While Belize has amazing beaches, the country is much more than its coastline. With Mayan ruins, vibrant wildlife, and colorful towns tucked deep in the jungle, it’s one of the most exciting destinations in Central America, especially if you want to pack in several activities during your vacation as it has a wide variety of attractions.
Travel within Belize is quite easy for Americans since English is the official language. This gorgeous country offers its fair share of adventure too, featuring everything from jungle treks and river floats to remote islands and marine reserves brimming with wildlife.
Just off of Belize’s coast, you’ll find the second-longest coral reef in the world. If you’re dying to do some snorkeling while on vacation, you’ve probably already started researching the best beaches in Belize for colorful fish and sandy shores.
Since the country is big into eco-tourism, many of Belize’s beaches also offer chances to snorkel, paddle, or even scuba dive—though you could always opt to take it easy and sip a cocktail under the shade of a gently arching palm tree instead.
Here are a few of the best beaches in Belize you won’t want to miss on your next tropical getaway.
Starfish Island/Kayab Caye
Feel like you’re on your own private island at Starfish Island, a tiny tropical escape designed with relaxation in mind. This popular private island, officially named “Kayab Caye,” is one of the many islands located atop the 625-mile-long Meso-American Reef, which runs from southern Belize to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The island’s entire perimeter consists of sandy beaches, making it impossible for you to pick a bad spot to enjoy yourself for the rest of the day.
Access to Starfish Island is tightly limited. Only a few companies are allowed to bring guests here, therefore there’s always plenty of space for you to belly up to the island’s open-air cocktail bar. It’s one of Belize’s best beaches not only because of the island’s private nature, but because its boat-only access means it never gets too crowded.
Starfish Island’s beaches have plenty of space to unwind in loungers, on a swing knee-deep in the surf, or a hammock-style net lofted above the water. Activities like snorkeling and kayaking are also available. If you want to walk across the sandy parts of the beach, make sure you bring water shoes as seashells (and, of course, starfish) frequently wash ashore.
It’s easy to arrive in Belize City and allow the hustle and bustle to catch you by surprise, especially if you were expecting a smaller city (its population is around 60,000.) But only a boat ride away from Belize City you’ll find Caye Caulker, one of the most casual, carefree, and inviting islands in Central America.
Just a few official vehicles are allowed on Caye Caulker, which is why you’ll frequently see locals and tourists alike walking around barefoot. The best beach in Caye Caulker, and arguably one of the best beaches in Belize, is The Split, appropriately named after the spot where the ocean creates a narrow channel between the north and south sides of the island. Most people believe Caye Caulker was initially one single island until a hurricane formed the channel in the 1960s.
Grab a beer at the Lazy Lizard Bar & Grill at the Split, which is calm and relaxing during the day but takes on a bit more of a party vibe after sunset. The Split has a sandy beach area with chairs and picnic tables, but to prevent erosion during heavy storms, there’s a cement barrier bolstering the beach. Fortunately, access to the water is as easy as stepping over the barrier or jumping off the pier.
The drop-off in the ocean is extremely gradual; you’ll have to walk pretty far out in the water to find yourself over your head. The beach’s shallow nature lends itself well to activities like snorkeling, floating on inner tubes, or sitting in the gentle surf. There are usually food vendors walking around the beach selling treats like coconut juice and fresh empanadas.
To get to Caye Caulker, take a water taxi from the Belize City Water Taxi Terminal. The ride takes about 45 minutes and from there it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Split from the pier on Caye Caulker.
If you’re looking for the quintessential beach town, head to Placencia, where you’ll find colorful guesthouses, beach bars, and expats and locals doing yoga and playing music on the beach.
The town was named in the 1800s and roughly translates to “pleasant point,” which is quite fitting as it’s located at the tip of the 16-mile-long Placencia Peninsula. While it looks like a laid-back town, and it certainly is, it’s also one of Belize’s most popular beach spots. Locals are a mix of fishermen continuing seafaring traditions and non-natives who work at the many boutique hotels and fresh seafood restaurants in the area.
The town is widely considered to have some of the best Belize beaches and is a popular destination for day trips and overnight stays from Belize City. One of the best Belize beaches on the Placencia Peninsula is the public beach just outside Placencia Village. It’s about a mile long and easily walkable from the town’s main street. Relax there for an hour or two before strolling back to town for lunch.
If you’re able to visit in the early summer, you may be lucky enough to catch the tail end of whale shark season, when massive (but herbivorous) sharks migrate through the area on their way to cooler waters.
Placencia is known as the best beach in Belize for spotting these 20- to 30-foot-long creatures, and your odds are even better if you sign up for a snorkeling trip that can take you further offshore.
Secret Beach on Ambergris Caye
If Caye Caulker sounds a bit too casual for your taste, head to Ambergris Caye instead, which is a larger and slightly more developed destination. Getting to the island’s central town of San Pedro takes about 75 minutes from Belize City via a water taxi. Round trip tickets are usually around 25 U.S. dollars and should be reserved in advance so you don’t have to rush to get a seat.
Since all beaches in Belize are open to the public, you can stroll along any beach you find, even if it’s in front of a resort. But one of the best beaches in Belize on Ambergris Caye is certainly Secret Beach, which, funnily enough, is pretty well-known. The beach’s calm waves make it an ideal place for floating and snorkeling, while its gradual drop-off keeps the ocean temperatures in the high-70s-to-mid-80s Fahrenheit year-round.
You can rent just about everything except for towels near the beach, including beach loungers, umbrellas, snorkel gear, and kayaks. Secret Beach also has several bars and restaurants nearby. You’ll also find mangrove trees, bright green iguanas, and even the occasional dolphin frolicking in the blue water just offshore.
Like most of Belize’s beaches, the atmosphere is laid-back and you’ll have a great time enjoying its beautiful beach, colorful fish, and fresh cocktails and seafood. But don’t expect to find luxurious amenities like air-conditioning or boutique shops.
The Hopkins Village Beaches
The beaches near Hopkins Village on Hopkins Bay are decidedly casual. Here, you won’t find any luxury resorts, but you will be surrounded by open-air seafood shacks offering the day’s fresh catch under the shade of a thatched roof. Most of the establishments at Hopkins Village are locally owned, Mom-and-Pop style shops, allowing you to sample authentic food from the region.
As one of Belize’s best beaches on the mainland, Hopkins Village Beach is incredibly walkable. No matter where you park, you’ll be able to access the long beach and public piers by simply making your way towards the water.
While some oceanfront businesses offer loungers and hammocks for rent, this beach allows you to relax on whatever stretch of sand strikes your fancy. Most restaurants also have space for guests to sit and take it easy under the sunshine.
Most of the coastline is sandy and while the water isn’t quite as clear as the water on Belize’s island beaches, it’s warm and calm, making it perfect for spending a few leisurely hours floating offshore.
Unlike most areas of Belize, where English is widely spoken, Hopkins Village’s 1,500-or-so residents speak Garifuna, a niche language rooted in the locals’ shared Caribbean-meets-West-African culture. Make sure to sample some unique Garifuna dishes, like coconut-fish soup and spiced banana and plantain mashes, at one of the restaurants on the beach.
The best way to get here is to rent a car in Belize City and embark on the 2.5-hour drive from town.
On a luxury cruise to Belize, you’ll find a destination that blends ancient history, tropical beaches, and jungle adventures. Browse all of our Caribbean cruises and itineraries that visit Belize on our website and start planning your next vacation to this beautiful destination.