The Barrier Reefs of Belize are the second longest in the world and are a treasure for scuba-divers and snorkelers. The beaches and resorts on the Cayes (islands) of the reef are idyllic destinations for those interested in fishing, sailing, swimming, exploring the reefs, or just relaxing.
The main entry point for most visitors into the country is through Belize City, the largest town. It is a seaport with the associated hustle and bustle, but it has retained much of its shanty-town character. Most travelers arrive here and then leave for the islands or elsewhere. A half-day in town is probably enough to get a flavor for the atmosphere and style of life.
Ambergris Caye is the largest and most popular of the islands. Its major town, San Pedro, a tiny, charming village of friendly, relaxed people, is mainly a place to pick up transport to a resort. The town is serviced by regular boat and small plane shuttles from Belize City, a 35 mile (75 kilometer) trip.
Caye Caulker is another island with regular service from the city. It is much smaller in size. Travel around the island is normally by foot or rented golf cart.
Divers will probably want to head out to Lighthouse Reef where they will find the famous Blue Hole, a cylindrical shaft of darker water over 400 feet (130 meters) in diameter, and Half Moon Caye, which besides excellent diving, is the location of Belize’s first National Park, a refuge for the almost extinct Red-footed Booby.
Another accessible destination from Belize City involves traveling inland into Guatemala for a visit to the Mayan ruins at Tikal, a distance of about 130 miles (200 kilometers). Tikal was a major Mayan city and flourished from approximately 300 – 900 AD. It was once home to over 100,000 people. The eventual decline of this civilization has never been, and probably never will be, adequately explained. However, once the people began to leave, the jungle began to reclaim the area, and it is only recently that great efforts have been made to make the area accessible to tourists.
Visitors are immediately impressed by the the numerous Temples (pyramids) and its large, expansive Plazas. There are over 3000 structures on the site which has been recognized by UNESCO for World Heritage status.
The first area that visitors come to is the Great Plaza, which contains Temple I (Temple of the Giant Jaguar), Temple II (Temple of the Masks), and the Central Acropolis, a complex of numerous Palaces.
Walking along the Tozzer Causeway, basically a raised road, brings the visitor to Temple III (Temple of the Jaguar Priest) and ultimately to a 212 foot (65 meter) pyramid, known as Temple IV, (the tallest in the Mayan world). A difficult climb to the top of this temple affords a spectacular view of the complex.
There is another temple, Temple V near the South Acropolis.