1. Fill In the Blanks on a Subterranean Map
Belize’s underground cave system might be the most extensive on the planet. Truth is, no one knows for sure—not even the National Geographic explorers who’ve been mapping the caves since the 1960s. More than 300 have been ID’d so far, but thousands more exist, many containing ancient bones and artifacts. You can help plot new passages on Ian Anderson’s Bad Ass Expedition (ten days, $1,200 per person), take a float trip beneath the surface ($85), or rappel into a 300-foot-deep black hole ($105). Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge sits on prime spelunking territory (one-bedroom tree house, $225; cavesbranch.com).
2. Road-Trip Ruin to Ruin
Mile for mile, Belize has one of the most concentrated archaeological stashes in the world. See the best on a ten-day loop linking Maya temples and jungle lodges. Rent a 4x4 in Belize City for the rural roads (from $90 a day; crystal-belize.com). First stops: Lamanai, Xunantunich, and Caracol, a 30-square-mile, five-plaza city in the Chiquibul forest—a biodiversity hot spot worth the trip itself. After some serious temple trekking, ease your muscles at Blancaneaux Lodge’s spa (doubles from $230; blancaneaux.com ). Then head south to the Maya ball courts at Nim Li Punit, where at one time games determined the teams’ fate: The losers were sentenced to death.
3. March With Monkeys
Victoria Peak may be only 3,675 feet high, but it’s no cakewalk: Plan on five days of tough trekking to bag it. Start in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, surrounded by howler monkeys, red-eyed tree frogs, and jaguars—often heard but rarely seen. In the village of Maya Center, herbal healer Aurora Saqui runs Nu’uk Che’il Cottages (doubles from $23; mayacottages.com). From there, local mountain guide William Sho, who has summited 30 times, can lead you to the top ($50 a day; 501-660-0587).
4. Join the Swiss Family Robinson
If you can’t afford your own private island, then Glover’s Atoll Resort is the next best thing. It evolved when the American-French Lomont family came ashore 35 years ago to live off the land and water. The kids have kept their parents’ paradise from being paved and today welcome visitors to share it. Catch the free boat shuttle from Sittee River Village and spend a week playing castaway, sleeping in open-air wood-and-thatch huts, sea kayaking, snorkeling, and hand-lining yellowtail snapper for your supper ($249 a week; glovers.com.bz ).