- HOTELS (BEST RATED)
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- COFFEE & DRINK
- SIGHTS & LANDMARKS
- MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
- THINGS TO DO
- FESTIVALS & EVENTS
- THINGS TO KNOW
- STAY SAFE
Info Belize City
Belize City is the largest city in Belize and was once the capital of the former British Honduras. According to the 2010 census, Belize City has a population of 57,169 people in 16,162 households. It is located at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The Belize River empties into the Caribbean Sea 5 miles from Belize City on the Philip Goldson Highway on the coast of the Caribbean. The city is the country's principal port and its financial and industrial hub. Several cruise ships drop anchor outside the port and are tended by local citizens. The city was almost entirely destroyed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31. It was the capital of British Honduras (as Belize was then named) until the government was moved to the new capital of Belmopan in 1970.
Belize City was founded as "Belize Town" in 1638 by British lumber harvesters. It had been a small Maya city called Holzuz. Belize Town was ideal for the British as a central post because it was on the sea and a natural outlet for local rivers and creeks down which the British shipped logwood and mahogany. Belize Town also became the home of the thousands of African slaves brought in by the British to assist in the forest industry. It was the coordination site for the 1798 Battle of St. George's Caye, won by the British against would-be invaders, and the home of the local courts and government officials up to the 1970s. For this reason, historians often say that "the capital was the Colony", because the center of British control was here.
This sentiment remains true today. Even though people like Antonio Soberanis, George Price and Evan X Hyde all lobbied to take their movements outside, and other ethnic groups such as the Garifuna and Mestizos sprang up elsewhere in the country, people looked to Belize Town for guidance.
Belize Town slowly improved its infrastructure and has been the object of numerous infrastructural projects. Nevertheless, many of the streets built from colonial days are still small and congested, a majority of houses are still susceptible to fire and damage from hurricanes, and the city is always awaiting something calamitous to happen.
Belize City has been directly struck by two hurricanes since 1900, the 1931 hurricane and 1961's Hurricane Hattie, and at various times areas of the City have been burnt down, the most recent being the 1999 Albert Street fire that burnt out Mikado's, and a 2004 fire that destroyed the Paslow building. The city has also been hit hard by Hurricane Richard and by the 2016 Hurricane Earl. Fires on Northside and Southside have burnt out great stretches of housing, but the Fire Department was able to quench most of these. The city is also susceptible to flooding problems in the rainy season, but timely repairs and a letup in the rain usually help.
Belize City features a tropical monsoon climate, with warm and humid conditions throughout the course of the year. The city has a lengthy wet season that runs from May through January and a short dry season covering the remaining three months. However, as is the characteristic of several cities with tropical monsoon climates, Belize City sees some precipitation during its dry season. April is Belize City’s driest month with only 51 mm of precipitation observed, a somewhat unusual month for a city with this climate type. Typically the driest month for a city with a tropical monsoon climate is the month after the winter solstice, which in Belize City would be January. Average monthly temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the course of the year, ranging from 23 °C to 28 °C.
Climate data for Belize City
|Record high °C (°F)||34.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||27.9|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||24.0|
|Average low °C (°F)||20.2|
|Record low °C (°F)||11.0|
|Source #1: National Meteorological Service of Belize|
|Source #2: Deutscher Wetterdienst|
Belize City spreads out Mile 6 on the Western Highway and Mile 5 on the Northern Highway, at the Haulover Bridge. The City proper is usually divided into two areas: Northside, bounded by the Haulover Creek and ending in the east at the Fort George area, and Southside, extending to the outskirts of the City and the Port area and including downtown. Politically, it is divided into ten constituencies, described below.
Freetown, the westernmost constituency on Northside, is home to the Belama, Coral Grove, Buttonwood Bay and Vista Del Mar suburbs. Within the city proper it extends up to around the former Belize Technical College area.
Caribbean Shores includes Kings' Park, a small suburb north and west of Freetown Road, West Landivar, home to two of the University of Belize's three City campuses, and residential University Heights. Pickstock inhabits the banks of the Haulover Creek extending to Barrack Road. St. John's Cathedral stands on the southern end of Albert Street. St. John’s is the oldest Anglican Church in Central America, and one of the oldest buildings in Belize. The orange bricks came to Belize aboard British ships as ballast. Construction began in 1812, and the church was completed in 1820. St. John’s is the only Anglican cathedral in the world outside England where the crowning of kings took place.
Fort George is perhaps the most colonial area in the City and contains Memorial Park, the Baron Bliss Grave and Baron Bliss Lighthouse and the Museum of Belize.
On the Southside, Lake Independence, Collet and Port Loyola are home to some of the city's poorest residents. "London bridges", rickety wooden pallets linking dwellings, and low-strung poles are not uncommon here. On the east side of Central American Boulevard are Mesopotamia, Queen's Square and Albert, which are slightly better. Albert contains the downtown streets of Albert and Regent Streets.
The majority of working Belizeans travel to work in downtown offices or else ply their trade on the street sides. Belize City is home to branches of all the major banks of Belize and the Central Bank, as well as nearly all insurance centers, marketplaces and the like. Belize City is the hub for both national and international air, sea and road travel.
Transportation - Get In
Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (IATA: BZE) is in Belize City. It is about 30 minutes drive from Belize City centre. The best way to get to and from the city centre is by taxi. Although an airport bus service exists, it is very infrequent and unreliable. BZE is served by most major US airlines (American, Delta, United, and US Air) and a couple of regional carriers (Honduras, Maya, and Tropic).
By water taxi
Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association and San Pedro Belize Express have boats going out to Caye Caulker and San Pedro Town from the city often. Both companies have terminals in the city centre close to the swing bridge. Remember if you buy a round-trip ticket, you will have to use the same company going back as you took going there.
From Guatemala City (travel time: 8 to 10 hr), you have the following options to Belize:
Altobuses del Norte ADN . Linea Dorada, first class buses leaving Guatemala City at 21:00 for US$30,"first class" buses at 10:00 and 12:00 for US$22 and an economy bus leaving at 22:00 for US$16. Fuente del Norte has more than 15 departures from Guatemala City per day. Most of these are local runs with second-class buses (older pullman coaches without air conditioning), but they also operate a few first-class express buses (with toilets and air conditioning) leaving from Guatemala City at 10:00, 14:00, and 22:30, and a deluxe bus leaving from Guatemala City at 21:00.
Transportation - Get Around
Use a taxi. If you want to get out of Belize City, use the taxi, bus, or even the little airplanes which take you to other destinations in Belize for less than US$100.
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Beaches in Belize City
If you're planning a trip to Belize, it's good to know a little bit about the beaches. Belize City beaches are one of a kind if you know what area to go to. Most of the beaches in Belize aren't ideal for swimming or sunbathing because of the mangrove forest that grows on the shoreline. Don't let this discourage you from visiting this beautiful country. There are several areas that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
The Placencia Peninsula has some of the best beaches in all of Belize. You will find large sections of beach that have been cleared and offer nothing but sand and warm water. You will often find this area of Belize crowded with other beach goers. The Placencia Peninsula is a great area to sunbathe, swim, snorkel or any other water sport you have in mind.
Cave Caulker is one of the more popular beaches in Belize because that is where a lot of hotels are located. The hotels clear the section in front of the resort to offer beach access to their guests. While the beaches aren't as large as the ones in Placencia Peninsula, you will still find room to sunbathe and swim. The waters are clear, warm and normally calm here.
The Cayes are probably one of the best places to find picturesque beaches. The Cayes are a group of 200 islands located in the Belize territory. The Cayes offer something for everyone! You will find snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, diving, surfing, kayaking and any other water sport you can imagine at the Cayes.
Ambergris Caye offers the clearest water in all of the Caribbean. The snorkeling and diving at Ambergris Caye is superb. If you want to see the underwater paradise while in Belize, this is an area that should not be missed. You will find beautiful friendly fish to swim with and other amazing sea life.
Prior to booking your trip to Belize City, make sure you look into the beach access at your resort. Some resorts will list that they are a beach front property but that doesn't always mean they have beach access. Some beaches in Belize are owned by the Government or National Parks. Some beaches are not accessible due to the overgrown forest on the shoreline. The resort should be able to offer you pictures of the beach that it's located on.
All places accept US dollars as the Belizean dollar is pegged to the US dollar at BZ$2=US$1. If you are travelling to the cayes, stock up on your cash at the central bank, as the ATMs on the islands often run out of money on weekends.
If you want to shop there is tourism village in the Fort George area which has jewelry shops like Diamonds International and lots of gift shops. Fort George is located on a boardwalk.
Albert Street is the main street in the Commercial District and features many shops and small shopping centres.
- Tourism Village. Created to boost cruise ship tourism in Belize City, the Tourist Village is only open when a cruise ship is in town and features a variety of shops and restaurants.
Belize City shopping has a range of different stores and boutiques. The many options make it a fun place to shop as you can find almost anything. Unlike many other cities the stores are actually for the locals and those interested in appliances, home building, supermarkets and lumber.
Shopping for Souvenirs
If you are looking for a souvenir then you should stop in at the National Handicraft Center. This is located in Fort George section of the city and you can find handmade furniture, woven baskets, figurines and pottery. The prices are some of the best in the city. Across from the center is a memorial park that commemorates the Battle of St George’s Caye.
Another popular place for souvenirs is Fort Point Tourism Village. This spot is packed when the cruise ships stop but when they are gone you may find yourself the only shopper. There are about 30 different stores that offer gifts and souvenirs. You can also find restrooms, restaurants, car rental kiosk and vendors.
Finding Works of Art
If you are interested in art you should stop in at the Image Factory at 91 N. Front Street. The exhibits at this art gallery change each month and it is run by a non-profit organization. You can find work for more than 20 local artists.
If you like getting a T-shirt wherever you go then stop in at Go Tees. This store does not carry the typical tourist T-shirts but offers hand painted items. The T-shirts are excellent examples of artwork. They also carry Guatemalan textiles as well as hammocks and wooden items.
Another famous item is Belizean stamps. Stamps from Belize are very famous and make great souvenirs because they are very colorful and depict mango trees, monkeys and more. They are works of art unto themselves and look lovely when framed. You can find an excellent variety of stamps at the Philaelic Society.
Books and Reading Material
If you need some reading material, whether it is a magazine, newspaper or book, visit the Book Center. This book store contains international and American paperbacks. The prices are a bit higher than in the U.S. but they have the best selection of international books. They also stock greeting cards, note cards and writing paper. Another excellent stop for cards, books and other maps is Angelus Press which is found on the Swing Bridge located on Queen Street.
If you have need of groceries or dry goods then Brodie’s Supermarket is the best. The store has a very large selection of wine, canned goods, personal care, hardware and liquor.
- Mama Chen, Eve Street (near Queen Street). It's not a guesthouse anymore, but it is a nice Chinese restaurant with a familial and friendly atmosphere. Meals around BZ$10.
- Vegetarian Restaurant, Mile 14.5, Western Highway, Orchid Garden Eco-Village.
- Neris II, Regency Street: great conch soup, but the season ends on the first of July.
- Big Daddy's Diner, Central Market: Reasonably priced, very local, and a great view of Haulover Creek, home to much of the city's modest fishing fleet.
- Dit's Cafe: Great watermelon juice and wonderful pastries.
- Smoky Mermaid, Fort George area: Upscale dining.
- Harbourview, Fort George area: Very upscale dining, with a great chef.
- Marva's: a small family-run restaurant serving good, hot breakfast within walking distance from the water taxi terminal
Coffe & Drink
- Riverside Tavern. Tu-Su, 11:00-24:00. Owned by Belize's only brewery you can get the freshest and coldest draft beer. Also great hamburgers, and other food available.
- Spoonaz Photo Cafe, 89 North Front Street. Coffee shop near the water taxi terminal. Has a nice patio and A/C inside. Great place to spend some time waiting for the ferry or a night bus. Free wifi.
Sights & Landmarks
- Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts. The largest cultural centre in Belize and also hosts the National Art Collection of Belize.
- Eco-museum Belize, Mile 14.5, Western Highway. A living museum of Belize tropical treasures. Here, they show you how Belizeans use and recycle natural resources in the construction and decoration of the museum. The museum is dedicated to show visitors the beauty of nature in harmony with the Belizean culture.
- Government House. Once the residence of the British Governor General, this is now a "House of Culture" that is open for visitors.
- Image Factory. An independent gallery and cultural center with changing exhibitions and a small book shop. Probably the best place in Belize to learn about contemporary local art.
- The Museum of Belize (City centre, walking distance to water taxi terminals as well as the "Tourism Village"). A former prison and now the national museum of Belize.
- Old Belize, 5 miles Western Highway, Belize City, Belize, . Old Belize is a landmark attraction, offering a total Belize experience for locals and tourists. At its heart is the Old Belize Exhibit, a stirring, large as life, cultural and historical display taking visitors back in time to various defining segments of Belize’s past, with authentic relics from key periods, a haunting introductory teaser to the Mayan legacy in Belize, an eerie depiction of the Belize City of Colonial days, an intimate glimpse into 18th century logging camps, and more. Old Belize also features the only beach in Belize City, the Old Belize Marina, a full service restaurant, plus conference facilities and banquet hall. Old Belize is located at Mile 5 on the Western Highway, a BZ$10 (Belizean dollars) cab ride from the Tourist Village, Brown Sugar Terminal, downtown Belize City, and most central locations in Belize City.
- St John's Cathedral. An Anglican cathedral that was built in 1812. The cathedral is a landmark of Belize and one of the oldest remaining buildings in the city.
- Yarborough Cemetery (Next to St. John's Cathedral). This cemetery was in use from 1787 to 1896. It was renovated in 1999 and has been designated an archaeological reserve in 2009.
Museums & Galleries
Belize City Museums highlight the country’s past as a British colonial settlement and its African and Indian heritage. Three of the best museums to visit include the Gulsi Garifuna Museum, The House of Culture and the Museum of Belize.
Gulsi Garifuna Museum
This museum celebrates Gulsi, a Garifuna heroine, who created a settlement in the Toledo district. The Garifuna people descended from Africans and Carib Indians and settled in Belize in 1832. UNESCO declared the Garifuna oral history part of the heritage of humanity in 2001. A collection of art, music and artifacts concerning Garifuna spiritual beliefs are this museum’s main focus.
House of Culture
The House of Culture was built in 1814. It served as the residence of the British Governor and housed administrative offices. At one point, it was the seat of power in British Honduras. Today it serves as a historical reminder of British colonial rule. Visitors are welcome from Monday to Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Entrance is free.
Museum of Belize
In 1857 a prison was erected in accordance with the Queen of England’s wishes. This 2-storey fortress was transformed into a museum. On the first floor, eerie remnants of its death row have been preserved. The second story holds historical photos of Belize’s 350 years of history. Also on this floor are valuable Mayan artifacts and jewelry. A curious collection of insects that are native to Belize are displayed here as well. The museum is open from Monday to Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Things to do
Most tourists use Belize City as a transportation hub and spend little time in the city. With that said, Belize City is still the cultural centre of the country and offers a comparably large number of cultural attractions.
Festivals and events
There are a lot of Belize City Festivals to be enjoyed throughout the year. The majority of these vibrant celebrations are held around the independence day of Belize, which is on September 21. Before you visit the very eclectic Belize City, be sure to check out all of the festivities that are held during your stay. You may even want to plan your trip around certain festivals that sound interesting to you.
Independence Day Festival and the National September Celebrations
From the beginning of September until Independence Day on September 21st, colorful festivities called the National September Celebrations are held. There are traditional dance events to attend, local foods and dishes to try, lively parades to watch, and music groups to listen to. People don brightly colored costumes in honor of the September celebrations. For Independence Day itself, there are a variety of sporting events, flag-raising ceremonies, and live, traditional music performances. Be prepared for crowded streets and a lot of tasty food and drinks. This is a great time to visit Belize City, as you really get an in-depth look at the people and their culture.
Baron Bliss Day
Baron Bliss was a very important benefactor of Belize, and because of this, the people of Belize dedicated March 9th as a day of celebration for him. The festivities are almost all sport-based, and include a regatta, or boat race, by his tomb as well as various bike races. Kite flying is a popular activity for Baron Bliss Day as well.
The Garifuna Festival
Out of all Belize City Festivals, the Garifuna Festival is possibly the most unique. The Garifuna are a mix between the Island Caribs and the Africans, and from October 25th to November 19th, their culture is celebrated. This beautiful and interesting festival includes colorful parades and beauty pageants including the Miss Garifuna Belize pageant. People of the Garifuna culture wear traditional Garifuna clothing. They also perform a reeneactment of the Garifuna settlement. The entire festival is a way to make people appreciate and become more aware of this little-known culture.
Holy Saturday Cross-Country Cycling Classic
This bike race is an international event that begins and ends in Belize City. It is generally held in the beginning of April. The race brings in tourists from around the world, so the city gets a bit crowded. Unless you are a huge fan of cycling, this is not the ideal time to visit Belize City. The racing circuit is from Belize City to the Western Highway, around San Ignacio and back.
Things to know
Although Belize City has a bad reputation, Commercial District and the Fort George District are safe during the day. Virtually all sights and the water taxi docks are in this area and tourist should not be worried about exploring these neighborhoods while waiting for a bus or water taxi. Other neighbourhoods in Belize City have a very high crime rate and you should take a taxi if you have to leave the city centre.