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Belize City, Belize

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Did You Know…?

  • Baird’s tapir, known locally as the mountain cow, is Belize’s national animal.
  • Belize’s capital was moved out of Belize City after Hurricane Hattie devastated the place in 1961.
  • The bricks in St. John’s Cathedral were originally used as ballast in English ships.
  • Guatemala, convinced Belize was part of its territory, recognized Belize in 1992, 11 years after independence.
  • The largest jade carving in the Mayan world was found at Altun Ha near Belize City.

A former capital

Tourists don’t generally visit Belize in Central America specifically to see Belize City, its largest community. Instead, the city turns up on tourist itineraries because it is the country’s main air travel hub, and, given its location on the Caribbean, it offers the logical port for cruise ships.

Belize City is the jumping-off point for wildlife viewing, touring Mayan sites and other activities in the country’s interior and for Belize’s coastal islands and extensive reef system.

The city itself is the country’s commercial and cultural center. It was the capital, as well, but after a hurricane slammed the city, Belizeans built a new capital, Belmopan, at a safe distance inland.

Crime is a concern in Belize City, as well, calling for commonsense practices such as using taxis at night. The government also takes steps to counter the problem with uniformed tourist police in areas frequented by visitors.

That said, it should also be noted the city does have attractions of interest to tourists, mostly along cultural lines. Points of interest include the House of Culture (formerly, Government House), with events and exhibits related to colonial days; the Museum of Belize, often featuring Mayan exhibits; the Old Belize Museum, with its exhibits on Belize’s various cultures, traditions and natural ecosystems, and St. John’s Cathedral.

There are Belizean arts and crafts to be purchased. Also, visitors can buy handmade furniture at the Mennonite market in the city. For culture of another kind, visitors are entertained with tours at the Traveller’s Liquors Rum Museum and Belikin Brewery, with rum and beer samples as chasers.

Area wildlife sanctuaries and the Belize Zoo provide easy access to the country’s indigenous animals. At the zoo, native animals include coatimundi, howler monkeys, jabiru storks, margay cats, ocelots, scarlet macaws, spotted and black jaguars, tapirs and toucans as well as various reptiles.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Find a dive shop and get outfitted for spectacular underwater visions among the cayes near Belize City.
  • And, for an overview of the wondrous reefs off Belize’s coast, and especially for the Blue Hole, sightsee from a helicopter.
  • Get your license for catch-and-release sportfishing.
  • Tour Belikin Brewery in Ladyville and gain insights into the brewing process for this popular local beer. Then, of course, sample the brew in the brewery’s pub.
  • Sample cashew wine at the Cashew Festival in May, at Crooked Tree Village, 35 miles north of Belize City. The event includes foods made with cashews, plus salsa music, storytelling, folklore performances and handicrafts.
  • Participate in an excursion that combines cave tubing, rappelling and time on a zipline.

 Things to do for Centrics

  • Look for, and you may find, crocodiles in the canals around Belize City.
  • Enjoy museuming with a twist. See the Old Belize Museum, which focuses on the different cultures, traditions and natural ecosystems. Then, try out the zipline at the site.
  • For a unique shopping option, consider the Hattieville Central Prison Gift Shop outside Belize City, where you would be supporting the prisoners’ rehabilitation by buying their crafts.
  • Look for Mayan artifacts at the Museum of Belize, a former prison.
  • Visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary, 20 miles northwest of Belize City. The sanctuary program is managed by landowners in eight area villages. Also, plan to do your bird-watching at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • See the Rum Museum, operated by a commercial company, Traveller’s Liquors, for the history of rum distilling in Belize. If 18 or older, enjoy a free rum sample.

 Things to do for Authentics

  • Make your first visit to Belize City by arriving on a cruise ship.
  • The Belize Zoo is a natural, in every sense, for kids of all ages. It’s a chance to see much of the Belizean wildlife in a single place but in natural settings.
  • Take a horse-and-buggy tour of the city.
  • Check for events at the House of Culture, the former official residence of the British governor of Belize. The center hosts cultural exhibits and musical performances.
  • Put St. John’s Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Central America (1812), on your itinerary.
  • For a sampler of Mayan sites in the country, choose Altun Ha, 31 miles from the city but only six miles from the coast.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Belize Tourism Board at www.travelbelize.org