32 Fun Facts About Belize: The Jewel of the Caribbean

map of Belize

In this article, we explore 32 fun facts about Belize, immersing ourselves in the unique aspects of this captivating country. Let’s dive in!

Belize is one of the most exciting and naturally beautiful places on Earth. It boasts diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests to pristine Caribbean shores.

This Central American country has a rich cultural history that combines Mayan heritage, Afro-Caribbean influences, and modern flair. 

Belize At-a-Glance

Location: Central America, between Guatemala and Mexico, Caribbean Sea coast.
Population: 419,137 (2023 estimate)
Capital: Belmopan.
Area: 22,966 sq km.
Languages: English (official), Spanish, Creole, and others.
Religion: Mostly Christian (Catholic, Protestant).
Climate: Tropical, hot, humid, rainy (May-Nov), dry (Feb-May).
(Source: The World Factbook)

General Belize Facts

1. Despite being referred to as the Jewel of the Caribbean, Belize isn’t technically in the Caribbean. Belize is located in Central America, bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. 

2. Belize covers an area of approximately 8,867 square miles (22,966 square kilometers). That makes it the smallest country in Central America and the 48th smallest country in the world. Belize is roughly 2,000 square miles (5,179 square kilometers) smaller than Massachusetts.  

3. English is the official language of Belize because the British colonized the nation. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America. Other languages spoken in the country include Spanish and Creole.

4. It wasn’t until 1973, coinciding with its independence from Britain, that Belize adopted its current name, having previously been known as British Honduras.

5. Belize is famous for its ancient monuments. These include archaeological sites like Caracol and Xunantunich. Belize is also well known for its impressive natural beauty, which consists of iconic diving spots like the Great Blue Hole (also known as the Blue Hole Natural Monument) and vast jungles teeming with wildlife.

the Great Blue Hole in Belize
The Great Blue Hole, Belize.

6. Belize was once home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The Mayan civilization spread into Belize between 1500 and 1200 BC. They flourished in the area until approximately 1000 AD.

7. Most of Belize’s landscape is underdeveloped and flat. It consists of swamp coastal plains, mangrove swamps, lowland mountains, forests, Caribbean beaches, and dense rainforest. More than half of the population lives in rural areas. In contrast, Belize City, with a population of 61,000, is the most populated city in the country.

Suggested Read: 35 Fun Facts About the Dominican Republic

8. The majority of the Belize population follows Christianity. Approximately 40% of Belizeans identify as Roman Catholic. Other popular religious groups include Pentecostal and Seventh-Day Adventists. 

Fun Facts About Belizean History

9. The ancient Mayans in Belize were among the first to cultivate cacao (cocoa) trees. Around 600 BC, cacao beans were used as a currency and to create a bitter beverage. 

10. Belize is home to more than 900 Mayan sites. Some of the most famous landmarks in the nation include Caracol, Altun Ha, Lamanai, and Cahal Pech. 

Caracol’s Caana Temple: A majestic Mayan pyramid in Belize.

11. The Maya practiced human sacrifice in religious ceremonies. Some of the sacrificial victims were thrown into sacred sinkholes, known as cenotes, or buried within cave systems in Belize. They believed that caves were portals to the underworld.

12. According to folklore, the forests in Belize are home to a dwarf called El Duende. El Duende has no thumbs, and he punishes children who cause trouble in the woods or who kill too many animals.  

13. The ancient Maya practiced bloodletting as a ritualistic act. They would pierce their tongues, ears, or genitals and collect the blood on paper, which was then burned as an offering to the gods.

14. The ancient Maya in Belize played a ballgame called “pok-ta-pok,” which involved using hips to propel a rubber ball through stone rings without using hands or feet. The game would sometimes be played to prevent conflict, with the losers being sacrificed.

Pok-ta-Pok, a Mayan ballgame.

15. The Maya were among the first to cultivate and chew chicle, the latex from the sapodilla tree. This ancient chewing gum was used not only for oral hygiene but also for rituals.

16. The Maya highly prized Jade, and Belize served as an important source of jadeite.  Elite Mayans wore jade pendants that depicted “mirror gods.” Jade was also used for religious rituals and ornamentation.

17. Ancient Belizean men wore skirts. Like women, they would also wear a wraparound cloak and carry a bag. They would often wear a vibrant turban on their heads, too. 

18. The tapir is highly revered in Belize. It holds significant cultural importance and is even the national animal. It has been admired for its beauty and strength since the Mayan occupation and is considered a fertility symbol. The tapir was commonly depicted in Mayan mythology and art. 

photo of a tapir in Belize
The tapir is a highly revered animal in Belize.

19. St. George’s Caye Day, celebrated on September 10 in Belize, commemorates the 1798 naval victory over Spain, a pivotal event that led to English becoming the official language and the country’s unique cultural heritage.

20. The capital of Belize was changed in 1961 after Belize City was almost destroyed by a storm called Hurricane Hattie. Belmopan, with a population of just 12,000, became the capital city. It is one of the smallest capital cities in the world and the smallest capital city in Central America.

Interesting Facts About Modern Belize

21. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize is the only Jaguar reserve in the World. It was established in 1984, and the ocelot, puma, margay, and jaguarundi also call the reserve home.

22. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In 1996, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a segment of the extensive Mesoamerican Reef, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

details of aquatic life in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System
The vibrant aquatic life in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

23. Belize doesn’t have any fast-food chains. Locals who want to satisfy their fast-food fix have to visit hole-in-the-wall places and order things like tacos, panadas, and garnaches. 

24. Belize is so underdeveloped that the tallest manufactured structure in the country is still a Mayan Temple. Caana, with a height of 141 feet (42.97 meters), has been the tallest building in Belize since 1200 BC.

25. Until a few years ago, Belize City had only one traffic light. By 2020, additional traffic light systems were being installed in the city, indicating a gradual increase in traffic infrastructure in Belize’s largest city.

26. Belize boasts approximately 450 islands, known locally as Cayes (pronounced “keys”), which include those situated on the outer atolls.

27. The small island of Caye Caulker is a popular tourist destination where no motorized vehicles, including cars, are allowed. Transportation is primarily by foot, bicycle, or golf cart.

Caye Caulker in Belize is a popular tourist destination.

28. Belize has its own genre of music called “Punta Rock.” It is a lively fusion of traditional Garifuna rhythms with modern influences. It’s best known for its infectious beats and danceable tunes.

29. The gibnut, a large rodent also known as the “Royal Rat,” is considered a delicacy in Belize. It is called the Royal Rat because it was served to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit in 1985.

30. One of the most popular beverages in Belize is an alcoholic drink called cashew wine, which is found across the country and has a very sweet and tart flavor. Belizeans even hold an annual Cashew Festival in the village of Crooked Tree.

31. In the seaside town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, there’s an unusual event called the “Chicken Drop.” Participants place bets on where a chicken will relieve itself in a marked-out square.

32. In the 1970s, renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau explored the Great Blue Hole sinkhole, ranking it as one of the top diving locations globally. 

Before You Go…

Dive into another realm of beauty and charm: read 35 Interesting Facts About The Maldives: Past and Present. Experience the unique allure of the Maldives, an island paradise rich in history and natural splendor.

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