Pristine and proud, Southern Belize will make you feel like an explorer of old during this 12-day tour. Experience the sight of jaguar prints in a protected rainforest, vibrant Caribbean reefs, subterranean adventures, Maya villages, and Garifuna culture. This itinerary is an off-the-beaten-path adventure that is complemented by idyllic days on the sand and boutique eco-lodges.
San Ignacio – Sunset at Xunantunich
Belize is a small country with one foot in the rainforest and another in the Caribbean. There are only really three roads, and they are more like country lanes that weave in and out of the trees than actual highways. You will touch down at Philip SW Goldson International Airport, and your driver will greet and transfer you to your eco-lodge. Here, iguanas bask in the treetops, and you may hear the distant hoot of howler monkeys. Upon your arrival, you can check-in and then check out the medicinal trail with your local guide. Almost everything in the rainforest has a use, and this tour will help introduce you to Belize’s old-world nature and its longstanding culture.
San Ignacio – Canoeing the Macal River
The rainforest is always an excellent place to relax. You can wake up to the tweeting of exotic birds, gaze out at the green landscape, and absorb the feeling of wilderness. There are several self-guided trails that lead out from your eco-lodge. These are ideal for a quiet morning of enjoying nature. In the afternoon, you can canoe down the Macal River and drift into a landscape where wildlife flourishes. After a relaxing paddle down the river, you will be driven back to the lodge, where the sounds of the wild can be heard into the evening.
Blue Hole National Park – Jungle Adventure
Today’s adventure will lead you into the subterranean realm and along the rivers that form one of the world’s most complex underground realms. You will hike into a cave, turn on your head torch, and drift down the river in an inner tube. It will be pitch black in many places, so the experience may be guided by your ears and nose. Explorers have been mapping the subterranean world around Blue Hole National Park for 50 years, and they have still only scratched the surface. You will spend the night at a different eco-lodge.
South Water Caye Marine Reserve – Outdoor Adventure
Today, you will venture to Mayflower Bocawina National Park, where you will hike through a haven in search of Belize’s rare birds. You will wander past monkey prints in the mud, and then you will soar like the birds across the forested valley on a zipline. At first, it will be exhilarating, but you will quickly get used to the zipline and find tranquility in the journey. After a guided tour in the morning, you will take a speed boat across the Caribbean to South Water Caye.
Day 5 - 6
South Water Caye Marine Reserve – A Palm-Studded Island
After four days in the rainforest, you will be surrounded by the serenity of the Caribbean. Perched on the Belize Barrier Reef at the heart of a marine reserve, South Water Caye is an idyllic getaway that has remained off the beaten path. Scuba diving and snorkeling are possible here. These couple of days will be at your leisure, and snorkeling equipment will be included in your stay. You can indulge in a stroll to the south of the small island for the finest of white sands. This is an island where you will not need shoes; you can drift off in the sun and relax.
Hopkins – Garifuna Culture
Back on the mainland, there is a unique culture to discover. Today, you will travel to the fishing village of Hopkins by speedboat. You will then spend the afternoon in Dangriga, which is a ramshackle town that proudly keeps Garifuna heritage alive. Here, you can explore a local neighborhood with a guide and meet a couple of musicians to get a feel for their language. While the town can look a little untidy, it is a hive of cultural experiences when you have an excellent local guide
Placencia – Belize’s Finest Beaches
Jaguar prints dot the mud in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a haven for around 200 of the rare cats. Actually spotting one is unlikely because these are secretive animals hide deep in the trees. The jaguars are not the only species in this wilderness. Howler monkeys shout from the treetops, tapirs bashfully wander through the gloom, and you can continue to enjoy impressions of Belize’s birdlife cast. Even without seeing a print, there is a thrill to hiking in the sanctuary. Like the other reserves and parks you visit, there are a number of different trails, and your guide can tailor the route to your energy and fitness levels.
Placencia – Relaxing Day on the Coast
Placencia’s beaches are gorgeous, and nearly everyone gets around on foot or by golf cart. You can go snorkeling or diving, but in Placencia, you are practically encouraged to do nothing. While the beaches near the fishing village usually have a few people on them, there are 16 miles of sand around the peninsula. You can take a stroll to find a beach that feels private, and when you are not transfixed by the Caribbean, it is only a short journey to the lagoon where saltwater crocodiles and manatees are among the underwater residents.
Maya Village – Cultural Immersion
While Belize is well known for its ancient Maya ruins, few people realize that Mayan culture continues to have its place in the 21st century. A homestay program has been established in the Mayan heartland of Toledo and offers the chance to experience typical life. This is not a luxurious experience, but you will stay in a village of thatched houses with few facilities and a lovely setting in the jungle. Rather than being a tourist experience, spending a night in the village is the chance to get to know the people and their stories. You will encounter signs of poverty but also of self-sufficiency and innovation. It is certainly a different experience and a highlight of Belize for many visitors.
Placencia – The Crystal Skull
Lubaantun is a great contrast to the ancient Maya ruins of Xunantunich. Wrapped by green forest, this city was built at a much later date. The temples are enormous and are built without mortar; every single piece was cut from sandstone and then inserted into the Maya building jigsaw. This was also the city where a shimmering crystal skull was supposedly found. While this turned out to be a hoax, there is something incredibly mythical that makes it feel like you are about to upturn a bizarre Indiana Jones-style discovery. Few people visit Lubaantun because it is too far away, so you will have most of the site completely to yourself.
Placencia – Departure
Today, you will fly from Placencia to Belize City before transferring to the international airport. Here, you will depart Belize after nearly two weeks in the country.
- Escape from the world with a several night stay on a palm-studded white-sand island on the Northern Hemisphere’s longest coral reef
- Hike and canoe through superb nature reserves, track jaguar prints in the Cockscomb Basin, and ride in a canoe past toucans and monkeys on the Macal River
- Immerse yourself in the country’s old-world culture with a unique homestay in a Maya village
- Lounge on the beautiful sand with several nights in Placencia, which is home to some of Central America’s finest mainland beaches
- Search for the legendary Crystal Skull and uncover the secrets of the Xunantunich temples
- Explore Belize’s vast subterranean world by drifting through caves that are yet to be fully mapped by researchers
- Feel the adventure of the jungle around San Ignacio, where medicinal trails showcase tradition and iguanas occupy the high branches
- Discover another local culture by meeting the Garifuna people of Dangriga
- Uncover a surreal marine world as snorkel and swim around Caribbean reefs
Almost all of Belize remains wonderfully undeveloped because this is not a country where high-rise blocks ruin the coast. Nearly half of Belize is protected rainforest, and the world’s second-longest reef system is in a much better state than the longest, the Great Barrier Reef. Eco-lodges will provide you with a sanctuary within reserves and parks. Culture has also been preserved, especially in Southern Belize. Here, you can find Maya and Garifuna villages.
This pristine country creates an off-the-beaten-path adventure, particularly when you avoid its most famous destinations. Do not worry because missing out on one caye means that you can enjoy another. Belize has a whole network of islands and islets that snake off from the Caribbean coastline. There are also the mainland beaches that are as white as the imagination can conjure and as laid-back as they promise. There are also subterranean river systems, jaguars, and toucans. The distances between destinations are small, and the travel is easy. The only challenge will be exactly where to go.
This handcrafted 12-day tour will celebrate the untouched side of Belize. Your itinerary will be a mix of rainforest adventure and quiet beach days. You will also visit a variety of national parks and reserves, including a three-night stop at an island on Belize Barrier Reef. You can canoe past toucans, watch the sunset from an ancient Maya temple, zipline, cave-tube in the jungle, and search for the mythical Crystal Skull. Along the way, you will get to know the local people. Most of the population speaks English, so you will have little trouble sharing stories.
You will begin with a stay at a superb rainforest lodge on the outskirts of San Ignacio, which will prove to be an ideal way to settle in to the country’s inland charm. The following day will be dedicated to the subterranean world and will include ziplining and hiking in Mayflower Bocawina National Park. You will then continue to a small caye of white sand and palm trees. The Belize Barrier Reef invites self-guided adventure, and you can bask in the seclusion of this private Caribbean destination.
You will then return to the mainland for a day in Dangriga. Here, Garifuna culture offers insight into the history of the land. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the only jaguar reserve on the planet, and while finding the endangered cats remains rare, the hiking trails are always exhilarating. You will then return to the coast for several nights on the white beaches of Placencia and an overnight stay in an old Maya village.
$4,195 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.85 stars based on 101 reviews
Reviewed By Mark F.
Reviewed By Gina V.
Reviewed By Lori D.
Reviewed By Jurg B.
Reviewed By Holly B.
Reviewed By Sena C.
Get Weekly Inspiration and Expert Advice on Travel
during the COVID and post-COVID era