The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Belize

Is Belize worth visiting?  If you’re thinking about backpacking in Belize but aren’t sure if it’s for you, let us show you the best of Belize. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about backpacking Belize, including what to expect when planning your budget for a trip to Belize and how to keep your spending down.  Let’s dive into this Belize backpackers guide and plan your dream trip today!

This website contains sponsored and affiliate links. If you click through the links on this page and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support. [Learn more]

This is a guest post written by Sally from Sally Sees, a Latin America expert and lover of all things Belize, with edits and additions by Claire, who also spent a month backpacking in Belize.

Why Go Backpacking in Belize?

I think the easier answer is, why not go backpacking in Belize?! Belize is a backpacker’s dream, with the perfect combination of beautiful islands and inland nature experiences. 

Geographically located in Central America, Belize is Caribbean at heart. This small but mighty country is often skipped by Central American backpackers on the ‘Gringo Trail’ for fear of high prices. 

But missing Belize off your Central America itinerary would mean sacrificing the best tropical islands in the region, the clearest blue waters, unique Afro-Caribbean culture and plenty of jungle adventures. 

Tobacco Caye -Turquoise Caribbean Sea with a palm tree island and someone Paddleboarding on the sea
Paddleboarding at Tobacco Caye | Credit: Sally Sees

Here are some more reasons to backpack Belize! 

Ultimate Island Vibes

Simply put, there is no other island in Central America like Caye Caulker. This island is so laidback that its official motto is ‘Go Slow’. There are no cars, no paved roads, and no international chain resorts or restaurants in sight. Just reggae music, beachfront BBQs grilling up freshly caught lobsters and bicycles to cruise around. 

Perfect Caribbean Waters and Reefs

While we’re making bold claims about Belize, its crystal clear Caribbean waters are the best in the region, and its section of the Mesoamerican Reef (which runs from Mexico to Honduras) is pristine.

Even if you’re not a scuba diver, you can still expect encounters with turtles, sharks, rays while snorkelling, and maybe even a manatee if you’re lucky! 

Jungle Adventures

It’s not all about the coast here, Belize’s inland is covered in jungle and full of adventures. From tubing through caves, swimming in waterfalls or spotting native wildlife, you can get a taste of two distinct landscapes and see how this tiny country packs a punch! 

Jungle in Belize - Backpacking in Belize
Backpacking Belize – Jungle Adventures! | Credit: Sally Sees

Unique Culture

Belize’s culture is a fascinating blend of Mayan, Garifuna, and Afro-Caribbean. Their official language is English, but many locals speak Creole and Spanish too. They have some impressive ancient Mayan ruins to visit, but it is also possible to engage with the present-day Mayan communities, and Garifuna culture through food, drumming and dancing. 

Easy to Travel Around

There’s no sugarcoating it, travel in Central America can be challenging. Long days spent on noisy chicken buses or crammed into tiny tourist shuttles, and a constant language barrier if your Spanish isn’t up to scratch.

Travelling in Belize is like a big sigh of relief.

The country is small, so you’re never more than a few hours away from your next destination. English is their official language, so you can communicate with ease. 

A colourful Bus in Belize painted red, yellow and green - Backpacking Belize Travel Tips
A Bus in Belize – Public Transport is a Great Way to Get Around Belize

Is Belize Safe to Visit?

Yes, Belize is a safe place to visit. 

If you look at your country’s travel advisory, you might see alerts advising you of a high risk of crime. The reality is that the majority of Belize’s crime is gang-related and is almost entirely isolated to the ‘Southside’ of Belize City, south of the Haulover Canal Creek. 

Belize City isn’t a particularly nice place regardless of this crime, so I would recommend travelling through it quickly en route to the Cayes or other parts of the country or skipping it completely. 

If you exercise the usual safety precautions, you shouldn’t have any trouble in the rest of Belize. 

Best Places to Visit in Belize

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is the number one place to visit in Belize for backpackers, and for good reason. Caye Caulker looks like something out of a postcard, with palm trees swaying along the coastline, rickety docks leading to aquamarine waters and sunsets that light up the entire sky.

Neighbouring Ambergris Caye is another island option, but it appeals to an older, wealthier type of traveller so most budget travellers prefer Caye Caulker for a slice of backpacker paradise. 

Palm trees and chairs at the beach on Caye Caulker - Backpacking Belize
Chill Out at Caye Caulker – Backpacking Belize | Credit: Sally Sees

Tobacco Caye

If you want a Castaway-type island experience without the high price tag, check out Tobacco Caye. No bigger than a few football fields, this is one of the only remote cayes that can be visited on a backpacker budget. There are a handful of affordable accommodations, all with a mandatory inclusive meal package. 

Tobacco Caye-Overwater Bungalows
Tobacco Caye Overwater Bungalows | Credit: Sally Sees

San Ignacio

Belize’s inland adventure hub, San Ignacio, is the perfect base for all your jungle activities. Ancient Mayan ruins, extensive cave systems, and wildlife experiences are all accessible from here. It’s conveniently located near the Guatemala border, perfect for onward travel to Flores and Tikal if you’re planning on carrying on your trip backpacking in Guatemala too. 

Orange Walk

The first major town you encounter after crossing the Mexican border at Corozal, Orange Walk is a great base for exploring the Mayan city of Lamanai. It also has easy access to the Rio Bravo Conservation Area, one of the largest protected areas in the country, where you can enjoy fantastic birdwatching and plenty of monkeys. 

The Mask Temple at Lamanai Mayan Ruins Belize
The Mask Temple at Lamanai Mayan Ruins Belize


For a taste of the Garifuna culture, head to Hopkins. This coastal village has miles of sandy beach, which is surprisingly not that common on the cayes. You’ve still got easy access to the reef, but this is also a great base to explore inland areas, like the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. 


If you’re heading south to Honduras or coming north from there, then Placencia is a lovely place to spend a few days on your way.  It has a similar vibe to Caye Caulker, with gorgeous sandy beaches and a chilled-out atmosphere.

The Beach at Placencia - sand and palm trees
The Beach at Placencia – Where to Go in Belize

Top Things to Do in Belize


If you splurge for one activity in Belize, it has to be snorkelling. Best done from Caye Caulker, you’ll visit the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and have the opportunity to swim with sea turtles, reef fish of all shapes and sizes and colourful corals.

The iconic Shark Ray Alley is a stop on every snorkel tour, and you’ll be surrounded by dozens of reef sharks and giant Caribbean stingrays. 

Snorkelling with turtles in Belize - What to do in Belize
Snorkelling with turtles in Belize – What to do in Belize | Credit: Sally Sees

Live the Island Life

Leave plenty of room in your Belize itinerary to spend a few days relaxing on island time in Caye Caulker. Swing in a hammock, jump into the inviting waters at The Split, catch some epic sunsets and ride your bicycle around the sandy streets. Don’t underestimate the enjoyment of doing nothing. 

Sail the Belize Barrier Reef

Without a doubt, the most epic activity for backpackers in Belize is the 3-day Ragga Sailing Adventures tour from Caye Caulker. Spend your days sailing through the most remote sections of the reef, snorkelling and spearfishing along the way with an epic crew and travellers from around the world.

You’ll camp on tiny cayes, eating fresh fish and lobster for dinner with a steady flow of rum punch on tap. An experience you won’t forget soon and one for your backpacking bucket list!

Ragga Sailing Adventures - a catamaran boat on a Reef in the turquoise sea of Belize
Ragga Sailing Adventures – a Must-do When Backpacking Belize | Credit: Sally Sees

Explore Mayan Ruins

Cruise down the New River to Lamanai, climb to the top of the El Castillo temple in Xunantunich, just half an hour from San Ignacio, or get really remote at Caracol, the largest and most concealed Mayan city in Belize tucked away in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.

See the Great Blue Hole

Understandably out of reach for most backpackers’ budgets, if you can stretch the funds, seeing Belize’s mysterious marine sinkhole is an impressive sight. Taking a scenic flight from Caye Caulker gives you the best perspective of the hole, but scuba junkies can descend inside to see the unique stalagmites and stalactites. 

The Great Blue Hole in Belize dark blue circle in a turquoise sea
The Great Blue Hole in Belize – Backpacking Belize | Credit: Sally Sees

Venture inside the ATM Cave

A truly epic experience, the ATM cave is considered one of the most sacred caves in the world. The Mayans believed caves were the portal to Xibalba or the underworld, and used them as tombs and for sacrifices. ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal (the cave of the stone sepulchre), and on an ATM cave tour, you’ll trek, swim and climb deep inside this cave, to see ancient artefacts and skeletal remains. 

No cameras are allowed inside the cave since an over-enthusiastic tourist dropped their camera onto one of the skeletons inside the cave and damaged the fragile remains!

Go Cave Tubing

Another cave experience where you float on an inflatable tube down an underground river through a cave. Pretty cool, huh? A uniquely Belizean experience, cave tubing tours usually depart from San Ignacio. 

Exploring Caves near San Ignacio Belize
Exploring Caves near San Ignacio Belize | Credit: Sally Sees

Waterfalls and Jungle Swimming Holes

The beautiful swimming spots don’t end at the coast. Belize’s mainland is full of refreshing natural swimming holes. Big Rock Falls and Rio On Pools in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve are a great day trip from San Ignacio (which you can do as a tour or independently if you hire a car), and the Inland Blue Hole is just as worthy of a visit as its coastal counterpart. 

Belize Budget for Backpackers

The rumours are true, Belize can be more expensive than its neighbours like Guatemala and Mexico. Some things are worth splurging on though, and Belize is one of them!

With some careful planning and prioritising where you spend, you can still enjoy Belize on a budget without breaking the bank. 

Typical Costs of Backpacking Belize:

Accommodation: dorm beds usually go for around $20 USD a night on the cayes, and more like $15 USD inland in places like San Ignacio. If you’re a couple or group, you can find comfortable private accommodations usually with kitchen facilities, for $50 – $70 USD per night. Book early during peak season so you don’t miss out on the affordable options. 

Tours: this is where costs can really add up in Belize. A full-day snorkelling tour in Caye Caulker usually sells for $90 USD. The famous ATM Cave tour is $100 USD +. However many of the other activities in Belize are cheap or free.

Entry to the Mayan ruins is usually around $5 USD, and most national parks or protected areas are $5 USD or less. Prioritise experiences that are important to you and choose a few big-ticket items that you will never forget. 

A Temple at the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich in Belize
A Temple at the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich in Belize | Credit: Sally Sees

Transport: local transport on public buses is affordable, with fares ranging between $5 – $10 USD, depending on the duration of the trip. Water taxis to the cayes are around $20 USD each way.

Tourist shuttles are the quicker and more convenient method of transport but will cost a bit more. For example, a trip from Belize City to San Ignacio will be about $20 USD in a shared shuttle.

You can also book combined trips including a shuttle and ferry from Flores in Guatemala to Caye Caulker if you prefer.

Food: food costs in Belize are quite expensive and where your budget can go awry. If you’re on the cayes, cooking is generally not much cheaper than eating out as there isn’t a good supply of affordable groceries or produce. On the mainland, this is a bit different.

Fresh seafood is abundant on the islands, particularly lobster, which is very cheap in comparison to other destinations but can still hurt a Belize backpacker’s budget. A cheap lobster meal will set you back around $15 – $20 USD.

Cheaper local-style meals, like classic rice and beans or jerk chicken, are around $7 – $10 USD. Fry jacks are the perfect backpacker breakfast, a deep-fried dough pocket stuffed with goodies like beans, cheese and eggs, usually around $1.50 – $3 USD. 

Grilled Lobster in Caye Caulker - Backpacking Belize Food Budget
Grilled Lobster & Seafood in Caye Caulker – Backpacking Belize Food Budget | Credit: Sally Sees

Alcohol: like in most destinations, the easiest way to save money in Belize is to avoid alcohol. Beers in a bar are $3 USD +, and cocktails are usually $7 USD +. Sticking with local drinks like rum punch or the ‘panty rippa’ cocktail is a cheaper option.

Buying alcohol from the supermarket is much more affordable, and you can pick up Belikin beers for a few bucks, and bottles of rum for less than $10 USD!

Suggested Route for Backpacking Belize

If you’re travelling to Belize from Mexico, the most sensible place to start your trip is in Orange Walk. Spend a few days wildlife watching and exploring the Lamanai ruins. 

From here, you can travel south to Belize City and jump on a water taxi to Caye Caulker. 

If you’re flying directly into Belize via the international airport, head straight for Caye Caulker. 

Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll want on this island. Once you arrive, it’s hard to leave! If you’ve got the luxury of time, you could easily while away a week here and enjoy the slower pace of travel. 

If you’ve got the budget, jump on the Ragga Sailing Adventures tour that departs from Caye Caulker. Spend three full days sailing the reef and camping on remote cayes.  The tour usually finishes on Tobacco Caye (check in advance), and if you still haven’t had enough island time, you can organise to stay on the island for a few more nights. 

Sunset with Ragga Sailing Adventures - a boat on the water at sunset
Sunset with Ragga Sailing Adventures | Credit: Sally Sees

Whatever you decide, you’ll end up back on the mainland in the city of Dangriga. From here, you’ve got two choices: go south to Hopkins for some Garifuna vibes and more beach time, or head directly north to San Ignacio. 

If you opt to include Hopkins, allocate a few days here for both the beach and the rainforest.  Take a couple of day trips inland for hiking and waterfalls in the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and jaguar spotting at the Cockscomb Basin (if you’re very lucky!). 

Your final stop in Belize will be San Ignacio. Whether you’re coming straight from Dangriga or Hopkins, you shouldn’t need to backtrack to Belize City. Instead, grab a bus headed for the country’s capital, Belmopan, and then switch to one heading to San Ignacio (the service will usually be for ‘Benque Viejo’). 

The best things to do in San Ignacio are in the jungle spread around the Cayo region, so you’ll need time for at least a couple of full-day tours and excursions to the ATM cave, Mayan Ruins and tubing adventures. 

If you’re continuing your travels, this is the perfect place to cross the border into Guatemala. San Ignacio is only 20 minutes from the border and colectivos are waiting on the other side to take you to Flores or Tikal

If you’re doing this route in reverse and arriving from Guatemala, remember to factor in the route for the Ragga Sailing Adventures tour. It only departs from Caye Caulker, so you’ll need to head there after San Ignacio, and then loop back north after the tour. 

Belize Backpacking Travel Tips

How to Get to Belize

if you’re travelling around Central America and Mexico you can easily cross to Belize from Mexico or Guatemala. From Mexico, you can cross by land via Corozal into Orange Walk. Alternatively, if you’ve got your sights set on Caye Caulker, you can take a boat directly from Chetumal.

From Guatemala, the easiest land border is in the north near Flores, which will have you arriving in Belize via San Ignacio. If Belize is your first or only stop, you’ll need to fly into the country’s only international airport, the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport near Belize City. 

Visa and Immigration

Travellers from many countries can visit Belize for tourism purposes for up to 30 days without a visa. If you’re exiting Belize via land or sea borders, be aware there is a $40 BZD / $20 USD exit tax which is usually payable in cash. If you’re flying out of the country, this should be included in your air ticket. 

Backpacking Belize - Hammocks at Tobacco Caye
Backpacking Belize – Hammocks at Tobacco Caye | Credit: Sally Sees

The Best Time to Visit Belize

The best time to travel to Belize is the dry season, which is generally from November to April. December and January are peak months when the cayes are full, and prices go up. If you can aim for the shoulder months of March or April, you’ll enjoy the best of the weather without the crowds. 

Getting Around Belize

Belize is easy to get around with an efficient network of public buses, tourist shuttles and water taxis. Renting a car for a day can also be useful for day trips and is often cheaper than joining a tour if there’s more than 1 of you (e.g. for Mountain Pine Ridge in San Ignacio). 


Belize uses the Belize Dollar BZD. However, this is fixed to the US Dollar at a permanent rate of $1 USD = $2 BZD. You can pay with either currency throughout the country. More expensive things like accommodation and tours are generally quoted in USD, while local restaurants and buses will be priced in BZD. 

Phone Service

Belize’s phone network is not great and is expensive, considering limited inclusions and bad service. That said, Digi is the best company, but you can expect to pay $20 USD + for a very small data plan. There are stores in most popular tourist destinations where you can buy a SIM and set up your plan. 

If you’re phone is eSIM compatible then you can try an eSIM instead, which is useful for short trips.  I have used eSIMs in several countries but there aren’t many good options for Belize unfortunately!  

Airalo for example has a 1gb data package for $9.50 USD which is valid for 7 days on the Cho! network, or Alosim has a similar package on Digicell network for the same price.

Should You Backpack Belize?

YES!  Backpacking Belize is an incredible experience. From its postcard-perfect tropical cayes to its dense jungles and unique cultures, Belize is a great destination, even if you’re on a budget. There’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with this country and be daydreaming about being back in a hammock on Caye Caulker for many months to come!

About the Author

Sally is the voice behind the blog Sally Sees. She fell in love with Latin America and loves inspiring and helping others to plan epic adventures in this incredible part of the world.  You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *