The Ultimate Belize Itinerary (7 Days in Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Hopkins, Belize)

With both pristine beaches and lush jungle terrains; fascinating history and UNESCO World Heritage sites; incredible food and friendly people; there is little left to be desired out of a tropical destination like that of Belize. My Belize itinerary in 7 days will show you the best of what Belize has to offer, from the islands to the rain forest and everything in between. Perfect for first-timers, this guide will help you experience the best of Belize in as little as one week.

Belize Itinerary (7 Days)

The small Central American country of Belize is nestled in between Mexico and Guatemala, but has a distinct Caribbean feel compared to its Latin surroundings. Home to the second largest barrier reef system in the world, and the famous sinkhole in the middle of the ocean known as the “Great Blue Hole,” Belize attracts scuba/marine enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and both backpackers and luxury travelers on their quests for adventure and paradise. Your trip to Belize will take you by surprise, and may just end up as one of your favorite travel destinations. Get ready to fall in love with the beauty and wonder of Belize.

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Day 1 – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

Fly into Belize City then take the fifteen minute flight (or hour and a half water taxi for half the price) to the largest island, Ambergris Caye, and its only city of San Pedro. This is the most developed of Belize islands where several luxury resorts can be found, as well as a good amount to do when compared to other Belize cayes. On day 1, rent a golf cart and explore the island. Golf carts will be your best mode of transportation during your time in Belize and are a fun way to get around. The following are some things you shouldn’t miss when on this island.

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Top Things to do in San Pedro, Belize:

Visit Secret Beach: This popular and not-so-secret-anymore beach is a beautiful place to spend the day relaxing in the pristine Caribbean waters. At Secret Beach you will find in-the-water tables so you can sip icy cold drinks without ever leaving the ocean. Several bars and restaurants can also be found in the area, making it a perfect place to stay all afternoon.

Play the Chicken Drop: This hilarious tourist attraction occurs every Thursday night at the beach bar Wahoo’s, where a seemingly happy and well-fed live chicken essentially plays bingo on a giant board, and whoever’s number the chicken poops on wins money.

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Hang out at The Truck Stop: Another fun bar on Ambergris Caye, The Truck Stop is a lively shipping container-concept venue with several dining options and a beer garden. Take your pick of pizza, noodles, tacos, and ice cream while enjoying live music, playing games, or taking a dip in the swimming pool around the back. Family-friendly activities can be found every night of the week, in addition to outdoor movie screenings and various other themed nights.

Have a drink or lunch at Palapa Bar: Palapa Bar will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to Tahiti with it’s overwater bungalow setting. There are actually several bars and restaurants over the water on this strip of sand so you can have your pick. Another personal favorite of mine is Hurricanes, whose food (especially the ceviche) is loved by both locals and tourists alike.

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Areal shot of Palapa Bar by @erindesantiago

The Best San Pedro Belize Restaurants for Local Food:

When you’re in Belize, you’re going to want to eat local because of how delicious the cuisine is. Belize is strictly against importing produce, so everything is fresh and seasonal. In Belize you will find a mix of Latin, Caribbean, and traditional Belizean cuisine, and the freshest seafood you can find anywhere. Come hungry and leave satisfied because dining in Belize is worth the travel on its own.

Estel’s Dine by the SeaSome of the best breakfast on the island (served all day.) Be sure to try the famous Belize specialty: fry jacks, which are kind of like a breakfast burritos but better. Fry Jacks are essentially fried dough stuffed with eggs, beans, cheese, and/or meats. Once you have one, you’ll be craving them all week long!

Wild Mango’s: For ceviche-lovers like myself, this restaurant is the best in town. At Wild Mango’s you will find several different types and styles of ceviche and other great seafood specialties.

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El Fogon: Great for lunch, this casual eatery serves local Belizean comfort foods cooked over firewood. They feature authentic dishes such as escabeche and whole fried fish.

Elvis Kitchen: A great traditional restaurant all around, but are especially known for their Maya Buffet served every Friday night.

Where to Stay on Ambergris Caye:

My recommendation for hotels in San Pedro is the Mahogany Bay Village Resort and Beach Club. This hotel is owned by Hilton and is among the top luxury resorts such as Victoria House and Las Terrazzas in San Pedro. The reason I recommend this hotel over the others is because it is the only resort with a completely private beach, and is one the top 10 nicest beaches I’ve been to in the world (and I’ve been to a lot!) Access to this beach makes staying at Mahogany Bay Village completely worth it in my opinion. The private beach is not located on the resort itself, but rather a short boat ride away to a private section of the island and is open to hotel guests only. On the beach there are over water day beds, a restaurant, and a bar. The water is shallow, calm, and as clear as can be. This beach was one of my favorite thing about Ambergris Caye.

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Day 2 – Diving and Snorkeling Belize

If you’re traveling to Belize, chances are you will want to do some scuba diving or snorkeling at the barrier reef and other famous marine sites. Book a day trip with a reputable tour operator that has sustainable marine practices. This is important because preservation of the reef is absolutely essential if we wish to enjoy its beauty for years to come. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, however much of Australia’s reef is already dead due to human intervention. Not all tour operators are created equally, so it is important to do your research.

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Photo of the Blue Hole by @erindesantiago

On these tours, you will take a boat out and get to dive or snorkel the famous marine sites such as the Belize Barrier Reef, Hol Chan Marine Park, and Shark Ray Alley. If you’re interested in diving the blue hole, the trip will take over 2 hours to reach and conditions can be rough. The best way to see the blue hole is actually from above. Both Maya Island Air and Tropic Air offer Fly over tours of the blue hole which cost around $200 USD per person.

Day 3 – Day Trip to Caye Caulker

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Take the 30 minute water taxi to the island of Caye Caulker where the motto is “go slow.” This is a tiny yet vibrant little island with a distinct backpacker / bohemian feel. The entire island can be walked in length between an hour to two, and walking the greatest part of the width only takes about 5 minutes. There are no cars on this island, so the best way to explore is by foot, golf cart, or bike. Caye Caulker is famous for what is known as “The Split” where a hurricane hit in 1961 and divided part of the island into two. Along The Split are a bunch of fun little beach bars where most people staying on or visiting the island will spend most of their time lounging, drinking, and eating. 3 bars to check out at the split are:

At these beach bars you will find tables and inner-tubes to hang out on in the water as well as those ever-Instagrammable over-water swings. The entire island has a young expat vibe, much like Tulum or Bali, and quickly became my favorite area in Belize. The only thing lacking on Caye Caulker (for now) are luxury accommodations, which is why I originally passed on staying over night. Having experienced the island now, I would probably stay on Caye Caulker for at least a night or two just to completely relax and enjoy its scene. If you want an island that is young and fun and wish to save money, consider staying here for a few nights, or swapping it all together for Ambergris Caye. Just remember that there isn’t a ton to do on the island itself, but there are plenty of opportunities for snorkeling/diving and other day trips with the Caye Caulker tour operators such as Raggamuffin Tours.

Day 4 – Swap the Islands for the Mainland’s Coastal Jungle

Many travelers at some point in their Belize itinerary will spend some time in San Ignacio in the Cayo District of the mainland. I however, skipped San Ignacio as it is much further inland, and went straight to Hopkins so I can still enjoy the beautiful beach. The reason you should choose to stay in Hopkins is because the area is Coastal, but still in the jungle, so you can have access to beaches and the rainforest from one setting. Furthermore, Hopkins is a unique cultural area as it is home to a large Garifuna population, which offers a new perspective and experience during your time spent in Belize. Getting to Hopkins requires getting on two short flights: one back to Belize city and then another to Dangriga Airport, which is about a 45-minute drive from Hopkins Bay.

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Hamanasi Resort’s Deluxe Treehouse Room

Where to stay in Hopkins, Belize:

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort in Hopkins is the only hotel in Belize where you can see both the reef and the rainforest from one place. I highly recommend staying here because it is an incredible eco-luxury resort with all-inclusive reef and rainforest adventures packages. It is the perfect blend of luxury, adventure, and relaxation. On your first day here, if you want to snorkel/dive some more, getting on an afternoon trip to the Belize Barrier Reef (only a 30 minute boat ride away) will be perfect. Otherwise, you can explore Hopkins Village, take a chocolate making tour or local cooking class, or simply relax on the beach.

Click here to read my review of Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort

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Beach at Hamanasi

Day 5 – Explore the ATM Caves

Book a tour with your hotel to visit Actun Tunichil Muknal, also known as the ATM caves and one of the top sites in Belize. Not for the faint of heart, you will enlist your greatest inner-Indiana Jones to hike through the jungles, wade through rivers, and swim through pools to get to the caves where you will continue hiking in darkness over and under boulders. Inside the caves you will get to witness the full human skeleton remains (known as the Crystal Maiden) from human sacrifices and other artifacts left over from the ancient Mayans. National Geographic Rates ATM as one of the Top 10 Sacred Caves in the World.  If you are up for a little challenge it is surely not to be missed.

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If intense physical activity isn’t your thing, there are many other options for adventure and exploration. Being that Hamanasi is a 5-star dive resort, you may also want to consider going on one of their amazing scuba or snorkeling trips.

Day 6 – Visit the Mayan Civilization of Tikal National Park

Spend a full day on a guided tour of the Tikal ruins, which is actually found in Guatemala 1.5 hours from Belize’s border. Visiting the ancient Maya civilization of Tikal is another one of the major tourist draws when visiting Belize and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At Tikal, you will find temples, palaces, and other remains of this sacred ceremonial grounds. Tikal National Park is also one of the few world heritage sites recognized for both its natural and cultural importance, as the area is extremely biodiverse with several types of forests, wetlands, and savannah. Tikal is one of the most important archeological sites left by the Maya civilizations and is a rare immersive-learning opportunity for history and nature-lovers alike.

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Day 7 – Depart Belize

You’ve made it to the last day of your Belize vacation and it probably went by in a flash. Soak up the sun on your last day, take your last dip in the warm Caribbean waters, drink your last rum punch, eat your last fry jack, and say goodbye to this beautiful country before heading home. Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures, this is a trip you’ll want to remember for a lifetime.

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General tips for traveling to Belize

  • Best time to visit Belize: The best time to visit Belize is November – April which is Belize’s dry season. The weather is hot and humid year-round, but visiting during this time will keep you free from rain and wind. Visiting during the wet or rainy season will surely save you money, but some establishments may be closed during this time.
  • Language spoken in Belize: Although there are many languages spoken throughout Belize ranging from Kriol (Belizean Creole) to Spanish, Garifuna, and Maya, the official language remains as English. English-speakers will have absolutely no issues communicating with locals here, which is not necessarily the case for Belize’s Spanish-speaking neighbors.
  • Belize currency: The currency in Belize is the Belize Dollar. The exchange rate is 2 Belize dollars for every 1 US dollars. When prices are presented in Belize dollars, you can think of it as half off!
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  • Flights in Belize: The two domestic flight operators in Belize are Maya Air and Tropic Air. Local flights cost between $20 – $100 USD depending on time of year, airport, and other factors. (Booking in advance will save you money.) Tropic Air tends to be the more reliable or the two, but is also usually more expensive. I flow Maya Air because it was significantly cheaper, but I did experience flight delays. Another option to go between the cayes and mainland is to take a water taxi which is about half the price, but does take much longer. Flying in/out of the municipal airport instead of the international can save you money, so be sure to check both Belize International and Municipal airports.
  • Getting around in Belize: Renting a car in Belize can be difficult and/or expensive. The best mode of transportation in many areas of Belize and especially the ones listed above are golf carts. Golf cart rentals typically go for around $20 – $50+ US a day depending on the area and time of year. To go from city to city you will probably want to fly. Flying around in Belize is extremely easy. The planes are tiny and the “airports” are usually just landing strips. There are no lines or security to go through. You can also use planes to get from island to island or island to mainland, or you can take a water taxi/ferry for a more economical option.
  • Is Belize safe?: While the country of Belize is not much more dangerous than any other Central American country, the islands are incredibly safe. The only place I would not recommend spending time in is Belize City on the mainland (where the airport is.) If you have time in between flights it is not recommended to go out and explore as there isn’t much to see or do in the area anyway.

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When traveling to Central America, many people choose to visit Costa Rica as their preferred destination. While Belize is similar to Costa Rica in that it provides both beach and jungle landscapes, the most amazing thing about visiting Belize however, is that it is still very much an untouched gem and free from over-commercialization from the tourism industry. In contrast to its neighbor Mexico which is notoriously known as a popular spring break destination for American travelers, therefore making it a breeding ground for tourist traps and underaged partying, Belize maintains much of its local and authentic charm. Even during the high season at the most popular sites, you do not feel an overwhelm of heavy crowds, traffic, or disproportionately high prices. There are not many major chain hotels and much of the country relies on its own economy as a prominent exporter of citrus, bananas, and other crops. That said, Belize won’t remain like this for long; for where there is beauty people will come, and even at the time I visited I saw many parts of the undeveloped islands and mainland housing construction sites in the form of Marriott hotels and million-dollar ocean-front condos. So get to Belize before everyone else does, because you will be sure to appreciate the beauty of its idyllic beaches, lush jungles, delicious food, and kind people.

Related: Review of Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort Belize

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6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Belize Itinerary (7 Days in Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Hopkins, Belize)

  1. My favorite part was the chicken drop game. That is hilarious and I cannot believe they do that! Haha. But I would love to explore the islands and see the Big Blue Hole. So impressive!

    1. The chicken drop sure is unique. I too want to go back and explore more islands. What a wonderful place!

  2. That looks so wonderful!! I’ve wanted to visit San Pedro since I realized that it’s the inspiration for “La Isla Bonita”, but the rest of your article has really affirmed that I should visit. It’s so beautiful, and the barrier reef looks amazing!

    1. Belize completely took me by surprise. I think you will be left pleasantly surprised by your visit, too! 🙂

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