Belize is a small, predominantly rural country approximately the same size as the state of Massachusetts. With a north-south orientation, Belize is framed on the east by the Caribbean Sea, to the north and northwest by Mexico, and to the west, southwest, and south by Guatemala.
The mainland of Belize is a well-watered landscape with multiple rivers, waterfalls, lagoons, swamps, creeks, and wetlands. Belize also has very large forested areas, including rainforest, pine forests, and broadleaf trees as well as savannahs, mountains, and fertile plains that are home to the country’s thriving agricultural sector.
More than one-third of Belize is under some kind of conservation protection including national parks, marine reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries. One of the largest of these is the Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve, a trackless wilderness measuring over 100,000 acres in size. The Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve begins on the eastern flank of the Maya Mountains and continues to the Caribbean coast. The Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve is named after a mountain peak that resemble’s a rooster’s comb and is home to the first dedicated jaguar reserve in the world.
The highest point in Belize is located inside the reserve, Victoria Peak, and measures 3,688 feet (1,124 meters) high.
Once the heartland of the ancient Maya civilization, Belize is home to more Maya ruins and sacred sites than anywhere else in the world. Excavation continues, but some of the most popular sites open to the public include Altun Ha (its iconic Temple of the Masonry Altar is used on the logo for Belikin Beer), the vast metropolis of Xunantunich, and the subterranean labyrinths of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave system where ancient priests once conducted bloody human sacrifices.
Beyond its more than 200 miles of Caribbean coastline, Belize also has hundreds of offshore islands that stretch along the Belize Barrier Reef, part of the second-largest barrier reef on the planet. The reef is divided into several marine conservation areas and is a world-renowned mecca for snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, and fishing. The reef is home to a startling diversity of colorful marine life, including hundreds of species of birds, vast schools of fish, playful dolphins, and endangered sea turtles.
Belize also has three coral atolls, the only ones found outside of the Pacific Ocean. The coral atolls are located on the furthest edges of the barrier reef and are visited annually by migrating schools of whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world’s oceans.