Before you plan your Belize vacation, you might want to learn more about our beautiful jewel we call home. Below are a few useful information about Belize. For further information feel free to contact us.
Long before the arrival of Europeans, close to 2 million Maya lived in the area that now compromises modern-day Belize. Powerful city states like Lamanai, Xunantunich, and Caracol were built to dominate their neighbors, large metropolises built from stone, surrounded by agricultural communities.
Historians divide the long reign of the Maya into three periods: the Pre-Classic (approximately 1000 BC to 300 AD), the Classic Period (AD 300-900), and the Post-Classic (AD 1000-1500). The spectacular achievements of the Maya reached their peak during the Classic Period with a sharp drop-off in the Post-Classic Period that culminated in all of the big cities being abandoned for reasons that no one today fully understands.
The Europeans Arrive
On his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, Christopher Columbus sailed up and down the coast of Central America, charting and naming the Bay of Honduras which lies off the southern coast of modern-day Belize.
The first permanent European settlers in what was to become Belize were English Puritans, attracted to the area because of the valuable hardwood trees. These early settlers were joined by a motley assortment of pirates, buccaneers, and sailors. Collectively the English were known as “Baymen” after the nearby Bay of Honduras.
Later, Spain and Britain vied for control of the area, resolving the issue when Spain agreed to let English settlers live in the area in exchange for expelling all pirates.
In the 1840s, Britain declared the area to be an official colony of the empire, naming it British Honduras for the nearby bay. After slavery was outlawed in Britain, the composition of local people began to change with freed slaves becoming today’s Creoles. Civil wars in nearby Mexico led to the emigration of both Maya people as well as other indigenous people who are now known as Mestizos in Belize.
The Garifuna people, descended from African slaves who intermarried with indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, arrived in Belize after being exiled from their original home on the island of St. Vincent. One last addition to the make-up of the colony’s population was when a group of veterans from the American Civil War emigrated to the village in southern Belize now known as Punta Gorda.
At the turn of the 20th century, Belize had approximately 40,000 inhabitants. In 1954, Britain gave all adult residents the right to vote. In 1961, Britain agreed to set Belize on the path to independence.
In 1973, the colony’s name was officially changed to Belize. On September 21, 1981, Belize became a fully independent country.
With a sub-tropical climate and an advantageous location near the equator, Belize is blessed with year-round sun and balmy temperatures. With lots of lush nature and pristine scenery bounding with wildlife, Belize enjoys ample rainfall and even the occasional thunderstorm.
Situated between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea, Belize is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer. This allows Belize to enjoy ample amounts of sun and warm temperatures even when other latitudes have begun to experience the first chills of autumn.
More than a third of Belize is set aside as a national park or protected nature reserve. The abundance of jungle, rainforest, and verdant flora are proof positive that Belize is a well-hydrated country. The relatively high humidity is popular with many visitors for its ability to control allergies, improve skin suppleness, and relieve sinus and congestion issues.
Unlike more temperate countries, Belize effectively has two seasons: the dry season and the green season. Neither season is precisely defined, as there are occasional rainstorms during the dry season and long stretches of sunny skies during the green season.
The dry season runs from approximately early November to mid-May. You can expect to see rain showers overnight and in the early morning while breezes bring refreshing relief. The dry season is perfect for exploring isolated Maya ruins in the jungle, canoeing on one of the country’s many pristine rivers, and enjoying the popular cave tubing expeditions.
The dry season is similar to summer in more temperate latitudes, so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and other forms of protection for fair skin. Months like December and January which are very cold elsewhere see little in terms of temperature drops, but there are some nights when snuggling up with a warm jacket or sweatshirt is required. Even during the height of “winter”, you’ll never have to deal with snow, ice, sleet, or blizzards in Belize.
The green season coincides with the low season for tourism, making it an ideal time to visit for budget-conscious travelers and visitors wanting to avoid crowds. Humidity levels are higher during the green season and regular rainfall keeps the rainforests, jungles, and lowlands vibrant and healthy. Despite the name, the sunshine during the green season can still be very strong, so visitors with fair skin are encouraged to maintain normal protection protocols against sunburns and UV damage.
Belize Public & Bank Holidays
National holidays are far more than just a day off of work or a time when banks close. Holidays in Belize are the occasion when almost every business in the country shutters its doors, transportation services are limited, news broadcasts are curtailed, and family and friends gather together for a time of celebration.
Below is a list of the national holidays in Belize:
January 1 – New Year’s Day
Everything is closed on this day as people ring in the new year with food and quiet celebrations at home.
March 9 – Baron Bliss Day
Now called “Benefactor’s Day”, this holiday celebrates the eccentric British-German millionaire who bequeathed his inheritance to the country after befriending local fisherman in the last few months of his life.
Most Belizeans are deeply religious and Easter is a solemn five-day affair beginning on Holy Thursday and continuing on to Easter Monday. The country’s biggest sporting event, a thrilling cycling competition, is held on Holy Saturday.
May 1 – Labor Day
Just as in the majority of the rest of the world (excepting the United States), May 1 is a time for stores, factories and shops to shut as the people of Belize celebrate the contributions of the working population.
May 24 – Commonwealth Day
Today, English is the official language of Belize as a result of centuries of British rule. Commonwealth Day is a time when Belizeans unite with other former colonies to celebrate British culture and history.
September 10 – St. George’s Caye Day
In the late 1700s, a critical naval battle between British and Spanish forces offshore of St. George’s Caye resulted in the permanent dominance of Britain over the colony that subsequently became the modern nation of Belize.
September 21 – Independence Day
This day commemorates Belize gaining full independence from Great Britain in 1981.
October 12 – Columbus Day
This day celebrates the voyages of the European explorer who visited the coast of Belize on his fourth and final journey.
November 19 – Garifuna Settlement Day
This holiday re-enacts the voyage of the Garifuna people from the Caribbean to the shores of Belize.
December 25 – Christmas Day
The traditional day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
December 26 – Boxing Day
A holiday inherited from the British when friends and family members “box up” their gifts received on Christmas.