"Altun Ha" by Steve Sutherland via Flickr Creative Commons

Since nearly all of the attractions in Belize are of the natural or archaeological variety, it is a good idea to use a tour company to help with the travel arrangements. There are epic Mayan cities like Caracol and El Pilar hidden in the jungle, but you won’t want to miss the wildlife of Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve or a few days idling away on one of Belize’s lazy cayes. The small size of Belize means you can cover a lot of territory in a short time. Old-school buses are the main form of transport from place to place, so if you’re short on time a tour company can speed up the process significantly.

Altun Ha

Altun Ha is one of the easiest Mayan cities to reach from Belize City. The site is relatively small compared to El Pilar or Caracol but it is extremely well preserved and organized. This accessibility appeals to many visitors who want a taste of the ancient Mayan world without too much jungle trekking. Altun Ha has two central plazas flanked by several mounds, temples, tombs and pyramids that are all nicely uncovered and restored. Some of the most significant relics in Belize were found here, such as the huge jade sculpture of Kinich Ahau’s head, the Mayan sun god. Hundreds more temples and tombs lie undisturbed in the surrounding jungle, offering a chance for some adventurous exploration if you choose. Address: Rockstone Pond, Old Northern Highway, Belize District, Belize Tourism Board, 64 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize Phone: 501-227-2420 Website: http://www.nichbelize.org/ia-maya-sites/altun-ha.h...

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary The oldest and most popular national park in Belize, Cockscomb Basin, is most famous for its jaguar preserve that strives to protect this endangered creature native to Belize and essential to Mayan culture. Few visitors spot the elusive cats, but an impressive trail network makes hiking through this wonderful jungle forest a real treat. Loads of exotic birds like scarlet macaws and toucans, howler monkeys and other wildlife live here. There is a good information center and even a few cabins on site for overnight stays. Address: Southern Highway, approximately 20 miles south of Dangriga Phone: 501-223-5004 Website: http://www.belizeaudubon.org/protected_areas/cocks...

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Arguably the best bird-watching park in Belize, if not all of Central America, Crooked Tree is just 32 miles north of Belize City, but there is plenty more for visitors to do in this beautiful preserve than just try to spot the hundreds of exotic birds that live here or pass through. There’s also a traditional Creole village where you can spend the night and get a welcome dose of local culture to go with the outstanding array of wildlife on hand. There are nice walking trails in the park and the chance to explore the waterways by boat, guided by the locals. The information center is a wealth of useful knowledge, and the peak birding season runs from February through May when migrating birds add to the spectacle. Address: three miles off the Northern Highway midway between Belize City and Orange Walk Phone: 501-223-5004 Website: http://www.belizeaudubon.org/protected_areas/crook...

Old Belize

An interesting tourist attraction just outside of Belize City, Old Belize showcases the culture, nature and politics of Belize’s harried history. Its exhibits are quite comprehensive, from a Mayan ceremonial cave to a Garífuna home. A 45-minute guided tour is included in the fee, but its location on pretty Cucumber Beach makes it ideal for a full day of sightseeing by the sea. There’s also a waterslide, zipline, playground and restaurant. Address: Cucumber Beach Marina,Mile 5 Western Highway Phone: 501-222-4153 Website: http://www.oldbelize.com/

Ambergris Caye

The most developed of many tiny islets that dot the Caribbean coastline of Belize, spending a few days on the beach is an essential component of any trip, and Ambergris and its even more sedate neighbor Caulker Caye go out of their way to slow you down. The compact downtown of San Pedro is where to buy souvenirs. The rest of the island is geared towards strolling, meandering and biking. The sea kayaking, snorkelling and diving off Ambergris is also superb if you need some activity. Address: 36 miles north of Belize City Phone: n/a Website: http://ambergriscaye.com/index.php

Belize Botanic Gardens

Situated in the cool town of San Ignacio, the hub for nature treks and Mayan ruins, Belize Botanic Gardens offer a comprehensive look at the native plants of Belize, and its extraordinary orchid house. They have guided tours, horse and buggy rides, or you can explore on your own. Nearby are the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech, as well as the Macal and Mopan Rivers to raft and caves like Barton Creek Cave. With so much to do around San Ignacio and the Cayo district, you could spend a few days here exploring Address: 10 miles west of San Ignacio Phone: 501-824-3101 Website: http://www.belizebotanic.org/

Click here to learn about Belize's Food and Restaurants