Belize City (Photo:Tami Freed/Shutterstock)
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Belize City

Bordering on Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America (after El Salvador), with an area of approximately 9,000 square miles that includes numerous small islands -- known as cayes -- off the coast. More than half of the mainland is covered with dense forests, and at its longest point Belize is 176 miles long while its greatest width is 88 miles. Long a strong advocate of environmental protection, the government has set aside approximately 20 percent of its land as nature reserves.

Belize has been attracting steadily increasing numbers of U.S. visitors as it has become better known as a reasonably priced destination offering some of the best diving in the Caribbean. It also continues to increase in popularity as a cruise destination and is often included as one of the ports of call on Western Caribbean itineraries.

Diving is Belize's main claim to fame due to an almost unbroken line of reefs and cayes extending for 150 miles along its coast that make up the longest reef system in the Western Hemisphere (and the second longest in the world). While many cayes are tiny and uninhabited, some like Ambergris Caye are sufficiently large to have built resorts that attract divers from around the world.

Several important Mayan sites on the mainland, such as Altun Ha and Xunantunich, make for excellent day trips and are included on shore excursions by most cruise ships. As a matter of fact, Belize has the highest concentration of Mayan sites of all the countries in Central America.

Belize City, with its wooden and brick buildings, exudes some colonial charm but the downtown area also has many seedy neighborhoods, and tourists should beware of walking around the city after dark. For cruise passengers, Belize City is primarily a jumping-off point for tours and excursions to its many natural and historical attractions.

About Belize City


Pro

Beyond the city itself, beautiful natural wonders -- caves, waterfalls, lush rain forests -- abound

Con

Poverty and crime can be problems in Belize City, so visitors should be cautious

Bottom Line

Venture out of the city, and you'll be pleasantly surprised


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Where You're Docked

All ships anchor in Belize City harbor and passengers are whizzed from ship to shore via speedy Belizean tenders; it takes approximately 20 minutes to tender to shore.

Good to Know

When using cash -- particularly with merchants that accept U.S. dollars -- be sure you get change in U.S. currency. And, if you're at all concerned with wildlife conservation, don't buy items that are made from sea turtle shells, black coral or Triton's trumpet shells.

Also, almost all the major attractions are at some distance from the city; so if you're exploring independently and hiring your own transportation, make sure you are back in time at Tourism Village for the last tender departure for your ship.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Belize's currency is the Belizean dollar; visit www.xe.com for currency conversion figures. However, all shops and merchants readily accept U.S. dollars (most also accept credit cards) so it is unnecessary to change money. ATMs are plentiful in both the Tourism Village and the rest of the city.

Language

English is Belize's official language and is spoken by virtually everyone.

Shopping

Look for the bracelets carved of ziricote hardwood, from the Belizean Handicraft Market Place near Tourism Village. You'll also find an assortment of locally produced mahogany and rosewood carvings, slate carvings, jippi jappa baskets and artwork. (2 South Park Street; 501-223-3636; open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Best Cocktail

Check out Belize's own Belikin beer available at any of the bars within the Tourism Village, as well as at most restaurants in town. Frozen daiquiris and rum punch are also quite popular.