Belize has always been one of the countries Yesha in particular has looked up. There are various reasons for it. Firstly, it is home to the second largest reef in the world after great barrier reef in Australia. (We celebrated our honeymoon in Australia/Fiji & had some amazing ocean diving 🙂 ) Secondly, it has some amazing wildlife and offers some incredible hidden adventures. Thirdly, Belizean cuisine benefits from both Mexican and Caribbean influence, being the only country to be part of central America and considered Caribbean. So when we found a super good deal to fly down to Belize, we just went for it on a short notice.
Most tourists coming to Belize stay in one of the beach destinations. Since we made a slightly bigger vacation of about 8 nights in Belize, We decided to split our stay in 3 different properties in the country, all in different locations, offering unique experiences. Note that while travelling US dollar is mostly accepted in most locations and typically 1 USD= 2 BZD.
Flying into Belize usually requires a 1 stop flight from Seattle/west coast but luckily Alaska now operates a direct fight in winter to Belize city. We flew down on Alaska Airlines for a little over 5.5 hours and reached around 5 PM. Once at airport, our driver picked us up and we drove straight to Ka’ana resort which was our first destination near the town of San Ignacio. The drive from the airport to resort is about 3 hours and we were excited to find some roadside coconuts on the way. 🙂 People usually sell them in plastic bottles or small packets but they were really good in taste and perfect to recharge. Once at resort we decided to take it easy and rest after a long flight. The resort has some excellent food choices and local chef made some delicious meals for us.
The next day we explored the ATM cave tours with all tours booked beforehand by CuriocityHolidays . This was a thrilling adventure to say the least. Our guide picked us up at the resort and we drove for about an hour to get to the caves. On the way you will find plenty of green plantation and farms ( mostly tropical fruits, coffee etc). Once at the caves, our guide provided us with the gear for the exploration( helmets are a must and lifejacket if needed). We started our tour by crossing a big river which was surprisingly cold! Luckily the toughest of the crossings was the first one and there are 2 more that follow. Apart from that the trail is pretty wide and easy to walk on.
Once we got to the end of the trail, the guide asked us to jump in the water in the cave and what followed was a 2 hour magical exploration in the cave. We saw limestones, local fishes, bats, Mayan ruins , human remains all while narrowly moving in the cave. Note that use of cameras or cell phones in the caves is strictly prohibited so we are using the images as provided online.
After the expedition was over, we were provided some nice lunch and then we headed back to the resort. Once back in resort, we relaxed in our room which had a pretty amazing tub and outdoor shower. Walking along the trails in the resort we also saw many trees, and found our favorite place in the garden which had a swing between the trees. The dinner at the resort was excellent again and the server also lit up the fire for us and we tried some locally made marshmallow.
The next day in morning we explored Xunantunich Mayan Pyramid which was a sight to behold in the morning. It was interesting to see the way locals have set up the ferry system to get to the site. One trick is to get there early to avoid the crowds and have the place to yourself. We literally were the first ones to enter the Pyramids and it felt so peaceful and gigantic. We walked around admiring the ancient Mayan archaeological site. By the time we were leaving, we could see crowd getting built up. It can get very hot in the day here!
The next 4 days we spent in the San Pedro which is a beach town about 1.5 hours from Belize city. To get here from Ka’ana, we first had to drive all the way to Belize city , about 3 hour drive and then take a ferry to San Pedro. While you can purchase ferry tickets in advance, it is not compulsory. The ferry ride was very convenient and we could already see some amazing colors in the ocean which reminded us of Maldives. The boat first makes a stop at Caye Caulker ( another popular beach town) and then to San Pedro. Once in San Pedro, we rented a golf car, as that’s the only way you can get around in the island and checked in to our hotel. We stayed in Alaia resort, which is a new property and part of Marriott International group. We took a sea facing room and the hotel staff surprised us with a frame of destinuts pictures and some welcome fruits.
Since it was already getting dark when we arrived, we decided to make a quick dash to catch the sunset at the famous secret beach. We were lucky to catch some amazing colors on the sunset but beware of the mosquitos as they can be nasty here. We drove back to the hotel after that and grabbed dinner at the local food truck assembly right outside the town. The place is quite cozy and usually has some or the other things planned for every night. We enjoyed some live music from a local band while munching on our dinner.
Our second day in San Pedro, we took a snorkeling tour with a local company which probably was the highlight of the country for us. The tour started right from our hotel and we had a relatively small group with us on the boat. The tour took us to a local spot which is famous for snorkeling and diving. Since I am not a good swimmer, I was a bit skeptical at first but the guide was very friendly and made me comfortable.
Once in the water, we saw so many kinds of fishes & reef. The highlight probably were the turtles and the eagle rays. Yesha would tell me later on that this was her best underwater experience in a long time and probably even better than what she did in Bali, Australia and for what we saw, it truly was enchanting. On our way back, we also some underground tunnels and even spotted a nerve shark sleeping which made me panic just a bit, but it was all just beautiful. After a small break on the boat, we made our way for the second spot where we saw 10s of nerve sharks as they all waited for some free meal from our guide. This is certainly not the fainthearted and while I decided to skip swimming with the sharks, Yesha did jump in the water and watched the show up close. I was a bit scared for a moment as I saw some really big sharks but apparently nerve sharks don’t bother humans much. The guide did tell swimmers to stay away from their mouth as they may think one is stealing their food and may react.
Once back in the resort we refreshed and relaxed in the afternoon as it was quite hot. In the evening we went out for dinner at the Pure Boutique which servs some delicious tacos and Mexican bowl. It also rained really hard while we were here which reminded us of rains in Mumbai.
Next morning, we drove to Secret beach once again to break away from the crowds and found a pretty escape at the Bamboo Fence swing bar and Bay-youu. Both these places have water tables so you can literally sit in the ocean and grab a meal or sip your favorite cocktail. This was a very relaxing experience for us as we simply laid down doing nothing and marveled at the turquoise blue water from our swing/table/hammock.
On our way back to resort, we explored the little town of San Pedro and once back loved the Pizza we had at Alaia resort’s Italian restaurant called “Deck” by the beach. The sunset at the vista rooftop bar was the perfect way to end our evening. There’s even a swimming pool up there and colors at sunset are quite stunning.
On our last day in San Pedro, we decided to take the ferry down the Caye Caulker town and explore that. It takes about 30 mins to take the ferry and it is recommended to get round trip tickets to save on price. Unlike San Pedro, Caye Caulker is actually quite small and you can walk from one end of the island to the other in about 20 mins by foot. We first quickly went to see some Seahorses, Pelicans who can be easily spotted by the beach. One can also spot stingray by the evening as they are a common visitor. We also went down to the tapron feeding deck where one can feed to the fishes and there are 100’s of tarpon looking for food.
We grabbed some quick meal at one of the local cafes and walked around the town to get to the Split which is home to a dozen of bars/restaurants playing nice music. The water color here is incredible and we decided to soak in the view at one of the local place called “Ice & Beans cafe” which had really good swings/hammocks & served some excellent cocktails.
Our last destination of the trip was Chan Chich lodge (Chan Chich stands for little bird) which was in the middle of the jungle and very close to the Guatemala border. To get to the lodge, we first took a short 20 min flight from San Pedro to Corozal via tropic air which was quite scenic and then road transfer for another 3 hours. Note the last 36 miles of this drive is on dirt road in the jungle so its better to take a tour guide versus driving yourself. You can also fly in with a charter flight to a local airport called Gallonjug but that can be expensive. The lodge itself is spread on 3000 acre property/farm and is home to the famous Jaguars which are often spotted in the lodge.
There are various trails in the lodge if one wishes to walk or biking trails and one can choose from various activities at the lodge. We decided to take on a couple of these activities during our stay. On our first night, we did the night safari where the local guide took us for some wildlife viewing during the night in a pretty amazing jeep ( they actually imported these from South Africa). We saw different birds, deer and nocturnal animals during the safari. It rained really hard this day and that limited some of our visibility.
The next day was much sunnier and we enjoyed the morning bird watching and we even got up to howling monkeys. We were pleasantly surprised to spot some toucans which reminded us our CostaRica/Peru trips earlier in the year. We also saw spider monkey jump across trees and while we couldn’t watch howling monkeys, they certainly woke us up early with their loud noise.
On the other day at the resort, we did a farm tour where we saw the local coffee plantation and visited the fruit & vegetable farms. We also visited the factory where the lodge produces some local sauces made with mango to be sold to different markets. In the afternoon, we did another safari and explored a local lagoon which can also be home to colorful sunsets. We made use of the local bikes at the lodge and explored the neighboring trails.
In a usual setting we would have flown back from Belize city back to Seattle, but we extended our stay and visited Mexico instead. To get to Mexico, we crossed the land border at corozal-chetumal and it was quite frictionless. Our guide made sure we clear the border comfortably and local patrolling folks were quite understanding.
Looking back though, Belize has been quite an eventful adventure where we enjoyed different kind of experiences, from ocean dives to jungle safaris to cave exploration, Belize has a ton to offer and should be on evert traveler’s list.