Chances are you'll be asked this question more than once before you get here. There are many answers, of course, and the one you select will depend on your interests and temperament. If you're a scuba diver, the offshore barrier reef is an obvious attraction. If you want to experience the unspoiled jungle, a trip to the interior of Belize makes perfect sense.
Perhaps the most obvious reason to visit Belize is to be able to experience the natural beauty and quiet ambiance of a relatively uncrowded native forests of Latin America have disappeared during the last two centuries, in Belize the opposite is true: nearly 5 percent of the original forest remains, and in a largely undisturbed form. Here you'll find hundreds of species of animals and plants that have largely disappeared from most off their original homes, yet are thriving in Belize. Offshore, meanwhile, one of the world's largest barrier reef harbors exotic marine life in an underwater paradise unparalleled in the Western Hemisphere.
This silver of Caribbean coastline remains the most sparsely populated nation in Central America, with less than 30 inhabitants per square mile. It is not the smallest country. With its 8,867 square miles, Belize is slightly larger than El Salvador. But whereas the latter is bursting with more than 8.5 million people, Belize had an estimated 1999 population of 255,000, about one-third of whom were crowded into a single town: Belize City. Stability is another obvious difference. Belize is a parliamentary democracy that has never suffered under the civil wars and dictatorships that have typified most other Central American countries. Belize enjoys a high literacy rate (93 percent of adults) and long life expectancy (73 years for women, 67 for men).
Belize is divided into six political jurisdictions that roughly correspond with states or provinces. They are, from north to south, the Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize, Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo Districts. Most visitors will spend the bulk of their time in the Belize District, which encompasses the international airport, Belize City, and such northern islands as Ambergris Caye, and Caye Caulker; and the Cayo District, where the town of San Ignacio and most jungle lodges are located. Of growing interest to visitors are the southerly Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, noted for their nature reserves, Mayan ruins, and pristine offshore waters. The northerly districts of Corozal and Orange Walk are the most agricultural areas of Belize and thus receive the fewest number of visitors.