3 Things To Know Before Going To Belize
Belize is that English speaking gem of a country in Central America bordering Mexico and Guatemala. Its flavor is laid-back Caribbean mixed with jungle paradise and ancient Maya culture. Its people are warm and friendly and its scenery some of the most jaw-dropping in all of Central America. Mountains, jungle, turquoise waters and Mayan ruins make for a spectacular country with enough natural beauty and cultural richness to intoxicate your wanderlust for years.
It’s hard to believe but Belize was once home to two million Maya people, making this beautiful country the epicenter for Mayan cultural life. Lucky for us, this advanced civilization left us with hundreds of ruins to explore to our heart’s content. Some of the most popular Mayan sites are: Xunantunich, Belize’s 2nd tallest ruin and a site with over 25 temples and plazas.
Another famous one is Altun Ha, situated 30 miles north of Belize City. It houses the jade head, which represents the Sun God, Kinich Ahua - a notable find - being the largest jade object of the Maya people. The last ruin we’ll touch upon here is Caracol, found inside the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. A little harrying to get to but well-worth the visit, the site is astounding and the scenery lush and luminous. It was once the great city of the Maya and the temple complex is an ancient 1200 years old.
When you’ve seen enough Mayan ruins, take to the beach. Belize has some of the most lovely beaches in the region. Notable beaches are found on Ambergris Caye, Half-Moon Caye, South Water Caye, Sapodilla Caye, Southwest Caye, Laughingbird Caye, Silk Caye, and along the Placencia Peninsula as well as on Hopkins Village Beach. Some of these beaches are found on islands off the beaten path so you have to take a boat to get there. But, once you’re there you can settle in for a long, long time. Divers and snorkelers will think they’ve died and gone to heaven.
Diving & Snorkeling
Belize is known for its MesoAmerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It runs the entire length of Belize’s coastline and continues to amaze divers and snorkelers day after day. The spectacular Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau, is a submarine sinkhole formed during many episodes of quaternary glaciation during a time when sea levels were lower. It’s one of the world’s top scuba diving sites, and also considered a World Heritage Site.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve is found on Ambergris Caye. You aren’t likely to see jaguars here but you will see birds and other wildlife. The areas is home to over 300 bird species. In June and July (rainy season), you’ll have a better chance of seeing more wildlife, while the best time for migratory birds is in December. For avid hikers, there’s a 7-hour tour which takes you on trails all throughout the sanctuary. Breakfast, lunch, a jeep tour and ample waterfall swimming opportunities are part of the package so don’t forget your swim suit!
For an introduction into Garifuna culture, travel to Hopkins Village, a Garifuna fishing village on the Caribbean. Lovely beachfront apartment rentals can be had for less than $100 per night. The Garifunas speak an AmerIndian language and their ancestral roots come from the Ashanti, Yoruba and Ibo tribes of West Africa. Music, dance, plays, poetry, storytelling and shamanic healing are all intriguing aspects of their rich cultural tradition.
Placencia is one of Belize’s most beloved villages. With miles of relaxed coastline, laid-back bars and restaurants, may expats have made a permanent home here in Placencia. It’s also easily accessible - a Caye you can actually drive to. This place is developed though, so if you’re looking for a quieter experience there are other Cayes to explore. For honeymooners, Placencia abounds with deluxe accommodation and fine dining. Check out the Chabil Mar Resort, a boutique resort perfect for a honeymoon. The resort boasts a long stretch of private beachfront property, two infinity pools, tropical gardens, and luxurious rooms with classic island decor - the theme here is barefoot luxury.
Hotels & Dining
Another swanky resort, located 5 miles north of San Pedro, in Ambergris Caye, the Matachica is equally perfect for honeymooners and elite travelers. The resort has 26 little villas decorated with unique artwork from around the world. The private villas are nestled on a secluded sandy beach, and offer all the tropical seclusion needed for a romantic getaway.
Dining in Belize is all about beer and a very fresh meal. There’s no fast food and you might want to be prepared to wait - because food is made-to-order and it is served fresh. Tacos, garnaches, salbutes, panades - these are local specialties you can get on the cheap. The locals eat in little hole-in-the-wall places where the food is fresh and local. For a more formal dining experience, resorts offer multi-course meals and wine-pairings. Shopping at the local markets and putting together your own feast is always fun, too.
Whatever tropical experience suits your wanderlust, Belize is sure to have it. This is a country worth a visit. Thousands of expats call it home. For an unforgettable Central American vacation, Belize is the perfect destination.
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