Why You Should Visit Belize

Posted on Posted in north america, travel

Belize is a great place for culture, foodies, history buffs, divers, fishing, and beach lovers.

If any of those interest you, you should visit Belize (if you haven’t)!

And don’t forget that the weather is great almost all year round.

My time was limited, so below is a four day overview of my trip during the month of January.

 

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

San Ignacio

1) Horseback Riding Tour to Xunantunich

Rode on the horse through the farm and jungle for an hour at a slow pace. Our guide pointed out fruits, birds, and medicinal plants along the way. The weather was perfect and I felt so tranquil! I don’t know about you, but I LOVE riding horses!

Horseback Riding and Xunantunich tour in San Ignacio

 

Horseback riding in San IgnacioTo cross the river, you must go on the hand-operated ferry. Takes like 30-45 seconds to cross over.

 

Xunantunich ruinsXunantunich is one of several Mayan ruins in Belize. From the top of this structure (El Castillo), you can see Guatemala.

 

2) Chocolate Making Class by AJAW Chocolate (@cacaobelize)

I opted for the last demo of the day, which was 5 pm. This demonstration lasted 1 hour. It includes: an explanation of how cacao nibs are processed starting from the form of a fruit to the bean itself, grinding cacao nibs using a metate (see the first photo shown below), sampling of chocolate drinks (see the second photo below – different spices are added), how mass-produced chocolate is made, and so much more. I was the only one present, so I got to go at own my pace and ask many questions. At the end of the demo, you will receive leftover cacao paste to take home.

You can buy fermented or raw cacao nibs (I bought both). They also sell chocolate candy made from 100% cacao, which is sooooo good! No bitter taste. Nothing like Godiva or any popular chocolate candy. Taste much better, in my opinion.

With all that being said, I highly recommend going to this class, especially if you like dark chocolate or cacao. You won’t regret it!

Grinding Raw Cacao Nibs on metate

 Mayan Chocolate Drink

3) The People

Not just in San Ignacio, but in Caye Caulker as well. Belizeans are friendly, down-to-earth, and easy to talk to. They would greet me (good morning/good night) as I walked down the streets. And a lot of locals assumed I was Belizean.

Bullet Tree Rd in San Ignacio

 

Caye Caulker

1) The island itself!

Caye Caulker, BelizeWho doesn’t love white sand and pristine water? This is my favorite photo of Belize

 

2) Snorkeling at Caye Caulker Marine Reserve

I signed up for snorkeling with French Angel Expendition. But on the day of, because it was just two of us, we had to join Mario’s Tours. They had 8 people.

Frustrating experience at first, but it got better by the third stop. What was frustrating was there were 3 men on the boat and only one of them was the ‘assigned’ snorkeling instructor. Everyone, except for 2 of us, understood how to snorkel during the first stop and looked comfortable in open water. (FYI, I’m not a great swimmer.)

I struggled at stop 1 (shallow water) and got upset. The water was SALTY AS HELL. I couldn’t figure out how to breathe properly using the snorkel. My mask was initially fogging up. I felt so uncomfortable! The instructor tried to help, but to no avail. At stop 2, not much improvement. At stop 3, I nailed it somehow. I was comfortable with the snorkel underwater. Cannot explain how or why, but boy was I elated! From frustrating to incredible! I was amazed to see the live fishes and coral reef.

Stingray in Caye CaulkerYAY, Stingray!! (My GoPro stopped working so I don’t have any great underwater photos)

At Caye Caulker Marine Reserve

 

3) Cave tubing at Caves Branch Outpost (Nohoch Che’en Reserve)

Never gone tubing down a cave. I was super excited for this! This activity was arranged by French Angel Expendition. Our package included ziplining, lunch, and a tour guide. Our driver was waiting inland for us. He was also our tour guide. Awesome guy! The cave tubing experience felt therapeutic. Our tour guide did all the manual labor while we relaxed on the tubes. No swimming or kicking needed.

Nohoch Che'en (Caves Branch)

 

LODGING

Hostel/Hotel Recommendations: none

I did Airbnb. Click here for a discount.

For Caye Caulker, I highly recommend Picololo.

Why Picololo? Well, one, the hosts are great people (married couple)! Any help you need, they are willing to help. They have lived on the island for several years; so you can ask them just about anything you need to know about Caye Caulker. You will be picked up from the water taxi terminal and you are given a bicycle to get around the island. Clean unit, great Wi-Fi connectivity, equipped kitchen, and hot showers. Towels for the beach and shower are provided. Shampoo and conditioner are provided. You will quickly realize that the bike is a great convenience factor!

If you prefer hotels, book using this search tool below!


Booking.com

 

GETTING AROUND

    • From Belize City to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye:
      • There are two water taxi companies you can use: San Pedro Belize Express and Ocean Ferry. Belize City to Caye Caulker is a 45-minute ride.
      • You can fly via Maya Island Air
      • When you are on either island, you either walk, ride on a bicycle, or use a golf cart. No cars.
    • From Belize City to San Ignacio:
      • If you want a private shuttle, I recommend William’s Shuttle. I used them from the international airport (BZE) to San Ignacio. Fully air-conditioned van and free wifi in the car.
      • There are public buses or you can hitchhike.
    • Also, there are public buses to Mexico and Guatemala departing daily. I think it’s best to find a local who knows the exact times or figure it out when you arrive.
      • Click here for a general schedule of different bus times to various towns in Belize and outside of Belize. (Not frequently updated)

 

FOOD SCENE

San Ignacio

You have to try Stewed Gibnut! Gibnut is a rodent (sounds gross, but it’s not). It is also known as the ‘royal rat’ after the Queen of England ate it. If you eat meat, then trust me when I say it’s SCRUMPTIOUS! This meal came with rice, beans, potato salad, and fried plantain. Served at Benny’s Kitchen near Mopan River.Gibnut - dish from Belize

Other Recommended Restaurants: Ko ox Han nah, Cenaida’s

 

Caye Caulker

If you love seafood, Caye Caulker is perfect for you! Most restaurants serves fresh seafood. Shrimp, lobster, and a variety of local fish. Heads up, the sides are sometimes not the greatest.

Grilled Lobster at Rose's Grill & BarFreshly Grilled Lobster from Rose’s Grill & Bar. The sides were terrible.

Fried Conch at Belizean FlavaFried Conch (crispy brown thing) with 2 sides and an alcoholic drink at Belizean Flava

 

Make sure you look out for a black Belizean man selling Dukunu. It’s Belizean tamale. Taste nothing like Colombian or Mexican tamale. It’s great for vegans and vegetarians. No animal products used.

 

SAFETY

As a female solo traveler, I never once felt unsafe in San Ignacio or Caye Caulker.

As for Belize City, I did a little bit of walking on the outskirts of the water taxi terminal area. It doesn’t appear to be “sketchy” as most tourists and bloggers say it is. If by “sketchy,” people mean a place that feels creepy or unsafe, I did not feel unsafe or creeped out. I will say it isn’t a luxurious or visually stunning city by any means. I saw people who appear to be impoverished, but I’ve seen that in the United States.

 

GENERAL TIPS

    • Wear sunscreen, even if you are Black. From personal experience, I know I should wear sunscreen. My dilemma is I haven’t discovered a hypoallergenic sunscreen that leaves zero white residue; therefore, I went without sunscreen. Became darker and my skin started peeling 3 weeks later on my arms, face, and legs.
    • English, Kriol, and Spanish are some of the main languages spoken throughout Belize.
    • Currency rate: $1 = 2 Belizean dollars
    • Cards are accepted at some places, but I used mostly cash. ATMs are available. You can also use US dollars.
    • If you go cave tubing at Caves Branch Outpost, use a bug repellant. I left with bites all over and now I have scars. Also, there is cave tubing in San Ignacio, which is farther from Belize City.
    • If you traveling solo and interested in cave tubing, bear in mind that there is a two-person requirement. It is also dependent on weather. So if it rains, they will cancel.
    • For first-time snorkelers: There are too many tour operators to choose from in Caye Caulker. Trust me, I had a hard time picking one. I recommend a guy named Richard (his shop is located near the ferry dock). I did not use him, but he was patient with answering my 1,001 questions. Everything he said about the snorkeling experience with other vendors was 100% accurate. I chose not to go with him due to price.
    • If you are based in the US or use electronics with US plugs (2 prongs), you won’t need power adapters in Belize. All the devices I used were 2-pronged flat type plugs.
    • If you have extra time, visit Mexico and/or Guatemala. Belize is a good starting point to see other countries. Southwest Airlines flies non-stop from Houston.
    • WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
      • Spend a few more days in Belize and visit the Garifuna Community south of Belize City.
      • My goal for this trip was to see 3 countries. I later realized that it would have made sense to start my trip in Guatemala first or Mexico for easier travel.
      • Wear sunscreen!
      • Try the fishing and snorkel combo in Caye Caulker. Learning how to fish is one of my bucket list items.

 


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