Belize is one of my favorite places to visit. It’s easy to get to, there is no language barrier for us English-speaking folks, and it is absolutely not a tourist trap. We met up with our friends, Bill Green and Sharon Allison the 3rd day we were there.
The exchange rate at least during our trip was 2 Belize dollars to 1 USA dollar so you can get great bang for the buck. Be very careful as some vendors will try to take advantage of tourists and quote you in Belize currency but then swear they meant the quote was in US dollars. Tourist hotels are often quoted in US dollars so just make sure you understand up front.
How to get there and get around
A number of airlines fly directly from Atlanta, Houston and south Florida to Belize City. From there, you can take a taxi to downtown Belize. A water taxi from downtown near the swinging bridge will take you to Ambergris Caye and the other islands off the mainland. Belize is a perfect country to rent a car. The traffic is not that bad and it is easy to navigate. I would recommend a GPS although be very careful with the GPS and supplement it with a road map. The roads are changing rapidly and the GPS may not be up to date.
What to do…. (please select more to read on)
During our trip, we crammed in quite a bit of activity. We visited Belmopan to the west of Belize City. Spent a day and traveled north to Corozal and then on into Chetumal Mexico. After a 3 night stay in Belize City, we spent the rest of the time in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, an island just off the coast of Belize.
Here is a run down on what my wife Stephanie and I did on our 8 day trip to both the mainland of Belize and Ambergris Caye during late October and early November 2015.
- Belize City Waterfront – If you want to see the true Belize, spend a few days on the mainland before going out to the more traditional vacation spots of Ambergris Caye or the other islands. We stayed at the Chateau Caribbean on the waterfront near downtown and the swinging bridge. The Chateau (pronounced Shatoo by the locals) could be a fabulous hotel or Inn but sadly is very run down and in serious need of an overhaul. At times I was worried my leg might go through a soft spot in the floor. However, my wife Stephanie and I got a huge room probably 800 square feet for a 100 bucks a night that had a small balcony overlooking the waterfront. The waterfront has a nice walkway along the seawall that leads to some local restaurants. This turned out to be a decent location with plenty of room if nothing else.
- Cave Tubing and All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Trip – This turned out to be a lot of fun. For about $75 per person, we booked a trip down a river through limestone caverns. The caverns were fabulous and the guide was very good. We booked through Butts Up and thoroughly enjoyed it. The ATV could have been longer but was definitely something different. This is something that you would probably not see in the USA as the lawyers wouldn’t let their clients do it for liability reasons. On a number of occasion I thought my ATV would topple over due to the very rough terrain. It was a blast.
- Rental Car Road Trip – Stephanie and I love to rent a car and explore the countryside. We rented from Crystal Car Rental. This turned out to be a good experience. For a change, I did not feel like I was getting ripped off on the insurance. We got a full-sized SUV with insurance for about $100 a day. We drove west one day to Belmopan and north one day to the border with Mexico. We actually parked and crossed the border into Mexico and visited by taxi, the town of Chetumal. This was more trouble than it was worth as the customs and fees wore us out. Here is a photo of a restaurant where we ate in Chetumal, Mexico.
- Belize Zoo – For you animal lovers out there, the Belize Zoo is worth the trip. It is about an hour west of Belize City. It is a rehabilitation facility and they are all about humane treatment of local animals and releasing them back to the wild. The regulations in a place like Belize are not as Draconian as you often see in the USA and you actually get to see the animals up close. In fact, Stephanie almost got too close to a giant crocodile one time which she thought was a plastic crocodile. It was very real and opened his mouth about a foot and was about 8 feet away from her.
- Pyramids – We did not make it to see any ruins or pyramids on this trip but I have been to the Lamanai Pyramids before and it is worth the trip. Most tours will pick you up at your hotel or wherever you want. Tour ships arrange a mainland excursion for the trip. If you have a rental car, you can now drive to Lamanai but half the fun is a river trip that will take you close to the site and you walk in from there.
- Water Taxi to Ambergris Caye – You can take a water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye for $35 round trip (Belize Taxi schedule) The trip is about an hour and half or so and was a smooth ride there and back for us. The water taxi leaves from a location near the landmark swinging bridge in downtown Belize City.
- Exploring San Pedro, Ambergris Caye by Golf Car – San Pedro is a laid back beachfront town that is my kind of place. There are more golf cars than regular cars. The commercial part of town is dominated by beach bars, restaurants and retail shops. A golf car is the perfect way to get around, bar hop and explore the town.
- Fishing and Snorkeling – Ambergris Caye has live coral reefs and great fishing. The competition is fierce for fishing and snorkeling so take your time and negotiate the best deal. I usually don’t have the patience to fish, but when the snapper are biting like they were the day Bill Green and I went out, it is a blast! We took a 1/2 day combo fishing – snorkeling trip. We went to some shallow reefs a short distance offshore and snorkeled. The water was about chest deep in most areas. We had a great day fishing for snapper and viewing the fish around the reefs. We caught plenty of snapper and a lobster, enough to pay a local hole in the wall restaurant to cook our catch along with fresh vegetables we purchased at a small grocery store.
- Bars and Restaurants – We hit a lot of small family owned restaurants and bars and there are plenty to choose from. A larger one on a pier that goes out into the water named Wet Willy’s was my favorite. You can float around in the water on an inner tube and get served drinks during the day. They have small bands at night. The drinks are reasonably priced particularly the Rum. Alva’s is a dirt floor bar on the main strip that had good food and a lively atmosphere.
Local Palm Trees
During our 8 day trip, we toured a good bit of the central, western and northern part of the country so it was an action packed trip. Ambergris Caye was my favorite area. I think our timing was good as we had great weather and we missed the prime tourist season that tends to start in mid-November through the winter.
The next time we travel to Belize, we may visit the southern part of the country in the area of Placencia. This is supposed to be an up and coming area for getting away from it all and is lacking of tourists partly due to the fact that it is so hard to get to. There are no direct roads going south from Belize City.