Photo Courtesy of Thomas Prior

Belize’s tumultuous history is the basis for the numerous cultural influences that define the country today. English is the official language, but expect to hear a variety of unfamiliar words as you travel the country. The most common languages include Spanish, Mayan, Kriol, and Garifuna. Look for important cultural holidays and festivities throughout the year. Events like Carnaval, Costa Maya Festival, and Garifuna Settlement Day pay homage to key aspects of Belizean culture. Important cultural holidays of note include what most refer to as September Celebrations—the Battle of St. George’s Caye (or National Day) on September 10, and Independence Day on September 21.

The Cayes are hot spots for festivals and parties, including global holidays like New Year’s Eve, Easter, and Halloween. Many of Belize’s festivals are centered around important cultural holidays like Ambergris Caye’s Carnaval, akin to a Mardi Gras celebration. The September Celebrations recognize important historic battles and Belize’s independence. And Costa Maya Festival celebrates the region’s Maya roots. You won’t find big-name music artists holding concerts here, but that’s OK. Belize has a thriving local musical scene—musicians like Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective have played a historic role in Belizean culture. Culinary celebrations are also an important part of the scene, with everything from rum and chocolate events to countrywide lobster festivals.