is so much to experience in Belize that it's no wonder visitors
hail it as The Jewel. In the North, Belize shares borders with Mexico
and to the West and South with Guatemala. In the foreground, it
is graced with the Caribbean Sea and 185 miles of the longest barrier
reef in the Western Hemisphere. This cherished tropical playground
provides extensive sites for the avid snorkeler, scuba diver or
for anyone with a passion for water sports. Fishing, waterskiing,
windsurfing, boat races and swimming are A+. Belize's exciting underwater
world with unique coral structures, marine caves and extensive marine
life make this area one of the top diving destinations in the world.
Miles upon miles of white sandy beaches and secluded island retreats
add to the picture postcard allure. On the mainland, ancient Mayan
temples and monuments dating back thousands of years are an archaeologist's
fantasyland. With more than 600 Maya cities, Belize is the center
of the ancient Maya world and an active participant in the Mundo
Maya programme. In the interior, an unspoiled world of lush tropical
rain forests awaits you. Here you will find a colorful collage of
animal and plant populations, as well as limestone caves, scenic
rivers and Maya temples. Belize is home to the world's only jaguar
preserve, and the prehistoric tapir, the howler monkey and gentle
manatee co-exist in protected environments.
Belize City is the largest city in Belize, with a population
of over 60,000. It offers the visitor an unusual combination of
rustic, old-fashioned Caribbean charm and bustling modernity. The
Belize river meanders through the middle of the city; and twice
a day, the city's swing bridge closes to allow sail boats to pass.
There are many traditional street vendors selling fruits, vegetables,
arts and crafts in the city's public squares, especially in the
colonial marketplace on Saturday mornings. Visitors can purchase
handmade wood furniture made by the Mennonite community and many
kinds of craft items from the National Handicraft center, as well
as from the vendors who congregate near the Belize Commercial Center.
With its two airports and many car rental agencies, Belize City
is an excellent starting off point for visitors wishing to explore
the country by car (or 4-wheel drive). There are several major tourist
attractions an hour's drive or less from Belize City, such as the
Belize Zoo, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Crooked Tree Wildlife
Sanctuary, the Bermudian Landing Community Baboon Sanctuary, and
the Mayan ruin site at Altun Ha.