Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Belize City Cruise Port: Tips, Attractions, Weather

Altun Ha. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Belize City cruise port is a popular western Caribbean cruise destination, but the surrounding countryside has much more to offer.

Passengers will arrive at the cruise terminal and the Belize City Cruise Village, which offers the most convenient shopping and dining.

The rest of the city offers cultural centers, historical centers and colonial architecture along with the usual shopping, bars, nightlife and restaurants. Cultural and historical attractions in the city include the House of Culture, Museum of Belize and St. John’s Cathedral.

But even more appealing is the wealth of archaeological and ecotourism attractions found nearby in other parts of the country. They include cave tubing along an underground river, one of the best and most unique shore excursions in the Caribbean.

One of the best things about Belize is its small size, which makes it easy to visit many of nation’s attractions. They include sites that can be done as day trips from Belize City.

Quick Travel Tips

  • The ecotourism country is more known for jungles and Mayan ruins than beaches.
  • Cave tubing is the most famous and unique attraction.
  • Mayan history dominates many of the major attractions.

Where is Belize City?

Belize City is 224 miles south of Cozumel and 136 miles northwest of Roatan along the Central American coast of the Caribbean Sea. Its location makes it a common port of call on western Caribbean cruises, especially ones that last seven days or longer.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Mayan Ruins of Altun Ha

Ruins of the Mayan civilization are found throughout Belize with one major site only 30 miles north of Belize City. Known as “Altun Ha”, these are the closest and most accessible Mayan temple-pyramids to Belize City.

Nevertheless, most folks visit Altun Ha on a day tour because reaching the site with public transportation involves a two mile hike through hot and humid jungle lasting about 30 to 45 minutes. Cruise line prices start at about $90 to $100 per person with discounts for children.

Quick tours to Altun Ha are done by bus. Folks who want to make a day of it should go for one of the tours that begins with a three-hour boat ride up the Belize River. It is followed by lunch on the riverbank and a bus ride to the ruins.

Those who fantasize about being Indiana Jones can also hire a local guide to lead them on a long, hot walk to the site via jungle trails.

Farther out and more impressive Mayan ruins that are available as shore excursions include Lamana and Xunantunich. Their prices start at more than $100 per person.

Belize River Boat Tours

Belize river boat
Half day river boat tours from Belize City are common. © Belize Tourism Board

The Belize River runs through Belize City and acts a conduit to the country’s north-central interior.

During colonial times, British lumber operations used this waterway to transport valuable mahogany from the rainforests of the interior.

Some centuries before the British showed up, the Mayans used the Belize River to link their cities with the Caribbean Sea.

At present times, it’s mostly used for more light-hearted purposes such as transportation to and from eco-lodges and for boat tours in search of Belize wildlife.

A boat tour on the river makes for an excellent, exciting break from the hustle and bustle of Belize City. Tours are typically half day excursions although guides don’t complain when visitors to Belize City opt for a full day of adventure on the river.

Some of the more frequently encountered animals are stately herons, egrets, and storks, prehistoric looking crocodiles, iguanas, and Black Howler Monkeys that sit in the branches of riverside trees.

Cave Tubing and Jungle Exploration

Cave tubing is one of the best excursions in the Caribbean. © 2023 Scott S. Bateman

Adventurous visitors to Belize City won’t want to miss a tour that begins with a hike or an ATV ride along jungle trails in the Sibun Caves Branch Archaeological Park.

It includes a bit of Mayan cave exploration and a short guided walk through the Belize rainforest.

At the end of the trip, visitors will jump into an inner tube and float through an underground river that had been the site of Mayan religious rituals.

They wear headlamps to see their way down the slow-moving river as a guide explains the both the Mayan past and the cave’s natural history.

It’s a lot for one day, but hundreds of visitors to Belize City opt for this exciting tour. We did as a family, and it remains one of our favorite shore excursions in the Caribbean.

Note that the Belize Zoo lies along the same route and takes about 45 minutes to reach from Belize City cruise port. Cave tubing is a five- to six-hour trip and usually costs $75 to $100 per person with discounts for young children.

Community Baboon Sanctuary

Black Howler Monkeys in Belize (where they are known as “baboons”) have become endangered due to deforestation in their already small range.

Fortunately, there are conservation efforts to ensure the future of these unique primates, the most important of which is the Community Baboon Sanctuary.

A day trip to the visitor center for this site is an excellent way to learn about and see these rare monkeys up close and personal and is also a good way to meet the friendly folks of rural Belize.

The sanctuary is located about 50 minutes west of the Belize City cruise port.

The Blue Hole

Belize City Map

This attraction appeals almost entirely to scuba divers. The Blue Hole is a collapsed cave off the coast of the country that is 407 feet deep and 1,050 feet wide, according to the Belize Tourism Board.

The site, which is part of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, is known as one of the best dive sites in the world because of its depth, hammerhead sharks and stalactite formations.

It is about 43 miles east of the cruise port. Divers will more likely have to go on their own.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Belize is not a beach destination because most of the shoreline consists of mangrove forests. Cruise lines offer few to no excursions that go to any beaches because the few that exist are mostly small or too far away.

There is one small man made beach about two miles west of the cruise terminal at Old Belize.

Otherwise, cruise visitors should plan on visiting beaches at other Caribbean ports. Belize is the place for rainforests, Mayan temples and cave tubing—not for beaches.

Shopping / Restaurants

Belize City is not known for its tourist shopping and restaurant district like other Caribbean destinations. It is better known as the starting point for excursions into the interior.

It does have two well-known shopping centers at the Fort Street Tourism Village and the nearby Belizean Handicraft Market Place, 2 South Park Street. Fort Street has about 30 gift shops; the Market Place emphasizes local arts and crafts.

Note that cruise lines offer very few city or shopping tours for Belize City.

Cruise Weather

Belize City monthly rainfall
© 2023 Scott S. Bateman

Belize City has a brief dry season from February through April when the average rainfall is about two inches per month.

Average high temperatures are in the low 80s Fahrenheit in February and increase to the upper 80s by April. It’s the best time to visit by cruise.

The rainy season hits hard starting in June and continues through December. The average rainfall increases to more than 10 inches a month during the fall. Average high temperatures stay in the upper 80s Fahrenheit.

January is a transition month between the dry and rainy seasons with an average rainfall of about five to six inches.

Other Tips

  • English is the official language
  • U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere
  • Beware some of the neighborhoods outside of the Belize City Tourism Village


Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
November 09, 2023

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