A Guide to Belize
In a land where you can get from the warm Caribbean seas to rich jungle life in just a matter of hours, Belize is truly a powerhouse getaway for travelers. In my 10 day trip, I stayed in 4 different areas which was the perfect amount of time for a winter break trip.
The exchange rate is $2 BZ to $1 USD. This is a fixed rate so it will not change. Make sure you are paying the right amount because often times travelers get scammed by paying double the regular rate. All stores will take BZD or USD.
Tipping is usually 8-12%
The main language on the islands are Kriol (Belizian Creole) but surprisingly, everyone knew great English. Inland, it is Spanish and a little harder to get by only knowing English.
TO GET THERE: San Pedro is the main town on the island, although resorts and hotels wrap around the entire southern coast. From the Belize Airport, we took a $25USD cab to the ferry terminal. You can either take Belize Water Taxi or Ocean Ferry Belize both of which can be booked online!
TO STAY: While there are villas, resorts and hotels, we chose to stay at Sandbar Beachfront Hostel which was right near the town center and across from the iconic Palapa Bar . Although there ended up being a problem with our booking, the ladies at the front desk were able to help us sort out different accommodations just down the street at a new hotel called Tan's. I can't give that one as much credit... the shower had no door and the room smelled like cats. For that, I'll stick with Sandbar!
TO DO: As this is the most touristy of the cayes, it comes along with all sorts of tours and packages and deals. We did a half day snorkeling trip, which we booked through Sandbar. There are plenty of other places you can do it with and you can typically reserve it the day you get there! This should cost about $50 to take you to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley, and to see sea turtles! For $35 more, you can go see manatees and sea horses.
Additionally, you can rent golf carts for around $50 to check out beaches along Ambergris Caye. I highly suggest doing this! Riding out to Secret Beach and bar crawling our way back to San Pedro was one of the highlights of the trip. If you're feeling adventurous, there are plenty more day trips including scuba diving the Blue Hole, riding in helicopters, and skydiving. Be sure to set aside some time to wander the island and lay out in the sun :)
TO EAT: There are plenty of things to eat, but two I can suggest would be getting the lobster burrito from Waruguma and trying flapjacks or pupusas, which are both fried breads with filling! These can be found at most street vendors for only $1!
TO GET THERE: From San Pedro, we took another water taxi for about an hour and a half to Caye Caulker. Again, you can either take Belize Water Taxi or Ocean Ferry Belize both of which can be booked online!
TO STAY: Sticking with hostels, we chose Travellers Palm Hostel which was about a 15 minute walk from the docks. A bit far out, but it was nice being in a quiet corner on the other end of The Split (the rowdier end of the island). Travellers Palm was a bang for your buck and had a fun crowd and friendly environment. Most everything was clean but it was so hot out that our sheets were damp pretty much the whole time!
TO DO: This was a quieter island, however it didn't lack in activities. Just as Ambergris Caye, you can also rent golf carts, go snorkeling, etc. In fact, I actually recommend doing the snorkeling from Travellers Palm because it was both cheaper and included a fresh caught fish dinner afterwards with seafood from the excursion! During the daytime, check out Koko King beach which is a private beach and bar. The boat there is free if you buy $10 worth of drinks or food once you're there and takes off from the West side of the island. Ask anyone and they will point you in the right direction. Sunset is best viewed from The Split, and they have a great happy hour while you're there as well!
TO EAT: Pupusas, flapjacks, and street food. Weirdly, this island also had good, cheap chinese! If you're feeling fancy, I highly recommend Pasta per Caso. It is a tiny, Italian owned restaurant with only 2 items on the menu and boy is it amazing. Make a reservation a day or two in advance because there's only room for about 20 per night and it fills up fast! There weren't too many options, so I would say just wander around and you're sure to find something appetizing :)
TO DRINK: What we seemed to pick up from the locals was happy hour at The Split, pregame at Barrier Reef Sports Bar, and then the 10:30 crawl to the I and I Reggae Bar (beware, they start charging a $5 cover starting promptly at 11!). The island is plenty of fun, but somehow this ends up being the nightly route!
TO GET THERE: Back in Belize City, there is a small bus station. Although it looks like walking distance from the water taxi station, I would taxi. Belize City is very dangerous and it's easy to end up on the wrong sketchy street. From there, we used this site for reference and took the express bus towards Belmopan. The express bus is $12 and takes about 2 hours while the regular bus is $8 and takes 3.5.
TO STAY: For the first half of our stay, we decided to treat ourselves a little and stay in a lovely Airbnb right outside the city. It was nice to relax a little, cook our own food, and have a homey feel especially after traveling so far. After that, we headed further to sleep in a treehouse and get the jungle experience at Parrot Nest Lodge. I would only suggest if you are okay with interacting with some bugs for a night or two..! The owners were helpful, food was great and the lodge even had free tubing down the nearby river! We took the 2 lodge dogs with us and they had a blast!
TO DO: San Ignacio is budding with Mayan ruins and wildlife within reach. We were only there for a short time, but made it to Xuantanich where we explored the site and saw multiple howler and spider monkeys on the way! If you have time, you can drive about an hour over to Guatemala and see Tikal, which is one of the biggest Mayan sites. The great thing about Belize is that it is pretty accessible to other countries, so even Cancun and Playa del Carmen are paths you can carry on to next! Other things we did were visit the markets in San Ignacio for fresh produce and play with Iguanas at the Belize Iguana Project! By going, you support the safe removal and rehabilitation of reptiles that are injured from trees, people, and birth defects.
TO EAT: To save money, we mostly made our own food in San Ignacio! As stated before, we went to the market in the town which is usually open all Saturday and Sunday and cooked garlic rice, veggie stir fry, and noodles.
In 10 days, we saw a lot but there is so much more I can't wait to see one day. For a country which is 80% of government protected rainforests, home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, and a mix of island and Spanish cultures, there is no reason not to