COUNTRY VISITED #27
Belize is so colourful. This amazing place was one of the highlights from my Central American trip. It's completely different from it's neighbouring countries and goes to it's own beat. With green jungles inland and the Caribbean Sea on the coast, there's so many adventurous activities available, from night forest treks to swimming with sharks to diving the largest sea hole in the world. Although, there is something for every travel lover as relaxation can also be found here with endless hammock filled islands and laid back vibes. With thrilling activities, happiness expressed from locals and the 'go slow' motto on Caye Caulker, I found myself sinking into this country. It left me thinking, being beautifully taken aback by destinations like these, is what travelling is all about. Everyday was filled with magical memories, from the secret heaven of life on the islands, the stunning Barrier Reef waiting to be swam in, the exotic wildlife, the rasta locals that would chat to you as you walked by, the amazing cuisine plus how wild dolphins danced around our boat like they were putting on a show. I fell in love with this country and was only annoyed I'd never heard of it sooner.
WHERE TO GO
PLACES TO VISIT: BELIZE CITY - CAYE CAULKER - AMBERGRIS CAYE - TOBACCO CAYE - SAN IGNACIO - PLACENCIA - HOPKINS - DANGRIGA - ORANGE WALK
THINGS TO DO:
FALL IN LOVE WITH CAYE CAULKER:
'You better Belize it', this is one of my favourite islands in the world. Not only can you use it as your base to experience some of the best scuba-diving and snorkelling ever but the fun, chilled, reggae way of life here is intoxicating. The island is small but packed with life and beauty, plus you will see both locals and tourists are all out to have a good time. Wander through the bright coloured wooden houses and smile as natives driving golf caddies call out to each other or try to sell you something 'I have the sweetest coconuts in all of the island, just for you'. Watch golden sunsets as you feast on delicious food at the likes of Maggie's Kitchen or get street stalls to cook your fish you have caught for yourself on a fishing trip that day. Sunbathe and swim by 'The Split' or laze by Lazy Lizard with a bucket of Belikin beer's or float in a rubber dingy at Sip 'N' Dip. If only it was a little cheaper in Belize and I would of stayed forever. My days were spent either on a hammock or exploring the nearby waters and then fun, food-and-drink filled evenings at The Sports Bar & Grill. This island is the place to just go out, get a cocktail at Margarita Mike's and let your day unfold. I can almost guarantee you will return with awesome memories as well as funny stories.
STROLL AROUND BELIZE ZOO:
Around a 45 minute drive from Belize City, lies the lovely and unique Belize Zoo. The staff here are so helpful, there's even large lockers for your backpack if you're stopping on your way to Benque or San Ignacio. It's beautifully unique because the layout consists of lush green nature that makes it actually feel as though you are hiking through a jungle trail rather than a zoo. They also only keep native species such as, jaguars, howler monkeys, iguanas, ocelots, pumas, crocodiles, parrots, eagles and the national bird of Belize, toucans. The animals have lots of space and places to hide so it feels as though they're still in the wild. Plus the zoo tries to rehabilitate and release animals back to where they belong if they can. Throughout the zoo there's loads of interesting information as well as poems and creative writing about the wildlife.
SCUBA-DIVE THE BLUE HOLE:
The Great Blue Hole is a massive natural sinkhole in the Caribbean Sea, around 70km from the mainland. It lies at 124m deep and is almost perfectly circular. It's the most famous dive site in the country and has become one of the most sought after places to dive in the world. You must be at least Open Water Certified in order to scuba-dive this striking underwater cave but there's plenty of dive schools on Caye Caulker as well as other places in the country to get you qualified if you aren't. Beneath the water you have the chance to see reef sharks and bull sharks but the site is not known for experiencing an abundance of colourful marine life but more of the formations itself and how it is a natural wonder. There are also snorkelling trips offered to view the shallow waters and coral reef that surrounds the blue hole or for a better view of the sinkhole itself, there's helicopter trips available, but it will cost you, like many activities in Belize.
EXPLORE BELIZE BARRIER REEF:
However you explore it, either by diving or snorkelling, I guarantee you will not be disappointed! The second biggest barrier reef in the world, it was hands down the best place I've ever snorkelled (it was loads more rewarding than the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). Rich with colourful and diverse coral gardens, caves and sea life like turtles, eels, huge schools of fish plus 500 different species of fish! This place is incredible, I can't even describe how beautiful it was. Our full day snorkelling trip from Caye Caulker combined the Belize Barrier Reef, Hol Chan Marine Reserve including Shark Ray Alley, a ship wreck, feeding huge tarpon fish (where pelicans will be attracted to grab the fish for themselves) and seeing cute sea horses on the coast once we returned back to the island. Our day even ended with a group of wild dolphins circling and dancing around our boat, jumping out of the water. It was one of the best days of my life.
SNORKEL, DIVE & SWIM WITH AMAZING WILDLIFE:
From Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye, snorkel with huge Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve plus snorkel with dozens of reef sharks (including babies) and huge stingrays in Shark Ray Alley. Or why not dive with whale sharks at the Gladden Spit from Placencia or swim with manatees (sea cows) from Dangriga or the Cayes. There's so much underwater life that's waiting to be experienced.
VISIT IGUANAS AT THE 'GREEN IGUANA CONSERVATION PROJECT':
Within the beautiful San Ignacio Resort Hotel, you will find the amazing Green Iguana Conservation Project. Here you will learn all about the endangered species and how the project are trying to help them and raise awareness. You're allowed to get up close to the iguanas and even hold them. They're beautifully unique and friendly even though their claws can scratch a little! There was a wild one while we were there chilling on top of the enclosure and it was HUGE, more like a dragon - so cool.
EXPLORE CAVES, WATERFALLS & MAYAN RUINS
San Ignacio is the perfect place to use as your base to explore these kinds of sites. From canoeing throughout the Cayo District to viewing the Xanantunich or Caracol Maya Ruins, to experiencing the famous ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave Tour (it's pricey) or swimming and jumping off rocks at tropical waterfalls. San Ignacio has loads of day tours to choose from, you can do plenty different activities from horse-riding to kayaking to zip-lining! The centre of town itself is nice to walk around with nice shops and restaurants, definitely check out their local market. The town is really friendly, with lots of cheap places to eat and stay.
TAKE A TOUR OF THE FACTORY WHERE 'MARIE SHARP'S HOT SAUCE' IS MADE:
In Dangriga lies the factory where the amazing Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce is made. The world famous habanero sauce is loved by all and you will have surely seen it, heard of it or most likely drowned your food in it while travelling the country (I wished I had brought more home). It's tangy, spicy and delicious and you need to try it! At the factory, you can choose to buy from the full range of sauces on offer along with being shown around to learn about the production and industry by Marie Sharp's family members or if you're lucky enough, by the creator herself.
HIKE & EXPLORE THE LUSH 'COCKSCOMB BASIN WILDLIFE RESERVE':
From either Dangriga, Hopkins or Placencia, you can visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve and Sanctuary which is also the worlds only jaguar preserve. As well as a home to jaguars, it's where a vast amount of tropical plants, exotic birds as well as other mammals, reptiles and insects live. It's not only a great place to spend looking for wildlife, but also well loved to hike through and discover waterfalls, hills, viewpoints and prime Belizean jungle.
SEE MORE WILDLIFE AT 'RIO BRAVO FOREST RESERVE':
It may be harder to reach (and more expensive) than Cockscomb Basin but it's easier to spot wildlife at Rio Bravo Forest Reserve in the Orange Walk District of Belize. The country's largest conservation area (that borders with both Mexico and Guatemala) is home to around 400 bird species, 70 mammal species, 110 species of orchid and over 200 kinds of trees, making this a jungle playground and one of the most authentic places to see native wildlife and the wilderness of Belize day or night. You can visit the nature park for yourself through either the La Milpa Field Station or Hill Bank Field Station where lies the basic accommodation for your stay.
OVERALL COSTS: PRETTY EXPENSIVE (THE REAL ATTRACTION TO BELIZE IS WHAT YOU FIND AND GAIN WITHIN IT'S ACTIVITIES BOTH IN AND OUT OF THE WATER - IT DOESN'T HELP THEY'RE PRICEY)
DAILY BUDGET: BZ$130 (£50) (I SPENT MORE HERE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN CENTRAL AMERICA)
ACCOMMODATION COST: HOSTEL DORMITORY (START FROM AROUND BZ$25 £10 PER PERSON) HOSTEL PRIVATE ROOM (START FROM AROUND BZ$50 £18 PER ROOM) BUDGET GUESTHOUSE (START FROM AROUND BZ$50 £18) AIRBNB (STARTS FROM AROUND BZ$65 £25 FOR ENTIRE HOME) (STARTS FROM AROUND BZ$24 £9 FOR SHARED) (YOU CAN CAMP ON SOME PROPERTIES ON AIRBNB FOR AROUND BZ$15 £6)
Both in Caye Caulker and San Ignacio, I found a lot of the budget accommodation wasn't advertised, meaning the best way to find cheap digs is to just turn up and wander around once you're there.
Especially for female solo travellers and arriving at night, I'd always book at least one night stay when arriving somewhere new then find something cheaper if need be the next day on foot.
Prices found online are more expensive but trust me you can find cheaper places while you're there or even make a deal with the owner if you will be there a while.
TRANSPORT COST: TAXI BOAT FROM BELIZE CITY TO CAYE CAULKER (BELIZE EXPRESS WATER TAXI BZ$36 £13.50 (ONEWAY) BZ$56 £21 (RETURN)) TAXI CAR (START FROM AROUND BZ$10 £3.50) PUBLIC BUS (STARTS FROM BZ$2-3 £0.75-1.20)
The public buses in Belize are incredibly cheap and are the most cost effective way to get around the country. Small journeys start for as little as BZ$2 and a much longer trip would cost only you BZ$20.
Taxi prices are negotiated with the driver rather than a meter used. Taxi drivers will be willing to take you sight seeing for the day at a certain fee but I'd much more recommend going by public bus.
FOOD & ALCOHOL COST: BBQ FOOD (CHICKEN OR FISH W/RICE & BEANS & A SIDE BZ$15-25 £5.50-10) LOCAL RESTAURANT (START FROM AROUND BZ$9 £3.50 PER MEAL) TOURIST RESTAURANT (START FROM AROUND BZ$20-25 £7.50-10 PER MEAL) BEER (BZ$4 £1.50)
I spent a total of BZ$378 (£142) on food and alcohol while in Belize for a week.
The selection of food in Belize is amazing and so delicious! From Southern American to Mexican to Caribbean. It makes it really hard to save on money because it's just too good to not try out the different places to eat on offer.
We stayed at the Tropical Oasis Hostel in Caye Caulker which had a great communal kitchen! We ended up buying food in order to make breakfasts and sometimes lunch then eat out (and drink) for dinner. Belize is a fun place so you're going to spend money on booze!
Everywhere on the island sells delicious BBQ food like lobsters and jerk chicken served with rice & beans and also your choice of a side. It may seem expensive at times but when you think of what you're eating, how fresh it is and how it's such amazing quality, it's not expensive at all.
There's everything on sale in the grocery shops here from boxes of Cheesy Pasta to your favourite Chocolate bars (it's at a price, but still good to have familiarity and home comforts).
VISA REQUIREMENTS: MANY HAVE VISA FREE ACCESS TO TRAVEL BELIZE (I WAS ASKED QUITE A LOT OF QUESTIONS AT IMMIGRATION THOUGH) CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS
ONWARD TRAVEL: ONWARD TRAVEL ISN'T REQUIRED BUT THEY MAY ASK YOU AT THE AIRPORT/ON ARRIVAL WHEN YOU PLAN ON LEAVING
Water taxi's from Belize City to the main tourist islands run daily at multiple times with the last boat at 5.30pm. The boat terminal is around a 1km walk from the bus station and around a 25 minute drive from the airport. You can turn up on the day to book a ticket or online 24 hours in advance. Even if you have a ticket for a specific time, if there's large amount of people waiting to get onto the boat, it's usually whoever is in line first will get on and they will cut off at a certain point and you will automatically be put on the next boat.
Buses are by far the best and cheapest way to get around the country. There are a mixture of Express Buses that only stop at their terminal point or buses that will stop at desired locations on the way. To get to Belize Zoo from Belize City then onto San Ignacio for example, simply go to the bus station and get on a bus to Benque (not Express), tell the driver you're stopping at the zoo and they will collect your fair accordingly. Once you've been dropped off and visited the zoo, wait at the opposite side and flag down another bus to Benque then they will drop you off at San Ignacio if you wish which is nearby.
The public buses are cool and are like a step back in time as they are old school buses or blue bird buses from the States. Observe and enjoy the way of life of the locals that can be seen on the buses or scenes from the window. I always found the passengers really helpful and kind. In fact everyone was extremely friendly in Belize!
Unless you're coming from or going to the airport, there really is no need to use Taxi's. Our experience with one taxi we took in Belize City was kind of strange...
BOOKING ACTIVITIES: YOU CAN BOOK DAY TOURS EASILY FROM LOADS OF THE TRAVEL SHOPS FOUND THROUGHOUT TOURIST AREAS OR THROUGH THE HOSTEL/HOTEL NEAR THE SPECIFIC ACTIVITY
BEST TIME TO GO: ALL YEAR ROUND!
RECOMMEND GOING: FROM FEBRUARY TO APRIL
THEIR BUSIEST SEASON: FROM NOVEMBER TO MAY (A LOT OF TOURISTS FROM NORTH AMERICA ESCAPING WINTER)
HOTTEST MONTHS: MAY & JUNE
'RAINY SEASON': JULY-OCTOBER (IT DOESN'T RAIN FOR TOO LONG AT A TIME)
WHATEVER TIME YOU DECIDE TO GO, PLEASE BE CAREFUL OF BITING INSECTS AND WEAR REPELLENT! I HAD THE WORST BITES ON MY LEGS FROM MOSQUITOES AND SAND-FLIES I'VE EVER HAD ON MY TRAVELS!
DO'S & DON'TS:
DON'T: WORRY ABOUT THE PRICES & JUST ENJOY! - FLASH VALUABLES OR MONEY IN BELIZE CITY (THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE I FELT A LITTLE UNEASY) - GET INVOLVED WITH ANY DODGY DEALINGS OR SCAMS WITH THE LOCALS (LIKE PISSING THEM OFF OR OWNING MONEY), ESPECIALLY ON THE ISLANDS WHERE EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYONE
DO: WEAR INSECT REPELLENT - OR IF YOU HAVE BITES, BUY 'RAINFOREST REMEDY' AT THE PHARMACY - DO YOUR PART IN PRESERVING THE CURRENT WELL BEING OF THE NATURAL WONDERS OF THE COUNTRY
POLITE PHRASES: GO SLOW! - IF ONE CAN THEN 'TOUCAN' - YOU BETTER BELIZE IT - WHEN YOU'RE IN BELIZE YOU'RE AT EASE
MEMORABLE TO ME
DON'T MISS: ALL THE FOOD! ESPECIALLY MARIE SHARP'S FAMOUS HOT SAUCE - DIVING & SNORKELLING - BELIZE ZOO - THE CAYE'S - RUM IN YOUR FRESH COCONUTS!
MY HIGHLIGHTS: CAYE CAULKER - SEEING TOUCANS, WILD CATS, DOLPHINS, SHARKS, STINGRAYS, HUGE TURTLES & MORE! - THE GREEN IGUANA CONSERVATION PROJECT - WAY OF LIFE & INTERACTION WITH LOCALS
FAVOURITE FOOD: BBQ LOBSTER - JERK CHICKEN - STEW CHICKEN - RICE & BEANS - POTATO SALAD - COLESLAW - FRIED PLANTAIN - CARIBBEAN CURRIES - CHICKEN JALAPENO POPPERS - FRY JACKS - BOLLOS - MARIE SHARP'S HOT SAUCE
BEST PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES: BELIZE BARRIER REEF - HELICOPTER ABOVE THE BLUE HOLE - SHARK RAY ALLEY - HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE - GREEN IGUANA CONSERVATION PROJECT - BELIZE ZOO
MY POSTS ABOUT BELIZE
Arrive in Belize City and make your way to the boat terminal by walking 1km from the bus station or taking a taxi from the airport. I would pre-plan your route if walking by downloading MAPS.ME and looking it up on there. Buy your ticket to Caye Caulker and spend a few days falling in love with island. Scuba-dive, snorkel, relax by the Split, float on a dingy at Sip 'N' Dip, chill on a hammock, catch the sunset, 'go slow' and just eat and drink way too much. When you're ready take your return boat back to Belize City as early as you can and make your way to the bus station.
Find a bus heading for Dangriga and enjoy the scenic drive along the Hummingbird Highway. Once you've arrived, tour the factory where Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce was made (buy as much as you want while you're here because this is the cheapest place you will find the full range of sauces). Spend the night in town then catch the boat to Tobacco Caye in the morning. Spend some more time in island paradise! Life is cheaper here so fill up on more of your favourite food or just take it easy. This is a good time to read a book, swim in the blue waters and cut back on your daily budget. Next, hop on a boat back to Dangriga and get on a bus to Hopkins.
Spend some time in the cultural, coastal village taking in local life. Here you can spend a day exploring the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Once you've hiked through the lush jungle, swam in the waterfalls and seen some native species, it's time to get on another bus to Placencia.
Enjoy the stunning beaches and laid back tourist town. You can also dive with whale sharks from here at the Gladden Spit. You may find yourself in Placencia longer as planned - it really is something else. When you're ready, take a bus to San Ignacio passing through the capital, Belmopan.
Here you can enjoy a number of inland tours including horse riding, canoeing, Mayan sites, waterfalls or world famous caves. Take your pick! Make sure to stop by the Green Iguana Conservation Project in the San Ignacio Resort Hotel (beautiful) to get up close to iguanas!
On your bus back to Belize City, make time to stop off at the side of the road outside Belize Zoo - it will be one of the highlights of your trip! Either wait at the road for a bus to Belize City or spend a night at the Zoo's Jungle Resort.