Our newest Travel Designer, Lisa Ritz recently visited Belize and was kind enough to give us some great insight on things to do there.
Belize City – While few travelers stay in Belize City, it is a common starting point for many trips. Flights and water taxis out of Belize City usually stop operating at 4:30-5:00PM. Due to the schedules of connecting flights and water taxis, you may find that staying a night in Belize City is your best option. Some of the many tours available are: ATV trips through the rainforest, jungle cave tubing, and exploring the Maya Caves. These are great excursions for the adventurous travelers with a knack for hiking.
If you do spend the night, I recommend the Great House, a small hotel with only 16 rooms. It is a Belizean landmark preserved in its original 1927 colonial heritage style. Another recommendation would be the Best Western Biltmore, which offers a swimming pool and restaurant on property.
Ambergris Caye – You may travel here by plane or water taxi. I choose the water taxi due to a more convenient schedule and much cheaper price. It was a two hour ride with very beautiful waters and seating inside or out. Ambergris Caye is a popular destination and a very active island offering many excursions and a vibrant nightlife. You can always find something going on.
Another attraction is the barrier reef (the world's second largest!), located just off the coast. Explore the Blue Hole by diving or snorkeling. This particular excursion was an all-day tour with three stops along the edge of the Blue Hole. In all of my trips to the Caribbean, this experience was definitely one of the most beautiful. The immense depth, brilliant water clarity, and diverse sea life are unparalleled. I've never experienced anything quite like it.
For this leg of the trip, I stayed at the Victoria House. Hailed by locals and visitors alike as a stunning hotel, I was curious to see if Victoria House could live up to the hype. Guests can choose from private villas, casitas, and plantation rooms. There is a wide range of restaurants ranging from beach casual to romantic. Service and upkeep were outstanding. This turned out to be my favorite resort on the entire trip.
Next, I traveled by water taxi to Caye Caulker. This island is quite different from Ambergris Caye. Here, the way of life is set to a much slower pace. You're definitely on island time here! It is visited mostly by people doing day trips to this island. You arrive to a quiet welcome with just a few locals selling their wares. Taxis are actually golf carts ready to take you anywhere. Unless you have baggage, the island is completely walkable. There are three streets. Front Street offers many choices of restaurants. A must-see is Jolly Rogers. This “world famous” restaurant consist of two picnic tables under a tarp. The simple charm might be deceiving, but the food is unbelievably good! The daily catch is served with coconut rice and mashed potatoes. The night I ate there happened to be lobster night. Three lobster tails with sides for $12.00!
Front Street hosts many eateries with something for everyone. All offer fresh seafood, fruits, and breads. Main Street offers many shops with goods made by local crafters. Back Street gives you a view of the lifestyle of the locals. There was no pressure to buy anything; a very laid back community. This was by far my favorite island. It's less frequently traveled to and definitely a best kept secret. On Caye Caulker, I stayed a couple nights at the Iguana Reef Resort, which turned out to be the best resort on the island. It offered an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit and breads, swimming pool, and kayaks to explore the nearby inlets. The rooms are very comfortable and well decorated and maintained. I took the kayaks around the bend to a favorite island hangout, the Lazy Lizard. Billiken Beer was the local favorite, and soon became mine. They have seating right out front, in the ocean on picnic tables. The bartender was great and willing to run your orders out to the beach.
The island was split during a hurricane many years ago. The north island is not inhabited except for a few locals who choose to generate their own electricity to live there. They travel by kayak over, but bugs keep any visitor from wanting to explore extensively. A particularly annoying pest, the “no-see-ums” will ruin your vacation.
Next, I wanted to explore the city of Placencia. This part of Belize has generated a lot of buzz. With the addition of an international airport, large villa developments, and growing number of resorts, this will become a popular hot spot for tourists.
Getting there was not so easy from Caye Caulker. I took a flight (so I could experience their airport) to Belize City. After a 20-minute flight, I was able to walk to the airport from my hotel. Once in Belize City, I had to take a flight to Placencia. With my time constraints, this was the best option for me. The flight was short, maybe 40 minutes. The only alternative would have been to rent a car, which may work better for those weary of flying.
Placencia offers two great choices for honeymooners. The Turtle Inn and Roberts Grove. I found both equally nice, Turtle Inn the smaller of the two with 25 rooms. Roberts Grove has 52. Both are luxurious, but what surprised me the most was the beaches. Unlike the other two Cayes, this had a traditional type of beach. Caye Caulker and Ambergris had very short, small beaches, whereas these went for miles. It was easy to swim. The waters were smooth, which is typical for the region. Staying in Placencia was quiet and very peaceful, but there was not much to do outside your resort unless you take an excursion.
Being back on the mainland you have the options to do the jungle tours and Mayan tours along with the diving and snorkeling trips to the Mesoamerican barrier reef and Blue Hole.
I also traveled south a few miles by taxi to see the “Main Street” I had heard of. Named the shortest Main Street in the world, I wanted to see it. The street only allowed walking traffic, was about 2 feet wide, only a couple hundred feet long, and hosted a few souvenir shops. These where the only spots I found to buy souvenirs so I was glad I made the trip. Along Main Street there was several other choices for accommodations. Staying in the small resorts you had options to dine in one of several restaurants located on the beach. Everything within walking distance, but still a cab ride from the airport.
I did love both the Turtle Inn and Roberts Grove for honeymooners, but for vacationers, I would recommend Ambergris Caye. For those wanted to get away from it all, Caye Caulker is hard to beat.