Belize is the perfect country for both adventurers and people wanting to relax. The country is only about 1/6 the size of Utah, but it’s blessed with extensive and impressive displays of natural wonders. And Belize seems determined to keep it that way. Nearly half of the country is made up of national parks and nature preserves.

For starters, Belize has 240 miles of beautiful, Caribbean coastline which have produced the kind of beaches where palm trees grow just 20 yards inland; and, if you’re like me, you’ll be happy to see that many of these palm trees have been hung with nap-tastic hammocks or shaded beach chairs.

Belize is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef. Its 200 mile-long coral reef is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world with more than 100 different species of coral, 500 species of fish and numerous invertebrates such as crabs, octopus and starfish. This diversity of life makes for some of the best fishing, snorkeling and SCUBA diving in the world.

After having spent 10 wonderful days traveling through this charming, beautiful, ultra-friendly country, I feel that these five activities will strike a nice balance between relaxation and adventure for your next trip to Belize.

Relax on the beach

Belize has beautiful, white beaches with sugar-like sand. Me and my wife scheduled three full days of beach relaxation time and just eased into our vacation like it was a hot Jacuzzi. We spent two full days napping in hammocks, reading novels on beach chairs, floating in the ocean and walking down the beach.

Toward the end of the second day my wife turned to me from her beach chair and said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this; but I’m starting to get bored.” Now that is a good problem to have.

Explore Actun Tunichil Muknal

When you explore Actun Tunichil Muknal, which means Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher, you’ll feel like you’re on an adventure with Indiana Jones. Actun Tunichil Muknal is an ancient limestone cavern in which Mayan priests performed human sacrifices in the years between 700 to 900 A.D.

The skeletal remains of about a dozen sacrificial victims still remain in the spot where they were killed. They’re well-preserved and for the most part, undisturbed. Several are visible during the tour, but many more have been found in deeper recesses of the cave which are not part of the tour. The Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher gets its name from the cavern’s most famous sacrificial victim, believed to be a teenage girl, whose skeleton — which still lies in full view in the spot where she was killed — sparkles with a layer of calcite which has built up on the bones.

What makes this visit such an adventure is that you must swim into the entrance of the cave, then wade, boulder-hop and rock-squeeze your way a mile deep into the cavern to reach the sacrificial chamber.

Actun Tunichil Muknal is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, an hour’s drive east of San Ignacio. A guide is required to take you into the cave. Your tour company will provide you with a helmet and headlamp.

Soak in Tikal

My wife’s highlight of the trip was our trip to the Maya temple city of Tikal, an hour and a half drive into Guatemala.

Belize has several remarkably well-preserved Maya sites including Xunantunich, La Milpa and Cohal Pech, but none of them can compete with Tikal. If you’re interested in Mayan history, archaeology or architecture go the extra mile and visit Tikal. Because it’s considered to be the best-preserved, most-intact Meso-American landmark, everyone involved with the place steps up their interp a dozen notches.

The thing I loved most about Tikal was its experiential, tactile, hands-on attitude. You can climb to the top of the temples. You can touch the ancient walls of the pyramids and stand in its grass ulama courtyards.

Getting to Tikal was no hassle at all. We booked a guiding company from San Ignacio, Mayawalk Tours, who took care of all the details, including the border crossing.

Tube through limestone caves on the Caves Branch River

My wife and I hoisted an inner tube over our shoulders and followed our guide down a jungle trail. Along the way our knowledgeable guide pointed out many trees and plants that the Maya had utilized for various purposes.

We reached our launching point 45 minutes later, where our guide gave everyone in our small group a headlamp. Then we waded into the river’s turquoise waters, sat on our inner tubes and let ourselves drift down the river.

We drifted less than 50 feet before the river entered the first of three limestone caves. Sometimes we turned on our headlamps and looked around us, taking in bats that slept on the cave’s ceiling less than 10 feet above us and other times we all turned off our headlamps and felt the exhilarating eeriness of floating in a foreign environment in complete darkness.

Our tour lasted about four hours with the river passing through three limestone caves and three arboreal tunnels of jungle canopy.

A guide is required for this tour.

Hike Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Mayflower is home to several great trails, all of which wind through Belize’s thick, green jungles. Some of the trails will lead hikers to Mayan ruins and at least four trails lead them to very scenic waterfalls.

We hiked the Antelope Trail which winds up the side of a jungle mountain for a couple miles. At the top we found a waterfall pouring cool, clear, water into a large pool. We took off our shoes and jumped right in for the highlight of the trip.

Mayflower Bocawina NP has a $5 entrance fee, but no guide is required. Just get a map, pick a trail and go.

Incorporate a spontaneous adventure day

I highly suggest leaving at least one day open for an unplanned adventure. In the course of your visit, whether you’re traveling in Belize or any other country, your fellow travelers will tell you of some amazing place that you didn’t have on your itinerary.

My wife and I like to leave at least one day free toward the end of our vacations to visit one or more of these just-now-discovered places. On this trip our spontaneous adventure day was hiking the Antelope Trail at Mayflower Bocawina National Park which was my favorite adventure of the trip.

Coastal accommodations:

Jungle Jeanie’s by the Sea: Hopkins Village.

Cabanas ranging from $50 to $120 per night. The farthest bungalow is less than a hundred steps from the beach. Wifi located in common area. Breakfast and dinner are offered on the premises. Meals are reasonably priced, but not included in the price of your stay. There are also several restaurants and cafes in Hopkins Village, just minutes away.

San Ignacio accommodations:

The Aguada: San Ignacio

Rooms range from $41 to $66 per night. It features an outdoor pool and has outside or indoor dining. Meals are offered on the premises at their café. Free wifi is available in the café.

Close to the Airport:

The Super Palm Resort: Belmopan

Rooms range from $95 to $189. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price. Wifi is available in the common area and there is an outdoor pool and massages.

The Super Palm is only 50 miles from the Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City. It’s a convenient place to stay if your flight is arriving late or departing early the next day.

Guiding Companies:

Two companies guide to Actun Tunichil Mukna, Tikal and Caves Branch Cave Tubing.

Mayawalk Tours: San Ignacio., +501-824- 3070

Pacz Tours: San Ignacio., +501-824- 0536

As an added bonus, English is Belize’s native language.

Steven Law has been writing for since 2011. He writes about outdoor / adventure travel, and science.