Belize? Where is that?
Belize is a tiny nation with a remarkable variety of experiences. Climb a Mayan temple from ancient times. Investigate tunnels underground. Admire flora and birds of the jungle. Swim with vibrant fish and coral while snorkeling a beautiful barrier reef. When planning a trip to Belize, you’ll realize that there is something for everyone.
I think Belize is an excellent add on to a longer trip if you’re exploring Mexico and Guatemala (as my friend Expat Dragon and I were) but it can also work well for a short getaway from North America. The diversity of experiences that it has to offer makes it perfect for any duration of stay. And unlike neighbouring countries, Belize is relatively small so you can do/see a lot in a short amount of time. I have to say that Belize is overall one of the more expensive Central American destinations which is why I recommend a short amount of time there (unless you’re looking to go all out, in which case LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE!).
In this post I will outline details of where I stayed, what I did and what everything costs as of December 2022.
FIRST IT’S TIME FOR A BRIEF PPG (PANDA’S PROGRESSIVE GEOGRAPHY) LESSON!
Between 1500 BCE and 300 CE, the Maya civilization expanded into Belize and thrived there until around 1200. Christopher Columbus’ voyage around the Gulf of Honduras in 1492 marked the beginning of European interaction. English settlers first ventured out to explore Europe in 1638. Up until Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Saint. George’s Caye, both Spain and Britain claimed the territory (1798). It was established as a British colony called British Honduras in 1840, and in 1862 it was made a Crown colony. On September 21, 1981, it declared its independence from the United Kingdom. Only Belize has a monarchy as its head of state among all of Central America.
Belize borders Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the west and south. Though English is its official language, many speak Creole, Spanish, Maya, or Garifuna.
When should I visit?
Because it’s when everyone wants to travel, the best time to visit Belize is also the least convenient. This typically occurs from November to April, which is the nation’s dry season.
The tropical atmosphere and sea breezes of Belize will be at their best during this period. In fact, it doesn’t often get below 20 °C/68 °F!
What to do about money?
The local currency is Belize dollars. However, US dollars are also accepted as currency and both can be used interchangeably. Card payments were widely accepted all over Belize as well.
Visa information for Belize
South Africans can enter Belize visa free.
However, all other nationalities with a valid multi-entry Schengen, USA or Canadian tourist visa can enter Belize as well.
If this doesn’t apply to you, check this official website for the visa requirements when planning a trip to Belize.
How to get around Belize?
This was the biggest hassle for us as we were coming from Mexico and had no idea what the best transportation options were. We ended up booking expensive transfers through private companies. If I could do this trip again, I would rent a vehicle or at least start my trip in Belize City. In Belize City, you will find buses to the major towns in Belize. If you don’t drive, transportation will be your biggest expense in Belize. this is important to factor in when planning a trip to Belize.
Where to Stay in Belize?
We stayed at two places in Belize that I would recommend when planning a trip to Belize:
Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club
This is a beautiful resort owned and operated by Hilton. If you’re looking for luxury, this is it. With a private beach island and stunning colonial decor, this is a wonderful resort for families, friends and couples to enjoy.
Nestled within a forest, on the banks of the Macal river, this resort is a feast for the senses. There’s so many wildlife encounters one can have while simply eating breakfast or relaxing at your chalet. This is a very remote resort though so I would advise going all inclusive if you decide to stay here. I review it more fully on my Instagram.
Did you feel safe?
I think Belize is incredibly safe and solo female travellers would not have an issue with safety here as long as you keep your wits about you.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
Stop 1: Border Crossing between Chetumal, Mexico & Ambergris Caye, Belize
While most international travellers enter through the airport in Belize City, Expat Dragon and I visited Belize as part of a larger trip through Latin America so we entered through Ambegris Caye. We boarded a boat in Chetumal, Mexico and around 2 hours later, we were deposited on a dock in Belize.
It was a very smooth entry into Belize and once outside, we took a $10 taxi to our resort.
Stop 2: Organising our tours for the next day
We had a very good idea of what we wanted to do in Belize and so as soon as we could, we found a tour agency and booked our day trip for the next day. We did this through Mahogany Bay Tours.
Stop 3: Relaxing at the resort
Since we booked a beautiful resort, we spent the rest of the day enjoying it. Every 30 minutes, the resort offers a boat ride to their private beach island (which is in itself, the essence of paradise).
Stop 1: Caribbean Villa’s
Not wanting to have a generic hotel breakfast, we decided to take a walk and find somewhere open to eat a traditional Belizean breakfast. You can read more about everything that I ate in San Pedro, Belize in this blog post.
Stop 2: Snorkelling at Hol Chan
One of the best spots on earth to snorkel is Belize. The second-largest barrier reef in the world, located in Belize, is teeming with diverse corals and a wealth of marine life.
With that in mind, we booked our day out on the sea ready to see everythin the Caribbean sea had to offer.
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is without a doubt the best snorkeling location in Belize. It is home to many different marine species, including manatees, sea turtles, nurse sharks, stingrays, and eagle rays. While we didn’t see everything, we saw A LOT of different marine creatures.
Safety is key in Belize and our guide instructed us all to wear buoyancy belts (like life vests but they go around your waist) because the water was a bit choppy (he also wore one). He also stopped to explain as many creatures as possible which was no easy feat. I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend it!
While you are staying on Ambergris Caye, it is quite convenient to take a day excursion there because it is only a few kilometers from the coast (the boat ride was around 20 minutes).
Stop 2: Shark Ray Alley
Essentially, this site is man-made. In this spot, local fishermen used to clean their daily catches for years.
So, southern stingrays and nurse sharks started gathering in the region in search of scraps.
While most people opt to stay on board for this, I jumped right in and boom- a shark swam right into me (they’re quite clumsy!). Nurse sharks are quite harmless so I didn’t feel unsafe at all.
After these two stops- and around 4 hours in the sun- we headed back to the resort, absolutely exhausted and in time for a small siesta.
Cost: 67USD each.
Stop 3 :Renting a golf cart
After a rest stop at the resort, I recommend walking towards the town and renting a gold cart to do a bit of exploring. When planning a trip to Belize, I considered pre-booking one but am glad I didn’t. We rented one from Carts Belize. Booking in person gives you a 20% discount compared to booking online. Even if you only take the golf cart for 24 hours, it makes moving around very simple (all you need is a valid driver’s license).
Stop 4: Dinner
After a long day, you’re going to want something substantial for dinner. You can read more about everything that I ate in San Pedro, Belize in this blog post.
Stop 1: Breakfast at Estel’s Dine by the Sea
With eating being one of the highlights of visiting San Pedro in Belize, I strongly recommend you eat where the locals eat. For my full guide on where to eat on the island, click on my guide here.
Stop 2: Explore the town and do some shopping
If you didn’t already, make some time to explore San Pedro and support the local businesses. There are a lot of beautiful art and souvenirs to be purchased, not to mention Belizean chocolate and Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat Habanero Pepper Hot Sauce which make perfect gifts from friends and family.
Stop 3: Ferry to Belize City
Using San Pedro Belize Express, we booked tickets from San Pedro to Belize City. I would strongly recommend this company over others offering the same journey. Their boats were large, comfortable and they departed on time. After 1h30m, you’ll find yourself pulling into Belize City.
From here, we had booked a private transfer with William’s Shuttle Service to take us to our lodge in the jungle of San Ignacio. IF you have time and a day to spare in Belize City, I would compare transport options at the port (there are a few options for buses) and spend a day in the city. This might help you save some money.
Stop 4: Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge
This was an utterly beautiful eco-lodge which I think is worth the splurge.
We didn’t really have high hopes for the meals at Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge, but we were blown away by the excellence, freshness, and presentation of every dish and beverage. Given the lodge’s distant location, I would have chosen the all-inclusive package if I could. In addition you can view many different kinds of wildlife, relax amidst the jungle, or swim in the stunning infinity pool.
The next day we did nothing but mooch around at the resort. The resort has the option to go tubing on the river and go canoeing for no additional cost. Other than that, we spent the day at the pool overlooking the jungle.
On this day, we arranged a private transfer to take us to the Guatemala border. We paid 20 Belizean dollars as an exit tax at the border and continued our journey to Flores, Guatemala.
Belize is a small nation yet has a lot to offer. The second-largest coral reef in the world is located along the Caribbean shoreline, and its lush interior is covered in dense jungle. There are endless thrilling activities to do in Belize if you enjoy nature and adventure. The language, culture, and cuisine all reflect this, making it a true melting pot. Every traveler should include Belize on their bucket list because of its incredible natural beauty, unique culture, and cuisine, as well as its commitment to protecting its heritage and biodiversity.
My other Latin American blog posts are here:
Take a trip to El Salvador: A Hidden Gem
Planning a 7 day trip to Guatemala
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Have you visited Belize before? Or have I inspired you to start planning a trip to Belize? Let me know in the comments below!