For years Belize has been referred to as “Mother Nature’s
Best Kept Secret,” but as tourism continues to trend upwards, the country is
becoming more widely recognized. And, with Ambergris Caye being rated #1 Island
in the World two years in a row by TripAdvisor’s readers, travelers are
definitely doing more research on Belize.
However, even with all the added publicity, there are a
number of things that are not necessarily known by the masses. Here’s a look at
five things you probably didn’t know about Belize.
1. Belize is an English Speaking Country
It sounds obvious to those of us who live in Belize or visit
the country often, but many people are mistakenly under the assumption that Spanish
is the official language. Belize is the only country in Central America that
has English as its official language, but you will still hear lots of Spanish,
Kriol, and in some areas, the UNESCO recognized Garifuna language.
2. World’s First Jaguar Preserve
Belize has the distinction of being the first, and only,
country to have a jaguar preserve. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is
located in southern Belize and has 150 square miles of tropical forest space
devoted to the preservation of the jaguar. In 1984, Cockscomb gained status as
a forest preserve and just two years later it was declared a jaguar preserve.
While spotting an elusive jaguar on your visit may be a long shot, the
beautiful area is absolutely worth exploring and is even home to a small Maya
3. Narrowest Main Street in the World
Did you know Belize has the distinction of claiming the
world record for the narrowest Main Street? According to the Guinness World
Book of Records, what looks more like a sidewalk qualifies as the narrowest
main street in the world. The small fishing village of Placencia was developed
around this 4-foot wide footpath that extends just over 4,000 feet. With ample
access to shops and restaurants and an upbeat community vibe, it’s easy to see
how this came to be Placencia’s “Main Street”.
4. No Big Chains
If you are the type of traveler who prefers to eat at
McDonalds in each country you visit, you will be extremely disappointed when
you get to Belize. With the exception of the Radisson Hotel in Belize City, you
are not going to find recognizable names like McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Burger King,
and the like. Most businesses are locally and/or family owned, and even those
few businesses with corporate backing lack the commercialized feel and
certainly the branding. If you want big fast food chains, head north to Mexico
or east into Guatemala. While most travelers love the absence of massive
chains, the lack of places like an Apple Store can be devastating if you have a
MacBook or iPhone that suddenly stops working.
5. Travel the Entire Country in a Day
Just based on its position on a map, many travelers do not
realize how small Belize actually is. With its own airlines, like Tropic Air
Belize, it’s ridiculously easy to be in the westernmost point of Belize’s
mainland, drive cross country and hop on the water taxi or on a Tropic plane to
one of the cayes in a single day. Some travelers mistakenly assume they need to
spend the night in Belize City if they are transiting from Belize’s western
Cayo District to the cayes to spend a few days relaxing. In fact, it’s very
easy to do all day mainland tours from islands like Ambergris Caye and still be
back home in time to shower and enjoy one of the best restaurants in town!
Which of these Belize facts surprises you the most?