Perfect 5 Day Jungle and Beach Itinerary for Belize
One place I researched a rough draft itinerary for was Belize and I remember being amazed at the variety of activities. Belize has a bit of everything – the jungle, wildlife, adventure, beaches, and the second largest barrier reef in the world! After going through the details with Kevin, he was sold and was Belize bound.
This is a 5 day itinerary that can easily be extended! There are many ways to make this a week, ten days, or even two weeks. The purpose of this perfect five day itinerary is to highlight Belize and give you a quick getaway filled with tons of fun.
Know before you go
Language – English is the official language as it was originally a British colony. Belizean Creole is spoken by locals but everyone speaks English. Everyone is so friendly so make sure to say “hi”!
Currency – You can use US Dollar (USD) everywhere as well as Belize Dollar (BZD)z. One USD = Two BZD. Yes, both are accepted though if you pay in USD your change may be in BZD – which is actually how locals recommend you get BZD rather than go to the bank. ATMs are available but try and avoid on Fridays – that is when pay day is and the lines at the ATM are very long! Credit cards are taken occasionally and when it was available for payment, we did utilize our credit card to make our cash last a little longer. Make sure to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fee – highly recommend getting one if not.
Getting around – There are lots of ways to get around and depending on the trip you are planning, different modes of transportation will benefit you. There are buses that run throughout the country. You can rent a car or have a driver. Planes are also available for quicker transfer but is the most expensive option. And when you get to the coast or the islands, there are ferries that transport for the mainland and between islands as well. Due to our short trip, we did a combination of having a driver and taking the planes.
Travel requirements post pandemic as of writing this post – always subject to change so check before you go!
- To Belize: fully vaccinated travelers can go to Belize, no testing is needed
- To USA: test (PCR or antigen) is required 1 day before departure
Belize granted “Safe Medal” / Gold Seal to accommodations, transportation companies, and tour agencies that follow Belize safety protocols. I thought this was going to be an issue but everywhere and everyone has the “Safe Medal” / Gold Seal.
Belize additional requires purchase of government issued insurance for your trip and it was $18 each so it was reasonable.
Where to stay?
Airbnb was surprisingly more available that I expected but for many establishments it is the easiest way to book accommodations ahead of arrival. We were impressed by the wide variety offered on Airbnb and would recommend checking there for your stay. We also found in both our Airbnbs that the hosts were overly accommodating in helping arrange for excursions and giving recommendations.
What is there to do?
Jungle – San Ignacio
- San Ignacio is a great home base for the activities in jungle – it is the adventure capital of Belize!
- Mayan Ruins – this area is surrounded by so many ruins
- Tikal is in Guatamala and requires a guided tour to visit (with the pandemic, a day trip to Tikal has become a bit complicated so be sure to check the most up to date information)
- Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve and Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve are easily accessible from San Ignacio, and can be visited on your own though traveling with a guide grants access to a wealth of information you will not get on your own.
- Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is the most popular cave experience that takes guest through a wet cave that requires some swimming. you will get wet
- Crystal Cave (Cow Mountain) is a lesser known cave that is more physically challenging than ATM but is a dry cave. This cave is also located near the inland Blue Hole.
- Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is for cave tubing where you sit in an inflated tube and are tethered together as you float through the cave. This cave is also accessible by kayak. There is also zip-lining nearby.
- Barton Creek Cave is accessible via canoe (I believe it is even paddled for you!) and due to the location, can also add on trips to Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, and zip-lining.
- Other adventurous activities include zip-lining, ATV adventures are also available
- Wildlife encounters and watching
- We wished we had time to experience all the wildlife encounters that are in and around San Ignacio but unfortunately this short itinerary only permitted one. These are all great and hopefully you will have more time to enjoy them.
- Belize Raptor Center rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds of prey. Current they are offering educational programs featuring encounters with the birds Tuesdays through Saturdays at 1:30pm.
- Green Iguana Conservation Project focuses on the conservations of these iguanas and offers four tours a day for up close encounters.
- Bird watching is very popular throughout the country of Belize as there are over 550 bird species.
- Belize Zoo is it is not a zoo in the traditional sense of the name. It rescues and rehabilitates animals throughout the country and is a great opportunity to visit animals up close, including jaguars.
- Trek through the jungle by visiting Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
- Trails with stops at Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, and Big Rock Falls
- Many wildlife encounters to be had here!
- Explore downtown San Ignacio
- Visit the San Ignacio Farmer’s Market
- Participate in a chocolate making class
- Enjoy lots of traditional cuisine
Beach – Caye Caulker
- There are a few different “Cayes” or beaches to choose from and each has their own appeal. Two of the more popular ones while researching are Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Some people also include the southern island of Placencia to their trip as well.
- Caye Caulk is the “go slow” island. It is very small and there are no cars on the island. This island is known to be more budget and backpacker friendly.
- Ambergis Caye is a more established island with luxury resorts. If you are looking to be pampered and fine dining, Ambergis Caye is your island.
- When it comes to activities, you have access to all of them from either island. Based on what I read, Caye Caulker was more the vibe we were looking for.
- Visit the second largest barrier reef in the world – Hol Chan Marine Reserve
- There are two main ways to visit the Great Blue Hole
- Scuba diving – requires PADI certification but if you do not have it, there are companies that also certify ahead of the Blue Hole dive as well.
- Flying over the Great Blue Hole gives a spectacular view that you cannot get from a boat ride but this is pretty expensive starting at $200 a person.
- Visit other island you are not staying at as a way to get the best of other islands. There are ferries that run several times a day between the islands.
- Other water activities
- Rent kayaks or paddle boards
- Try kite / wind surfing
- Learn to spearfish
- Enjoy a catamaran ride at sunset
Where to eat?
There are lots of great food in Belize and we enjoyed every expression of the cuisine. For the two places in Belize we explored, here is the list of spots we wanted to visit.
- Mike’s Kitchen
- Martha’s Kitchen
- Pop’s Restaurant
- Ko-Ox Hanh-Nah
- Crave House of Flavour
- Cucina 1904
- Cenaida’s Belizean Food
- Tolacca Smoke House
- Jenny’s Food To-Go
- Namaste Cafe
- Any of the grills / stands
- The Pelican’s Sunset Bar
- Pasta per Caso
- Tons of bars – we liked Barrier Reef Sports Bar, a local favorite
- Lobster season is July to February
Note that this five day itinerary is the express way to experience Belize. If you have more time to dedicate to this trip, I would recommend it but for those of us with limited American PTO, you will still be able to see and do a lot in five days.
Making cuts for this trip was so hard. We decided to simplify things by going to two locations – San Ignacio and Caye Caulker. Another cut we made was a trip to the Blue Lagoon. Since we are not divers, our only option to see it was to fly over it which while looks amazing was logistically challenging and very expensive (over $200 a person) so we cut it from the list. Not worth it for us just to get the iconic photo. Making those decisions made the five day trip a bit more manageable. This trip was certainly minimalistic on PTO but I would recommend if you have the time to explore there is tons to do.
Here is how to experience the best of Belize in five days!
|Day 1||Morning||Arrive in Belize |
Travel to San Ignacio
|Afternoon||Visit one of the Mayan Ruins:|
– Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve
– Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve
|Day 2||Morning||Visit one of the caves:|
– Crystal Cave
– Barton Creek Cave
– Nohoch Che’en Caves
Branch Archaeological Reserve
|Afternoon||Cave experience continued|
|Day 3||Morning||Wildlife encounter or |
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
|Afternoon||Travel to Caye Caulker|
|Day 4||Morning||Snorkel Barrier Reef |
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
|Afternoon||Snorkel Barrier Reef |
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
|Day 5||Morning||Activity of choice|
|Afternoon||Activity of choice|