I’ll be honest: you will not get the full picture of just how spectacular and unique Belize is, from a cruise visit and a day’s excursion, particularly being docked in Belize City. And Belize is just too unique of a destination not to stay overnight and explore its many facets, from rainforests to seas, wildlife, and diverse cultures. Moreover, as a writer and traveler who supports responsible travel, I have to mention the fact that cruise ship tourism is damaging to the environment, and does not benefit the local communities you are visiting.

That said, many are only able to visit here as part of a cruise package, and I realize there are financial limitations for many folks. So if you do visit here on cruise, and don’t have the option to vacation and overnight here for a few days, there are several tours and shore excursionsto consider. Here are the ones I recommend:

  • Visit Belize City plus a nearby attraction:† Your port of entry, Belize City, is close to many surrounding attractions. While the city itself has an interesting, Caribbean beat and a few significant historical sights, such as the Museum of Belize and the Fort George Area, your best bet is to hop on a tour that combines a quick drive through the city, followed by a visit to the Community Baboon Sanctuary, just outside of the city, to get a taste of the lush interior rainforest areas of the country, learn about the Creole culture and surrounding Creole villages, and hike to spot howler monkeys and other wildlife. Other worthwhile nearby attractions include the Altun Ha Maya Site, or the Belize Zoo.
  • Visit Xunantunich, one of the prettiest Mayan sites in Belize, located in the Cayo District, approximately two hours’ drive from Belize City. You could also combine this with a trip to the Belize Zoo.
  • Visit one of Belize’s cayes or offshore islands:† Head over to one of the water taxi terminals — San Pedro Belize Express or Caye Caulker Water Taxi — both within walking distance from your cruise ship terminal in Belize City. Get a roundtrip ticket to neighboring island Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker is a mere 45 minutes’ ride away, and you will have a few hours to enjoy sun, sand and sea on this five-mile long island, and some Belizean island culture before heading back to the city in time to return to your cruise ship.
  • Hop on a cave tubing tour: This will take you on a ride through the interior, to the green Cayo District, where you’ll get to hike through the rainforest, and once by the Caves Branch river, hop into a rubber inner tube and float along the river while passing through ancient ceremonial caves and spectacular scenery. It’s an all day trip, but one of the more decent one-day glimpses into what makes Belize so special.
  • Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef: If you’re eager to snorkel off the infamous Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, sign up for a snorkel tour of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, off Ambergris Caye, an island located about 1.5 hours from Belize City. The tour will take all day but you’ll experience Belize’s beautiful marine life.
  • Purchase souvenirs from locals, as you encounter them on your tours around Belize, outside of the cruise ship terminal.

†- Lebawit Lily Girma