Written by Bradley Norman
If you are looking for a place to relax but also want to enjoy the outdoors, Belize is the place for you! Located south of Mexico and east of Guatemala in Central America, Belize is a hidden gem. Just a short flight from the United States and with the national language being English, it made the trip less stressful and easy to plan.
We had the opportunity to visit Belize in late May, staying in San Ignacio for three days and San Pedro for four days. San Ignacio is a small town on the west side of Belize and borders Guatemala. This is the perfect place to explore the jungles and caves of Belize, as well as the ancient Mayan ruins. Although there are many Mayan ruins to choose from, we took a guided tour of Xunantunich and were not disappointed. We climbed the El Castillo temple which is the second tallest structure in Belize and took photos of the breathtaking views at the top. Xunantunich is also home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including spider monkeys and exotic birds like toucans.
While in San Ignacio, we also went cave tubing at Jaguar Paw which was an incredible experience. The most popular cave in the area, known as Actun Tunichil Muknal (or ATM as it is called), is supposed to be one of the greatest caves to experience on the planet. Unfortunately, the park only allows a certain amount of people to visit the site per day so you should book well in advance. If you aren’t able to get into ATM, have no worries because Jaguar Paw is an experience you will never forget.
To get from San Igancio to San Pedro, which is on the east coast of the country, we used William Shuttle Service to the Belize City Municipal Airport. This is a smaller airport where the prices tend to be cheaper. From there, we boarded a small regional flight to San Pedro that took about 15 minutes. If you are traveling on a tighter budget, you can also take a water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro and this will take about 2 hours. I highly recommend taking the flight at least one way because the views from the plane are nothing like anything I have ever seen.
Once we landed in San Pedro, we took a short shuttle to our hotel, Victoria House. The hotel staff were extremely friendly and even upgraded us from a bungalow to a villa free of charge. I can honestly say Victoria House is one of the nicest resorts I have ever stayed. Our back porch was steps from the white sands of the resort’s private beach. Pure Paradise!
During our stay, the staff at Victoria House were able to arrange all our activities including snorkeling, a catamaran sunset sail, dinner reservations at the best restaurants in town and golf cart rentals so we could explore the island on our own.
Snorkeling or diving is a must while in Belize as they have one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. If you are an experienced diver, you will want to head to the famous Great Blue Hole which is a giant marine sinkhole and considered one of the largest of its kind at 318m across and 128m deep. If you aren’t an experienced diver like us, then the Belize barrier reef features many other great spots for snorkeling or diving right off the coast. We arranged a trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley where we had the opportunity to swim with stingrays, barracudas, sea turtles, and even nurse sharks! Who would have thought that these would all be such friendly creatures?
The catamaran sunset sail was another fantastic experience. Even with the cloudy weather, the views were still beautiful, and we also got to see some dolphins. The staff on board provided us with unlimited drinks and snacks and were very friendly and funny. We shared the catamaran cruise with a few other people from different countries and enjoyed sharing our own experiences and recommendations in Belize.
Although shuttle service into town is cheap and easy, I highly recommend renting a golf cart so you can explore more of the island. We rented a golf cart for one day and drove to a place called Secret Beach on the west side of the island. Don’t let the name fool you, it is no secret and you should be able to find it easily as there are signs located everywhere. It took us about an hour from our resort but was completely worth it. If you decide to visit Secret Beach, you should go to the Blue Bayou Bar and Restaurant. They have a great setup and will actually serve you food and drinks to your table in the water. They also offer tubes, kayaks and paddleboards for you to rent. It is more secluded and is much more reasonably priced than the other restaurants and bars at Secret Beach.
Finally, while visiting San Pedro, you HAVE to participate in the famous chicken drop at Wahoo’s Lounge. The chicken drop is a game in which a chicken is placed on a large board with blocks numbered from 1-100. You can buy blocks of numbers, and if the chicken makes a dropping on your number, you win. Fortunately, we won the first round and made $100 cash! It was a hilarious and fun experience; one we certainly won’t ever forget.
Overall, I can’t recommend taking a trip to Belize enough. There are so many positive things that separate Belize from the rest of the Caribbean and Central America, and it was the perfect vacation to relax but also have a taste of adventure. I can honestly say it was the greatest vacation of my life and I plan to go back next year.
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