The Caribbean coast of Belize is known the world over for its spectacular scuba diving and snorkeling. In addition to the 180-mile barrier reef just off the coast and the famous dive spot known as the Blue Hole, the Belizean coast features the backpacker paradise of Caye Caulker, the more upscale San Pedro, and the laid-back one-horse town of Hopkins in the south.
But there’s more to Belize than scuba diving, snorkeling, and catching rays on the beach. Belize, Central America’s only English-speaking country, also has plenty to offer in its often-overlooked western half, including waterfalls and caves that pepper the highlands, ancient Mayan ruins just begging to be explored, and even a pretty, backpacker-friendly town or two.
Here are five reasons you shouldn’t miss the Cayo District, which makes up most of Belize’s other side:
5. Big Rock Falls Located in the heart of the wonderful Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Big Rock Falls (pictured above) is a 150-foot waterfall surrounded by, you guessed it, some pretty big rocks. As nice as the waterfall is to look at, it’s exponentially more fun to climb up to the 35-foot-high perch next to the falls, work up your courage, and take the epic plunge. For the less adventurous, like, um, myself, swim hard against the current to reach the spot where the water comes crashing down on you. It feels like getting punched in the head over and over, but, you know, in a good way.