Where is Belize?
Surprisingly, the first question asked by most people when they hear someone is traveling to Belize is “Where is Belize”? The easiest answer is that Belize is located about 100 miles south of Cancun. To be more precise, Belize is located in Central America on the Caribbean with its neighbors being Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south. To get a visual, we created a page for maps of Belize.
“If the world had any ends Belize would be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere, to anywhere else. It is all but uninhabited.”
– Aldous Huxley, Author of ‘Brave New World‘
People from the US, Canada, the CARICOM nations or the EU are not required to obtain a visa to enter Belize. All other countries must apply for and obtain an entry Visa to come to Belize. A passport is required for all people who come to Belize; birth certificates, baptismals, driver’s licenses or other forms of ID will not be accepted. Arriving by car or boat (not Cruise Ships) will require you to obtain a temporary importation permit at your point of entry, which is good for up to 30 days.
Belize is about the size of Israel or New Hampshire, with the mainland measuring about 180 miles north to south and approximately 68 miles west to east or 8,867 square miles (22,960 km²). This of course does not include the over two hundred islands just off the coast. The country is divided into six districts: Belize, Cayo, Orange Walk, Corozal, Stann Creek and Toledo.
Although over half of the population is of hispanic descent, most people, especially in areas where tourists visit, speak English. Spanish is widely spoken by the locals, as is Creole.
There are about 375,000 people living in Belize with the median age of only 22. The people here are very diverse in race and religion: mestizo, Creole, Maya, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, white, Asian and Roman Catholic, Protestant (including Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Anglican, Mennonite, Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene), Jehovah’s Witness, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, Rastafarian respectively.
The most populous city by far is Belize City with over 60,000 inhabitants. San Ignacio, Belmopan and San Pedro each have about 20,000 residents with Corozal Town, Orange Walk Town and Dangriga each containing about 10,000 people. The rest of the population is sprinkled throughout the country in small towns and villages giving it the lowest population density in Central America and placing it near the bottom among all countries of the world. This of course creates wide open spaces for people to live in, discover and explore.
The Belize currency is the Belize Dollar, which is pegged to the US Dollar at two Belize Dollars to one US Dollar. This was set in May of 1976 and has been in place ever since. The 2 to 1 exchange rate makes it extremely easy to figure out costs and nearly all places frequented by tourists accept either US or Belize dollars. ATM machines are still sparse, even in tourist areas, and international fees can add up when using them.
The government receives more than half of its income from customs, followed by income taxes, and the General Sales Tax (GST of 12.5%), which locals and tourists alike pay on all purchases made in Belize.
The climate varies greatly depending on where you are in Belize. The mountains can get chilly in the winter, though it never gets cold enough to snow, and the islands become rather hot and humid in the summer. The average, year round temperature is 84F (29C) and the average humidity is about 85%.
Belize also has a rainy season, which coincides with hurricane season, starting in June and lasting until the end of December. The country receives, on average, about 150 inches of rain each year. Hurricanes are rare, but Belize does experience occasional tropical storms that can bring strong winds and a fair amount of precipitation.
The Belize landscape varies greatly from lush jungles to majestic mountains to tropical islands to urban cities. The vast majority of the countryside is wide open and green with vegetation. Although the country has a few mountain ranges running through it, the highest point of Victoria Peak is just 3,669 feet. The entire coastline is protected by the second largest reef in the world.
Belize received its independence from England on September 21st, 1981 and is now a member of the British Commonwealth. Belize has a Parliamentary Democracy with two main political parties known as the United Democratic Party (UDP), which leans left and the People’s United Party, which leans right. The UDP is currently the ruling party lead by the Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
Belmopan is the capital, built in 1970 after the former capital of Belize City was extensively damaged during Hurricane Hattie. It is located 50 miles inland and on higher ground, practically in the middle of the country.
The people of Belize are as friendly as the country is beautiful. Most will bend over backwards to offer assistance and are always ready with a smile. The citizens are truly a melting pot of race and religion all living together peacefully. Besides the thousands of ex-patriots from the US and Canada living here, there are primarily eight diverse cultures that make up the populace: Maya, Mestizo, Garifuna, Kriol, East Indian, Arab, Mennonite and Chinese. The Maya are the indigenous descendents of the many tribes that was the Mayan Empire, which peaked around 1,000 years ago. The Mestizo are immigrants from Mexico over 100 years ago. The Garifuna are a mixture of Africans and Caribbean Indians, descended from one slave ship that wrecked in 1675. Kriol (or Creole) consist primarily of Africans.
The first people to discover Belize were the Mayans about 3,500 years ago as is proven by the many archeological sites throughout the country. They lived here for about 2,500 years and then mysteriously disappeared. The first English settlement was established in 1638 and it later became a Colony of Great Britain known as British Honduras in 1840. The country changed its name to Belize in 1973 and became independent in September of 1981. The national motto is “Sub Umbra Floreo”, which is Latin for “Under The Shade I Flourish”. The national flower is the Black Orchid and the national bird is the Toucan, both which are indigenous to Belize.
Districts of Belize
Ambergris Caye is the largest and most populous of the 200 islands in Belize. It is the northernmost island bordering on Mexico and has one city named San Pedro. It is the most popular among tourists and travelers with dozens or beachfront resorts and hotels to choose from.
Caye Caulker is the second most populated and visited island, about a 20 minute boat ride from Ambergris Caye. It is popular among backpackers and locals from the mainland with many inexpensive places to stay.
Placencia is at the end of a peninsula giving it an island atmosphere. Many people who choose to retire in Belize, choose to live in Placencia. There are a few residential developments built to American standards for higher end retirees.
Belize City is where most travelers start their visit to Belize as it contains the international airport. Most people do not stay there though as it does not have much to offer for tourists and is not a particularly safe place.
The Cayo District is located inland and borders on Guatemala. The main city is San Ignacio, which is surrounded by farmland and rolling hills. Belize’s capital Belmopan is also here. Cayo is home to a couple of the biggest Mayan Archeological sites in Belize. It also offers cave tubing and ziplining for the adventurous.
The Orange Walk District is in the northwest part of Belize and borders both Guatemala and Mexico. It has one main city called Orange Walk Town and a few dozen villages. The District is largely made of mountainous forests and thus its main business is lumber. It has recently become a sugar cane producer.
The Corozal District is in the northernmost part of Belize with a border to the north with Mexico and many miles of shoreline. It is sparsely populated with only one main city called Corozal Town. The town is on the shore of Corozal Bay, known for its fishing and sun-bathing.
Dangriga is known as the largest town in Belize by square mile. It is located on the coast near two main rivers, which are used to transport harvested fruits and vegetables grown inland. Dangriga was the place of one of the first English settlements in the late 1700s and is primarily occupied by Garifuna.
Punta Gorda is the southernmost city in the country located about 15 miles north of Guatemala. It is placed on the coast and is home to thousands of Garifuna. It was founded as a fishing settlement, but now is used as a gateway to the fertile lands inland.
Fun Facts About Belize
- The most beautiful part of Belize is Southern Belize and it is also the least visited
- The Black Howler Monkey of Belize, known by the locals as a “Baboon”, ranks among the top 10 for loudest animal in the world
- Over 1 million tourists travel to Belize each year with around 70% arriving from North America
- The ocean in Belize averages between 79F to 83F degrees
- Whale sharks migrate through Belizean waters and are harmless to humans, eating only plankton and fish eggs
- There are nearly 1,000 Mayan ruins that can be found throughout Belize. Most have never been explored and a couple like the infamous Noh Mul have sadly been destroyed to be used for road fill.
- The mainland of Belize is almost 180 miles long and about 67 miles wide
- Gibnut, a delicacy in Belize, is a rodent found in the rainforest. This popular game meat is also known as the Royal Rat after the Queen of England ate it and gave it the Royal Thumbs Up.
- The wetlands of Belize contain 2 of the 22 known species of Crocodiles, the saltwater American and the fresh water Morelet
- Belize has many villages with interesting names such as Laughing Bird Caye, Baking Pot, Double Head Cabbage, Gallon Jug, Bullet Tree Falls, Sal Si Puedes (Spanish for ‘come out if you can’), More Tomorrow, Never Delay, Raspaculo (Spanish for ‘scrape your bottom’) and Labouring Creek
- Many Belizeans do not swim in the ocean or in rivers on Good Friday, believing that it will bring bad luck