Americans are flocking to the Global South now that temperatures are plummeting across the United States.
There is nowhere they’d rather be than the sunny region, where not only is it nice and warm, but locals are welcoming and prices are more attractive.
Though Mexico remains the most popular destination by and large, hosting over 30 million visitors in a single year and dominating headlines, there’s a lesser-known destination posting a significant year-on-year increase, with a 25% increase in overnight stays since 2022.
The tiny English-speaking nation of Belize is calling on tourists to return after a quiet few years, and judging by the latest popularity surge, it seems they’re answering that call:
The Smallest Country In Central America Has A Lot To Offer
Belize is a post-colonial country bordering the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, at the Northernmost edge of the Central American isthmus, with a short coastline on the Caribbean Sea, and a small area of only 8,867 square miles.
Populated by around 441,000 people, it is officially the smallest and least densely populated country in Central America, and compared to its neighbors, it can feel quite unspoiled or even rural, but that’s not to say it suffers from a shortage of gorgeous natural, nor manmade landmarks.
Belize’s History, at least the recorded one, begins with the Mayan civilization, who roamed and settled the territory the country would eventually occupy, up until the period of Spanish incursions and subsequent colonization in the 16th century.
From the arrival of the first fleet of Europeans, Belize would undergo dramatic changes, especially following the decline of Mayan culture and the Spanish handover to the British two centuries later: ever since, it’s been a Commonwealth state.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it mostly comprises the families of former British colonies that continue to have the British monarch as head of state. All this to say, unlike its immediate neighbors, Belize is English-speaking.
English Is Widely Spoken In Belize
From a sociocultural perspective, this makes it a particularly intriguing destination, as it is the only Central American state where English is an official language. Needless to say, it’s also appealing to Americans who might feel some agitation about visiting a foreign country where they can’t speak the language.
Granted, most Belizeans will speak a ‘Creole’ form of English, with imported vernacular from Spanish and native Mayan words, but the bulk of it remains comprehensible. Of course, that’s not the only fascinating thing about Belize:
King Charles may hold the crown on paper, but here, nature is the de facto reigning queen.
Belizean Nature Is A Force To Be Reckoned With
As it is so sparsely populated, much of the national territory is forested, and it hides towering waterfalls, otherwordly geological formations, and deep sinkholes of the shiniest blue. In fact, the most famous sinkhole in the world belongs to Belize.
If you’re passionate about traveling and nature, you’ve probably seen it doing the rounds on social media: a deep azure ring-shaped marine hole surrounded by turquoise waters, most commonly photographed from above.
Helicopter tours flying over the Great Blue Hole can be quite pricey, starting from around $200, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you don’t want to miss out on. Luckily, that’s probably the most expensive tourist attraction in Belize, as much of the nature is abundant and free to access.
Picture laid-back beach towns straddling unruffled sands and hugged by the warm waters of the Caribbean, colorful barrier reefs – the second largest one, at that, after Australia’s Great Barrier – and a roaring ‘Mayan King’ waterfall nestled in the heart of the Belizean jungle.
The trendiest destination in Belize is Ambergris Caye, the largest island in the country and a popular spot for water-based sports. It’s the most common gateway for Great Blue Hole excursions, and it’s also home to the charming colonial settlement of San Pedro.
Other offbeat gems include the laid-back fishing town Placencia, on the mainland coast, with palm-lined beaches and an up-and-coming resort scene, with room rates in local resorts starting from $192 per night this winter, Belize City, the largest and best-developed city, and national capital Belmopan.
Belmopan is the smallest capital in the American continent, with a population of under 17,000, and a surprisingly high concentration of museums. It doesn’t end there: remember the Mayans we mentioned earlier?
One Of The Best Countries For Seeing Mayan Ruins
Much like Mexico and any other country that once belonged to the Mayan World, it is jam-packed with Mesoamerican cities. From tourist-friendly archaeological zones to overgrown ruins yet to be fully excavated and cataloged, the list of ancient historical sites goes on and goes on.
The largest and most important to have been unearthed, however, is Caracol, which stands among the greatest Mayan cities to have been discovered, alongside Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Tikal in Guatemala, and the incredibly vast Copan in Honduras.
In the category of Mayan ruins, Caracol is pretty off-path already, but if you want to truly embody the explorer spirit, Xunantunich should be at the top of your bucket list: the pyramid there is the second tallest structure in all of Belize, and the site has been left essentially undisturbed for nature to reclaim.
Belize Is Relatively Safe To Visit
Last but not least, Belize is safer than people might think.
We know Central America has a reputation for being no man’s land due to the widespread gang activity in some of the countries and the incessant political upheavals, but Belize has proven to be remarkably stable in recent years, and violent crime affecting tourists is largely under control.
According to the U.S. Department of State, it is about as safe as Mexico, meaning you shouldn’t be overly worried about safety when traveling to resort zones and touristy towns in Belize, but keeping a higher level of situation awareness and beware of pickpockets is best advised.
Recently, low-cost carrier Jetblue added Belize as its newest Central American destination, offering flights from New York-JFK for as cheap as $114 one-way this winter, as seen on the company’s official Best Fare Finder.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.