Destination: Belize

May 9, 2008 at 11:57 am 4 comments

I’ve been toying with some ideas about where to go to celebrate my birthday this year.  Although I have been focusing on Jamaica, I randomly decided to check out Belize.  It looks like an amazing place that I absolutely must add to my list of places I want to visit.


Images: Great Blue Hole from Neatorama via Jmdcpa, Barrier Reef from USC Sequence Stratigraphy, Mayan pyramid from Belize-PR.com, San Pedro from EscapeArtist.

Belize is an English (and Spanish) speaking Caribbean country in Central America.  It’s south of Mexico, east of Guatemala, and north of Honduras.  It’s home to thousands of Mayan temples, the longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, and rain forests galore.  In addition to the barrier reef, many of the islands off the coast of the mainland have their own coral reefs.  If you visit, be prepared for fantastic beauty, but be aware that it is still a developing country.  Water taxis and other public boats may not have sufficient safety equipment, diving equipment for rent may not be properly maintained, and the roads are really rough.  If you think about the fact that Belize has the population of a town in the US (less than 320,000), it really makes sense; it must be tough to run a country with so few citizens!

Of note: The CDC lists all of Belize except Belize City as a malaria risk and recommends an antimalarial drug.  Be prepared!

Getting There
The main airport is in Belize City, which is the largest in the country.  If you want to head for Ambergris Caye, a large barrier island in the north with some of the best diving/snorkeling, you have a couple of options – flying on a small airplane (~$100 each way, 20 mins) or take a water taxi (~$20, 1 hr) to San Pedro.  Check with your hotel about how to get from San Pedro to your final destination.  The options for other spots are similar.

Some cruise ships also call on Belize City.  Check out the Western Caribbean routes of Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America, and Norwegian.

What to Do/See
San Pedro, on Ambergis Caye, is the most popular tourist town.  There are, of course, shops, restaurants, and bars here.  They still have sand streets!  “Barefeet, tee-shirts, and shorts is the typical island dress code.” –AmbergrisCaye.com

The Barrier Reef is about half a mile off shore.  It’s actually a series of reefs.  Inside the reef, the water is shallow; outside, it is deep.  It looks like an amazing spot for both diving and snorkeling, with lots of fish, sharks, and rays to look for.  The reason people stay on Ambergris Caye is because that’s the closest populated area to the reef. 

Birding is apparently excellent in Belize, and Ambergris Caye is a good spot for this activity as well.  Wouldn’t you like to spot green-breasted mango hummingbirds or a yello-wbellied seedeater?

Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef, Belize: “The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off of the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 60 miles from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep. It was formed as a limestone cave system during the last ice age when sea levels were much lower. As the ocean began to rise again the caves flooded, and the roof collapsed.” – Wiki  It’s one of the most popular dive sites but it’s at least an hour boat ride from Caye Caulker.

Mayan pyramids – as mentioned above, there are thousands in Belize!  Wikitravel gives you the low-down on the most popular ones.  AmbergrisCaye.com provides info about how to see the ruins with Ambergris Caye as a base.

Where to Stay
Based on the TripAdvisor discussions and reviews I’ve read, Ramon’s (avg $197) and Victoria House (avg $347) have the best beaches.  Xanadu (avg $258) seems to be pretty popular, and Matachica (avg $603) must be fantastic.  I’d probably consider Belizean Shores (avg $161); it seems like a decent place in a great location.

Eating and Drinking
As with most Caribbean countries, the local fare is red beans and rice and chicken.  The rice is often made with coconut milk, so it may be sweet.  (Yum!  Just like my fav restaurant in Cary, Cool Runnings.)

“Citrus plantations are numerous, so fresh oranges and grapefruits are abundant. Pineapple, Papaya, Bannana and Plantain are also grown and sold in roadside markets.” –Wikitravel

Belikin is the national beer, with four varieties.  There are also a couple of rum distilleries – One Barrel Rum (molasses tasting) and Travelers Rum.  Local wines include cashew, ginger, sorrel, and blackberry.

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Entry filed under: Caribbean, Destinations.

TTT: Don’t carry your guidebook or… Coming soon…

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Destination: St. John « Feisty Tourist  |  July 24, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    […] posts in Caribbean series: Belize, Nassau, St. Thomas. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Destination: St. […]

    Reply
  • 2. Destination: St. Martin/Sint Maarten « Feisty Tourist  |  September 17, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    […] post continues my Caribbean destination mini-series (see Belize, Nassau, St. Thomas, St. John).  St. Martin/Sint Maarten is a brilliant choice for those of us […]

    Reply
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