To be frank, no cruise ship visitor can get a taste of how spectacular Belize is from a day trip or shore excursion, especially if you are docked off Belize City. The country’s diverse cultures, wildlife, tropical rainforests, caves, mountains and secluded islands and reef destinations merit at least a three night stay. As responsible Belizean born travel writers who live and work in Belize, we have to tell you that cruise ships are not kind to the environment. And cruise ships make their money by keeping passengers on board as much as possible. Or if letting them onshore, fitting them out with cruise ship owned or affiliated tour operators.
But we understand that many folks have to travel on a budget and a cruise ship may be the only way they will ever get to see Belize. So, if you are here on a cruise ship, we offer for your consideration these tips for making the most of a short visit. We aim at giving you as good a sampling of attractions in Belize city as your limited time can accommodate. If you can, consider using licensed independent tour guides and operators rather than cruise ship tours. The independent Belizean guides need your business and they work harder to please from what cruisers tell us.
Things To Do In Or Near Belize City
Explore the Old Capital: Belize City is home to a number of intriguing and important structures. Spend a day checking out historical sites like the Baron Bliss Lighthouse, Belize Supreme Court, St. John’s Cathedral, and the House of Culture.
Go to Prison: If you like museums, especially those in quirky locations, you won’t want to miss The Museum of Belize. Built in 1857, this was Belize’s prison until 2002 when it was converted to a museum. Here you will find a wealth of artifacts and historical documents on display. And be sure to strike a pose for a photo op as you tour a well-preserved jail cell.
Get Wild: The Belize District is home to a number of wildlife sanctuaries and reserves. Visit Swallow Caye Marine Reserve to get a close-up look at manatees. The Belize Zoo is a popular stop as it houses a number of rescued native and endangered animals. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is a bird sanctuary, home to the large Jabiru stork, and the Community Baboon Sanctuary is a protected home for black howler monkeys.
Visit Maya Sites: Altun Ha is one of the most convenient Maya sites you can visit. Its largest temple, ”The Temple of the Masonry Altars, might look familiar, and for good reason. That temple adorns the bottle of Belize’s locally brewed Belikin beer. The famous Kinich Ahau Jade Head was discovered at Altun Ha.
Learn About Wine: While Belize isn’t a destination that might spring to mind when you think wine, there is definitely an emerging wine scene in the country. You will find a wide range of imported wines and spirits, including many of your favorites, as they are widely available. Be brave and sample some of the local varieties: Cashew, Craboo, Sorrrel, Black Berry, Cassava, and Sorosi to name a few.
Visit one of Belize’s Cayes Or Islands: You can walk over to the Belize City Water Taxi Terminal and grab a quick trip to Caye Caulker (40 minutes away) or get a quick charter to Goff’s Caye or St. George’s Caye. You can spend a few hours basking on gorgeous sun-soaked islands almost as if you were on a few days vacation in Belize. Water taxi operators are familiar with cruise ship passengers needs and schedules to get back to your ship on time, so you can relax for a half-day without worries.
Ride An Airboat Through The Wetlands: We swear this is for nature lovers and thrill seekers all in one. Never had a ride on a powerboat? It is awesome to power down gorgeous waterways and haul tight curves as you explore the backwoods around Belize City. The guides and captains are well experienced at giving you just the right blend of nature exploration and safe speed for those into speedboats that can zoom into and out of mangroves and lagoons.
Cruise Ship Terminal Developments in Belize
Regretfully, some cruise ship companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line, are moving away from an immersive Belizean experience, and building their own tightly controlled cruise terminals. Harvest Caye is the first of its class. A private, Fantasy Island type terminal where everything is controlled by the cruise company is the latest initiative. No local Belizean not in the employ of NCL is allowed to set foot on the island. Partly designed by an ex-Disney executive, there is even a miniature zoo to wow cruisers. But to be fair, many cruise ship passengers will like this environment where the port is an extension of the ship.