You can’t Belize how many things we accomplished in 7 days in the country. But Belize It, cause you can do it too.
Fun Facts about Belize:
- Friendliest country I’ve been to. 99% of people were friendly, except the idiots at the airport stores.
- Very proud and knowledgeable about the Mayan culture and where they come from.
- Very chill attitude. You better Belize It. It’s Unbelizeable.
- Makers of Belikin Beer. Though the same in size as U.S. beers, Belikin Beer bottles only have 7.5 ounces and Frankie couldn’t get over how heavy the bottle was. Although we didn’t, maybe you would choose to stop to do the Belikin Beer factory tour.
- Fyi, in case you don’t know: it’s NOT a luxury/spoiled vacation – no all-inclusive/pampering concepts…
- Which does not make it Amex friendly. Many places will tell you they don’t accept credit cards, but try asking again – they usually do.
- It’s a country full of hustlers. Men will almost always say yes to a job and look for ways to make money. Women’s #1 profession is typically home mom/wife; then attendants at bars, restaurants.
- The first half of December is an excellent time to Belize It because rainy season is over but not officially the peak of the season.
Major Places To Go:
When vacationing in Belize people typically go to one of the following places
- San Ignacio – where you experience town life, culture, and partake in activities and learn about Belize’s history. About 1.5/2 hr drive from the International Airport. We did not rent a car spending 4 days out there, but got a car to drive us there and back. All excursions we did included car rides or we bargained with cab drivers to take us to places, so a car would have been a lot of money to spend when we would have only used it maybe one day. Our hotel was also walk-able to town. Though we were happy not renting a car, know that if you do roads are pretty bad to many places you would want to go to, so 4-wheel drive SUV’s are definitely the better choice.
- Caye Ambergris or Caye Caulker – the islands, accessible by a water taxi, ferry, or airplane. 25-30 minute drive from the International Airport to Belize City (capital, more dangerous part of the country) where we hopped on a 1.25 hr water taxi to Caye Ambergris. Caye Ambergris is where you go to do more things, more restaurants, bars, activities. Caye Caulker is simply to relax and not do much of anything. Day trips can be made on the 25-30 minute water taxi from one island to the other.
- Placencia – southern Belize where the nicest beaches are. We didn’t go here so I can’t speak to it..
Activities in San Ignacio:
- ATM Caving– My favorite activity of the whole trip. I 100% recommend it, as do travel guides – a once in a lifetime experience. Do a 30 minute hike through a forest and rivers with a fast current. This leads you to a pool-like body of water you jump into before you walk into the cave. Walk around the cave for 2.5hrs in waist-to-neck deep water imagining what it was like when the Mayans came into the caves without flashlights (only torches) seeking water amidst their drought. They brought pots and other gifts deep into the cave and committed human sacrifice as a plea for water from the Gods. Also, if you’re like me- you’ll experience a Rose-Jack moment, except you’re in a cave instead of a boat.
- Tikal Mayan Ruins Day Trip– a full day trip (some recommend staying overnight to see the sunset/sunrise) to Guatemala to see the best ruins. About 2hrs on car one way and then walking through the 30% excavated Mayan ruins – 70% to go!!! The first time I ever walked through a place, especially their “plaza,” and imagined what it could be like to walk around there as a tribe.
- Saturday Market– From 6am-4pm where people go to stock up on their groceries, apparel, etc weekly. Really get a feel for how people live with DIY food stands.
- Waterfalls– use your car, or find someone (as we did) to drive you to Rio on Pools Waterfalls & Big Rock waterfalls. About 1.5 hr drive to the waterfalls. Pass by Francis Coppola’s hotel and his private runway (director of the Godfather movies). The two waterfalls are totally different, totally amazing. If you’re lucky you may have a totally secluded moment with your family, friends, loved one, and be at one with nature. Absolutely stunning.
Botanic Garden– you can go to the Botanic Garden or Chaa Creek, the latter of which we heard was better. We went to the Botanic Garden and got a one hour tour – it was beautiful, but not as expansive and educational as we hoped. I’ heard Chaa Creek’s medicinal trails are much bigger and better, so perhaps there’s more to take away if that’s of interest to you.
Other activities include cave tubing (though we hear it’s not worth it after ATM), zip-lining (read here when I did it in Costa Rica and was told it’s a lot better, and since I did it there I didn’t want to spend so much money doing it in Belize), the zoo (which is far less cage-like than the average zoo), and other ruins including Xunantunich/Cahal Pech if you want to stay local or Caracol. We heard Tikal was the biggest and best, but Caracol comes close and is in Belize, though also 1.5hrs away on a bumpy road.
I did a lot of research about which tour guide to go with, and we ultimately did all of our trips through Maximum’s Adventures. Frank and I still miss Max – he gives the best prices, and his tour guides were always very fun, knowledgeable, and easy to understand and we always rode in an SUV- you don’t want to be in a sedan. At the end of our 4 day stay, we considered him a friend and he took us to his home and we met his family and discussed ideas about future business plans. We wish him the best of luck and love his “hustle!”
Eateries/Bars in San Ignacio:
DO eat at Guava Limb Cafe (especially) and Pops for breakfast. Our favorite place for dinner was Fuego Bar and Grill, which was pricier but had delicious burgers. Ko-Ox Han Nah (Let’s Go Eat) is super touristy, but had huge portions and pretty good food. Martha’s restaurant had a cute atmosphere, but nothing to rave about. We didn’t try it, but I would try eating at the Saturday market at a DIY stand. Do not eat at Moms (great ceviche appetizer but very poor and bland rice & beans, and downright bad shrimp.)
We were told the best place in town to party was Thirsty Thursdays (outside – bar, dance floor, gazebo/patio) – followed up by the Casino across the street, which happened to be the most developed establishment we went to. Stopping at karaoke bars to hear the locals sing was also fun for us.
Activities in Caye Ambergris:
- Snorkeling & Scuba Diving– rated the 2nd best barrier reef in the world. If you’re here you have to try scuba diving and snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley (no teeth sharks) and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. We did both as part of a half day package with Scuba Steve (he gave us the best prices after some bargaining) and his guides are experts at calming people down (a la, me).
- Secret Beach via Golf Cart– when you’re on this island, you have to rent a golf cart (we did for 3 hours with Muncho’s, but you can do even more hours) just to take a ride along the island, stop at some other resorts to get a feel for the whole place, and if you’re feeling a bit dangerous, go to Secret Beach. It’s actually not dangerous unless you go when the sun is setting because it’s incredible confusing to get there with no signs and no street lamps, but it’s a secluded, magical place.
Eateries in Caye Ambergris:
We’re biased because we stayed here, but do eat at Ramon’s Village Resort. Every breakfast and dinner was unbelievably delicious, and the service was remarkable. I’d also recommend Fido’s, where the ceviche was outstanding. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the name, but the restaurant to the left of Lick’s had pretty delicious wraps for a quick(er) meal, and we frequently stopped at Chocolate Boutique for some chocolate dessert heaven. Our experience at Wild Mango’s both for their food and drinks was only ok, though we did love the setting. Same goes for Estel’s on the Beach (good breakfast, but again not worth raving about).
Belize It – Where we Stayed:
San Ignacio – Midas Hotel – probably one of the nicest hotels walkable from town (5-10 min walk). Close enough to town, but far enough so it doesn’t feel loud or crowded. Not fancy by ANY means whatsoever (by American standards), decent pool, and really nice people serving you. Although its definitely pricey for what you’re getting, I’d still recommend it. If you want to feel fancier, this isn’t for you, but you’ll also be paying to take cabs to town every day if you stay further from town.
Caye Ambergris – Ramon’s Village – definitely a great choice. We got upgraded to a jungle room which had a really cool feel to it. Service was impeccable. Definitely one of the nicest, if not THE nicest hotel that’s walkable to town. If you want fancier and more all-inclusive type (though quite secluded), you stay at hotels further up north.