Nestled on the Caribbean coast in Central America is Belize, a tiny country with a lot to offer. With stunning jungles on one side and gorgeous Caribbean beaches on the other, Belize is a great destination for intrepid travellers looking for the best of both worlds.
And, as the only country in Central America with English as its official language, living like a local and feeling at home should be simple for even the most inexperienced visitor!
Discover the Mayans
Belize has a long and rich Mayan history, with the ruins to prove it. Any visitor willing to strap on a pair of walking shoes can discover a huge number of historic sites around the main centres across the country.
Xunantunich (pronounced shoo-nahn-too-neech), is one of Belize's most easily accessible and impressive Mayan archaeological sites. From the peak of the hilltop ruins, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding jungles and beaches.
A free ferry is available to get you across the Mopan River and from there it's a short walk to the temples. Keep an eye out for the stunning wildlife in the area as you stroll to the ruins, and the butterflies and birds are a particular treat.
Diving and snorkelling
There are many beautiful beaches and atolls in Belize, with surrounding reefs home to brightly coloured fish flitting through caves and plant-life. Make sure you save time to visit the world-famous Blue Hole lagoon during your diving experience.
However, for a truly local experience, you can avoid the tourist spots and instead head down south to the protected Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. While most visiting divers and snorkellers stick to the more easily accessible northern beaches, more adventurous can enjoy the peace and quiet in the island reserve that is about two hours by boat from Toledo.
Caves are a common sight in Belize, as both underwater and above-ground entrances coax would-be explorers into the depths. For an adventurous visitor, cave tubing through the Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is a great chance to mix water sports with sightseeing.
Float along the Caves Branch River as it carries you through a number of tunnels and passages, where you can spot schools of cave-dwelling fish and crystalline formations. Make sure you take a head lamp so you can marvel at the strange Mayan paintings on the high ceilings and spot remnants of artefacts from ancient rituals once held in the caves.
Local cuisine at the Michael Finnegan Market
For a taste of the local cuisine, head along to the Michael Finnegan Market, a popular open-air event held on Hickattee Street in Belize City. Here, you can partake in different kinds of fresh fish, Mayan-made corn tortillas, mangoes and many other local foods.
If you can't spot anything that tickles your tastebuds at the market, friendly locals will be more than willing to point you in the right direction for some truly authentic restaurant experiences.