Belize is somewhere special to us. On our first visit in 2011, we meet another couple traveling the world full-time, and it is them that planted the seed for us to quit our jobs and travel. Fast forward to 2013 where we became those people and in 2018 we’re still traveling full-time.
We began our trip around the world back in Belize, the birthplace of this crazy idea. Belize has a ton to offer and it’s our favorite country in Central America. The beaches in Belize will blow you away, as well as the snorkeling/diving. We put this together for a friend escaping the brutal winter weather in Wisconsin and thought it might be useful to others. Here’s a crash course to Belize!
Belize is a perfect destination for North American travelers during the winter months for a ton of reasons: It’s warm for starters, just offshore lies the 2nd largest reef system in the world along with a bunch of beautiful islands, on the other side of the country, is full of rainforest, and they even speak English! If you’re a beach you won’t be disappointed with the beaches in Belize. This small country, nestled under Mexico’s famous Yucatan, packs a lot of punch for its size. There is something for everyone beaches, jungle, relaxation, and plenty of adventure. It may only be a few hours away on a plane, but once you are there you will feel worlds away.
Related Article: Playa del Carmen Guide
Traveling To Belize:
Belize City is the capital and the transportation hub of the country. You will land here where there is a short and generally quick customs line. Right outside baggage claim, there is a taxi stand, the standard and fixed fee is 50 Belize dollars. There is not really any room for negotiation it’s a set rate to the ferry terminal or to the bus station.
Traveling Around Belize:
Air – If you have a limited amount of time, hands down the best means of getting from one area of the country to another is to fly. There are a few airlines running small prop planes to and from most of the main tourist areas, the most popular being Tropic Air. From Belize City (BZE) you can get to the most airports (listed below), flights departing from other smaller airports will likely end up back in BZE for a stopover.
Land Transport – Belize has several companies running services throughout the country using old retired US school buses for a few dollars per ride. If you are rich on time and short on money this is a good option, if time is the issue you may want more direct services. A full list of guides using bus transport can be found at the bottom of this post. If you ride these “Chicken Buses”, as they are called, there are actually chickens on them so don’t accidentally kill one, like I did!
Boat – Another good option is the public ferries, located at the public dock, have regular service to the islands of Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye, and other Belize destinations. The ride is easy and smooth because the reef keeps the water pretty flat, it can get a little bumpy during bad weather but nothing to worry about.
We have traveled to most of the main tourist areas and below is our take on them:
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels in the Belize check prices on Booking.com, we’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
The Belize Islands
Caye Caulker – Still one of our favorite places in the world. It has a very chill backpacker vibe, plenty of places to eat and drink. There is no beach here but the water is pretty and if sand isn’t a deal-breaker for you, it’s good here.
Caye Caulker Airbnb – There are several small guesthouses listed on Airbnb as well as luxury condos. New accommodation is constantly being added.
Airbnb first-timers, get $40 credit when you book your first trip! –>> sign up here!
Caye Caulker hotel prices range from $20 a night up to $200, and the budget guesthouses have pretty decent standards. There are no cars on the island, you can easily walk most places but bikes
Check Online Hotel Specials Booking.com
Caye Caulker Tips:
- Have drinks or lunch at the Lazy Lizard at the split – this is where back in the 60’s a hurricane ripped the island in two leaving pretty swirls of bright blue water between the now two islands. You will find a good percentage of the island’s small population here for sunset and happy hour.
- Rent a Bike – Cruise the sandy streets on a beach cruiser bike, it’s the best way to get around, bike are around $5 USD per day
- Do your reef tours here – Many of the main attractions on the Belize Barrier Reef are closest to Caye Caulker so save time on a boat and some money and sail from here and not Ambergris Caye. Day trip details below.
- Go Slow – This is the island’s motto, the locals will remind you if they see you in a hurry or cruising a bit too fast for their liking on your bike. Everyone is friendly and it just has a good vibe on the island.
Ambergris Caye – CNN has named this island the best island in the world in recent years, I think that more than a stretch. We preferred Caye Caulker to Ambergris Caye, but that being said there are much more accommodations and places to eat and drink on the bigger Ambergris Caye.
If you stay here I liked the area north of the main town better. The town is pretty busy and nothing really special. Most people rent a golf car a bomb around the island. There are a bunch of rental homes you can get for a week on websites like Airbnb.com (Click here for $40 off your booking). Golf carts aren’t cheap, expect $300 a week or $70 a day.
Check Online Hotel Specials Booking.com | TripAdvisor
Ambergris Cay tips:
- If you are there n a Thursday head down to Wahoo’s on the beach for chicken drop night, drinking gambling on chickens pooping, what a great time!
- Get drinks & a good meal a the Palapa Bar north of town. You can also sit in the inter-tubes in the sea to drink. Cool place with great views.
- Eat some Pupusas – They are a local stuffed tortilla and they’re good and cheap
The rest of the islands – There a ton of small islands with some places to stay, but generally they are harder to get to and usually have just a few boutique hotels. This would be a good option to escape it all and not see a whole lot of people. We personally haven’t ventured to these remote islands, but I am sure it would make for an interesting and different experience.
San Ignacio – Lots of people go to Belize for the water, but the inland side appeals to others. There are lots of San Ignacio Eco-lodges out this way with lots of actives on the properties like horseback riding, and all kinds of other nature stuff read more here. Most of the places here are a ton of acres and once you are here you are going to end up staying and eating here. A few things we did besides hike around and relax:
- Bug hunting
- Horseback riding in the jungle
San Ignacio Hotel Recommendations
- Ka’ana Resort Check Price Booking.com | TripAdvisor
- The Lodge At Chaa Creek Check Prices Booking.com | TripAdvisor
The Main Land Coast
Placencia – Our favorite of the mainland places in Belize is hands down Placencia. It has a nice beach with a good amount of beach bars and restaurants, plenty of places to stay and the fun atmosphere is what really won us over here.
The main reef is a little far away from here so if you want to do any day trips by the reef its best done from the islands in the north. There are some good day trips to go out to some tiny islands like 20 miles offshore super pretty, we went to the Silk Cayes. Lots of dive shop can arrange a trip out here for like $90usd per person. Includes snorkeling and lunch.
Placencia Hotel Recommendations
- Chabil Mar Check Prices Booking.com | TripAdvisor
Hopkins Village – We visited here last time and there just wasn’t enough there to tell anyone to go there. Maybe it’s better during the winter when more people are there but I’m not sure.
Hopkins Hotel Recommendations
- Hopkins Bay Belize Check Prices Booking.com | TripAdvisor
- Coconut Row Guesthouse Check Prices Booking.com | TripAdvisor
Punta Gorda – Is way far south and not a lot going on, it’s better up north if you only have a short time.
Belize Day Trips
Belize isn’t that big and no matter where you all go you can do just about any of these, but certain ones are easier to get to from some places and I listed that in each.
Cave Tubing Belize– Probably our favorite day trip in Belize was cave tubing, you float through really cool limestone caves (I don’t think they will let you have a tube with a beer cooler like summer in Wisconsin, well actually if you arranged it you probably could).
Related Article: Cave Tubing Belize
Mayan Ruins – There are a few Mayan sights on the mainland you can get to, we combined this with the tubing trip. None of the Belize sights are huge or regarded as major sites but still cool to see if you have never seen them.
Day Trip to Tikal from Belize – They run trips into Guatemala to see what most says is the biggest and best Mayan Ruins in the world. We didn’t go to this one cause we did a bunch of others. This is the shortest trip if you stay in the jungle area near San Ignacio.
Reef tours – If you end up on either Cay Caulker or Ambergris Caye (which you should, at least one) take a trip to shark ray alley. You can swim with big groups of nurse sharks and big rays. From Caye Caulker we used ragamuffin tours and they did a nice tour.
Cockscomb Basin Hikes – There are a bunch of different nature hikes located in the Stann’s Creek area of the country along with a jaguar preserve. Cockscomb Basin is best reached from Placencia, Hopkins, or other mainland towns south of Belize City.
Related Article: Cockscomb Basin Hike
The Blue Hole – This one sounds really cool but it really only looks cool from above. If you’re not an experienced diver I would give this one a miss, or get in a helicopter and fly over it, I am sure it would look cool from above.
Scuba Diving – You can do what they call discover scuba where you don’t need to be certified, a dive master will take you out diving. Belize has some amazing reef and really cool fish, still some of the best diving I have done. You should be able to get it for like $90 USD per person.
Related Article: Diving In Zanzibar
Relax with a Beer – There is no shortage of things to do in Belize, but there is some decent beer to drink too. Make sure to enjoy them in a hammock or at a good beach bar!
You can also fly into Cancun instead of Belize City, which is usually about half the cost. It would be a different kind of trip but you can reach Belize in about within a day from Cancun, but you could stop off in Tulum, Mexico another favorite place of ours or Playa del Carmen. Tulum is a beautiful beach with a fun little town with really good food. If that sounds interesting to you I could give some more details.
Related Article: Playa del Carmen Guide
If I only had a week to 10 days I would split my time between Caye Caulker and Placencia. If you are feeling ambitious I would maybe include either the jungle for a few nights or a few nights on Ambergris Caye.
If you just do the two, do your water activities from Caye Caulker and do the land stuff from Placencia.
If you are looking to save some cash and arrange your own budget transport I put together a series of guides to use the bus and boat system to travel around the country for just a few bucks.
Belize Budget Transport guides:
- Belize City Airport to San Ignacio by Bus
- San Ignacio to Hopkins Village Belize by Bus
- Hopkins Village to Placencia Belize by Bus
- Placencia to Punta Gorda Belize by Public Transport
- Placencia, Belize to Livingston, Guatemala by Public Transport
My first trip to Belize basically changed my life. It was here that Hannah and I came up with the idea to leave our normal lives and travel the world.