Belize City

Things to do in Belize City

Animal lovers looking for things to do in Belize City can’t miss the Belize Zoo, which is home to more than 45 species that are native to the country. Spider monkeys, wildcats, scarlet macaws and toucans are among the creatures you’ll encounter at this eco-friendly park.

For a dose of history, head to St. John’s Cathedral, the oldest surviving building of Belize’s colonial period. With stained glass windows, an antique organ and mahogany pews, this is the oldest Anglican church in Central America. Across the street, the Government House frequently holds art exhibits, concerts and performances. One of the most popular things to do in Belize City is checking out the well-preserved jail cells at the Museum of Belize, which is housed inside what was once her Majesty’s Prison. The space holds a collection of historic and artistic objects, like an original Queen Victoria stamp from 1837 and artifacts from the Buena Vista Mayan site.

Explore the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha, located 30 miles north from the city. Two main plazas and thirteen buildings make up this site, including the Temple of the Sun God and the Temple of the Masonry Altars. The area surrounding Altun Ha is also rich with wildlife–from squirrels and bats to deer and tapirs.

With its wicker armchairs, hanging vines, and vintage botanical prints, the Radisson Fort George Hotel's cocktail bar has a colonial-chic vibe. There's live music every night, along with inventive cocktails made from ingredients such as cucumber, honey, and coconut cream.

This small, trim shop has a no-nonsense atmosphere: two desks, four humidors, and one smoking chair, which keeps the focus squarely on cigars. Many of the offerings—Bolivars, Cohibas—are from Cuba, so you'll have to light up before disembarking in the United States.

Wander the streets of Fort George, a residential neighborhood of clapboard houses on stilts and yards lush with banana trees and bougainvillea. Look for the giant wooden barrels behind the buildings, relics of a time when rainwater was fastidiously collected for household use.

The 120-year-old dry-goods store is still the go-to emporium downtown. Its atmospheric interior has cast-iron Doric columns, and aisles are stocked with skillets, bath towels, and more than a dozen kinds of rum.

Belize City has no naturally sandy stretches, but the man-made Cucumber Beach, five miles outside of town, is a sugary expanse that's worth a visit. In the lagoon-like saltwater pool, kids bounce on a floating trampoline and jump from rope swings as lifeguards supervise the goings-on.

The hand-cranked drawbridge across Haul Over Creek, known as Swing Bridge, is the unofficial center of town.

Small but jam-packed, the excellent museum has a native butterfly collection, historic photographs, and rare Mayan artifacts, such as geometric-patterned vessels, stone earplugs, and a detailed replica of a 10-pound carved jade head—the largest such object ever discovered.

The stately oceanside mansion was the British governor's residence from 1812 to 1961; it now offers a look at an elegant, bygone era. Cases filled with royal-monogrammed china and silver platters sit next to 19th-century mahogany sideboards and handcaned chairs.

Founded in 1983 by an American biologist who had 17 semi-tame animals on her hands after filming a documentary about rain forests, the Belize Zoo is a highly respected institution.

The improbable location—a fenced-off riverside lot, across from a power plant—is a downside worth overlooking at this swish sports bar–style spot.