If you’re playing word association, the name “Belize” will generally inspire the response “beaches!” And while it’s true that the country’s coastline is ideal for sunbathing, Belize’s stunning, under-explored interior offers a little more activity diversity than splaying out on a blanket.
The journey into the central section of Belize begins with a two-hour voyage through the jungle and small villages, down winding, pitted dirt roads. The reward for your dedication is a stunningly beautiful rainforest. This area is home to several good properties, but one especially fine space that’s worth the splurge is Blancaneaux Lodge: a quirky, cool retreat designed by Francis Ford Coppola (yes, of The Godfather trilogy fame) that attracts folks who are of a low-key, fun-first mindset. Rates start at $279 for a cabana.
There are dozens of grand adventures to be had in central Belize, from exploring the magical ATM caves to canoeing through Barton Creek. For the days you just want a more laid-back and scenic activity, a horseback ride to Big Rock Falls ($79) is the perfect compromise between a full-on caving expedition and a chilled-out beach day.
Big Rock Falls is part of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the oldest of Belize’s national parks, and free to the public. We suggest having lunch packed up for you at the lodge and slipping a bottle of wine in your pack before the ride, for an unforgettably picturesque picnic. At the stables, a guide will meet your group and help get you settled in the saddle. The horses here are gentle giants and know the path through the brushland to the waterfall well, and the ride is calm and meditative. You’ll be impressed by the array of birds here — in fact, this part of the country is known for its world-class birding. Here, it’s easy to spot a variety of tropical species, from gemlike, blue-crowned motmots that flit among the branches to bat falcons that nosedive gracefully for their prey.
Once you arrive at the falls, the view is genuinely jaw-dropping. Take your time swimming to the base of the waterfall, where you’ll be surrounded by cool, perfectly crystalline water. You’ll be able to feel the water currents, but the swim isn’t a difficult one. At the base, you can lounge on the surrounding cool stonesand examine the dense foliage for the occasional peek of an orchid or hibiscus.