Belize travel offers great adventure in, on, and under the water

As a seasoned travel writer, I have the privilege of visiting a lot of terrific places. Each place shines in its own way, but I’m invariably attracted to islands and tropical destinations where sparkling waters play a significant role to any visit. Whether I’m in it, on it, or under it, a destination with water friendly activities is usually tops in my books.


Reflecting back on my notes of our visit to Belize makes me want to go back, as I very clearly wrote, “This truly was one of the best days of my life.” 

What made my Belize travel experience so memorable and special? There are some beautiful beaches and incredible vacation rentals in Belize that can make for a great trip. But for me, it was the snorkelling. I’ve snorkelled in numerous places throughout Mexico, Hawaii, and Caribbean, but to date, have never surpassed the thrill of the Manatee Watch and Shark Ray Alley tour we took in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.


We watched the manatee swim happily near the mangroves. And we snorkelled with the sting rays and nurse sharks along the coral reef. I was even allowed to pet a large nurse shark, with my Belizean guide close at hand. It was incredible! The shark’s skin was tough like sandpaper. We were feeding him sardines in the warm, crystal clear water. What a magical moment, as I truly felt a very peaceful connection with this 14-foot long creature. (I’m guessing at the length, but that is a common length for these usually docile bottom-dwellers.) I say ‘usually docile,’ as it has been noted that divers who bother the nurse sharks in unwanted or unexpected ways may be bitten with their razor-sharp teeth.


Oxygen tanks all ready for a dive in Belize.

Shark Ray Alley is rated as being one of the Top 7 Caribbean Dive Spots. From my experience, I totally agree. There are more than 200 species of marine life in those waters. And more than 300 species of native birds. But where exactly is Belize?

The Belize Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site and stretches from Mexico to Guatemala

Belize is a Central American country bordered by Mexico to the north (both Cancun and Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula are just over 600 kilometres away from Belize City.) Belize is flanked by Guatemala to the west and south, and the captivating Caribbean Sea to the east.

Although I only had one day there while on a fabulous Panama Canal cruise in 2001, Belize held a key place in my memory, and by writing this sponsored post and bringing Belize to the forefront of my consciousness, I found my way back to the beautiful tropical paradise of San Pedro to discover more of what the country of Belize has to offer.


A visit to San Pedro is a must for any traveler to Belize.

I found San Pedro to be a most pleasant surprise. Bright colours, beautiful beaches, and a good selection of enticing places to stay. A Creole (Kriol) influence in the Belizean culture was felt and tasted in the flavourful eats we enjoyed in North Ambergris Caye. Belizean rice and beans is a popular dish. We enjoyed the Belizean chicken flavoured with paprika, and served with rice, peas, fried bananas, and a really great coleslaw salad. And Belize is also known for its tasty fresh-caught shrimp. You’ll find everything you need to plan a trip to Belize here.

But those of you who are regular readers to this blog know there must be a chocolate connection. And indeed there is! A growing number of fine chocolate makers around the world are creating their own unique bars using Belizean cocoa. And there is the Belize Chocolate Festival in the Toledo District each May.

investigating chocolate and cacao in belize

After making the right connections, I finally made it to the Toledo District in November, 2018. Situated in the southern part of Belize, but it is best known for the Punta Gorda tourist area, and about 30 Mayan villages that preserve the Mayan culture. At one time, there were as many as one million Mayans who inhabited Belize, so there are numerous site with Mayan ruins to explore.

There are now noteworthy cacao companies in the Punta Gorda region that are growing world class cocoa. And a movement to save and protect the heirloom cacao and help establish cacao-based agroforestry to help conserve and restore Belizean tropical forests. It is no surprise that Belize found its way onto my chocolate-seeking radar.

With the growing reputation of bean-to-bar chocolate being made from Belizean cocoa by chocolate making champions that include US-based Dandelion Chocolate, Nathan Miller Chocolate, Zak’s Chocolate, and others, I was thrilled to be back in Belize and will have much to write in upcoming posts. Please subscribe to this site (via the pop-up subscribe box or the Subscribe box in the options you’ll find in the sidebar if you haven’t already joined us) as I share more about this dreamy Central American destination.


A beautiful sunrise in Belize, got me dreaming about my return visit.

My thanks to friend and fellow Canadian Bob Cooney for supplying the great photos of Belize for this post. (Bob now lives in Belize and has married into a family who runs a shrimp farm, restaurant, and more.) My Belizean photos were taken before the days of digital and are buried somewhere in my closet. πŸ™‚

I’ll be bringing you much more original content on Belize beginning here. So do stay tuned, and please share any of your own Belizean memories in the comment thread below.


Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

102 Responses

  1. Loved Belize, seems such a long time ago when we visited back in 2013. Time to return. Thanks for the article.

    • Hi Jane: If you’re like me, and only had a brief visit to one part of Belize during your previous visit, consider planning a visit to a different part of the country next time. You will find many new things to discover! πŸ™‚

  2. Carol Ivey says:

    Loved Belize, just there in July 2018! Thanks for reminding us of our great trip πŸ™‚

  3. Tina says:

    Can’t wait to visit Belize. Since it is also a possible great place to retire early we hope to get there soon.

  4. The snorkelling with Go Sea Tours out of Placencia last week was truly spectacular and second only to the Great Barrier Reef in terms of diversity, in my opinion. We were transported from the town by boat out to the Caye, a trip of about 20 miles. We had three snorkelling excursions from there – the first a reconnaissance mission from a tiny strip of land on the Caye where we had lunch, the next a more adventurous swim and the third where the stingrays, nurse sharks and sea turtles hang out. Our guide had an eagle’s eye for the more camouflaged fish and his colleagues were top notch too. We missed you out there Doreen.

    • Thx for your comment, Virginia. Yes, I would have loved to have been snorkelling out of Placencia with you. But it just didn’t work out this time. Maybe next time! If it’s anywhere near as good as what I experienced at Ambergris Caye, it was truly magnificent. πŸ™‚
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…the many faces of volunteerismMy Profile

  5. Emma Smith says:

    Hi Doreen, I really like traveling. and always find interesting things related to travel. well, you wrote a great article. thanks.

  6. farman says:

    I have heard so many great things about Belize and your post makes me want to go even more. Hopefully one day soon I’ll find myself there!

  7. nice post thanks for sharing n keep it up

  8. Cindy says:

    Belize has been on my list for a long time now – actually just talked about it last month with my favorite tropical travel partners, so maybe two years from now. . . It sounds wonderful.

  9. Vikas Sharma says:

    impressive article you wrote and shared your travel experience with us. I want to go there for same enjoyment and trip.

  10. Jina says:

    impressive article you wrote and shared your travel experience with us. I want to go there for same enjoyment and trip.

  11. Loved your story. I cannot tell you how much I love Belize. My β€œbucket list” continues to grow despite all my efforts to complete it there. The Chocolate Fest is definitely worth experiencing!

    • Hi Christine. Yes, that seems to be the way it is with some destinations. They are alwayz on out radar, but somehow the stars do not align to get us there. I’m hoping that in 2018, the stars will align to bring me back.

  12. Belize, is probably one of those modern day colonies for vacation rentals and beach bumming in style. I wish to see how the locals stay in these areas and how their daily lives revolve around the beauty of the sea. More often than not most of the lovely beach resort towns are all similar looking western clones of each other. I’d love to visit Belize but reach out to where the locals live and understand their lives. I learnt a little about Belize, but I am hoping to go back and do more research on this place.

    • Living with locals is the way I travel so contact me if you want a home stay in Sarteneja, and a guide to introduce you to his families in othr parts of Belize. i arrive in Belize tomorrow.

  13. Doreen, I fell in love with Belize when my naturalist friend Pat spent 16 years there writing letters to friends about the birds, animals and plants of this wonderful country. Then I fell in love with a picture of Half Moon Caye on Lighthouse Reef near the fabled Blue Hole, a World Heritage site. A long peninsula of sand with emerald water on each side where you can pitch your tent and watch a colony of magnificent black frigate birds living beside rare white red-footed booby birds. I booked a camping kayaking trip to this island with Island Expeditions, met one of the wardens and was invited to study jaguars in the jungle near the Cockscomb wildlife sanctuary. As the writer of Love Affair with a Cougar, I couldn’t resist .

    I now return to Belize every year in the Canadian winter, I have built a house there for a family in a secluded yet-to-be-discovered treasure and enjoy the unparallelled experiences of living with Mayan and Mestizo families. Go to http://WWW.LYNHANCOCK.COM for blogs and photos on Sarteneja, my home village, and the wonderful experience of being invited to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of my Belizean sister.
    A final tip: my favourite experiences in Belize have been that wedding, kayaking Half Moon Caye with Island Expeditions,and Actun Tunichal Mukpah, the ATM cave where women and children used to be sacrificed to the Rain God. And if you want to experience local culture with a local family phone me at 1.250.390.9075 or email me at and I will be pleased to invite you and help you achieve that.

  14. Belize seems like an ultimate travel destination, Doreen! Your pictures have left me speechless. How many days would be enough to see all of the highlights there?

  15. Abhinav Singh says:

    I am also a fan of tropical destinations. As much as I love mountains, I love beaches as well. I think I will enjoy Belize. It is my kind of destination. San Pedro looks like a lot of fun too!

  16. YUKTI says:

    I never knew Belize is so beautiful and lovely. San Pedro is really a surprise with stunnning beach, and would really try out delicious Belizan dishes.

  17. Belize is definitely on the to of my tropical getaway list. Hope to get there son.

  18. The underwater world at Belize seems magical. What an experience swimming with the manatees. Getting so close to a Nurse Shark and even being able to touch the giant sounds like an incredible experience. You seem to have had a great experience and no wonder you wrote in your travel diary that this was one of the best days of your life.

  19. Mike says:

    Awesome article on Belize. I’ve always wanted to go. Do you have any photos from your dive? I love seeing underwater photos. I saw the link of luxury rentals in Belize. They made my eyes pop. They are soo beautiful. Need to check them out.

  20. Belize has been in my wanderlist for quite a while and now that I’m getting better at snorkeling, I am motivated to get there! San Pedro looks like a lovely spot to wander and explore as well.

  21. As much as we love tropical destinations, we’ve never been to Belize. You’ve sold me on putting it on the wish list. The hubby would love the snorkelling and I’d be spending some quality time in San Pedro. Bob Cooney’s photos are fantastic!

  22. jane says:

    My husband Henk constantly rates EVERY snorkelling adventure against his experience on the ‘atoll in Belize’ which he ranks as unbelievable. I don’t think I’ll rest until I see it for myself, too!

  23. You’ve just added Belize to my “must-visit” list! I love to snorkel and dive and your experience sounds divine. I have fond memories of visiting a friend’s Belizean grandmother with her. Her cooking was amazing and her accent always made me smile.

  24. Great info, Doreen. We’ve only visited the interior, and though we loved the interior (ATM caves) we missed out on your manatee sightings and San Pedro and chocolate experiences.

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Kristin. You’ll have to go back! It’s true how a visit to one part of a country can be dpcompletely different than a visit to another part of the country. Thx for stopping by.

  25. Yasha says:

    We visited Belize in 2007 on our Alaska to Tierra de Fuego trip. One of the things we loved was that could speak English after 5 months of struggling with Spanish in Mexico. But we were also thrilled by our visit to Caye Caulker and a boat trip we took from there. It is a special country that really deserves a lot more attention.

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Yasha. Yes, it’s great that Belize is an English-speaking country. Hopefully this post will help get more travelers thinking about visiting Belize.

  26. It’s great to read that there is so much to do in Belize. We were considering adding it to our travel list, and now we can confidently.

  27. neha says:

    The beaches of Belize seem to have a lot to offer to those visiting here. Including underwater experience. That sunrise is very well captured. I love the shades of color there. And the town looks colorful too. Overall, I am inspired and will look forward to more stories from Belize.

  28. Michele says:

    What a rare and special treat to see manatees up close in the wild. I hope to stop in Belize in the fall and can’t wait!

  29. Wendy Peck says:

    I have always been curious about Belize, but you have given me at least half a dozen reasons to get there. You always find the best stuff in the best places.

  30. Thanks for this introduction to Belize! It’s now on my list!

  31. I’ve only been to Belize as a cruise passenger, but after reading your article I think I’ll go back!! I also had no idea about Belize chocolate!! Great piece!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Marilyn. It’s amazing how many of the people contributing to this conversation have only been to Belize as part of a cruise. Definitely have to return for a longer visit. πŸ™‚

  32. My one visit to Belize was also a one day port of call on a cruise. I’m still trying to overcome claustrophobia sufficiently to enjoy snorkeling. If I ever do, thanks to you, I know to add Belize as a possible place to see how I do. I’d probably forego the petting the shark thing—even if I knew they had plenty of sardines to eat.

    • Probably not a bad idea, Suzanne. Although I did feel safe with my Belizean guide, I have heard of nurse sharks biting divers who intrude their space. Lucky I made it through the experience without a scratch. πŸ™‚

  33. Francesca says:

    I didn’t realize there’s such a thing as Belizean cocoa. Not surprised, though. I haven’t been to Belize yet but would love to go. I did a Panama Canal cruise, too, about 15 years ago but Belize wasn’t one of our stops πŸ™

  34. So lovely. There is just something so memorable about snorkeling in clear, clean water.

  35. Robert says:

    We made a stop in Belize on one of our past Cruise Vacations. Loved the snorkeling and boat trip out to Caye Caulker and swimming with the Rays! The Dandelion Chocolate sounds very interesting! πŸ™‚

  36. I’ll never forget how I saw a jaguar in the forest in Belize!

  37. I’ll never forget I actually saw a jaguar in the forest in Belize!

  38. Having lived most of my life on Maui, visiting sun and sea destinations has never been high on my list of travel wish list. But now one year into mountain living, I’m ready to expand my horizons. Belize looks charming and reminds me of some of the beach towns we used to frequent so many years ago. Thanks for the tour and lovely photos!

    • You’re welcome, Marty. Maui is indeed a wonderful place. but each country and each island is different and carries its own customs and culture. Glad you’re ready to expand your horizons. Enjoy the adventure! πŸ™‚

  39. Max Gandy says:

    I’m so glad to see more people writing about the chocolate culture in Belize! I went to the Toledo Chocolate Festival in PG a couple of years ago and it was a blast. Shortly thereafter I ended up writing about it since I had so much fun, but I also wish I had taken better pictures during my trip… I was so tired after the first two days that I ended up missing the bus to the third day, but the 10 days I spent in Belize were truly magical. I highly agree with your assessment about Ambergris Caye, as well. Thanks for the quick overview, Doreen.

  40. I have heard so many great things about Belize and your post makes me want to go even more. Hopefully one day soon I’ll find myself there!

  41. I was in Belize last February, we split our time between the jungle area to visit Caracol and the white sand and snorkeling of Caye Caulker. I hope to return and check out Caye Ambergris and the chocolate!

  42. Milosz Zak says:

    From everything I’ve heard from my fellow traveler friends, Belize also has some fantastic Mayan ruins. Definitely worth a trip, and a great extension, or follow-up to any trip to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

  43. Fabulous! I really want to get to Central America before too long, and even more so now that I know there’s a possibility of seeing a manatee…

  44. Fun! I have a number of snorkeling friends who speak highly of Belize. Must be something wrong with them, though, because nary a word about the chocolate! πŸ™‚

  45. Nathan says:

    Lovely introduction to this Central American nation! I would love to visit Belize someday and snorkel in those clear seas which are absolutely captivating.

  46. As a scuba diver, I’ve long wanted to visit Belize. Hoping to do so in 2018! Your encounters with the sea life sound amazing!

    • Doreen says:

      Thx, Debbie. I’m surprised that someone with your diving credentials has not yet checked out the Belize Barrier Reef!

  47. Linda says:

    I used to think snorkeling would be totally lame. Little did I know! I fell in love with it during my one tri to Hawaii. I can easily imagine your excitement and delight at touching a shark and swimming with all those fish. That would be so cool. Hope you do make it back soon.

  48. Carol Colborn says:

    We are going to Belize this year! I was waiting for the intro to Belize’s chocolate and there it was before the article ended. And I may try snorkeling! I will try to sample the chocolate, too.

  49. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Perhaps we can.

  50. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Hi Doreen. I don’t really know anything about this beautiful country. One of our kids, Michael has made it there and raved about it. I wonder if there are “bucket list” rules. Lol. Do you keep adding travel spots as you are pushing through your list. A never-ending affair!

  51. Catarina says:

    Have never personaly been to Bleize just worked with their government once. Friends of mine who have been to Blize liked it very much

  52. Belize certainly looks and sounds beautiful. I would love to visit.

  53. Belize looks absolutely amazing! I would love to travel there one day. πŸ™‚

  54. Wow great ..amazing tourism spot. love all places..planning to visit.thanks for share

  55. Love the look of those pastel coloured houses
    Such a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the sunshine

  56. I’m scared of water but I would love to snorkel and see manattes. More than that, I would love to taste the Belizean chocolate from Dandelion chocolate – preferably sitting on a beach and looking at that sunset

  57. My son and his girlfriend visited Belize last year and absolutely loved it! It’s on my bucket list for 2018 and, of course, the whole chocolate factor just raised it higher on the list!

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