(CNN) — Protected rainforests, Maya ruins, Caribbean beaches and the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. Add English as the official language and the widely accepted U.S. dollar, and you can get a great vacation on easy mode in Belize.
Still, with so much to do, it can become a lot of work to fit it all in. Travelzoo editor Andrew Young recommends taking on just a little bit of this country in the heart of Central America at a time, and offers this list of his five top spots to get you started.
The Blue Hole
Just off the coast of Belize lies an underwater paradise for novice snorkelers and veteran divers. The Blue Hole is world-renowned as an open-water diving spot. During the Pleistocene era, the Blue Hole was a giant cave on dry land. The stalactites and stalagmites remain and are staggering sights through the crystal blue water.
Ambergris Caye is the largest island of Belize, accessible via a small airplane from the mainland of Belize. Believe it or not, the best way to tour Ambergris Caye is by golf cart. Drive around and stop to see mangrove trees, the Belize Barrier Reef that almost touches the shore and lagoons teeming with crocodiles.
Maya ruins of Lamanai
Some use Belize as the entry point to Tikal, the famed ruins in Guatemala, but it is also home to several ancient Maya cities. One of the more interesting is Lamanai, which was still occupied by the Maya when the Spanish first arrived. The cultural collision is forever noted here, between the pyramids and the ruins of two Spanish churches.
Caves Branch River tubing
Geologists recently stumbled across a vast subterranean network of Maya ceremonial caves. At the Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archeological Reserve, guides will lead you across jungle pools to the caverns filled with artifacts like sacrificial skeletons. The spiritual underwater history lesson is a must-do.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Interested in the chance see a jaguar up close and personal? The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the world’s first jaguar sanctuary. And, it’s also a campground where you can pitch your tent, go hiking, and listen to a symphony of jungle sounds.
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