Just beyond the pristine beaches of the Belizean coast, lush jungles harbor fascinating wildlife, ancient ruins, and a mélange of Caribbean and Latin American cultures. Journey to the country’s remote southern reaches to discover coastal forests teeming with rare marine and birdlife, and sleepy villages where the culture of the modern-day Maya thrives. Cross the border into Guatemala, and wander the ancient passageways of Tikal’s temples; and descend into the Maya underworld on a caving excursion. Then set out from Ambergris Caye and dive into the magical undersea of the Belize barrier reef.
Canoe past calcite crystal formations in the Barton Creek Cave, and learn how the ancient Maya used this underworld for ceremonial purposes.
Take a private tour of the ancient Maya ruins of Tikal, Guatemala, located in the heart of a jungle brimming with tropical birds and animals.
Swim and snorkel among sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and colorful coral reefs at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley; and opt to scuba dive in the sapphire depths of the Great Blue Hole.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Punta Gorda, Belize
Arrive in Belize City, then fly to Punta Gorda. Transfer to Copal Tree Lodge—a National Geographic Unique Lodge nestled in the lush coastal jungles of southern Belize. National Geographic guests will receive an exclusive introduction to two local culinary staples: chocolate and coffee. In the lodge chocolate-making class, learn the process of transforming cacao into chocolate, and mold your own delicious bar. Then head to the coffee bar for an in-depth tasting, and create a flavor profile of the house brew with the help Belcampo’s resident coffee expert.
Copal Tree Lodge
Day 2 — Punta Gorda
Get your sea legs today: Visit the Rio Grande estuary, and then head to the Port Honduras Marine Reserve to watch for the endangered West Indian manatee at Frenchman Lagoon. Snorkel the Snake Cayes, teeming with a colorful array of fish and coral; and picnic along a white-sand beach on a tiny isle. Meet park rangers at Abalone Caye and learn about their efforts to stop poaching in this pristine marine sanctuary.
Copal Tree Lodge (B, L)
Day 3 — Punta Gorda
Travel to the Kek’chi Maya village and visit the home of a local family to learn about their culture. Roast and grind cacao beans for a Mayan-style cocoa drink, fry up tortillas, and sit down with your hosts to share a traditional Maya meal. Try your hand at weaving baskets and fabrics, and head outside for a guided walk to discover traditional uses of regional plants, herbs, and spices.
Copal Tree Lodge (B, L)
Day 4 — Punta Gorda/Belize City/Cayo District
Today, transfer to the Punta Gorda airport and fly to Belize City. Stop at the Belize Zoo, a rehabilitation sanctuary home to more than 170 animals native to the area. Learn more about the animals and the different measures being taken to preserve their habitats, before continuing to the Cayo District.
Chaa Creek (B, L)
Day 5 — Tikal, Guatemala
Cross the border into Guatemala for a full-day visit to the famous Maya ruins at Tikal. Take a private tour of this UNESCO World Heritage site, including the Great Plaza and its iconic Temple of the Jaguar, the Temple of the Mask, and Acropolis. As you explore the ancient city, keep your eyes peeled for the tropical animals and birds that inhabit the surrounding jungle.
Chaa Creek (B, L)
Day 6 — Cayo District/San Ignacio/Ambergris Caye
This morning, visit Barton Creek Cave and learn about how the cave served as a gateway to the underworld for the ancient Maya, and paddle a canoe along its aqueous passageways, studded with sparkling calcite crystals. Then fly to Ambergris Caye, the country’s largest island, and transfer to your hotel overlooking the Belize barrier reef. Spend the rest of the day at leisure in this tropical paradise.
Victoria House (B, L)
Day 7 — Ambergris Caye
Embark on a half-day private snorkeling adventure in the deep blue waters of Belize. Swim among sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and coral reefs at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. Enjoy the rest of the day to explore on your own. Relax at your hotel’s private beach, or stroll the sandy streets of colorful San Pedro town.
Victoria House (B)
Day 8 — Ambergris Caye
Explore the peninsula at your own pace today. Relax at the pool or retreat to the spa. Or opt to book your own excursion: Go scuba diving in Belize’s beguiling Great Blue Hole, get a bird’s eye view of the coast on a helicopter tour, head out on a guided boat tour in pursuit of indigenous birds, or charter a sunset cruise.
Victoria House (B)
Day 9 — Belize City/Depart
Transfer to San Pedro Airport and fly to Belize International Airport. Depart for your international flight home.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request.
Internal flights within Belize are an additional $620 per person (subject to change). International airfare to and from Belize City is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals. Dates during December holiday season may also be subject to minimum night restrictions at certain accommodations used on this program.
Please note: A US Department of State travel advisory for Guatemala is currently in effect (travel.state.gov). We expect to operate this trip as planned, but will continue to closely monitor events in the region and will alter the itinerary if necessary.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.