Volcanoes, lakes, ruins and wildlife – Belize and Guatemala are a kid’s adventure paradise. Whether you’re scampering up stone pyramids or swimming into the Mayan underworld, it’s not hard to see why.
Here are five reasons why kids love Belize and Guatemala – and why adults do, too.
1. You Can Channel Your Inner Indiana Jones
The jungle is thick in Guatemala, full of ancient mysteries. The Mayan metropolis of Tikal is one of them. Climb the stone ruins and stand at the very top – you can see for miles, just like the ancient Mayans did.
Temple IV, the world’s tallest existing Mayan pyramid, looms above the canopy leaves. Nearby, pyramids poke out of the jungle. Many of the altars and temples are open for climbing. The chance to look out at this ancient city from above is unforgettable.
From the top of the pyramids to the depths of the earth, Belize’s Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher is next on our must-adventure list.
This partially submerged site dares your family’s bravest adventurers to swim into the cave’s gaping stone mouth. Vines and foliage dangle over the entrance. Inside, stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones sparkle and shimmer.
Inside lays the ominous Crystal Maiden, the calcified skeleton of a Mayan girl literally frozen in time for around 1,100 years. Several other areas inside contain skeletal remains as well.
This cave was once believed to be the entrance to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, a deep fissure in the earth filled with rivers of scorpions and blood. Priests and shamans once ventured here to commune with their gods and ancestors. Eerie, right? Don’t worry: there aren’t any actual scorpion-filled rivers!
2. Underground Rivers, Zip-lines, Hikes and Lake Boating
Nohoch Che’en – known as Caves Branch – is a fun, relaxing place to go cave tubing. As you float along the underground river, crystal formations shimmer and pop on the walls. No need to worry about darkness – your headlamp will light the way.
If you’re feeling up to it, your group can turn off your headlamps for a moment while you’re inside. Floating in complete darkness, hearing only the gurgle of the river, is both exhilarating and spooky!
Not too far from Caves Branch is a thrilling zip-line adventure. The course’s 10 platforms and six runs can get you up to 190 feet off the jungle floor – or lower, if you’d prefer. It’s a fun time to “hang out” in the canopy, where the region’s birds live.
Bordered by three volcanoes, Lake Atitlan is often considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It’s a fun place for a boat ride across the emerald water. The beaches are dotted with Mayan villages, some of which can only be reached by watercraft.
Chaa Creek is a beautiful tribuatary of the Macal River, and home to tons of unexcavated Mayan ruins. It’s also home to a butterfly farm, natural history museum and organic farm. The area has plenty of trails for hiking, horseback riding, river tubing and canoeing, too.
The landscapes surrounding Mayan ruins are usually important parts of the ruins themselves. You’ll understand why when you hike the stone steps to watch the sunset from atop the tallest pyramid at the Yaxha archaeological site. With the right atmospheric conditions, the oranges and blues of the sky blend above Yaxha Lagoon.
3. The Food is Familiar
Love your local Tex-Mex restaurant? The food and drink of Belize and Guatemala are accessible to even the choosiest eaters. Corn, beans, cheese, tortillas, chicken, beef, pork and rice form the backbone of most plates. Nachos, anyone?
Don’t take our word for it – cook your own Guatemalan cuisine during a cooking class at a local restaurant. Then level up your bartering skill at the famous Chichicastenango Market in Antigua Guatemala. The shops are brimming with colorful textiles and trinkets, as well as exotic fruits and veggies. It’s a great place for a snack or a souvenir!
International restaurants, cafes and coffee shops abound in Belize and Guatemala’s well-trod areas. If you’re looking for fried chicken and French fries, you’re in luck.
4. Critters Galore – and You Might be the First Person to Ever See Some of Them!
Macaws are the world’s largest parrots – and some of the most colorful!
Belize and Guatemala are home to over 1,500 documented species of animals – and lots of undocumented ones, too. It’s possible you might be the first to spot a new species of mammal, bird or insect!
Try to mimic the howler monkeys echoing through the jungle foliage. Look out for the long-tailed scarlet macaw fluttering its vibrant wings over emerald-green lakes. The fun of the animals is in their vibrant color and seemingly endless variety. Check out some of the coolest ones below.
5. Candy and Colorful Culture
Like candy? Antigua Guatemala is known for it. The town’s tasty treats have been in production in since Spanish colonization, around the year 1524. Nearly 500 years of sweets!
Antiguan candy is usually made from local ingredients, such as nuts with honey, condensed milk, seeds and traditional sweeteners. The most famous of all is the Canillita de Leche: a combination of milk, sugar and cinnamon that melts in your mouth. Yum!
A lot of these candy recipes are as old as the colonial-era Spanish buildings, churches and statues surrounding them. On a guided walk of Antigua, you’ll see the iconic yellow Santa Catalina Arch in front of the looming Volcán de Agua.
Learn more about a Belize & Guatemala Family Adventure here.