On the peaceful Caribbean coast of Central America, Belize offers raw and natural beauty, top-tier hotels, and countless eco adventures. By Rebecca Bernard Aguiar

Belize is a country of only 8,867 square miles, but the nation nestled amid Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea is a potpourri of culture, adventure, and natural beauty. From Mayan ruins and Afro-Caribbean Punta music to reef diving and cave tubing, Belize offers the best of land and sea adventures for a full-bodied visit.

The majority of the country is covered in forest, making the interior a tropical playground with various options to explore. Belize is known as the center of the Mayan world, and remnants of the Mayan Golden Age can be found scattered throughout the country, including the well-known architectural sites of the Cayo district. Belize also boasts the longest barrier reef in the Western hemisphere. Whether you enjoy boating, snorkeling, or just soaking up rays, the islands off the coast of Belize—Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker—serve up the best the beach has to offer.

What visitors are likely to find most welcoming, however, are the Belizean people. Culturally, Belize is home to one of the most diverse groups in Central America, not to mention that as a former British colony, English is the official language. The population includes Mayan, Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Arab, and Chinese, as well as a number of European, American, and other expatriates. The warmness of the Belizeans, coupled with the ease of navigating the country, make Belize a truly desirable destination.

The Essentials

1 Where to Stay: KaÂ’ana Boutique Resort is dedicated to providing a luxurious experience with authentic Belize culture, all while maintaining a sustainable eco-friendly environment. 501-824-3350; kaanabelize.com. coastal: Las Terrazas Resort & Residence offers 38 townhomes with everything youÂ’ll need, including complete kitchens and a washer and dryer. 800-447-1553; lasterrazasresort.com. Enjoy the best of both in one package: KaÂ’ana & Las Terrazas are offering a Land & Sea package sure to give you a good taste of what Belize has to offer.

2 Where to Eat At La Ceiba, a Mayan theme runs through everything,s from the cocktail menu to the main course. Try the Sour Sap Colada and Mennonite pork sausage served over Mayan Dukunu. 501-824-3350; kaanabelize.com. Enjoy a Caribbean fish feast at Hidden Treasure Restaurant in San Pedro. 501-226-4111; hiddentreasurebelize.com. The Running W Steakhouse is said to have the best steak in Belize. 501-824-2034;

3 What To Do Walk through ancient time on a tour of the Mayan ruins in the Cayo District Yute Expeditions. inlandbelize.com. Get up close and personal with a jaguar at the Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center. belizezoo.org. Dive or snorkel the popular stops along the largest barrier reef in the West, Hol Chan or Shark Ray Alley Magnum Belize Tours. magnumbelize.com.