NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Almost half of Belize is covered by rain forests; you’re never more than an hour’s drive by 4WD from one
VISITORS PER YEAR More than 100,000
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES Jan: 75°F (24°C); Apr: 80°F (27°C); Jul: 82°F (28°C); Oct: 79°F (26°C)
Costa Rica isn’t the only country in Central America to lay claim to pristine rain forests. Its neighbor to the north, Belize, also boasts some of the continent’s most marvelous expanses of these rapidly dwindling forests. An astonishing 65 percent of the country’s old-growth forests still remain and roughly half of the country is covered by rain forests.
Long a proponent of sustainable tourism with an ecological twist, Belize has more protected land per square mile than any other Latin American nation. At the same time, the government has gone to great lengths to keep these forests free from urban development and has focused on their preservation. Around 44 percent of Belize’s forests are protected within national parks.
Of the many rain forests here, Cockscomb Basin, Crooked Tree, Western, Macal River Valley, Cayo, and the Bladen Nature Reserve are particularly outstanding. All of them feature crystalline rivers coursing through blue-green valleys and hillsides, surrounded by untouched stands of tropical trees, and myriad flora and fauna of every description.
Birders from all over the world flock to the Belize rain forests, where more than 600 species of birds have been identified. If this wasn’t enough to lure you, many of these forests are also home to magnificent Mayan ruins, while others border gorgeous, remote cays, and inlets running along the country’s coast.
The Belize rain forests for the most part are easily accessible and have a great infrastructure, as well as top-notch guides. So, whether you decide to stay a day, week, month, or more, you’re never far from what you need to be comfortable.
For the many visitors who prefer to rough it a bit, there are campsites and tree lodges in most areas. Some of the private rain forests – yes, Belize has them as well, generally 490 acres (200 hectares) or less in size – even offer luxury accommodations carefully engineered to fit into the surroundings.
But the one thing that most characterizes all of these Belize ecological jewels is the governmental commitment to ensure that these forests are maintained in their natural state – and it shows.
Getting There and Around Using Belize city as a base, it is easiest to reach the rain forests in a rented 4WD. Some can be accessed by boat.
When to Go The best time to visit is between Apr and Jun, although March is also an excellent month. Visitors wanting to spend time in the coastal regions arrive as early as December.