This time of year you may be thinking about getting away to someplace warm; maybe a picture of a sparkling Caribbean beach comes to mind. But what if you want a little more color than just white and blue and a bit more culture than the beach? The Caribbean is not a single place, it is made up of hundreds of islands and dozens of countries and they are not all “just alike.”
Take Belize and Cozumel for example, both have deep, ancient roots that reach back to Mayan times – and they have the archaeological sites to prove it. The culture these days may be proudly local, but still reflects the blend of African, European and Central American heritage. If you are looking for rich history, ancient ruins, exotic wildlife and lush terrain, this part of the world offers plenty to do.
Connect with ancient history in Belize with a tour of the Altun Ha pyramid, which was erected by the Mayans to pay tribute to the Sun God. Or climb El Castillo, one of the tallest Mayan structures in Belize City at 135 feet high. At the top, take in the lush rainforest of Peten and the mountains beyond it, a breathtaking view that extends all the way to the border of Guatemala.
The wildlife in Belize can’t be missed. Toucans and parrots along the Old Belize River make for an amazing #nofilter Instagram. And keep your eyes peeled for tapirs—this endangered species may not be around forever. What is a tapir? Think of a pig with a prehensile snout, kind of a short trunk with skills.
Cozumel’s most famous attraction is the ancient city of Tulum, once a bustling metropolis in 1200 AD. Tour its remains for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see, firsthand, the Mayans’ astonishing advancement in the arts and sciences. They were early astronomers (remember the Mayan calendar?) who could predict solar eclipses and apply cosmology to help with the cultivation of crops.
You can go sightseeing underwater at Chankanaab National Marine Park via submarine or simply snorkel off of Sand Dollar Beach. The waters off of Cozumel are part of the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere making it one of the world’s best snorkeling destinations. The park reserve includes a dolphin experience and local food and beverage, and if you really do just want a white sand beach, they have that as well.
Belize and Cozumel offer their own blend of sun, sand, jungle, ancient history and culture accessible on a variety of Royal Caribbean itineraries.