Situated on the coast of the Caribbean Sea just south of Mexico’s famed Yucatan Peninsula, the petite Central American nation of Belize is gaining recognition as an untapped tropical paradise and is becoming increasingly popular among American tourists.
In fact, TIME Magazine last month featured Belize as one of the “World’s Greatest Places of 2021”. While the outlet applauded the country’s efforts to protect its enviably pristine natural setting, it also acknowledged that tourism revenue is becoming more central to the destination’s economy and that Belize now faces the challenge of striking a delicate between environmental conservation and human development.
While the pandemic hurt the country’s economy, it has also intensified people’s desire for the kinds of experiences to be found in Belize. A June Destination Analysts study found that “When asked about the destinations they will visit for the remainder of 2021, Americans reported the greatest certainty to visit beach destinations and resorts. Americans demonstrate the greatest excitement for visiting these destinations—56.2 percent are highly excited to travel to beaches this year, 12 percentage points above National Parks and 15 percentage points above cities.”
Unmarred by the hordes of humanity that crowd so many coastlines, Belize’s hundreds of glorious golden- and white-sand beaches have long remained the Caribbean’s best-kept secret. And, the country’s lush tropical rainforests are ideal for eco-adventures and wildlife safaris, being home to exotic animals like jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, coatimundi, howler and spider monkeys, toucans, macaws and many more.
Off the coast of Belize City lies the spectacular Belize Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the entire Northern Hemisphere and the second-largest in the world. It’s the country’s top tourism draw for the incredible snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities it offers. Here, you can explore the only coral atolls in the West, home to several rare and endangered species, such as West Indian manatees, and over 500 known species of fish, 70 hard coral and 36 soft coral species, and hundreds of species of marine invertebrates.
While much of the world’s coral is now bleached, and Belize’s reef also continues to be under threat, it remains one of the last places on the globe that’s filled with a vibrant, thriving diversity of marine life. Among its one-of-a-kind features is the Great Blue Hole, a 410-foot-deep underwater sinkhole that appears as a dark blue circle surrounded by bright turquoise, green and blue waters.
Another of Belize’s major tourism draws is its cultural and archeological heritage, as evidenced by the remains of an ancient Mayan civilization. There are twelve major Mayan ruin sites to be found in the region, including Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Cahal Pech, Nim Li Punit and Altun Ha, among others. While much of its heritage can be traced to this ancient native civilization, today Belize is home to a diversity of different cultures, including Mayan, Creole, Mestizo, Spanish, Lebanese, Chinese, British, Indian and Mennonite.
For more information, visit travelbelize.com.
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