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Last Updated on January 11, 2024 by Nellie Huang
Only have 1 week in Belize? Check out my detailed Belize itinerary that packs in the country’s best adventures.
Welcome to Belize, a country that straddles between the Caribbean Sea and the dense Central American rainforests. It may be the second smallest country in Central America, but it sure packs a punch — it’s home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef, hundreds of islands with powdery white sand, ancient Mayan temples that tower over lush jungles, complex cave systems that run underground, and a cultural heritage as rich as its landscapes.
We first traveled Belize as part of a six-month backpacking trip, but we recently returned with our 8-year-old and found ourselves captivated once again by the the rhythm of Belize – a harmonious blend of laid-back Caribbean vibes, the call of exotic wildlife, and the warmth of a unique culture.
Belize is small enough that you can easily see the highlights in one week, perfect for a short getaway! I’m sharing our 1-week Belize itinerary, that will bring you from the sun-kissed beaches of Caye Caulker to the mysterious depths of the ATM Cave.
Belize Itinerary & Guide
Belize Itinerary on Map
This one week Belize itinerary will show you three different sides to the city: first you’ll do a quick wander around hectic Belize City, then you’ll soak up island vibes on both Ambergris Caye (aka San Pedro) and Caye Caulker. The islands are perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving and even deep-sea fishing!
My Belize itinerary eventually brings you to inland to the jungles surrounding San Ignacio, where you can explore Belize’s most impressive Mayan ruins, visit the legendary ATM caves, and stay in an eco lodge in the jungle.
With this itinerary for Belize, you’ll get a taste of the best of the country and experience how versatile and diverse the small country can be.
How to Get to Belize
This Belize itinerary starts and ends in the capital city, Belize City. The main gateway to Belize is the Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). It serves many cities in the US. You can get flights from Denver to Belize City for just US$380 return and from New York for US$500 return. Search for flights to Belize City.
Belize is also surprisingly easy to get to from Mexico; we drove over from our home in Playa del Carmen in Mexico and it took us just over 5 hours to get to the Belize border. If you don’t have your own transport, there are buses that go straight from Chetumal to Belize City (check out buses here). You can also take a water taxi from Chetumal to San Pedro or Caye Caulker. Read more about water taxis below.
Getting around Belize
By Water Taxi
Water taxis are the most popular way to get from one island to another in Belize. If you’re traveling to Belize from Mexico, the water taxis are the most convenient way to get from Chetumal to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. The water taxis tend to be medium-sized, sheltered boats with limited seating and they can get bumpy and tight.
They’re not cheap though, at around US$76 for a one-way ride from Chetumal to Ambergris Caye. It’s more affordable to drive or take a bus to Belize City, then take a water taxi from there, which costs around US$31 for a one-way trip. Book your water taxis here.
We drove our own car from Mexico overland into Belize City, parked it by the pier (while we were on the islands) and then drove to San Ignacio and back to Mexico. Renting a car is definitely an easy way to travel around Belize — roads in Belize aren’t the best, but traffic is managable and it’s easy to find your way around. If you’ve got experience driving abroad, it definitely makes for an adventure!
We always book car rental on Discover Cars, as they’ve consistently given us the best rates and service. A 1-week car rental in Belize costs around US$400, not including insurance. Book your car rental here.
If you’re on a budget, buses are the cheapest way to get around Belize. Unlike Mexico, Belize doesn’t have proper big-coach buses that go between cities. There are plenty of chicken buses that are really cheap but unreliable. You can also take private shuttles between cities especially if you’re traveling in a group and can save money by splitting the cost. Book your shuttle transfer.
Belize Itinerary Day 1: Land in Belize City
Many travelers tend to avoid Belize City as it doesn’t have the best reputation. Honestly it is pretty rough around the edges and there aren’t a lot to see and do here. I suggest spending a day or just a few hours here to get your bearings. First, catch a private shuttle from the airport to the city center for US$16. Book your transfer here.
Start by exploring the historic Swing Bridge, the oldest swing bridge in Belize. Watch it rise above the murky waters to let water taxis pass. This iconic landmark connects the north and south sides of Belize City. From there, stroll over to St. John’s Cathedral, the oldest Anglican cathedral in Central America, renowned for its architecture significance.
Afterward, make your way to the Museum of Belize (pictured below), housed in the historic Belize Central Prison, offering insights into Belize’s history, culture, and natural heritage. The museum is surprisingly insightful and the setting cannot be more apt. Head to the Riverside Tavern for fresh seafood or simple Belizean dishes. take a stroll to the waterfront “Welcome to Belize” sign, capturing memorable photos of your time in Belize City.
Where to Stay in Belize City
Budget: The Red Hut Inn
The Red Hut Inn is a budget-friendly option offering comfortable accommodations. It’s known for its friendly staff and clean rooms. While it may not have all the amenities of higher-end hotels, it provides a good value for budget-conscious travelers. Check rates here.
Mid-Range: Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina
Located right on the waterfront, this is a mid-range option with a waterfront location. It offers comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, and various amenities. The hotel is conveniently situated near key attractions in Belize City. Check rates here.
Luxury: Shaka Caye All Inclusive Resort
Located outside of Belize City right on the beach, this upscale resort offers beachfront accommodations, fine dining, a spa, and a range of recreational activities. With its high-end furnishing, it provides a luxurious beach escape right in the city. Check rates here.
Belize Itinerary Day 2: Head to Ambergris Caye
After a day in Belize City, it’s time to head out to the cayes (small, low islands composed largely of coral or sand) that Belize is known for! You’re going to first head to Ambergris Caye, the largest and most popular island in Belize. The town of San Pedro, located on the southern part of the caye, is a bustling hub with colorful buildings, lively streets, and a diverse culinary scene.
Water Taxi vs Plane?
The cheapest way to get to San Pedro from Belize City is by water taxi; a one-way ferry ticket costs US$31 and it takes 1h30min. As mentioned, water taxis are usually small and space is tight, but they leave regularly and are efficient.
But if you have the budget, I recommend flying there on your way there. Flights are around US$84 per person one way and the views on the flight are absolutely spectacular! The flight is in a tiny, super informal-feeling plane, gliding over water in the most beautiful shades of green and blue that you can imagine. Flights are cheaper if you book them in advance on Maya Island Air’s website.
Wander around Ambergris Caye
Once you’ve settled in San Pedro, consider renting a golf cart to explore the island. It’s worth visiting the mangrove forests or the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site, an ancient Maya trading and fishing outpost. Guided tours are available to provide insights into the rich history of the region.
You can also drive all the way to Secret Beach, which is no longer a secret anymore. Secret Beach has shallow spearmint waters, perfect for swimming and relaxing. You can even go fishing here with your spinning reel and enjoy some quiet time.
Where to Stay in San Pedro
Budget: Drift Inn
Located in the heart of San Pedro, Drift Inn offers budget-friendly accommodations without compromising on comfort. With a central location, it provides easy access to the town’s attractions, restaurants, and beaches. Check rates here.
Mid-Range: SunBreeze Hotel
We stayed at SunBreeze Hotel, a great mid-range option situated on the beachfront, offering comfortable rooms and a range of amenities. We loved the convenient location and easy beach access. Check rates here.
Luxury: Victoria House Resort & Spa
For a luxurious experience, consider Victoria House Resort & Spa. This upscale resort is known for its elegant accommodations, beautiful beachfront setting, and high-end amenities. It offers a tranquil and indulgent retreat on Ambergris Caye. Check rates here.
Belize Itinerary Day 3: Dive the Blue Hole
Ambergris Caye is renowned for its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef, offering exceptional snorkeling and diving opportunities. If you’re a PADI-certified diver, don’t miss diving in the Blue Hole, a legendary submarine cave that draws scuba divers from around the world. The circular Blue Hole is over 330m in diameter and 120m deep, and it was formed when the roof of a limestone cave system collapsed during the ice age.
Sadly diving here is not for beginners; you’ll need to have the PADI Advanced Open Water license to scuba dive here. We only had the Basic Open Water license so missed out on the chance to see the Blue Hole. If you are certified, check out Scuba School and Family Dive Center, which has the best reviews on TripAdvisor.
Alternatively, you can also opt for a sightseeing flight for aerial views of the Blue Hole. From the air, the round patch of dark blue waters surrounded by shallow turquoise waters and coral reefs looks unbelievable. It’s not cheap of course, at US$215 for a 1-hour flight.
Snorkel with Sharks at Hol-Chan Marine Reserve
In the afternoon, book yourself on a snorkel tour in the Hol-Chan Marine Reserve near Ambergris Caye. Marine life is outstanding here – we saw huge nurse sharks, bumphead parrot fish, and even an eagle spotted ray! It was a surreal experience as the ray slowly glided past us, so gently and relaxingly. Visibility in the water is as clear as it can get and snorkeling conditions are close to perfect. This was by far our favorite part of this Belize itinerary.
In the evening, treat yourself to a beachfront dinner at the beachfront Blue Water Grill, which serves us hearty Belizean staples and freshly grilled seafood. Another spot worth checking out is The Truck Stop, a food truck park with a variety of options. Enjoy the sunset views over the Caribbean Sea while savoring fresh and delicious Belizean cuisine.
Belize Itinerary Day 4: Hop over to Caye Caulker
Just a hop away from San Pedro is Caye Caulker, the smaller sister island, which offers a more budget-friendly and laid-back experience compared to Ambergris Caye. It’s just a 30-minute water taxi ride away; a one-way ticket costs US$21 per person. Book your water taxi here.
With a quieter, low-key vibe, Caye Caulker appeals more to the backpacker crowd with its laid back, reggae vibes. We absolutely love Caye Caulker — both when we were young backpackers 20 years ago, and now with our 8-year-old kid in tow. There are no roads, no pollution, no loud noises. Just soft winds, light music and the endless sea.
Check out my recommended things to do on Caye Caulker.
Chill at the Split
Spend your time swinging away on the hammocks by the Split, on the northern end of the caye. The Split was formed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie hit, splitting Caye Caulker in two. It’s become a popular place to chill, snorkel and hang out. The shallow waters are clear, refreshing and full of marine life. Plus there are beach bars right on the side of the Spit, so you can literally pull your beach benches out and sit in the water while drinking an ice cold beer.
Kayak to the Northern Mangroves
You can also rent a kayak here and paddle to the mangrove reserve in the remote northern half of Caye Caulker. It makes for a fun excursion, especially in the mornings when birdlife is rich. Tsunami Adventures organize kayaking trips for B$15 (US$7.50) in the first hour and B$10 (US$5) for subsequent hours. It’s really easy to kayak in the calm waters around the northern part of Caye Caulker, so don’t worry if you don’t have any experience. Book their trips here!
Where to Stay on Caye Caulker
Budget: Popeye’s Beach Resort
On our first trip to Belize, we stayed at Popeye’s Beach Resort and had the time of our lives hanging out with other backpackers and just chilling. Fast forward to 15 years later, Popeye’s still remains an institution, with dormitory-style rooms and a communal atmosphere. Check rates here.
Mid-Range: Tropical Paradise Hotel
Tropical Paradise Hotel is a mid-range option offering comfortable rooms and a relaxing atmosphere. Situated close to the beach and central areas, it provides a convenient location for exploring the island. The hotel features amenities such as a pool and a friendly staff, making it a good choice for those seeking a balance between affordability and comfort. Check rates here.
Luxury: La Isla Resort
There aren’t many luxury resorts on Caye Caulker; but this is one of the few nicer ones. We stayed here with our friends on our recent trip and really enjoyed the pool and the nice campfire area with comfy benches and hammocks. While the rooms are small, the resort is located right on the beach and in a quiet but central location. Check rates here.
Belize Itinerary Day 5: Drive to San Ignacio
Start the day bright and early with a morning water taxi ride back to Belize City. It’s just a 1-hour boat ride (US$21 one way). Once you arrive at the ferry terminal, either pick up your rental car or take a taxi to the bus terminal. It should take around 3 hours to get to the lush jungly interior of Belize.
Once you arrive, check into your ecolodge and take a stroll around town. San Ignacio’s vibrant market provides an authentic taste of Belizean life. Have some fry jacks (puffy crisp deep-fried flour dough) at the market or duck into Cenaida’s Belizean Food for some coconut chicken or Creole fish.
See the Green Iguanas
After lunch, drop into San Ignacio Resort Hotel to check out the Green Iguana Conservation Project. They run guided tours of their facilities regularly throughout the day, and the guide provides fun and interesting information about the green iguana. You’re free to get friendly with the green iguanas, the babies are especially playful.
Explore the Mayan Ruins
It’s time to head into the jungle! San Ignacio serves as a gateway to numerous archaeological sites, including the renowned Maya ruins of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. We were really impressed by the sheer scale of Xunantunich (just 30 minutes from San Ignacio) — the massive Mayan complex can rival Palenque in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala in terms of its magnitude and grandeur. The smaller Cahal Pech ruins are within walking distance from San Ignacio town.
Where to Stay in San Ignacio
Budget: Mana Kai Camping and Cabins
Located in town, Mana Kai offers an affordable eco-friendly accommodation option in San Ignacio. Set within a pristine natural environment, this budget-friendly lodge provides guests with a close connection to nature while maintaining affordability. Check rates here.
Mid-Range: The Lodge at Chaa Creek
Situated amidst a private nature reserve, this upscale lodge offers a range of comfortable accommodations and upscale amenities while prioritizing eco-friendly practices. They also offer guided nature walks, birdwatching, and explore the lodge’s commitment to environmental conservation. Check rates here.
Luxury: Ka’ana Resort
For those seeking a luxurious eco-friendly experience in San Ignacio, Ka’ana Resort is an upscale resort that combines lavish accommodations with a commitment to sustainability. Surrounded by lush landscapes, Ka’ana offers guests a high-end retreat featuring fine dining, spa services, and exclusive access to Belize’s natural wonders. Check rates here.
Belize Itinerary Day 6: Go Caving in the ATM Caves
We’ve saved the best for last! Rise early to go on an adventurous tour of the ATM Cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal), one of the most famous sights of Belize. Named one of the most sacred caves in the world by National Geographic, the ATM Caves is a must-visit for adventure travelers. Geologically, the cave extends over a kilometer, meandering through narrow rock formations until unveiling a magnificent, glittering atrium adorned with crystallized stalagmites and stalactites.
However, what truly distinguishes the ATM Cave is its role as the resting place for several human sacrifices. Within its depths lie 14 partial and near-whole remains, notably the “Crystal Maiden” – a remarkably preserved skeleton adorned with crystals at the heart of the cave. Amidst the human remains, the cave also houses numerous pottery fragments, ceremonially shattered as part of the sacrificial rituals.
The ATM caves can only be visited on a guided tour, and it requires a certain level of fitness. We didn’t do this as we were traveling Belize with our kid, but this ATM cave tour seems to get the best reviews.
Belize Itinerary Day 7: Back to Belize City
Sadly, your Belize trip has come to an end and it’s time to head back to Belize City. Either catch a chicken bus from the bus station, or drive back to Belize City Airport (which should take just under 2 hours). Alternatively, book this shuttle that’ll bring you from your San Ignacio airport to the airport.
Belize Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Belize
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, which typically spans from November to April. This period ensures favorable weather conditions with lower chances of rain, providing optimal opportunities for outdoor activities, exploration, and enjoying the pristine beaches and coral reefs.
The peak tourist season falls between December and April when Belize is blessed with pleasant temperatures, clear skies, and vibrant marine life for activities such as snorkeling and diving. But note that this is also the high season, resulting in higher accommodation prices and increased crowds.
For those seeking a balance between favorable weather and fewer tourists, the shoulder seasons of late April to early June and September to early November offer good alternatives, albeit with some potential for rain during the latter period.
Is It Safe to Visit Belize?
Belize is generally considered a safe destination for travelers, especially if you follow the tourist trail. According to global travel safety reports, Belize has a moderate crime rate, with most incidents occurring in Belize City. Most travelers, including ourselves, experience a trouble-free stay.
We’ve been to Belize twice, and never had anything bad happen to us. Practicing common-sense safety measures, such as safeguarding personal belongings and being aware of one’s surroundings, contributes to a secure travel experience in Belize.
How Much Does This Belize Itinerary Cost?
Belize is one of the pricier destinations in Central America, aligning more closely with the cost of living in Costa Rica and Panama than with its neighboring Mexico and Guatemala. But it is possible to keep to a low budget, especially if you stick to hostels and local diners.
Hostels usually come in under $25 per night, mid-range hotels typically fall within the $50-100 per night range, while luxury options cost $150 and above per night. Eating in simple diners cost $5-8 per meal and $15-20 in a restaurant. Keep in mind that these figures are approximate, subject to variation based on factors like the time of year.
Day trips tend to be quite expensive, with half-day snorkeling tours at around US$50 or more. A caving excursion in the ATM caves usually costs over $100, but it’s the highlight of Belize and you can’t miss it!
What to Pack for Belize
For this trip to Belize, you’ll be spending most of your time in the sea, so definitely pack lots of sun-proof gear. KEEN footwear or normal sandals are also really useful to walk on beaches strewn with seashells or corals.
Snorkel mask and fins will come in useful as you’ll be using them alot here. If you’re planning to go fishing, be sure to bring your spinning reels or other gear that you might not be able to find in Belize.
Packing List for Belize
Enjoy Your Belize Trip!
Are you ready to explore Belize? Hope you found my Belize itinerary useful! Because the country isn’t too big, you can actually see and experience quite a lot in to 1 week in Belize. Feel free to bookmark this Belize itinerary on your phone and refer it to it as you go along.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions. We’ll be happy to help in any way we can!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. I’ll get a small commission when you book anything through my links, at NO extra cost to you. I only recommend companies I have personally used and enjoyed.
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