Whether it's relaxing on the beach, taking a trip to a Mayan cave or tasting the local food...there is plenty to do in Belize. If you’re planning your first trip to Belize, here’s a list of the top 10 activities you should consider.

1. Experience the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

To truly experience Belize you must see the reef. If you’re not a water person you don’t need to get into, or onto, the sea to appreciate the reef’s beauty. Just hop a local flight to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. You’ll be enchanted with the stunning view of the Caribbean Sea beneath you, and the waves breaking on the barrier reef, to the east of the cayes.

2. Take a Boat Trip

Be sure to get out onto the Caribbean Sea, inside the reef. Take a water taxi, motorboat, catamaran, or sailboat trip. Or get into a kayak and paddle out to the reef. The shimmering, nuanced shades of aquamarine are utterly calming when viewed this way. The sea is teeming with vibrant fish, coral and rays… And the water temperature is perfect, so you’ll want to jump right in.

3. Snorkel or Dive at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve

If you are a snorkeler, or diver, visit the protected Hol Chan Marine Preserve, on the south side of Ambergris Caye. This is a perfect place to snorkel or dive. It’s a protected cut through the reef’s wall.  Here you’ll get up close and personal with Belize’s delightful sea creatures.

4. Visit a Mayan Ruin

Remnants of the Mayan civilization are everywhere in Belize. There are many ruins to explore and each is unique. If you’re in the Cayo, visit Xunantunich, or Caracol. If you’re on the cayes or in town then take a day trip to Lamanai or Altun Ha.

5. Don’t Miss the Best Little Zoo in the World

Located in Belmopan in the Cayo District,  the focus is on the indigenous creatures of Belize. You only need a few hours to view Belize’s quirky creatures. Come early or late in the day, at mealtime. That way you’ll see the elusive jaguars and other shy creatures.

6. Try Some Unusual Local Food

Most tourists enjoy the stewed chicken, rice and beans, ceviche, and lobster dishes. Try something more unusual like stewed gibnut…a boil up…or hudut, the Garifuna’s traditional coconut fish stew. Add a splash of Marie Sharps, or Hot Mama’s veggie based hot sauce, to give it a kick. If in season, try mango slices sold by street vendors with salt and spices, for a sweet/spicy snack…

7. Take a Jungle /Waterfall Trip

Whether you visit the Cayo, Stann Creek or Toledo regions, Belize’s jungles, rivers, and waterfalls are spectacular. There are many options to choose from. You can take a trip to the waterfalls at Rio Frio or Blue Creek… canoe down the Mopan River…ride horses through the jungle…take an early morning bird tour…visit a butterfly farm…or zip line through the jungle canopy. It’s your chance to appreciate nature at its best.

8. Relax on the Beaches of Placencia or Hopkins

Some visitors head directly to Placencia or Hopkins for some down-time lounging on the beach… Both towns have active Garifuna settlements that add to the local color. Placencia is trendier. Hopkins is small, sleepy, and low key. Both have long stretches of public beach perfect for lazy hours of swimming and strolling…

9. Delve into the Culture

Belize is known for its rich mix of cultures, customs and races. You’ll find Maya, Kriols, Garifuna, Mestizos, Middle Easterners, Mennonites, and East Indians in Belize. You can learn about their cultures, and how they live, through a variety of programs. For instance, the Maya offer home stay options for tourists. You may prefer to take a Garifuna drumming class…learn how to Punta dance…or visit a Mennonite town…

10. Explore a Mayan Cave

Belize is a spelunker’s heaven. Anxious about delving into a dark, dank cave? No worries. Belize offers exceptional, safe cave adventures for all levels of visitors. You’ll be accompanied by a trained tour guide. A popular tour is to canoe into the Barton cave, in the Cayo. Or join a Caves Branch tour and float—in an inner tube—through a cave, entering into the Mayan underworld. For the truly adventurous, there is the ATM cave tour…

11. Bonus Activity—Learn to Make Mayan Chocolate

Belize is known for its high quality Criolla cacao beans and the emerging boutique fine chocolate industry. Cacao beans are grown in the Toledo region. But few tourists make it that far south. If you plan to visit Toledo, Ix’Cacao, a Mayan family operation, offers one of the best cacao tours and chocolate classes. Stay for lunch, for Abelina’s scrumptious savory chocolate chicken stew.