Mini Travel Guide: Belize

Tons of super helpful travel tips about where to go, what to eat, what to do - and how to do it cheaply! // yesandyes.org
There are many tropical vacation destinations in the world to choose from, but a rare gem that few tourists stumble upon is the country of Belize. Sandwiched between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize provides unique experiences for leisurely and adventurous travelers. As the locals say, “you better Belize it!”

My name is Suzi and Belize has been my vacation destination for the past couple of years. While I call Seattle, Washington my year-round home, Belize has become another home base since I work virtually with Hanna Stables. Owned and run by a local Belizean family, this tourist establishment has been welcoming visitors for horseback rides and organic farm stays for several destinations. I’m lucky to work with them to help plan vacations for guests and coordinate online bookings.

Mini Travel Guide: Belize // yesandyes.org

Must Go in Belize

Belize’s best sites are spread all over the country so the best way to see them is to hire a taxi or rent a car. Alternatively, you can take public buses or local flights.

Caye Caulker

Off the coast of Belize City, there are cayes or islands that are popular tourist destinations. While the most popular is the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, there is another smaller, cozier caye right next to it: Caye Caulker. Both are accessible via water taxi from Belize City. Five miles long, Caye Caulker is a small limestone island with just over 30 tiny hotels and a cluster of restaurants, shops, and snorkeling and diving businesses.

San Ignacio

Located on mainland Belize in the Cayo district, San Ignacio is 90 minutes from Belize City. Close to the Guatemala border, it’s usually a stopover for travelers heading to Tikal. However, there are many Mayan ruins and jungle adventures in San Ignacio and it is worth exploring for a few days. Accommodations vary from cheap hostels to tree house cabanas to high-end resorts. Activity-wise, the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Caracol and Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave are popular.

Placencia

Even further away from Belize City (3.5 hours) is the former fishing village of Placencia. It is home to a number of beachfront hotels, cabanas, and restaurants as well as the narrowest street in the world. It is a great base for travelers wishing to do snorkeling or scuba diving day trips or head into the mountainous jungles close to San Ignacio while spending the night closer to the beach.

Related: Airbnb is always an affordable option and if you’ve never used it before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

Mini Travel Guide: Belize // yesandyes.org

Must Do in Belize

Mayan Ruins

There is no shortage of Mayan archeological sites; most are located inland in the Cayo District. The most historically significant is Caracol, a site that was once the center of one of the largest Maya kingdoms. The most popular site is Xunantunich, meaning “Stone Woman” – a reference to a ghost believed to inhabit the site. In Belize, it’s legal for visitors to climb all over the ruins, something you can’t do in the surrounding countries.

Caving

Caving is another reason why many adventure travelers flock to Belize. Whether you’re an experienced caver or beginner, there’s a tour for you! One of the most popular caving tours is Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave. This intense adventure involves swimming, crawling, scampering, and climbing for nearly four hours in an underground cave. At the end of the cave, you can see where Mayan shamans allegedly conducted rituals. Believe it or not, this tour is perfectly fine for inexperienced cavers, as long as they are in good physical condition.

Water Activities

You might already know about the Great Blue Hole, a widely photographed large submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. There are many tours that allow you to dive or fly over the hole.

But did you know that Belize boasts the world’s second-largest great barrier reef?!From any of the Cayes or Placencia, you can take a trip out to snorkel or scuba dive, and there is also a special tour to Shark Ray Alley that lets you swim with rays and sharks!

Mini Travel Guide: Belize // yesandyes.org

Must Eat in Belize

The culture in Belize is very diverse and so is the food! Coastal towns have more Kriol influence in their foods  and serve lots of fresh seafood. Try the lobster and if you’re adventurous, the conch and barracuda as well.

Inland, Belizean food is more Hispanic, serving staples like rice and beans with cochinita pibil (slow roasted pork) and empanadas. If you’d like to try something new, try the gibnut (a large rodent), cow foot soup, or bamboo chicken (which is actually iguana!)

Mini Travel Guide: Belize // yesandyes.org

Cultural Tips for Traveling in Belize

Belize is one of the only countries in Central America where English is widely spoken and U.S. dollars are openly accepted, making it an ideal destination for American tourists. That being said, there is also quite a bit of Spanish spoken throughout the country, especially as you head further inland. Most Belizeans are very friendly and will greet you with a smile. The country is also fairly safe, but I’d avoid Belize City.

Mini Travel Guide: Belize // yesandyes.org

Travel on the Cheap in Belize

Belize can be a relatively expensive country to visit, especially when compared to nearby Guatemala. You can save money by staying in budget hostels and buying your food at the farmers’ markets. Taxis can get expensive.  It’s much cheaper to take the public bus, but it will take you longer to reach your destination.  One the best ways to save money is to visit during Summer – the slow season.

Thanks so much for sharing, Suzi! I’m sure lots of you have been to Belize – what would you add to this list?

P.S. Mini Travel Guide: Portugal & How to live out of a suitcase glamorously

Photos: wikipedia  // Glen Murphy // Eric Pheterson // Larnie Fox // Drriss and Marrionn // Ian Morton

 

12 Comments

Cailee

As an archaeologist who specializes in cultural heritage management, PLEASE don’t encourage people to climb on ruins. It causes irreparable damage to the site and is often extremely unsafe.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Good point, Cailee! Just because we CAN climb on them doesn’t mean we SHOULD. 😉

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Suzi Pratt

Thanks for your comment, Cailee. To Sarah’s point, I agree that climbing ruins isn’t necessarily the best from a safety and archaeological standpoint, but it is something that the tour guides actively encourage in Belize. Maybe that’s something that will change in the future.

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Emily

Thanks for highlighting one of my favorite places in the world! 🙂 I would love to know why Suzi recommends against visiting Belize City. I’ve been to Belize many times and lived in San Ignacio for awhile, and I’ve never had a problem in Belize City. There are many historic and cultural sites to visit there, and in my experience it’s a city that comes with the dangers of most cities in the world. Although I’d recommend being aware of your surroundings and taking precautions (just as you would when visiting New York or London), I don’t think it’s fair to tell people to avoid Belize City altogether.

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Suzi Pratt

Fair point, Emily. I’ve been to Belize several times now and each time I’ve visited, the locals I stay with have advised against going to the city as many locals have had bad experiences there themselves. But you’re right that that is usually the case in most major cities. Perhaps one of these days I’ll finally venture into the city, but so far I’ve been inclined to listen to what the locals advise.

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Anna

I was in Caye Caulker for a few days in May, on a trip through Guatemala-Belize-Mexico. It was a perfect place for a tropical vacation – relatively quiet and inexpensive, amazing food, great snorkeling. I would especially recommend night snorkelling and going paddleboarding through the mangrove groves- there are tours for each. So excited to see it here and would love to go back to Belize!

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Autumn

Thanks for the guide! You mentioned working remotely – What are the internet speeds/ stability there? Would love to make it a future landing spot!

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Trevor Huxham

Some of my good friends from college went on their honeymoon to Placencia and they seemed to have a wonderful time there, but Belize had never been on my travel radar until you mentioned that people stop off in cities like San Ignacio on their way to the ruins of Tikal…in Guatemala! I had no idea they were so close to Belize (and so far away from Antigua, Guatemala). Great recommendations!

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Elvis

Thank u suzi for taking the time to let us of interest know what it’s like there i have been interested it Belize for some time but afraid to go, and to the people that can only find time to find fault in your post piss off bloody mates.

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Annette

I take off for belize this month and am staying in placencia for several days and then to corozol. Do you have any experiences there?

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