Tropical Travel With Kids? You Better Belize It
You deserve a vacation on a beach. You deserve the warm sunshine, the cool ocean breeze, the white sand, and the turquoise surf. You deserve to let go of your daily worries, forget your stress, and relax in a tropical paradise. There’s just one problem: the kids.
The key to bringing kids along on any vacation is choosing the right destination, and when you are picturing a tropical trip, your first thought should be Belize. As a Central American country on the Caribbean coast, Belize offers gorgeous tropical views as well as rainforest adventure and significant history. Here is a simple guide to the best attractions for you and your kids on a trip to Belize:
Sand and Surf
The number-one reason you are craving a tropical getaway is the beach, and Belize can deliver some outstanding sand and surf. The country claims more than 240 miles of coastline, and almost all of it is pristine, white sand and aquamarine waves. Most kids can happily spend as much time exploring the beach as you spend relaxing on it. The key is to find the perfect beach for you – and here’s a list to help you choose:
- Placencia. Placencia, Belize is a peninsula surrounded by soft sand and stunning scenery. Almost everywhere you look, you can find a worthwhile beach, but the best options include Placencia Village, Seine Bight, and Maya Beach.
- Hopkins. Near a Garifuna settlement named Hopkins, you can find Hopkins Village Beach, five uninterrupted miles of sand backed by shady coconut trees. Plus, you can enjoy the Garifuna culture, which includes unique food and music.
- Cayes. Pronounced “keys,” these islands form on top of reefs to become matchless sand beaches. Belize’s best cayes include Half-Moon Caye, Ambergris Caye, South Water Caye, and the Silk Cayes.
Your kids will never get tired of seeing animals – and you won’t either when you visit any of the animal sanctuaries in Belize. Unlike your local zoo, Belize’s sanctuaries are designed to address the needs of specific species that are indigenous to the various ecosystems around the country. You and your kids can learn about factors impacting the safety and health of various animals, forcing groups to create these sanctuaries. Some of the best wildlife adventures include:
- Community Baboon Sanctuary. In Belize, locals use the term “baboon” to describe the black howler monkey. Whatever name you use, the animal is critically endangered, and this sanctuary has improved native populations by leaps and bounds.
- Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve. You can see all kinds of fascinating wildlife in this protected rainforest – except jaguars. Though these big cats are present, they are nearly impossible to spot; instead, you can easily find their smaller cousins, the ocelot, jaguarundi, puma, and margay.
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The oceans everywhere are under threat, but Hol Chan has been working to protect the marine life near Belize for 30 years. To see the reserve, you can enjoy a boat tour, or if your kids are old enough, you can snorkel through the shallow waters.
No top-notch family vacation forgets to explore the history of the destination. Though often overshadowed by more famous sites in Mexico and Peru, Belize harbors some outstanding pre-Columbian archaeological sites that are well-worth the trek away from the beach. Long before Europeans colonized this tropical paradise, the Mayan civilization erected architectural feats in the rainforest. While there are dozens of archeological sites to visit, here are the most awe-inspiring:
- Xunantunich. Meaning “stone woman,” this ruin is a towering plaza of stone bricks likely designed as a ceremonial center. From the top of the tallest temple, you can see the entire river valley. Xunantunich is perhaps the most visitor-friendly archeological site, boasting a museum and a nearby town.
- Caracol. Located in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve – a worthwhile trip in its own right – Caracol is difficult to reach but astonishing to see. By far, it is the largest manmade structure in Belize. In fact, archaeologists are continuing to unearth new features of Caracol every day.
Lamanai. The Maya word for “submerged crocodile,” Lamanai was one of the longest and latest-inhabited of Belize’s Mayan sites, used for more than two millennia up to the 17th century. The site was once a bustling city situated on a major trade route, and as such, it contains more than 200 structures.