After Hurricane Hattie destroyed government buildings (and records) in Belize City in 1961, Belmopan was built far away from the coast to keep it safe from storm damage, with the expectation that large numbers of the population of Belize City would move with the government center. They didn’t. Industry stayed behind, and so did most jobs.
Today, though there is some growth in Belmopan, the masses are still in Belize City , which remains the cultural and commercial hub of the country. Some capital employees live in Belize City and commute 50 miles back and forth each day.
However, Belmopan was designed for growth and continues to expand, with the population around 9,000 souls (plus a surge of several thousand commuters during weekdays). Today, the feel inside the city grid (within Ring Road) has been compared to a lower-middle-class Los Angeles suburb, with rows of small cement homes and chain-link fencing.
Some students and scientists come to Belmopan to do research in the Belize Archives Department (tel. 501/822-2097, archives [at] btl [dot] net), a closed-stacks library popular with both local students and foreign researchers.
The majority of travelers, however, see only Belmopan’s bus terminal and, if they have time, the small open-air market  right next door. Some jog across the market to take a peek at the government buildings (only a couple hundred yards away)—an incredibly gray, squat, post-apocalyptic bit of architecture. Their intentionally Maya-influenced arrangement—built around a central plaza—gives the scene just enough strange irony to make it worth the visit.
If you are traveling Belize by bus, it’s nearly impossible not to visit Belmopan, as all buses traveling between Belize City  and points west and south—even expresses—pull into the main Belmopan terminal for 5–30 minutes as they rustle up new passengers (and the driver takes a lunch and smoke break).
It’s US$2 from Belize City to Belmopan (4 a.m.–8:30 p.m., every 15 minutes). Belmopan to Benque  (Guatemalan border) buses leave 5:40 a.m.–11 p.m. every 15 or 30 minutes. Belmopan to Dangriga  or Punta Gorda  (points south) buses leave 6:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. (departures hourly).