The first people to develop Belize were the Maya around 1500 B.C.E. As shown in archaeological records, they established a number of settlements here. These include Caracol, Lamanai and Lubaantun. The first European contact with Belize occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus reached the area's coast. In 1638, the first European settlement was established by England and for 150 years, many more English settlements were set up.
In 1840, Belize became a "Colony of British Honduras" and in 1862, it became a crown colony. For one hundred years after that, Belize was a representative government of England but in January 1964, full self-government with a ministerial system was granted. In 1973, the region's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize and on September 21, 1981, full independence was achieved.
Belize, the only English-speaking country in Central America, offers a unique combination of richly rewarding experiences that make it unlike any destination on the planet. Swim with exotic sea life along the Western Hemisphere's largest barrier reef. Explore the fascinating mysteries of the largest concentration of Maya sites in the region. Hike thousands of acres of unspoiled forest, including one of the only jaguar preserves in the world. Escape to any of the more than 400 tropical islands and three (3) of the Western Hemisphere's four (4) coral atolls, surrounded by pristine turquoise waters. Discover the highest waterfall and the most extensive cave system in Central America, and dive the captivating Blue Hole.