Belize has always been the crown jewel of Central America. There’s just so much to see and do in such a small country.
From some of the best diving in the world at the Great Blue Hole to ancient Mayan ruins (such as the world-famous ATM cave, my favorite travel experience ever), there’s so much to discover.
In 2021, we’re already seeing tourism begin its fruitful return to Belize. People are booking tours, they’re scoring hotel deals, and Belize is one of the first place they’re headed – here’s why.
Everyone, yes everyone, can enter Belize without a Covid test
That being said, it’s a great idea to take a test before leaving. If you elect to travel to Belize without a Covid test, you will have to pay $50 cash to take a rapid test (not painful) on arrival. This means waiting 15 minutes at some airport waiting area for the results – not a big deal in my book.
Note that this doesn’t apply to those vaccinated – they can now enter Belize without any Covid test and without taking a test on arrival!
Getting tested ahead of time or being vaccinated (more details below) could mean skipping the line and entering a Fast Pass lane. Wait, is this Disney World?
If you’re looking to get a PCR test before leaving, here’s how you can easily find one in the US and around the world.
You won’t have to quarantine in Belize – unless you test positive
Remember how I was telling you that it’s a good idea to get tested before traveling to Belize – even though you don’t have to? There’s one good reason why:
If you travel to Belize without Covid test results, you’ll have to take a rapid test when you arrive. If you test positive on the arrival rapid test in Belize, you WILL have to quarantine for 14 days.
Note that this doesn’t apply to vaccinated passengers – yet another reason to get vaccinated before traveling. And otherwise, assuming you are negative for Covid-19, you won’t have to quarantine in Belize. Awesome, right?
What You Can Do in Belize in 2023
Lucky for you, Belize was one of the first countries to initiate the resurgence of tourism in 2020. This means that in 2021, activities have returned to normal!… well, almost normal.
Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize
Did you know that Belize has the largest blue hole in the world? In fact, the Discovery Channel once ranked the Great Blue Hole as number one on its list of “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth”.
Nope, no gold… well, I don’t think there is. Instead you’ll find an array of sharks, parrotfish, and the overwhelming feeling of stupefaction from being surrounded by 400+ foot walls filled with stalagmites around you.
The Great Blue Hole is located deep in the Belize Barrier Reef, which is actually the second largest barrier reef in the world. This means that divers and snorkelers alike have nearly endless coral to explore.
Fly Over the Great Blue Hole
You know what’s just as cool as diving the Great Blue Hole? Well, I guess if you have basic reading skills, you know what’s next… flying!
Here again, Maya Air comes to the rescue. Although you can fly on a helicopter for around $1000 per person, Maya Air offers sightseeing flights on a plane for about one-fifth of the price.
You can actually depart directly from Belize City, San Pedro, and other airports. You’ll fly around the Great Blue Hole a couple times in each direction to make sure all passengers get a complete and mesmerizing view to share on insta.
The ATM Cave
As much as I wish this was a cave that printed out money, I have to say… it’s worth even more than that.
This is one of the truest, most raw experiences I’ve ever had. It feels like you’re the first to ever enter the cave – swimming in and out of the river (even inside the cave) wearing headlamps, crawling between stalagmites and stalactites, and ending up finding ancient Mayan sacrificial tokens.
And just wait until you go deeper in the cave, where you’ll find remains of a sacrificed woman hidden far and high inside the realms of the cave. It feels like a museum that you get to experience in real time.
Even better, the ATM Cave tours are running in 2021. This ALONE is a reason to hop on a plane to Belize.
You could be in ruins
Mayan ruins, that is. You may have heard of Tikal, an enormous and incredible Mayan village in Guatemala. Well, right next door in Belize is Xunantunich, a sister village from a time well before there was a border half a mile away.
It’s quite a bit bigger than you’d expect. In fact, there were once 200,000 inhabitants living in this spectacular complex of 26 temples and palaces around 6 major plazas. Imagine that!
And these ruins are possibly the most unique; you have to cross a river on a hand-cranked ferry to get there. They’re so tall that you can actually see Guatemala from the top!
Other notable Mayan sites in Belize include Caracol and Cahal Pech, all conveniently located within 30 minutes driving of each other.
Getting Around Belize in 2021
A common worry people have before coming to Belize is wondering how to get around. The international airport isn’t exactly conveniently located – the closest town is Belize City, over 30 minutes away driving. And there isn’t much to see around the airport.
This begs the question: Plane, Boat, Bus, or Shuttle?
Luckily, you have plenty of options for transportation in Belize, even in 2021. Most are relatively inexpensive – even flying.
Shuttles in Belize in 2021
Most private/shared shuttles, such as William’s Belize Shuttle, are still running in 2021. These are great for those in a hurry or those who wish to avoid public transportation. There are shuttles from the airport to Belize City, to San Ignacio (where the ATM Cave and Mayan ruins are), and even to Flores, Guatemala. Note that as of April 2021, the land border to Guatemala is still closed.
Total Cost: $90-100 for a private shuttle, split evenly for a shared shuttle
Total Time: about 2 hours
Getting to San Pedro and Caye Ambergis from Belize Airport
To get from Belize Airport to the Cayes (including San Pedro and Caye Caulkner), you can take a shuttle ($5-20 per person) or taxi ($25 per couple) to the water taxi harbor in Belize City. From there, the San Pedro Belize Express water taxis are a relatively inexpensive way ($18-28) to cross over to the islands, and they are running in 2021. Expect some limitations on occupancy. This means you should book ahead!
Total Cost: $23 to $40 per person
Total Time: 2-4 hours depending on when you land
Public transportation in Belize is another great (and safe) option
The Chicken buses are another great alternative in Belize. These are the local public buses, often times re-painted and artfully designed school buses passed down from the US. It’s worth a ride just to appreciate the incredible handiwork that goes into the awe-inspiring designs.
Note that you can take a normal chicken bus with frequent stops, or an express bus that’s much quicker.
Total Cost: $8-9 per person (Normal vs Express)
Total Time: about 2 hours (express), 3-4 hours (normal)
Flying in Belize
I saved the best for last. As an airline pilot, I might be just a tad biased… but I find flying to just be so much more convenient, especially if you’re headed to the Cayes.
Maya Air has an extremely convenient time table that lines up with international flight arrivals at Belize’s international airport. This means you can get off your flight and head to the Cayes or to west Belize in little time.
Total Cost: $75-200 per person
Total Time: 1.5-2.5 hours from arrival
Where to stay in Belize in 2021
There’s just such a diversity of choice in Belize.
You can head deep into the jungle, completely off the grid, and enjoy the solitude of the rainforest – only interrupted by the occasional howler monkeys and tiger cats. Or you can stay in an overwater villa enjoying an endless view of coral reefs, sharks, and crystal-clear water. It’s up to you.
And most hotel search engines are running specials to try and capture the returning wave of travelers. For example, hotels.com is offering an extra 5% off with this special code. (affiliated link – we may receive commission which helps keep this small, hard-working website running)
Reefs, Beach, and Diving
Though you have a TON of choice on hotels in the islands off the coast of Belize (called Cayes), the primary two destinations are San Pedro on Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulkner – slightly more secluded.
In San Pedro, we recommend Ramon’s Village Resort for epic villa huts (like the ones you’ve seen in Bora Bora) right on the water. It’s a pretty cool experience.
In Caye Caulkner, our favorite place to stay is the Colinda Cabanas. The value is purely unmatched on the island, especially when you consider it’s rated #1 on TripAdvisor!
Mayan Ruins, Jungle Exploration, Cave Convenience
San Ignacio is the biggest city in the Belizean Mayan Jungle, and typically where tours (such as for the ATM Cave) begin. This is a fantastic town that features plenty of choice.
Best Budget Accommodation near Maya Sites and the ATM Cave
We personally LOVED staying at the Table Rock Jungle Lodge. It’s located about 10 minutes outside of San Ignacio, so you’ll either need a rental car or a reliable driver.
We enjoyed being deep in the jungle, hearing the rainfall at night, seeing the wildlife and lush vegetation up close, and of course enjoying Fried Jacks (a Belizean staple) for breakfast everyday.
Laying Over in San Ignacio
If you want or need to be closer to town, don’t fret. Those looking for a budget/hostel experience will find great joy in D’s Hostel.
For those seeking a mid-range accommodation, the Rainforest Haven Inn is my top pick in town.
And if you want a high-end hotel/resort, you won’t be confused by the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. That name is basically as easy to remember as it gets.