. Frank’s Cay has excellent shallow snorkeling on the southern part of the entrance of the reef protecting the bay. Nicholas Cay has the best beach. Hunting Cay is the headquarters and source of any info you need. Lime Cay has another beach and good snorkeling around it. Ragged Cay is in open water and surrounded with reefs that can be snorkeled if the seas and weather are calm enough.
3. ATM Cave – This is another Mayan ruin, but totally different from any other. You start off wading deep into a cave. Then you climb up roughly 20 feet to a large cavern where you are shown over 100 years’ worth of ceremonial rituals including hundreds of pots and at least five human remains. This is a day trip from Belize City or Placencia.
2. Placencia – This is the best town in Belize. It started out as a little fishing town on a peninsula that has turned into a hidden gem for those in the know. There is a nice protected beach at the south end and another wilder one on the east side of town. Plus, you can find protection for your boat from any wind direction in the anchorage or lagoon. But the highlight of Placencia is to simply walk up the mile-long sidewalk, which originally served to connect all the fishing huts back in the day, and back down the only street. There are several nice beach bars and restaurants to choose from, but make sure to get some gelato at Tutti Frutti for dessert!
1. Great Blue Hole – No list about Belize can be complete without mentioning the blue hole in the middle of Lighthouse Atoll. As you enter the 1043-foot-wide hole you go from the 10 feet deep water of the atoll straight down to the bottom at 407 feet deep. Back in the 1970’s Jacques Cousteau brought his science vessel Calypso here and discovered it was formed in four stages 153,000, 66,000, 60,000, and 15,000 years ago when sea levels were lower due to ice ages. While the Great Blue Hole gets all the credit on Lighthouse Atoll, there is also the beautiful Half Moon Cay with a bird sanctuary on it.
There you have it. Our top ten favorite things in Belize. No matter what you do, you will love it in Belize, because, as you will see written all over the country, it is unBELIZEable.
Capt Shane and Lily just left the Bay Islands of Honduras on their way to the San Blas Islands of Panama. If you would like to join the adventure with them check out their website, or on your favorite social media, at svGuidingLight.