#8 – Belize


Belize was founded by adventurers—pirates, loggers and roughneck settlers who carved a place to live from swamps and jungles. A few centuries later, adventurous eco-travelers found this corner of Central America, and today, Belize is a rising star among those seeking active and educational vacations.

Tourists go to see its vast expanses of rainforest, rich collection of birds and animals, a long stretch of coral barrier reef and plentiful Maya ruins. As a result, tourism now surpasses agriculture as the largest industry in Belize, generating more than one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. About a third of a million international visitors go to Belize annually for everything from honeymoons to snorkeling, along with almost two-thirds of a million who visit briefly on cruise ships.

Of course, Belize’s growing popularity is making it somewhat less wild than it used to be—especially if you find yourself in a well-appointed jungle lodge or seaside resort (even the sounds of howler monkeys can seem rather civilized when you’re sipping cappuccino on the veranda).

Belize’s travel infrastructure is continually improving but remains far from polished: Some areas are difficult and/or expensive to get to, and conventional resort amenities such as golf courses and tennis courts are few and far between. Belize’s handful of “highways” are narrow but in fairly good condition, and getting around the country is not without its delays and challenges. We find these to be rather minor drawbacks, however. A bit of rawness just seems fitting for a place that caters to so many active travelers.