Where is Belize on a map? Ask this question and many people could probably only point in the general area. This Central American country is frequently overseen or not even considered when thinking of a destination to visit. Here, visitors can discover spider monkeys, snorkel on one of the largest coral reef systems in the world, wander through Mayan ruins and dine on fresh ceviche by the ocean. Belize is a country exploding with nature, diversity, kind people, history, and so many active adventures to be had!

My experience in Belize started with a few days in the jungles of the Cayo District. We stayed at the foothills of the Maya Mountains in a thatched roof cabana where I not only enjoyed the company of my husband but also a few scorpions and spiders. Authentic experience? You got it.

Our lodge was located on a Mayan site, so not only were you in close proximity to nature but also to history and culture. During these days in the jungle we became accustomed to the sound of howler monkeys, caught sight of toucans, were accompanied by swarms of bats each night, and were always subconsciously prepared to flee at the site of a jaguar! We also had the opportunity to explore Actun Tunichil Muknal, an archaeological site inside of a water-filled cave, in which we saw artifacts and skeletal remains of ancient Mayans. Our journey to nearby Guatemala led us to the mystical Tikal ruins where we learned even more about this people group and their intriguing history. Our guide was of Mayan descent, so we did not just receive information but personal insight into the local culture.

After tramping through the heavy humidity of the rainforest for a few days, the last half of our Belize adventure was a complete contrast. A short 15-minute flight north to Ambergris Caye delivered us to utter bliss. The first thing noticed in our room at Victoria House was much appreciated—an air conditioner! Upon venturing out onto the grounds of the resort we realized that this place was an oasis of tranquility. The air smelled fresher, felt lighter, and tasted like the ocean. Every time I looked out over our private beach, I was startled by the teal waters. It was also a bit startling when our snorkeling guide told me to jump into those teal waters...filled with sharks feeding on chum. Are you crazy? I must be because I did it...and it was awesome!

We enjoyed snorkeling excursions at multiple locations of the reef, and all of that exertion is famishing! Our appetites were satiated by spicy fish tacos, tart ceviche, and refreshing tropical fruits each day. By night we treated ourselves to lobster, grilled grouper, crisp salads, and handmade tortillas.

We lounged on the beach or swam in the infinity pool when we were not snorkeling on the reef. I decided quickly that I could get used to the laid-back island life. Like every vacation, however, it eventually comes to a bittersweet end.

Upon departing a country, a traveler will know more about local culture, history, and its people. I typically return home from travels with a better perception of myself, as well. Traveling to Belize does not only afford an opportunity for diverse adventures, but it is also sure to become a new landscape for a journey of self-exploration.

Guest blogger Jenny Johnston is a Nashville native who now calls Montana "home". She has deep passions for travel, food, music, and adventure. Her explorations have included Thailand, China, France, Spain, Belize, Canada, the Bahamas, and so many different destinations right here in our own diverse United States. Currently, she helps travelers explore the world at Adventure Life.