To most visitors, Belize City is simply a jumping-off point for other destinations in the country. But the low-slung coastal town, with a population of just 50,000, has plenty to keep you busy, from colonial-era museums to low-key cafés. Once a hub for 17th-century pirates and the 19th-century mahogany trade, Belize City has a great history as a rafﬁsh port. The nation didn’t gain independence from the British until 1981, and its Creole, mestizo, African, and Mayan descendants share a culture that’s part prim-English style and part no-worries island attitude. Wooden gingerbread cottages crowd the city’s narrow streets, and a jumble of motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists provide a constant buzz. Though slightly gritty, Belize City has its own brand of character to spare (there is not a strip mall or a fast-food joint around).
Eating cassava-crusted snapper and piña colada pie at the Smoky Mermaid Restaurant & Bar, a courtyard restaurant housed in a former grand mansion.
Sipping drinks on the palm-shaded patio of Bird’s Isle, a thatched-roof restaurant—and only structure—on a private islet.
Touring Belize’s 185-mile-long coral reef—second in size only to Australia’s—with outfitter Sea Sports Belize.