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Located on the northeastern tip of Central America, bordering Mexico on the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean to the east, Belize combines Central American and Caribbean cultures, offering both ancient Mayan ruins and a 185-foot coral reef that runs the entire length of the country - it's the largest in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world, supporting a tremendous number of patch reefs, shoals, and more than 1,000 islands called cayes (pronounced "keys"), the largest and most populous being Ambergris Caye. (Both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are popular with visitors, offering a barefoot informality.) The country is noted for its eco-friendly philosophy and, unlike many other Caribbean countries, is serious in its dedication to conservation: One-fifth of Belize's total landmass is dedicated as nature reserves, and 7,770 square km (3,000 sq. miles) of its waters are protected as well.
 
Previously known as British Honduras, Belize gained its independence from England in 1981. It has a parliamentary democracy and is a member of the British Commonwealth. Belmopan is the capital, but Belize City is the economic center of the country. Trying to choose which natural or man-made wonder to explore will be the most stress you'll feel in this very laid-back, diverse, stable, and only English speaking country in all of Central America, and this is always a plus with tourists from the United States.T he country has the highest concentration of Mayan sites among all Central American nations, including Altun Ha, Caracol, Cerros, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Xunantunich, and also nearby Tikal in Guatemala. During the classic period (A.D. 250-900), there were a million Maya in Belize, and although the civilization began to decline after A.D. 900, some Mayan centers were occupied until contact with the Spanish in the 1500s. Today, Belize has joined with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico to establish Mundo Maya (World of the Maya), a program dedicated to the preservation of Mayan culture. The country gained dubious celebrity in recent years as the setting for reality TV show Temptation Island (even though it's not, in fact, an island), but adventurous travelers have been vacationing here for years. It's only in the past several years, as Belize has gradually developed its tourism infrastructure, that cruise lines have added the country to their ever-expanding itineraries. Although Belize is a year-round destination, the waters are especially clear from April to June, and the dry season, lasting from February to May, coincides nicely with the cruise high season.
 
The history of Belize reaches back 4,000 years, when the Mayan empire ruled the land. Around 900 A.D., the Mayan empire began to decline, and during the 16th century, Europeans took over. The cultural mosaic that comprises the mood of Belize comes from influences brought on by the Spanish, Scottish, Garifuna, and British. The citizens, while culturally diverse, remain committed to the land and unified when it comes to preservation of natural resources. Conservation laws protect about 36% of the land in Belize, proving that Belizeans are leading the fight to save Mother Nature. By attending a program sponsored by the Tropical Education Center, you can learn all about the steps being taken to protect the human and natural resources of Belize. The land's heritage is well known and respected, and the Belizean culture is like no other. The life in Belize is truly un-Belize-able. Jaguars, mountain cows, and howler monkeys reside in the rain forests. When expeditions are held, dozens of new bird species can be found every day. Over 70% of the animal life in Belize is nocturnal, and, as a result, by venturing on a tour early in the morning, you can discover an incredible array of creatures. The tropical rain forests remain unspoiled, and it is home to over 700 kinds of trees and over 500 species of birds. Wild orchids and many other rare flora are being found all the time, and this is why it is so important that the land remain protected. These forests also house herbs and medicines to cure all kinds of ailments, with other resources no doubt remaining untapped. The population of Belize City is just over 250,000, made up of people from Creole, Garifuna, Mayan, Mestizo, and European descent. All of them live in a state of harmony, and tourists are treated like neighbors. Locals are almost always eager to assist you on your travels, and greet you with a kind smile.
 
Where You are Docked
Cruise ships anchor in Belize Harbor near the Belize City Swing Bridge. The Belize City Marine Museum in next door, and this interesting site will give you something to do if you decide to explore areas close to your ship. This is not a deep-water port, so there is a good chance you will be tendered ashore. All passengers disembark at docks in Belize's Tourism Village. The Tourism Village is the city's main shopping area with a variety of stores, shops and restaurants. The city's downtown area and the Marine Terminal are about five minutes away on foot, and there's always a line of taxis waiting adjacent to the Tourism Village.
 
Belize City is made up of many wooden buildings and exudes some colonial charm, but the downtown area also has many seedy neighborhoods, and tourists should beware of walking around the city after dark. For cruise passengers, Belize City is primarily a jumping off point for tours and excursions to its many natural and historical attractions.
 
Taxis can be found everywhere in Belize City, Taxis are available at the pier, in town, and in resort areas, and are easily recognized by their green license plates. Taxis are the safest and most reliable means of transportation. Although there are no meters on the taxis. They can transport you anywhere you wish to go within the city or beyond. The drivers do charge somewhat standard fares, but it's always important to find out what your fare will be prior to hiring a taxi. The flat rate to travel from any two points within the city is $3, and $1 for each additional passenger. If you venture outside of Belize City, you are charged relative to the distance traveled. Cinderella Taxi (501/24-5240) is one of the best. There are also water taxis and ferries that depart from the Marine Terminal to the outlying cayes, By Water Taxi -- At the Marine Terminal in Belize City (tel. 2-31969) there's water-taxi service to Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and various other cayes. Boats leave at 9am, 10:30am, noon, and 3pm.
 
 The ride from Belize City to San Pedro, the main town on Ambergris Caye, is approximately 80 minutes and costs $45 round-trip.By Plane -- Local airlines Tropic Air (tel. 800/422-3435 or 2-62012; www.tropicair.com) and Maya Island Air (tel. 800/225-6732 or 2-62435; www.mayaairways.com) offer hourly flights to Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Placencia, and Dangriga. The flight to Ambergris Caye takes approximately 20 minutes, and, because you fly so low, you get a breathtaking view of the surrounding cayes and atolls. Keep your eyes open for stingrays and dolphins swimming below you. Flights leave from Belize City to San Pedro approximately every 90 minutes until 5pm and cost approximately $94 round-trip. The term puddle jumper really applies here: The planes can be as small as six-seaters and you may even get to sit next to the pilot.

Renting a Car not recommended. Although most of the major roads and highways are paved, there are lots of patches in need of repair, which makes for a very bumpy ride. It's also possible to rent a car. Rental agencies in Belize City include Safari/Hertz (011-501- 2-235395) and Avis Belize (800-331-1084) have downtown and airport locations and there are other agencies with offices at the Tourism Village.
 
Flights: Tropic Air (800-422-3435 or 011-501-226-2012) and Maya Island Air (800-225-6732 or 501-223-1140) both offer a regular schedule of flights from Belize City to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. Flights to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye leave approximately every 90 minutes until 5 p.m. and take just 20 minutes. These are indeed "very small" planes with some carrying a maximum of five passengers and the pilot
 
Things To Do and See
 
Belize Zoo
Set in natural forest, 31 miles from Belize City, the Belize Zoo is one of the finest zoos in the Americas. Many of the animals in Belize Zoo are wild animals that were kept as pets by individual collectors and the zoo tries to recondition such animals for a return to the wild. It enables visitors to see the native animals of Belize at close quarters, housed in spacious enclosures that closely resemble their natural habitats. Unless you’re a seasoned wildlife photographer, this is likely to be the best place to get excellent photographs of the animals of Belize.

Actun Tunichil Muknal
Actun Tunichil Muknal is a cave in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve near San Ignacio. The cave was discovered in 1992, and was subsequently featured on the National Geographic Explorer film, “Journey Through the Underworld”. A sacred site for the Mayans, the cave contains many examples of pottery, ceramics and stoneware, as well as several sets of human sacrificial remains, one of which (known as the “Crystal Maiden”) has been almost entirely covered in limestone crystals by the natural processes of the cave.
 
Xunantunich
The Maya ruins of Xunantunich are located atop a ridge above the Mopan River near San Ignacio, within sight of the Guatemala border. Most of the structures date from about 200 to 900 BC. Xunantunich consists of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. At 40 meters (130 ft) the pyramid known as “El Castillo” is the tallest structure in Xunantunich and the second tallest structure in Belize, after the temple at Caracol.
 
 
Visit the Ancient Maya Ceremonial Center of Xunantunich
Xunantunich is a classic period Maya ceremonial center that is located across the river from the village of San Jose Succotz in Western Belize. The site is one of the most popular Maya ruins in Belize and is home to the fascinating El Castillo Pyramid, one of the tallest buildings in the country at 130 ft.
Visitors to this site are mesmerized by the large stucco frieze which is located below the lower temple of El Castillo Pyramid. The frieze contains a mask with large ears which according to archaeologists represent the sun god, and a moon sign with a border of signs representing planet Venus.
 
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in the Stann Creek District, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is globally recognized as the world's first jaguar preserve and is home to cascading waterfalls, panoramic mountain views, nature trails, furry mammals, colorful insects, scaly reptiles and a variety of neotropical birds.
Although the jaguar (the largest spotted cat in the world) is what the reserve is famous for, you are unlikely to see one as the cat is nocturnal. However you will see its tracks along with tracks of tapir, deer, and other wildlife that inhabit the nature reserve.
Cockscomb Basin is also home to one of Belize's highest points -- Victoria Peak.
 
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the biggest, protected destinations in Belize. The reserve was founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar. Although roughly 60 of Belize’s 700 jaguars are believed to live in the sanctuary, your chances of seeing one are very slim. However, it’s an ideal environment for plant-spotting, bird viewing or seeking out other wildlife, and the trail system is the best developed in any of Belize’s protected areas.
 
San Pedro Town
Ambergris Caye is the largest of several hundred islands in the northernmost waters of Belize. The island is the top tourist destination in Belize, and its lack of high-rise hotels or big city traffic gives the island a relaxed, laid-back feel. Most people get around Ambergris Caye by simply walking. There’s a great deal of quality hotels in town, and many resorts on the island are less than a mile from the town of San Pedro, the only urbanized area on the island. Many travelers enjoy renting golf carts, which are the dominant form of transportation, next to bicycles.
 
Lamanai
Located in northern Belize 2 hours and 20 minutes from Belize City, Lamanai was once a considerably sized Maya city. The ancient ruins are not completely uncovered yet. Archaeological work has concentrated on the investigation and restoration of the larger structures such as the High Temple, a 33 meter tall temple. Since it was still occupied by the Maya when the Spanish arrived, Lamanai, which in Maya means “submerged crocodile”, is one of the few Mayan sites to retain its traditional name.
 
Placencia
A popular peninsula in southern Belize, Placencia has the best mainland beaches, plus some of the most amazing offshore coral cayes. The eastern side of the Placencia Peninsula is a long expanse of white sand beach. The western side is bounded by a long and narrow bay. The beautiful beaches together with the abundant, inexpensive accommodation, make it a great place to relax and one of the attractions in Belize.
 
Caracol
Siting high on the Vaca Plateau, 500 meters (1650 ft) above sea level, Caracol is the largest Maya site in Belize. It was once one of the largest ancient Maya cities, covering some 168 square kilometers (65 mi²). At its peak around 650 AD it had an estimated population of about 150,000, more than twice as many people as Belize City has today. The largest pyramid in Caracol is Canaa (Sky Place), at 43 meters (143 ft) it is still the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize.
 
Go Cave Tubing
Cave tubing is one of the top things to do on a Belize vacations. The tour will take you through the majestic Maya underworld in an inflatable inner tube where you will discover stunning stalactites and stalagmites formations, astonishing crystal curtains, fire pits, Maya ceremonial pottery, wall carvings, glyph writings and even skeletal remains of sacrificial victims.
The history of caves in Maya Mythology will absolutely astound you and after the tour is over, you will appreciate the wealth of information that caves reveal on the Mayas.
 
Caye Caulker
Slightly smaller Caye Caulker is Belize's second most popular caye, and is even more laid back, with plenty of beachfront restaurant and bars. Despite the growth of tourism, the island retains a small village feel, with a distinct cultural flavor not found in areas with large-scale tourist development. Almost all the businesses are locally owned and you rarely see vehicles larger than golf carts on the streets. You can just hang out on the beach or dive into some watersports, including snorkeling, scuba, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, manatee-watching, and birding. For the ultimate in R&R at the beach, head to Caye Caulker, a 45 minute ferry ride from the Marine Terminal. Just five miles long and one mile wide, laid-back Caye Caulker is ideal for sun worshipping on one of its gorgeous beaches. There are no cars here so everyone rides around either in golf carts or on bicycles which can be rented by the hour or for the day. Divers can hop boats that go out to the barrier reef just 10 minutes away. For more information on Caye Caulker contact www.gocayecaulker.com
 
Island accessible by high-speed water taxi http://www.belizewatertaxi.com/destinations or small plane. In recent years the island has become a popular Belize attraction for backpackers and other tourists for its (relatively) cheap prices, laid-back vibe, and abundance of restaurants and bars. The main mode of transport on Caye Caulker is simply walking. The paths are well defined, and crossing the island takes about 20 minutes. Bicycles and golf carts can also be rented.
 
Dive the Great Blue Hole of Belize
The world famous Blue Hole is an incomparable natural wonder in Belize. It is located at the center of Lighthouse Reef and measures 1000 feet across and 412 feet deep. Giant stalactites, dripstone sheets and columns, and fascinating marine life are the enchanting geological wonders that draw divers to this site. Jacques-Yves Coustea, the popular naval officer and ocean explorer revealed the secrets of the Blue Hole to millions of viewers in 1971 through the television serious The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Coustea.
 
The most popular dive destination in Belize, the Great Blue Hole offers divers interesting observations of limestone formations that mold its walls. This massive sinkhole under the water is near the Lighthouse Reef and creates a perfect circle of deep blue water. The deeper one dives into the Great Blue Hole, the clearer the water and the more breathtaking the scenery, as the array of bizarre stalactites and limestone formations become more complex and intense.
 
Explore Belize's Caves:
In ancient times, the Mayans believed that caves were the "underworld" and were revered as sacred places. Options for exploring the network of caves include tubing or by kayak or canoe. Some of the tubing is at a place known as "Jungle Paw," where the float through a series of caves in an inner tube lasts about two hours. Best softadventurer excursion: Tubing along Belize's Sibun River in a flotation tube provides a unique look at limestone caves formed before the dawn of mankind. Duration about 6-7 hours
 
Belize often referred to as one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World, has the world's second largest barrier reef. It runs parallel to its coast, at distances ranging from a few hundred feet at the northern tip of Ambergris Caye, to nearly forty miles at the southern-most tip of the country. The barrier reef is not the only reason that makes Belize one of the world's most popular cruise destinations. Many of the small islands that are known as "cayes" lie off the coast of the Belizean mainland and have their own coral reefs, with spectacular underwater gardens with sea life of all types.

The Cayes and the Belize Reef are a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, offering all the swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing and fishing anyone could ever wish for. If that's still not enough, travelers can canoe on the Macal, Mopan and Belize Rivers around San Ignacio and tube through caves along the Chiquibul River. The best hiking trails are in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Bird-watchers should check out the rivers, swamps and lagoons of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, midway between Belize City and Orange Walk Town, which attract flocks of migrating birds between November and May
 
Half Moon Caye
Located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, was the first reserve to be established by the Natural Parks System Act of 1981, which specifically protected the Red-footed Booby bird and its rookery. Some 98 other species of birds have been recorded on the Caye.
Laughing Bird Caye
One of the newest national parks in Belize is Laughing Bird Caye, located 21km (13 miles) southeast of Placencia Village in the Stann Creek District. Although the caye was named for the original large number of laughing gulls, the birds have virtually abandoned their rookery because of excessive human encroachment. Since Laughing Bird caye is a shelf atoll with deep channels, the scuba-diving and snorkeling opportunities are outstanding.
 
Goff's Caye:
Part of the Central Main Reef, it's a popular dive excursions site with many excursions offerd .
The Cayes- Belize's 290km (180mi) long barrier reef is the longest reef in the western hemisphere. To the west of the reef are numerous cayes basking in warm water usually not much more than 5m (16ft) deep. The two most popular with travelers are Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Caulker is commonly thought of as the low-budget island; Ambergris is more resort-oriented.

 
Ambergris Caye:
North of Belize City pop 2,000, 58km (36mil), It is the largest of the country's cayes. It's 40km (25mi) long and almost connected to the Mexican mainland on its northern side. Like Caulker, it has an engaging laid-back atmosphere, though holiday condominiums are beginning to appear. The reef is 1km (.5mi) east of the main town of San Pedro. There are a host of excursions offered to diving and snorkeling spots and to other cayes in the region, including to Blue Hole,Half Moon Caye and Turneffe Islands, the only three coral atolls in the western hemisphere.

Barrier Reef & the Blue Hole Flightseeing:
Duration on this tour 1½ Hours (45mins flight). If a quick and fulfilling tour is what you have in mind then this tour is for you. After tendering to the Tourism Village of Belize City, you will be transferred to the Municipal Airport of Belize City where you will board your Cessna Grand Caravan or Air Van. Your flight from the Municipal Airport takes you briefly over Belize City, then your pilot heads eastward for the Great Barrier Reef of Belize and offshore atolls. You will over fly several small picturesque islands as well as dive and fishing lodges located on these Caribbean islands. A highlight of this tour is certain to be the Great Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef. This famous dive site was explored by Jacques Cousteau in 1970 who determined that the Blue Hole was originally a fresh water cave system. From the Blue Hole your pilot will head along the Barrier Reef before returning to Belize City and docks.
Explore Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
Locally known as Xibalba or ATM Cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal is one of the most breathtaking caving experiences you will have in Belize. The cave is located in the karstic limestone terrain of Roaring Creek Valley in the Cayo District and is approximately 5 km long and contains a perennial stream that runs through it including a ledge with two stelae and a large chamber full of intact human remains and Maya pots.
 
According to Archaelogists, Actun Tunichil Muknal was a sacred place to the Maya who utilized the cave during the classic period AD 250-909. Thousands of people are attracted to this cave annually due to its remarkable history, elegant stalagmites and stalactites and the Crystal Maiden, the intact skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed to the gods.
 
Dive or Snorkel with Whale Sharks
In the months of March, April, May and June around the full moon, giant whale sharks can be seen in the turquoise clear waters of Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve near the Placencia Peninsula. This marine reserve is used by over 30 species of tropical fishes to release their eggs and it is the eggs of the cubera, mutton and dog snappers that the whale sharks munch on.
Both divers and snorkelers can swim with these giant whale sharks in the pristine and warm waters of southern Belize without any risk since these magnificent creates do not pose any significant threat to humans.
 
Visit Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is located 33 miles from Belize City in the village of Crooked Tree and is considered a birders paradise. The sanctuary was established in 1984 and is comprised of 16,400 acres of lagoons, creeks, logwood swamps, broadleaf forest and pine savanna, and it is guaranteed to see a great amount of enchanting Belizean wildlife like the Heron, Muscovy duck and the Jabiru stork -- the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere.
Globally endangered species like the American River Turtle, Morelet's Crocodile, Mexican Black Howler Monkey and Yellow-headed parrot can also be seen at this nature reserve.
 
Climb Ca'ana, the tallest Maya structure in Belize
Ca'ana meaning sky place is the predominant pyramid at the ancient Maya city of Caracol which is located deep within the Chiquilbul Nature Reserve in the Cayo District. It is 140 feet tall and rises above the jungle canopy providing visitors with panoramic and breathtaking views of the Belizean Jungle that will last a lifetime.
Caracol is also home to ancient courtyards, ball courts, residential complexes, a complete astronomical observatory and over 100 tombs. The best preserved tomb is one of an adult woman who is believed to be the wife of Lord Water -- the ruler who conquered the majestic Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala. There is also a carved steale that details victories by Caracol over rival Maya cities of Tikal and Naranjo.
 
Go on a Kayaking trip
Kayaking in Belize is a joy! The crystal clear waters, tepid sunshine and balmy Caribbean breezes that Belize offers make for an ideal kayaking expedition. As you glide across the warm waters, you will observe untouched coral reefs, white sandy beaches and abundant marine wildlife like the amazing sea turtle. Belize has numerous cayes that can be explored on a kayak. Laughing Bird Caye National Park for example, is a mini atoll and is a favorite stopover for reef kayaker says Patricia Ramirez from Splash Belize in Placencia.
 
Maya Mountains & Waterfalls Flight-seeing:
This excursion takes you to one of the most naturally diverse areas of Belize. You board your aircraft for a flightseeing tour of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in the Maya Mountains of Belize. You will fly over the breathtaking 1000 Ft. Waterfalls as well as the cascading falls at Rio On Pools. If the weather permits you get to have a bird's eye view of the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich. A major ceremonial center during the Classic Period, the site has six major plazas, surrounded by more than 25 temples, palaces and a ball court. One pyramid at this site, "El Castillo", is 130 feet tall an still Belize's tallest man-made structure. At the end of the first leg of your flight, you are hosted in the opulence of Francis Ford Copolla's Blancaneaux Lodge nestled on a hillside in the reserve. Here you are served an exquisite buffet of authentic pizzas from the only wood-burning ovens in Belize, smoked chicken salad , caprese, bruschetta, shrimp salad, tomato and basil salad. Lunch includes the sampling of various wines (3 glasses) from the Copolla collection. Come prepared with swimwear to enjoy the refreshing waters of the nearby rivers, natural pools and waterfalls. You then fly back to Belize City for transfer back to the docks and the Belize Tourism Village.
 
Eating Out
Despite its small size, Belize City actually has an excellent and varied selection of dining options open to visitors. While Belizean cuisine and fresh seafood are most common, you can also get excellent Chinese, Indian, and other international fare at restaurants around the city.
Note: When the cruise ships are in town, the restaurants in the Fort George area can get extremely crowded, especially for lunch.
 
Fort George
In addition to the places listed here, you can get good burgers and bar food at the Bayman's Tavern at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.
 
Business District
In addition to the places listed here, Nerie's, which has two locations (124 Freetown Rd., tel. 224-5199; and at the corner of Queen and Daly sts., tel. 223-4028) is another simple restaurant specializing in Belizean cuisine, and it's very popular with locals
 
Shopping
You won't be bowled over by shopping options here in Belize City, and very few people come to Belize specifically to shop. You will find a modest handicraft industry, with different specialties produced by the country's various ethnic communities. The Creole populations of the coastal area and outer cayes specialize in coral and shell jewelry, as well as woodcarvings with maritime (dolphins, turtles, and ships) themes. The Belizean Mayan population produces replicas of ancient petroglyphs and different modern designs on varying sized pieces of slate. Finally, the Garífuna peoples of the southern coastal villages are known for their small dolls.
 
One of favorite gift item in Belize continues to be Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce, which comes in several heat gradations, as well as some new flavors. The original blend of habanero peppers, carrots, and vinegar is one of my all-time favorite hot sauces. The company also produces mango chutney and an assortment of pepper jams. You can pick up Marie Sharp products at any supermarket and most gift shops; I recommend you stick to the supermarkets, though, to avoid price gouging. In addition to Marie Sharp's, Lizette's brand of hot sauces is also a good bet.
 
Please do not buy any kind of sea-turtle products (including jewelry); wild birds; lizard, snake, or cat skins; corals; or orchids (except those grown commercially). No matter how unique, beautiful, insignificant, or inexpensive it may seem, your purchase will directly contribute to the further hunting of endangered species.
 
Most shops in the downtown district are open Monday through Saturday from about 8am to 6pm. Some shops close for lunch, while others remain open (it's just the luck of the draw for shoppers). Since the cruise ships are such a big market for local merchants, many adjust their hours to specifically coincide with cruise-ship traffic and their particular shore times.
 
By far the largest selection of gift shops and souvenir stands can be found at the Belize Tourism Village (8 Fort St.; tel. 223-2767). In addition to housing the best collections of fine art for sale in the city, Fine Arts and The Image Factory Shop also feature some of the best handicrafts and handmade jewelry. The quality and selection are a definite step above what you'll find at most other gift shops and tourist traps in town, and around the country.
 
Coral is a very delicate, rapidly disappearing living organism that grows very slowly; please avoid buying coral jewelry, as it just feeds demand and inevitably leads to the destruction of the spectacular Belizean reefs.
Your best bet for liquor shopping is at local supermarkets, or the duty-free shop at the airport. There are several brands of Belizean rum available; the most popular is One Barrel, which has a hint of coconut and vanilla. Other brands produce some more heavily flavored coconut rums. The Prestige brand aged rum is pretty good, if you're looking for a straight, dry rum. Belize doesn't produce any wines or other spirits of note, although you may want to pick up a bottle of locally produced wine, or cashew wine, for the sake of novelty.
 
The only real market of note is the Commercial Center located just over the Swing Bridge, on the southern side of the city. This two-story modern concrete structure houses a mix of stalls and enclosed storefronts. The first floor is predominantly devoted to fresh produce, fish stalls, and butcher shops, but you'll also find stands selling flowers, fresh herbs, and some souvenir shops. There are more souvenir shops and some restaurants, including Big Daddy's, on the second floor. The Commercial Center is open daily from 7:30am to 5pm.







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