Spotlight on: Belize
How do you like the idea of holidaying in an English-speaking Caribbean paradise largely untouched by mass tourism and yet offering some of the finest beaches, diving, wildlife and archaeological sites in the world? Tempted? What if I told you that this holiday idyll was considerably less expensive than your typical Caribbean holiday island? And that the landscape is so breathtaking and precious that more than forty percent of the country is environmentally protected?
I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. I’m talking about Belize.
Formerly known as British Honduras, laid-back Belize is something of a hidden gem. Situated on the north-eastern edge of Central America, this tiny country is a tantalising combination of pristine sandy beaches, such as the seventeen-mile long Placencia Peninsula, lapped by the Caribbean Sea and verdant rainforest in which incredible Mayan ruins and ultra-rare animals such as the jaguar, puma and ocelot await your discovery.
Modern-day Robinson Crusoes keen to escape the hustle and bustle of the 21st century world can ride a water-taxi from the vibrant and colourful former capital, Belize City, to Caye Caulker. This tiny island is utterly unspoilt and traffic-free; the perfect location in which to doze in a hammock in the Caribbean sunshine or investigate Belize’s spectacular coral reef in warm turquoise waters.
Although relaxation is the order of the day in Belize, budding explorers will relish the opportunity to kayak through the mangrove swamps in the north of the country, visit the ancient Mayan temples and tombs at Lamanai and Caracol or marvel at the beauty of the Maya Mountains; home to cascading waterfalls and examples of Central America’s oldest rock formations.
Visitors who like to spend as much time in the water as they do on land will not be disappointed; besides providing plentiful swimming, snorkelling and sailing opportunities Belize is the home of the legendary Blue Hole. This colossal natural sink-hole in the sea bed is acknowledged as one of the world’s ten best diving sites and an utterly unforgettable experience.
But regardless of your preferred holiday activity, Belize’s friendly welcome, stunning natural beauty, laid-back vibe and unspoilt charm will capture your heart. With accommodation to suit every budget and ranging from comfortable guest houses to luxury hotels and flight costs comparable with those to the Caribbean islands, Belize makes is a highly-desirable alternative to tourism-ravaged celebrity hotspots. Throw in the freshest possible seafood and other fine Caribbean cuisine, a splash of Belizean rum or an ice-cold Belikin – the delicious locally-brewed beer – and you could be forgiven for thinking that you really had stumbled into paradise.