Belize is a popular Caribbean tourist destination and cruise stop – check out what to do in Belize City with our comprehensive guide!
We visited Belize as the third stop in our recent Caribbean cruise – this is actually our second visit to Belize City and we would definitely go back a third time! On our first visit we did a zip line and cave tubing excursion (so cool!) and this time we visited Mayan ruins (absolutely incredible).
This article is published in partnership with Princess Cruises. All content and opinions belong to Mama Loves Food.
Cruise to Belize City
Taking a cruise to Belize is a great way to see what this gorgeous country has to offer. Located at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize offers travelers a wealth of attractions. The country’s dense rain forest is dotted with Mayan ruins.
The forest is also home to a wide range of tropical wildlife, ranging from jaguars and ocelots to keel-boated macaws and howler monkeys. Offshore, the world’s second largest barrier reef offers some of the finest diving in the world. And Belize’s easygoing ways, a legacy of its past as a British colony, feels far more like a Caribbean island than a Central American republic.
What To Do in Belize
- Mayan Ruins – Belize was once home to the ancient Mayans. One of the earliest known Mayan cities dates to 2000 B.C., and at the height of the Mayan Empire, their population rose to as many as two million.
- River Cruising – Take a motorboat ride on the Old Belize River through the jungle. As you cruise the waterways teeming with crocodiles and iguana sunning on rocks, listen for the cries of howler monkeys and birds.
- Cave Tubing – Glide through the water beneath awe-inspiring stalactites and past dramatic cave formations as your trusty inner tube takes you through the sacred underworld of the ancient Mayans.
- Belize Zoo – Paths carved into 29 acres of jungle allow visitors to see more than 125 animals native to Belize, including jaguars, ocelots, peccaries, storks, howler monkeys, tapirs, crocodiles and more.
- Bacab Eco Park – This famed nature park features horseback riding and over 200 species of flora, as well as a diverse population of wildlife.
- Ziplining – Keep your eyes open wide and peer down at ancient caves as you soar across an exhilarating jungle zipline through the lush rainforest canopy of Belize.
- Snorkeling & Diving – Discover four amazing cayes (pronounced keys) which can be reached by boat from Belize City. Belize’s Barrier Reef and its three atolls all feature superb wall dives and snorkeling.
- Airboat Ride – Skim across the marshy waters of Almond Hill Lagoon, where you may be lucky enough to spot a manatee before admiring the mangroves, water lilies and crocodiles of Indian Creek.
- See details about these excursions at the Princess Cruise website.
What We Did in Belize
On our first trip to Belize in 2007 we took an excursion into the mountains where we ziplined in the rainforest and then cave tubed through an underground river (cenote). I was excited to see that this excursion is still available and several people in our cruise group enjoyed it!
For this trip, Wesley and I chose to take a river cruise and tour of Mayan ruins followed by lunch at a local restaurant on the water. I cannot say enough good things about our guides for this trip! They were fun and funny and incredibly knowledgeable.
We took a bus to a riverside restaurant where we picked up the boat for the river cruise. We were expecting a slow meandering trip down the river like in Costa Rica, but instead we got a speedboat trip that was super fun! The guides went around the boat taking pictures of everyone and cracking jokes, we had a blast.
When we arrived at the ruins, there was so much to see and learn about and we were even able to climb to the top of of one. It was so. high. up. But when else do you have the opportunity to get such an incredible view and experience? If you take this trip, make sure to pack lots of water – it was very hot and would be easy to get dehydrated.
After a speedy boat ride back to the restaurant we enjoyed a local lunch of rice and beans and chicken with the option of an alcoholic beverage. (Why yes, I did get a margarita).
Make sure you book excursions through Princess Cruises to make sure you always get back to the boat on time. The ship will not wait for privately booked tours that arrive late!
Where to Eat in Belize City
We ate breakfast on the ship and lunch on the Mayan Ruins tour, but if you’re out and about on your own, here are some highly rated places to try!
- Celebrity Restaurant & Bar
- Bird’s Isle Restaurant
- Riverside Tavern
- Midtown Restaurant & Bar
- Chon Saan Palace
- Moe’s Pizza Grill
- Belamari Restaurant
Shopping in Belize
The port area in Belize City is lined with great tourist shops and we were able to pick up several fun items to bring home. Gift shops and handicraft shops are concentrated in the downtown area in and near the Tourism Village by the cruise port. Instead of big malls with national retailers like in the United States, you’ll find small, locally owned businesses and a lot of produce and craft stands.
Some of the great things you’ll find are leather goods, black coral jewelry, hand-carved mahogany, woven wear, slate carvings, and bottled herbs for souvenirs (Tourism Village). Queen’s Square Market is where you’ll want to head to grab fresh produce and other food items.
What to Pack for Belize
Belize is hot year round, so you’ll want to pack light clothes, layers (that sun can be brutal, you’ll probably need to cover your shoulders at some point) and definitely swim suits if you’re going to hit the beach or cenotes. Sun dresses if plan to dress up at all and cute sandals are a must.
Make sure to check out our comprehensive (and printable!) cruise packing list!
Fun Facts about Belize
- Belize has the only Jaguar preserve on the planet. Half a dozen great cats, including jaguars and pumas, are indigenous to Belize and Central America. Belize is the only country in the world with a nature sanctuary dedicated to preserving these animals, the area is called the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve.
- The Belizean dollar is tied to the US dollar. One U.S. dollar always equals two Belize dollars, making it easy to convert prices.
- English is the official language of Belize. More than 80% of the population speak English as their native language. Other languages spoken in Belize include Mayan, Kriol (Creole), Garifuna, and Spanish.
- The second largest coral reef in the world is located off the shore of Belize meaning meaning coral and sea life are abundant and varied – perfect for scuba divers!
Things We Loved about Belize
Two things stand out to me about Belize – first was how incredibly friendly everyone was. From tour guides to shop keepers, folks were smiling, gracious, and happy. There’s nothing like a good mood to put you in a good mood!
The second is how awe inspiring the Mayan ruins are. We visited Chichen Itza many years ago and I always wondered if my memories of the ruins were exaggerated, but I can say they were not. As much as river tubing is so fun, there’s really something special about exploring ancient civilizations.
Weather in Belize
The climate in Belize City is hot and humid. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 71°F to 88°F and is rarely below 65°F or above 91°F. On average, the temperatures are always high. A lot of rain (rainy season) falls in the months of: January, June, July, August, September and October.
On average, the warmest month is May and the coolest month is January. October is the wettest month and March is the driest month. Hurricane season runs from June until mid-November. However, historically, most hurricanes occur between August and October in Belize.
When is the Best time to Visit Belize?
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, from late November to mid-April. March is the driest month of the year.
What You Should Know About Belize
- The Belize dollar is fixed to the U.S. dollar at $2 to $1, and both are accepted throughout Belize. Many businesses accept credit cards, but there’s often a significant upcharge to use them.
- Island time is real. Belizeans are laid-back people with a go-slow attitude. Don’t expect quick service or things to start on time.
- Most of Belize uses speed bumps instead of stop lights to control traffic and speeds.
Where is Belize?
Belize is a nation on the eastern coast of Central America, with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Offshore is the massive Belize Barrier Reef along with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes.
Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala.
What time is it in Belize?
The country of Belize operates on CST (Central standard time). This is the same as Dallas and Chicago.
CST (Central standard time) is one hour behind EST (Eastern Standard time), three hours ahead of Alaska Standard Time (AKST), two hours ahead of PTD time zone (Pacific time zone), and one hour ahead of MST (Mountain Standard Time).
It is important to note that Belize does NOT observe daylight savings time (DST) and remains on Central Standard Time (CST) all year. The last DST change in Belize was February 11, 1983.
Events in Belize
- Fiesta de Carnaval, or the Belize Carnival, is held the week before Lent begins. The most boisterous celebrations occur in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, and feature a traditional flour fight!
- Baron Bliss Day. This Belize City holiday held in March features a sailboat race as well as horse races and kiting competitions.
- Easter Week. Easter is a week long holiday in the country ofVisitors can expect nationwide shutdowns as Belizeans attend religious services and take trips from Good Friday through Easter Monday.
- Lobster Festivals. Held in June and July, there are a number of lobster festivals across the country featuring kabobs, tacos, and fresh-out-of-the-shell lobsters along with music, dancing, pina coladas, and other fresh cocktails and snacks.
- Deer Dance Festival. In August, the Deer Dance Festival is held in the Mayan village of San Antonio in Belize’s southern Toledo District.
Where We Cruised Before and After Belize
Where we’ve cruised
Caribbean, Central, and South America
Alaska and Canada
Must-read cruising tips
Recipes Inspired by the Caribbean and Belize
- Classic Margarita Recipe
- Pineapple Margarita
- Mango Margarita
- Grapefruit Margarita
- Mango Pineapple Salsa
- Pickled Green Tomatoes
- Whole Fruit Popsicles
More Recipes Inspired by Our Travels
Why You Should Cruise to Belize
Belize is such a rich and beautiful country and the great part is that you can see so much from the the coast! Within a few hours of the coast you can snorkel, get to incredible cenotes (underground caves systems with bodies of water), mayan ruins, jungle filled mountains, and so much more.