Hello, my name is Belize!

Traveling through Belize you will see the sign, “No Shirt, No Shoes…No Problem!” nearly everywhere you go. This relaxed approach to life is only part of what is attracting more and more visitors to Belize each year.

Caye Caulker Island, BelizeLocated between Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Belize is a country of contrasts.  Belize may be the only country in Central America where English is the official language, but Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages and, culturally, Belize considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American.

Geographically Belize has a lot for travelers to take in as well.  The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as Cayes.  In total they comprise about 270 square miles of land and form the 200 mile long Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.  Three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are also located off the coast of Belize.

And, because over 40 of Belize’s mass is a protected national park, wildlife sanctuary or marine reserve, there is no shortage of wildlife.  Sharks, coral fish, dolphins and turtles troll the waters, and over 570 species of birds, including toucans, fly the skies.

Caye Caulker – one of the tiny islands off of the Belize coast – is a great place to observe the culture of Belize, while staying within a budget.  In fact, this island has been a stop for backpackers and college travelers for decades!  Many of the residents of Caye Caulker are fishermen, making the island a great place to get fresh spiny lobster and snapper.  There are no cars on Caye Caulker but there are plenty of beaches, friendly locals and delicious food.

Another must see while in Belize is Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, named after the cashew trees that inhabit the village.  For $8 you get access to the community that is actually home to 900 locals, of Creole descent, who have been farming and fishing the area for generations.  If you make it there in the morning, you’ll also get to see the amazing variety of birds that inhabit the area and make this one of the top birding destinations in the world.

After you’ve conquered Belize by land, venture seaward and see Belize’s Hol Chanand the Great Blue Hole.  Hol Chan, also known as “Shark-Ray Alley,” is an split in the reef where nurse sharks and sting rays among other marine life, make their home.  Besides being a prime destination for dive excursions, Hol Chan is also a marine reserve.

First made famous by Jacques Cousteau, the Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole that can be seen from space!  The world’s largest feature of its kind, the Hole  attracts divers looking to catch a glimpse of the nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and Blacktip sharks that live in the area.  Dive trips to the Great Blue Hole are usually full-day trips, including a dive in the Blue Hole and two other dives in nearby reefs.

Whatever attracts you to Belize, the warmth of the local culture will make you feel you’ve found a second home.  Actually, many visitors have made it their second home – and when the owners are away, why not take advantage of the great deals to be had by renting a vacation house rather than paying a nightly rate for a hotel?