By Alexandra Cheney
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of Elite Traveler.
Though the running joke for locals is that the country was once a prime vacation spot for pirates (think more Captain Jack Sparrow than Captain Phillips), Belize’s greatest treasure is its intense natural beauty. The decor in even the most high-end of Belizean accommodations is simple and natural, deferring to the verdant surroundings. The extraordinary flora and fauna as well as the friendly English-speaking citizens will certainly overpower the intermittent wanting for the occasional extravagant amenity. Lush tropical forests hug the country’s southern and western regions, unfolding inland toward the mist-ensconced, largely unpopulated Maya Mountains. Peppered throughout the country of 380,000 people are mazes of ancient Mayan ruins, which visitors are welcome to explore. Climb giant, steep steps to the tops of tall stone temples boasting 360-degree jungle views. Offshore, luminous turquoise waters, sand bars and sapphire shelves encircle the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. Perhaps the nation’s most cherished asset, the reef contains three of the four coral atolls in the Caribbean. Sunset cruises, fishing expeditions, diving excursions and swimming with marine animals are a few of the must-do activities here. Adventurous vacationers willing to get a little dirty and wet will be handsomely rewarded. But if that’s not your thing, the resorts offer plenty of culinary wonders and magnificent spa treatments too. Unlike Mexico, its arid neighbor to the north, Belize has a tropical climate with dry and rainy seasons. Definitely pack the bug spray and the sunscreen.