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Belize City is a very popular port on Western Caribbean cruise ship itineraries. Belize City is home to over a quarter of the country's population, and is the country's commercial capital. Belize City used to be the country's capital, but a hurricane in 1931 wreaked havoc on the city, and the capital was moved inland to Belmopan. While Belize City may possess some colonial charm, it's more often than not a place where you'll catch a bus or boat to transit to your day's destination.

Cruise ships will drop anchor a few miles outside of Belize City's harbor (it's too shallow for the draft of the cruise ships) and be taken ashore by speedy ship's tenders run by the Belize port authority. It'll take about 20 minutes to go from your ship to the Tourist Village docks in Belize City. All excursions to the interior and the offshore islands will begin at the Tourist Village.
 
There are basically three things to do on your visit to Belize. Scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming in the offshore reefs are what brings most folks to Belize, as these reefs are some of the most beautiful in the world. You can also check out the Mayan ruins that exist inland at Altun Ha, Lamanai, Cahal Pech and Xunantunich. And lastly, you can participate in some of the eco-tours, including cave tubing and river rafting, that make Belize a great place to visit.
 
If you decide to spend some time in Belize City, just be vigilant about your surroundings and what you're doing. The cruise ship personnel will tell you that the city isn't a safe place to visit. For the more intrepid traveler, Belize City can be an interesting experience. Many of the shops, restaurants and sights of touristic interest are located in the downtown Fort George area, situated within a few blocks of the Belize City Tourism Village.
 
Encircling Mexico, Guatemala and also the Caribbean, Belize may be the second littlest country. Guatemala (after El Salvador), by having an section of roughly 9,000 square miles which includes a cluster of tiny islands from the coast referred to as cayes. Over fifty percent from the landmass is encompassed with dense forests, and also at its longest point Belize is 176 miles in length while its finest width is just about 88 miles. A powerful advocate of environment protection, the federal government has put aside roughly 20 % of their land as character reserves. Belize is constantly on the rise in recognition like a cruise destination and it is frequently incorporated among the stops on Western Caribbean itineraries.
 
Belize City, using its wooden and brick structures, exudes some old worldly colonial charm, however the downtown region also has many seedy communities, and vacationers should watch out for travelling the town at night. For cruise people, Belize City is mainly a jumping off point for tours and activities to the many natural and historic points of interest.
 
Where Your're Cruise Ship Dock
Cruise ships will drop anchor a few miles outside of Belize City's harbor (it's too shallow for the draft of the cruise ships) and be taken ashore by speedy ship's tenders run by the Belize port authority. It'll take about 20 minutes to go from your ship to the Fort Street Tourism Village docks in Belize City. Almost all excursions to the interior will begin at the Tourism Village.
 
Tourism Village is a gated compound, comprised of three terminals and three courtyards with over fifty stores and businesses. Part of the complex is air conditioned. Here you'll find restaurants, snack shops, an internet cafe and ATM machines. The stores here sell the typical array of arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, liquor and duty-free goods.
 
If you've signed up for an pre-arranged excursion on your ship, you'll meet your guide and board your vehicle at Tourism Village. You can also sign up for a tour upon your arrival offered by licensed tour operators and tour guides. Additional tour options can be found just outside the gates of Tourism Village. Belizean law requires that all tour guides and operators carry a valid license with photo ID. The Belize Tourism Board operates an information desk in the main concourse of the Tourism Village.
 
Making Your Way Around
Taxis can easily be hailed at Tourism Village too as with the town and also at hotels. Taxis don't have meters and even though most motorists charge a typical fare, make certain you fix up the correct fare prior to getting in order to avoid being fleeced. Search for the eco-friendly license plate of licensed taxis. You will also find water taxis and ferries that leave the Marine Terminal towards the outlying cayes, such as the bigger resort cayes for example Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. A visit from Belize City to San Pedro, the biggest town on Ambergris Caye, takes around 80 minutes.
 
Things To See and Do
Diving and Scuba diving is the number one attraction around the hit parade of favorite activities because of the astounding sites across the barrier reef. The best dive sites lie near Ambergris Caye. Charter operators offer excursions which include transportation. However you're able to Ambergris Caye, where most of the dive operators are clustered. A popular scuba diving area is called Shark Ray Alley, where you can get close with nurse sharks and sting sun rays. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is really a three-square-mile dive site.
 
One of the better of Belize's Mayan sites is Altun ', a heavily excavated site that's a handy excursion from the city. When a major buying and selling and ceremonial center, it includes several impressive temples and tombs outlined through the Temple from the Masonry Altars. Another essential site is Xunantunich, situated close to the Guatemalan border that may simply be arrived at by crossing the Mopan River on the hands-cranked ferry. Situated listed here are six major plazas ringed by  over 25 temples and palaces biggest from the remaining temples is Il Castilo that is worth escalating for the picturesque view in the top.
 
Belize City's three major sites that contain wild animals are situated fairly close together. Individuals who'd prefer not to venture very not even close to the town can browse the Belize Zoo using its greater than 125 creatures, all indigenous to Belize. Just a little farther out may be the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, and also the Community Baboon Sanctuary, which hosts a considerable quantity of black howler apes, known as “baboon” from our Creole dialect.
 
Lamanai and the New River Safari in Belize
Discover ancient Mayan architecture on an excursion through Belize's exotic landscapes. You'll enjoy stunning views and spot diverse wildlife as you make your way to the Lamanai ruins, one of the most famous sights in Belize.
 
Private Belize City Adventure: Zipline Tour at Jaguar Paw and Crystal Cave Tubing Soar like a bird through treetops and float through limestone caves on this private adventure in the tropical jungle of Belize! Zipline across the Jaguar Paw rainforest canopy and rappel down a steep wall of Crystal Cave, and then go cave tubing through ancient Mayan caverns along the Caves Branch River.
 
Altun Ha and Belize City Half-Day Tour
Take a half-day tour of Belize City for a fascinating mix of old and new. From the mystic Mayan city of Altun Ha to the resurgence of modern Central America, much has happened in Belize City. More than 1,000 years of history has taken place here, and you'll see all the highlights in just a few hours.
 
Xunantunich and The Belize Zoo
Imposing temples and exotic animals! Is it the latest Hollywood action movie? No, this time it's real and you're the star. Travel Belize by a hand-cranked ferry, see stunning Mayan ruins, and marvel at the majesty of the Belizean rainforests. And the wildlife? You'll see unique indigenous species --
 
Belize City Shore Excursion
Canopy Zipline and Cave-Tubing Adventure Spend time exploring the beauty of Belize while in port! See Belize from above as you zipline through the tropical forest on a series of cables. Then, get ready to tube through an underground cave with your local guide. If you’re looking for an adventure, you won’t want to miss this exciting shore excursion.
 
Belize City Shore Excursion
City Tour with Altun Ha Mayan Temples Explore Belize City and the Altun Ha Mayan Temples while in port on this half-day shore excursion! See Belize’s capital city and learn about the history of the country from your local guide. Then, visit the ancient Mayan city of Altun Ha, where you’ll take a guided tour around the impressive ruins.
 
Belize City and Reef Helicopter
Tour Take flight on a helicopter tour to see Belize City as few people ever get to see it! For approximately 30 minutes, you'll enjoy a bird's-eye view of downtown, the Baron Bliss Lighthouse, the Tourist Village, St. John's Cathedral and the Swing Bridge.
 
Blue Hole and Turneffe Islands Helicopter Tour
See the Blue Hole of Belize from a bird's-eye view on a private helicopter flight! This 4-passenger aerial tour takes you above the Turneffe Atoll and the UNSECO World Heritage-listed Blue Hole, allowing you to experience these amazing natural attractions as few people have. Prepare to take in breathtaking
 
Local Experiences
For that epitome of relaxation by the pool, go to Caye Caulker, a 45-minute ferry ride in the Marine Terminal. Just five miles in length and a few miles wide, laid-back Caye Caulker is fantastic for sun worshipping on their gorgeous beaches. You will find no cars here so everybody rides around in both golf buggies or on bicycles which may be leased on an hourly basis or during the day. Divers can hop motorboats which go to the barrier reef just ten minutes away.
 
Explore Belize's caves. In ancient occasions, the Mayans thought that caves were the "underworld" and were worshiped as sacred places. Choices for going through the network of caves include tubing or by kayak or canoe.
 
Dangriga and Hopkins Village
If you are searching for the real Belize, beyond the facade of painted-over made-for-the-tourist destination, Dangriga and Hopkins is as close as it gets. Dangriga is known as Belize’s Culture Capital – the birth place of the world-famous Punta Rock music genre and a hotbed for the continuing evolution of other indigenous music forms such as Paranda music. Dangriga Town is the capital of the Stann Creek district. Hopkins is a quaint village few miles the road on the way south.
 
Dangriga does not have many beaches and it can be described as grungy. It has more of an urban nature where you go to immerse yourself in the local culture especially during festivals and celebrations like National Garifuna Day on November 19.
Hopkins is smaller but has a marvelous beach and a way laid back village lifestyle. The beautiful beaches at Hopkins have sparked development of many new resorts and hotels in the area but the village itself remains a cozy and relaxed family-type environment.
 
Both Hopkins and Dangriga are Garifuna settlements; the people are a distinct ethnic group emanating from the intermingling of West African slaves and indigenous Amerindians from South America. The Garifuna originated on the island of St. Vincent and arrived here in the 1800s via Honduras, reason why most Gariganu (plural of Garifuna) have Latino surnames.
 
The Gariganu have their own language and rituals separate from the Creoles who they resemble due to their shared West Africa heritage. Both Dangriga and Hopkins are the type of places where, if you are lucky, you may get invited to an impromptu dance party, which will include drumming and genuine Garifuna culture. Both destinations are accessible by the southern highway by public transport or private motor vehicle, or you can catch a local flight or even a boat ride. If you are early to Belize in the tourism season, you will be wise to catch the John Canoe Festival.
 
 
Maya Ruins and Temples
Maya Ruins are one of the main Belize attractions and make the country stand out from other one-dimensional destinations such as manufactured beaches, concrete roads and franchise fast food joints on every corner. The area was once the very center of the ancient Maya Civilization and they have left their mark in one of the largest concentrations of temples and underground ritual chambers, as well as a magnificent repository of art in gold, jade, obsidian, pottery, elaborate stone carvings and paintings.
 
Mayan Heritage: Among the best of Belize's Mayan sites is Altun Ha, a heavily excavated site that is a convenient day trip out of the city. Once a major trading and ceremonial center, it consists of several impressive temples and tombs highlighted by the Temple of the Masonry Altars. Another important site is Xunantunich, located near the Guatemalan border that can only be reached by crossing the Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry. Situated here are six major plazas ringed by more than 25 temples and palaces; largest of the remaining temples is Il Castilo which is worth climbing for the spectacular panoramic view from the top.
 
This vast civilization that reached its apex when Europe was in the Dark Ages virtually disappeared about a thousand years ago but their descendants remain in the indigenous Maya consisting of various sub ethnic groups including the Yucatec, the Mopan, the Ketchi and the Xol. Some of the best known Maya sites include Xunantunich, Caracol, Altun Ha and Lubaantun. But we suggest you make up you mind after looking at our Top Ten Maya Sites To Visit In Belize.
 
Jaguar Preserve (Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary)
The Jaguar Preserve has one of the most extensive jungle hiking trails in the country. Plants are identified along the trails and animals are often seen.You need transportation that will drop you off at the Maya Center along the Southern Highway, and from there you can catch a tour bus or taxi for the remaining 7 miles or hike it. The best part of this adventure is that the Jaguar Preserve has its own quarters available for rent by visitors.
 
The entrance fee is $10, camping is $5 per person/ night and the dorm is $20/ per person night; The cabins range from $40-55 per night. You must bring your own food and water, although they will rent you cooking equipment or tents. Some visitors prefer to purchase a visit to the Jaguar Preserve as part of a tour package that includes full transportation.The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was established as a result of a jaguar study conducted in the area by Alan Rabinowitz. Besides being the home of Belize’s largest cat, the sanctuary protects the headwaters of two major river systems.. Over 128,000 acres of lush jungle are surrounded by the Cockscomb Mountains. The Jaguar sanctuary is accessible to both the casual visitor and the serious naturalist through a series of well-kept nature trails. The Victoria Peak trail is only accessible during the dry season and experienced guides are required for this mountain ascent.
 
Wildlife Lovers: Belize City's three major sites containing wild creatures are all located fairly close together. Those who would rather not venture very far from the city can check out The Belize Zoo with its more than 125 animals, all native to Belize. Daily 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Western Highway mile marker 29; 501-220-8004). A little farther out is the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Western Highway mile marker 30.8) and the Community Baboon Sanctuary (across the street; 501-660-3545), which is home to a substantial number of black howler monkeys, called “baboon” in the local Creole dialect.
 
Birders: Belize is a birder's delight as it is home to more than 500 different species from toucans to egrets. Two highly recommended ways to encounter birdlife is on a guided boat trip to the Little Guana Caye Bird Sanctuary and/or the aforementioned Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
 
Go For The Big Islands
Belize has more than 200 islands – many secluded and less traveled. But we have big islands and a nice peninsula for those looking the sun and beach and amenities such as gourmet restaurants, fine wines, clubbing and the finer things in life. If this is your preference we recommend Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and the Placencia Peninsula in the south as among the best attractions.
 
Ambergris Caye is the big island, but before that it was a peninsula of Quintana Roo, Mexico until the Mayas dug a channel making it officially an island and eventually part of Belize. Gotta love the Mayas. Ambergris Caye is a stunted version of Cancun with most anything a visitor from the developed world would want. Dozens of shops, quality pizza and fast food, gourmet dining, luxury hotels and condos – some in the multimillion dollar range, and golf cart traffic jams. Ambergris Caye has lots of space – most folks do not realize the island is larger than Barbados.
 
Caye Caulker is a a couple miles away from Ambergris Caye and much smaller and attracts budget travelers and those looking for a more village style atmosphere. Both islands are an hour away by water taxi from the mainland, or a fifteen minute flight. Placencia is in southern Belize and approximately two and a half hours drive by road. Or a half hour flight from the Belize International Airport.
 
Placencia used to play second fiddle to Ambergris Caye but this is changing rapidly. It’s advantages over Ambergris Caye include better beaches, access by highway, sea and air, and much more surrounding land especially in the Dangriga, Hopkins and Seine Bight areas. Added to this is the rich culture of the Garifuna with their music and traditions. And far less congestion, crowding and golf cart traffic jams.
 
Placencia and nearby areas provide more of the real Belize experience. And from there you can drive to or hike to the vast unexplored southern Belize and even drift down to the fabled Rio Dulce and Puerto Barrios in neighboring Guatemala. From Puerto Barrios it is an easy hop by land into Honduras and other points south – think Roatan, Puerto Cortez, Puerto Limon and San Pedro Sula
 
Diving and Snorkeling:
Number one on the hit parade of favorite outdoor activities due to the astounding sites along the barrier reef. Some of the best dive sites lie just off Ambergris Caye. Charter operators offer day trips that include transportation. However you get to Ambergris Caye, head for the main town of San Pedro, where many of the dive operators are clustered. For a list of local dive shops see Diving on Ambergris Caye. A favorite snorkeling area is known as Shark Ray Alley (one hour by speedboat from San Pedro) where it's possible to get "up close and personal" (petting is permitted) with nurse sharks and sting rays. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a three-square-mile dive site.

Shore Excursions
Best nature lover/history buff combo: An ideal tour for those who want to view creatures in the wild and also explore Mayan ruins is the Altun Ha and River Wallace tour. Travel first up Belize's Wallace River (also known as the Olde Belize River), inhabited by a host of creatures including manatees, crocodiles, iguanas and many species of tropical birds. The second half of the tour is spent at Altun Ha, one of the most important Mayan sites in the country. Duration: 5-6 hours.
 
Best soft adventurer excursion: Tubing along Belize's Sibun River provides a unique look at limestone caves formed before the dawn of mankind. Duration: 6-7 hours. Old Port Promotions and Belize Cruise Excursions pick up and drop off at the Marine Terminal.
 
Best for snorkelers: Travel in a snorkel boat to the uninhabited Goff's Caye, a tiny caye 12 miles offshore where there is abundant reef life and magnificent coral formations. Here it's possible to snorkel either from the beautiful beach or directly off the snorkel boat. Duration: 4 hours.
 
Best "interactive" shark excursion: Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Belize's most "people-friendly" underwater creatures. Speedboats transport passengers directly from the ship to Shark Ray Alley where they can snorkel amidst nurse sharks and stingrays; excursion also includes lunch stop in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Duration: 7 hours.
 
Shoreline Activities
A perfect tour for visitors who wish to view animals within the wild as well as explore Mayan ruins may be the Altun ' and River Wallace tour. Travel first of all Belize's Wallace River, lived on by a number of animals including manatees, crocodiles, iguanas and lots of types of tropical wild birds.
 
Tubing along Belize's Sibun River supplies a unique take a look at limestone caves created prior to the beginning of mankind.
Travel inside a snorkel boat towards the not inhabited Goff's Caye, a small caye 12 miles offshore where there's abundant reef existence and luxurious barrier formations. Here you can snorkel either in the beautiful beach or directly from the snorkel boat. Duration: 4 hrs.
 
Once-in-a-lifetime chance to obtain close up and private encounter with a few of Belize's most "people-friendly" underwater animals. Boats transport people to Shark Ray Alley where they are able to snorkel amongst deadly nurse sharks and stingrays. The trip includes lunch stay in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
 
Eating Out
Menus in the Smoky Mermaid features scrumptious lobster and fresh seafood dishes. Serves breakfast all day long on Saturday. Nerie's offers reasonably priced and much more Belizean fare. Try grain and beans, stewed pork or seafood hamburger. Open daily in the morning, dinner and lunch. Eat with the locals at Large Daddy's Diner, a cafeteria-style restaurant. Four Fort Street is a great place to take in local vibe and revel in the delicious native cuisine. If you are enjoying your day on Caye Caulker, grab a hamburger, tacos or sandwich at Marin's Restaurant and Bar on Luciano Reyes Street. On Ambergris Caye, Ruby's Coffee shop serves yummy coffee, pastries, tostadas, burritos and sandwiches.
 
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.
 
My 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.
 
The Shopping Scene
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.
 
Handicrafts & Souvenirs
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.
 
Jewelry
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.
 
Liquor
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.
 
Markets
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.
 
Music
Punta Rock is the most Belizean of music styles. A close cousin to soca and calypso, Punta is upbeat dance music. Popular proponents include Andy Palacios, Chico Ramos, Pen Cayetano, the Garífuna Kids, Travesia Band, and Peter Flores (aka Titiman). For a taste of traditional Creole folk music, try to track down a copy of Mr. Peters' Boom & Chime. You also might be able to find some traditional Garífuna music, which tends to be ceremonial dance music, very similar to traditional West African music.
 
The best place to find Belizean music is a gift shop. Still, these are very hit or miss. Check at the Belize Tourism Village. You might also try online music stores; two good sources are www.stonetreerecords.com and www.calabashmusic.com. I'd avoid the various vendors selling bootleg cassettes and CDs on the side of the road, since the quality can be sketchy, and the artists don't receive a dime.








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