Tourism in Belize has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country.The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Belize's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming almost one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2012.
Prior to its independence in 1981, Belize was not regarded as a place to travel due to lack of infrastructure to cater to large-scale tourism. However, rapid expansion of the tourist industry over the last decade has made it the nation's second largest industry.
Tourism: Belize has large array of diverse tourists, adventure tourists and eco-tourist attractions. The Belize Barrier Reef (second largest in the world), over 450 offshore Cayes (islands), excellent fishing, safe waters for windsurfing, swimming, cave rafting, boating, paddleboarding, scuba diving, and snorkelling, numerous rivers for rafting, and kayaking, various jungle and wildlife reserves of fauna and flora, for hiking, bird watching, and helicopter touring, as well as many Maya ruins—support the thriving tourism and ecotourism industry. Of the hundreds of cave systems, Belize also holds the largest cave system in Central America, 544 species of birds, and well-preserved natural beauty. Despite all this, it is still among the least visited country in the region.
Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture. In 2012, tourist arrivals totalled 917,869 (with about 584,683 from the U.S.) and tourist receipts amounted to over $1.3 billion.
Tourism is the domain of the Ministry of Tourism, within which the Belize Tourism Board works as a link between the private and public sector.
The tourism industry is an important part of the economy of Belize, in 2007 contributing to over 25% of all jobs, and making up over 18% of the GDP.This constituted 590 million BZD (295 million USD), according to the Belize government, up 90 million BZD (45 million USD) from the year before. Important tourist attractions in Belize include the natural attractions of land and sea, making the areas important in Ecotourism, as well as the historic ruins of Belize's Pre-Columbian Maya civilization.
Popular tourist destinations include San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker, both located about 70 km and 40 km east off the coast of Belize, both situation only a few miles from the Barrier Reef at any point. They have been regarded as a "tropical paradises" by the Los Angeles Times . Cruise ships have been docking in Belize City, and average 850,000 tourists alone every year, some who partake in tours to nearby districts as well as the colonial city.
Many privately run companies have cooperatives in Southern Belize that manage a rural and community-based tourism project, which has been developed with support from the UNESCO. Tourism allows otherwise marginalized minorities such as the Maya and the Garifuna people to receive new opportunities in alternative markets, harvest crops, preserve and involve foreigners in their culture and diversify their income.Many companies offer visitors the opportunity to visit a cacao, cashew farm, learn about Maya, Kriol or Garifuna craftsmanship, and even to stay overnight on a Maya, Kriol or Garifuna village and explore with a community guide.
Eco-tourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious, it focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Belize's eco-tourism is growing with every passing year,it boasts a number of eco-tourist tours and energy efficient hotels, with environmentally-conscious and renewable resources. Popular eco-tourism destinations in Belize include the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Community Baboon Sanctuary.
Before the arrival of Europeans in America, Belize lay in the heartland of the Maya civilisation, and consequently contains some of the earliest and most important Maya ruins.Archaeological findings at Caracol, in the southern end of the country, have suggested that it formed the centre of political struggles in the southern Maya lowlands. The complex covered an area much larger than present-day Belize City and supported more than twice the modern city's population. Meanwhile, Lamanai, in the north, is known for being the longest continually-occupied site in Mesoamerica, settled during the early Preclassic era and continuously occupied up to and during the area's colonisation.
While the majority of reserves under this category are related to the pre-colonial era, Serpon Sugar Mill and Yarborough Cemetery, both designated in 2009, only date from the 19th century and are alternatively described as historical reserves.
The country's 15 archaeological sites are managed by the Institute of Archaeology, a branch of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH),which comes under the authority of the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture. This type of protected area was gazetted under the Ancient Monuments and Antiquities Act, 1 May 1972. All of the following reserves are open to the public. Many other sites, such as Cuello and Uxbenka, are located on private land and can only be visited if prior permission is obtained from the landowner.
The following is a list of other archaeological sites located within Belize:
Roughly 26% (2.6 million acres, or 1.22 million hectares) of Belizean land and sea is preserved within a total of 95 reserves, which vary in their purpose and level of protection.This network of protected areas exists under a variety of management structures:
In Belize, national parks are areas designed for the protection and preservation of natural and aesthetic features of national significance for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Therefore, they are areas of recreation and tourism, as well as environmental protection. National parks are gazetted under the National Parks System Act of 1981.They are administered by the Forest Department and managed through partnership agreements with community-based non-governmental organisations.
|Aguas Turbias||Orange Walk||3,541||8,750||II||—||1994|
|Bacalar Chico||Belize||4,510||11,100||V||Green Reef Environmental Institute||1996||Excludes adjacent marine reserve.|
|Billy Barquedier||Stann Creek||663||1,640||II||Steadfast Tourism and Conservation Association||2001|
|Chiquibul||Cayo||106,839||264,000||II||Friends for Conservation and Development||1995||Excludes adjacent forest reserve.|
|Five Blues Lake||Cayo||1,643||4,060||II||Friends of Five Blues Lake National Park||1994|
|Gra Gra Lagoon||Stann Creek||534||1,320||II||Friends of Gra Gra Lagoon||2002|
|Guanacaste||Cayo||23||57||II||Belize Audubon Society||1994|
|Honey Camp||Corozal / Orange Walk||3,145||7,770||II||Association of Friends of Freshwater Creek||2001|
|Laughing Bird Caye||Stann Creek||4,095||10,120||II||Southern Environmental Association||1996|
|Mayflower Bocawina||Stann Creek||2,868||7,090||II||Friends of Mayflower Bocawina National Park||2001|
|Monkey Bay||Belize||859||2,120||II||Guardians of the Jewel||1994|
|Nojkaaxmeen Elijio Panti||Cayo||5,130||12,700||II||Belize Development Foundation||2001|
|Payne's Creek||Toledo||14,739||36,420||II||Toledo Institute for Development and Environment||1994|
|Peccary Hills||Belize||4,260||10,500||II||Gracie Rock Reserve for Adventure, Culture and Ecotourism||2007|
|Río Blanco||Toledo||38||94||II||Río Blanco Mayan Association||1994|
|Sarstoon-Temash||Toledo||16,938||41,850||II||Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management||1994||Ramsar site.|
|St. Herman's Blue Hole||Stann Creek||269||660||II||Belize Audubon Society||1986|
A natural monument is designated for the preservation of unique geographic features of the landscape. The designation is primarily based on a feature's high scenic value, but may also be regarded as a cultural landmark that represents or contributes to a national identity.
Natural monuments are gazetted under the National Parks System Act of 1981;marine-based monuments additionally come under the Fisheries Act. Of the five natural monuments in the country, three are terrestrial, administered by the Forest Department, while the remaining two are marine-based and come under the authority of the Fisheries Department.
|Actun Tunichil Muknal||Cayo||185||460||Ia||Belize Audubon Society; Institute of Archaeology||2004||Terrestrial.|
|Blue Hole||Belize||414||1,020||III||Belize Audubon Society||1996||Marine.|
|Half Moon Caye||Belize||3,954||9,770||II||Belize Audubon Society||1982||Marine.|
|Thousand Foot Falls||Cayo||522||1,290||III||—||2004||Terrestrial.|
|Victoria Peak||Stann Creek||1,959||4,840||III||Belize Audubon Society||1998||Terrestrial.|
The country's three nature reserves enjoy the highest level of protection within the national protected areas system. The designation was created for the strict protection of biological communities or ecosystems, and the maintenance of natural processes in an undisturbed state. They are typically pristine, wilderness ecosystems.
Nature reserves are legislated under the National Parks System Act of 1981.It is the strictest designation of all categories within the country's national protected areas system, with no extractive use or tourism access permitted. Permits are required to enter the area and are restricted to researchers only. The nature reserves are under the authority of the Forest Department.
The oldest of these, Bladen Nature Reserve, forms the centrepiece of the Maya Mountains biological corridor, and is considered one of the most biodiversity-rich, and topographically unique areas within the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot.
|Bladen||Toledo||40,411||99,860||Ia||Ya’axché Conservation Trust; Bladen Management Consortium||1990|
|Tapir Mountain||Cayo||2,550||6,300||Ia||Belize Audubon Society||1994||Formerly known as Society Hall Nature Reserve.|
Wildlife sanctuaries are created for the preservation of an important keystone species in the ecosystem. By preserving enough area for them to live in, many other species receive the protection they need as well.
Wildlife sanctuaries are gazetted under the National Parks System Act of 1981, and are the responsibility of the Forest Department.There are currently seven wildlife sanctuaries, three of which are being managed under co-management partnerships, whilst the other four are managed under informal arrangements. Two of the following wildlife sanctuaries are considered to be marine protected areas, and may also have collaborative agreements with the Fisheries Department in place.
|Aguacaliente||Toledo||2,213||5,470||IV||Aguacaliente Management Team||1998||Terrestrial.|
|Cockscomb Basin||Stann Creek / Toledo||49,477||122,260||IV||Belize Audubon Society||1997||Terrestrial.|
|Corozal Bay||Belize / Corozal||73,049||180,510||IV||Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development||1998||Marine.|
|Crooked Tree||Belize / Orange Walk||15,372||37,990||IV||Belize Audubon Society||1984||Ramsar site. Boundaries ill defined. Terrestrial.|
|Gales Point||Belize||3,681||9,100||IV||Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary Community Management Committee||1998||Terrestrial.|
|Spanish Creek||Belize / Orange Walk||2,428||6,000||IV||Rancho Dolores Development Group||2002||Terrestrial.|
|Swallow Caye||Belize||3,631||8,970||IV||Friends of Swallow Caye||2002||Marine.|
Forest reserves, overseen by the Forest Department, are designed for the sustainable extraction of timber without destroying the biodiversity of the location. These are gazetted under the Forests Act of 1927, 380,328 hectares (939,810 acres), making up 9.3% of total national territory.which allows the department to grant permits to logging companies after extensive review. There are currently 16 forest reserves with a combined acreage of
|Caye Caulker||Belize||38||94||VI||1998||Excludes adjacent marine reserve.|
|Chiquibul||Cayo||59,822||147,820||VI||1995||Excludes adjacent national park.|
|Columbia River||Cayo / Toledo||60,016||148,300||VI||1997|
|Fresh Water Creek||Corozal / Orange Walk||13,513||33,390||VI||1926|
|Grants Work||Stann Creek||3,199||7,900||VI||1989|
|Manatee||Belize / Stann Creek||36,621||90,490||VI||1959|
|Mango Creek||Stann Creek / Toledo||12,090||29,900||VI||1989||Comprises two separate segments.|
|Mountain Pine Ridge||Cayo||43,372||107,170||VI||1944|
|Maya Mountain||Stann Creek||16,887||41,730||VI||1997|
|Sittee River||Stann Creek||37,360||92,300||VI|
Marine reserves are designed for the conservation of aquatic ecosystems, including marine wildlife and its environment. The majority of these reserves contribute to the conservation of Belize's Barrier Reef, which provides a protective shelter for pristine atolls, seagrass meadows and rich marine life. The preservation of the Barrier Reef system has been recognised as a global interest through the collective designation of seven protected areas, including four of the following marine reserves, as a World Heritage Site.
Marine reserves are legislated under the Fisheries Act, and are administered by the Fisheries Department. One of the department's key responsibilities is to ensure the sustainable extraction of marine resources. There are currently eight marine reserves, management of which is either direct, by the department, or in partnership with non-governmental agencies.
|Bacalar Chico||Belize||6,391||15,790||IV||Green Reef Environmental Institute||1996||Excludes adjacent national park. Divided into two zones: a conservation zone, and a general use zone.|
|Caye Caulker||Belize||3,913||9,670||VI||Forest & Marine Reserves Association of Caye Caulker||1998||Excludes adjacent forest reserve.|
|Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes||Stann Creek||10,514||25,980||IV||Southern Environmental Association||2000||Divided into two zones: a general use zone, and a conservation zone.|
|Glover's Reef||Belize||86,653||214,120||IV||—||1993||In 2001, the reserve was divided into four zones: a general use zone, a conservation zone, a seasonal closure zone, and a wilderness zone. A spawning aggregation zone was broken off in 2003 and comes under separate management (see below).|
|Hol Chan||Belize||1,444||3,570||II||Hol Chan Trust Fund||1987||Divided into four zones: Mangrove, Seagrass, Shark Ray Alley, and Coral Reef.|
|Port Honduras||Toledo||40,470||100,000||IV||Toledo Institute for Development and Environment||2000||Divided into two zones: a general use zone, and a conservation zone.|
|Sapodilla Cayes||Toledo||15,618||38,590||IV||Southern Environmental Association||1996|
|South Water Caye||Stann Creek||47,702||117,870||IV||—||1996|
Stann Creek District
Orange Walk District
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Belize .|
The flora of Belize is highly diverse by regional standards, given the country's small geographical extent. Situated on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America the flora and vegetation have been intimately intertwined with Belize's history. The nation itself grew out of British timber extraction activities from the 17th century onwards, at first for logwood and later for mahogany, fondly called "red gold" because of its high cost and was much sought after by European aristocracy. Central America generally is thought to have gained much of it characteristic flora during the "Great American interchange" during which time South American elements migrated north after the geological closure of the isthmus of Panama. Few Amazonian elements penetrate as far north as Belize and in species composition the forests of Belize are most similar to the forests of the Petén (Guatemala) and the Yucatán (Mexico).
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve in the Stann Creek District of south-central Belize. It was established to protect the forests, fauna and watersheds of an approximately 400 square kilometres (150 sq mi) area of the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains.
Victoria Peak within the Maya Mountains is the second highest mountain in Belize. The highest peak in the country, Doyle's Delight at a height of 1,124 metres (3,688 ft), is located 57 kilometres (35 mi) southwest of Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is situated in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Victoria Peak is situated in the Stann Creek District of Belize, in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, and is home to many flora and fauna common to Belize. It was pronounced a natural monument in 1998, comprising about 4,847 acres bordered by the Sittee River Forest Reserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, and Chiquibul National Park.
The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 meters (980 ft) offshore in the north and 40 kilometers (25 mi) in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mi) long section of the 900-kilometer (560 mi) Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya and down to Honduras, making it the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is Belize's top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. It is also vital to the country's fishing industry.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a marine reserve close to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize. It covers approximately 18 km² (4,448 acres) of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel".
Since declaring independence in 1981, Belize has enacted many environmental protection laws aimed at the preservation of the country's natural and cultural heritage, as well as its wealth of natural resources. These acts have established a number of different types of protected areas, with each category having its own set of regulations dictating public access, resource extraction, land use and ownership.
Chiquibul National Park is Belize's largest national park. It is 1,073 km2 (414 sq mi) in size. The park is located in Belize's Cayo District. The national park surrounds Caracol, a Mayan city. Caracol has been designated as an archaeological reserve and is not included within the park's total area. Chiquibul Forest Reserve is adjacent to the park.
The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the nation of Belize.
Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College is a tertiary level institution in San Roman Village in the Corozal District of Belize. It was funded by the Mexican government in 2007. This junior college functions mainly as a vocational institution. The programs of study include Tourism, Agriculture, Information Technology, Mathematics, Biology Natural Resource Management, and Architecture.
Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve (BCNPMR) is a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern part of Ambergris Caye in Belize.
Crooked Tree Wild Life Sanctuary (CTWS) is a protected area in Belize. It is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance. It was designated as a waterfowl habitat on April 22, 1998 under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. During Belize’s dry season many resident and migratory birds find refuge in the lagoons. The sanctuary contains 16,400 acres of lagoons, creeks, log wood swamps, broad leaf forest and pine savanna, home to hundreds of species of wildlife. The Sanctuary protects globally endangered species including the Central American River Turtle, Mexican Black Howler Monkey, and Yellow-headed Parrot.
Bladen Nature Reserve is a landscape of caves, sinkholes, pristine streams and rivers, undisturbed old growth rainforest and an abundance of highly diverse flora and fauna which includes a great deal of rare and endemic species.
The Belize Audubon Society is a conservation group in Belize. was formed in 1969. Like similar societies elsewhere, it is named in honor of ornithologist and naturalist John James Audubon.
Half Moon Caye is an island and natural monument of Belize located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. This natural monument was the first nature reserve to have been established in Belize under the National Park Systems Act in 1981 and first marine protected area in Central America. This is also Belize's oldest site of wildlife protection since it was first designated as a bird sanctuary in 1924 to protect the habitat of the red-footed booby birds.
Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR) is a protected marine reserve in the central part of Belize's Barrier Reef. It covers approximately 25,980 acres (10,510 ha) lying 36 kilometres (22 mi) off the coast of Placencia. Established in 2003, The reserve comes under the authority of the government's Fisheries Department, but is managed by the Southern Environmental Association, a community-based organisation.
Shipstern Conservation and Management Area is a protected area located in the Corozal District of northeastern Belize.
Elijio Panti National Park nests within the buffer zone areas of Cristo Rey, San Antonio and El Progresso village and extending to parts of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in the Cayo District, Belize. The park was established by the Itzamna Society and was signed into law as a national park by the Government of Belize on 23 February 2001. It encompasses 13 006 acres of mountainous terrain with breath taking waterfalls, numerous natural pools, medicinal trails, a biodiversity of flora and fauna and an extensive cave system used by the ancient Mayas for sacrificial purposes. Above all, the national park serves as a memory of the late Dr. Elijio Panti, who is widely revered as the last Maya master healer of Belize.
The Maya Golden Landscape is an area in Belize of approximately 275,000 hectares consisting of protected areas, agriculture, private lands and many small communities that is under the management of the Ya'axché Conservation Trust in Toledo District. The Landscape area encompasses the Bladen Nature Reserve,Colombia River Forest Reserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary,Deep River Forest River Reserve,Port Honduras Marine Reserve, along with commercial and subsistence farmland.. Most of the area is dominated with various types of broadleaf forests which varies with topography, soil type and the disturbance history. One disturbance that affect the area, as well, is fires caused by agricultural farming due to the slash and burn practice.