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The main hub for visiting Belize is Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport, just ten miles outside of Belize City. Though very rarely allotted much time (mainly because there is so much natural beauty outside of town), Belize City merits a day or two of exploration for its interesting culture and history.  
Credit: anoldent/Flickr 
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No one knows for sure where the name Belize originated. Some say it's derived from a Mayan word, others claim it's a distortion of 'Wallace,' the pirate who discovered the land.  
Credit: India Kangaroo/Flickr 
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The Belize Reef, home to sponges, moray eels, and fish, is the longest in the Western Hemisphere (and second-longest in the world). Running the length of the coast, the reef eventually rises above the water to form hundreds of cayes.  
Credit: Photodisc 
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One of the tallest ruins in Belize, El Castillo was built during A.D. 150-900. The structure was a temple during the Golden Age of the Maya. In 1938, it became the first ruin in Belize to open to tourists.  
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The tiny island of Caye Caulker is little more than sandy roads, lazy dogs, and bicycles. The laid-back atmosphere has beckoned backpackers for years and is just now gaining more mainstream tourist attention.  
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Lamanai is one of the most impressive of Belize's Mayan ruins. To fully delve into the beauty of Belize, reach Lamanai by way of a river-rafting trip from the nearby town of Orange Walk. Keep your camera handy as you will sail past dozens of bird species, butterflies, and monkeys.  
Credit: Benjamin Thompson/Flickr 
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Xunantunich is a Mayan ruin composed of six plazas and more than 25 temples, including the largest, El Castillo. On a clear day, you can see across the border into Guatemala from the top. Xunantunich means 'stone woman,' a name given by locals who claim to have seen the ghost of a woman who lives at the archaeological site.  
Credit: madmack66/Flickr 
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The Sittee River in central Belize houses some of the tallest mangroves in the world. With freshwater flowing from the Maya Mountains, these trees are perfectly supported for optimal growth. There are three types growing at the mouth of the river: red, white, and black.  
Credit: Tim Laman 
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Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best birding parks in Belize. Come February to May when flocks of migratory birds stop over for a rest in Crooked Tree before flying northwards. Spend the night within the park to ensure you can rise before dawn when the birds are most active.  
Credit: marlin harms/Flickr 
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Despite its small size, Belize has the largest jaguar population on earth. These majestic creatures—that once posed a serious threat to local livestock—now grace everything from tourist brochures to currency.  
Credit: Getty 
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Many of the world's butterfly species can be seen in Belize. But to catch a glimpse of the famous monarch, head here in the winter—that's when the butterfly make its annual migration to the Central American highlands.  
Credit: David Tiller/Wikipedia 
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Located on the Great Barrier Reef, Laughing Bird Caye is just one island that composes Laughing Bird Caye National Park, along with just over 10,000 acres of surrounding marine habitat. Diving and snorkeling is abundant here, though the picturesque beaches make for a relaxing day beneath a swaying palm.  
Credit: chuck.taylor/Flickr 
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A protected bird sanctuary, Man-O-War Caye is just 70 miles south of Belize City. While thick mangroves populate the island's edges, inside is a wild and diverse community of bird species. The island is named after the Man-O-War bird, known for the red pouch the male inflates to attract a mate during breeding season.  
Credit: Tim Laman 
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The Punta Gorda farmers' market is a must-see for Belize bargain shoppers. The local market sells cacao (chocolate), fresh produce, and native crafts.  
Credit: var resa/Flickr 
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'Poinciana, your branches speak to me of love...' Perhaps the flashiest flora in Belize, the royal Poinciana (also known as the flamboyant tree) is admired even in song. When in bloom, its bright red-orange flowers are unmissable.  
Credit: jemasmith/Flickr 
 
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