I’ve been so excited to write this trip blog to try to capture my three trips to Belize. If you take only one thing away from this blog, let it be to go to Caye Caulker. Since I have been to Belize three times, this is a combination of tips and suggestions from all my trips although I do need to put the disclaimer out that despite being there three times, I have not fully explored the entire country. The majority of my time has been spent on Caye Caulker. It is incredibly difficult to go anywhere else after a night on this magical island! People always ask me my favourite place I’ve been in the world and it is difficult to name just one, but Belize is definitely in my top 5.
2013-2014 (over New Years) – Placencia, San Pedro, Caye Caulker and then travelled up to Mexico via the water taxi to Chetumal.
2012 – Belize City, Caye Caulker from Tikal, Guatemala
2010 – Caye Caulker from Playa del Carmen, Mexico and back.
Go: If you love fried chicken, snorkelling with nurse sharks and sting rays, sunny weather, sand between your toes (and everywhere else) and Caribbean vibes.
Don’t Go: If you want your fried chicken from a North American chain, if you prefer to rely on a vehicle over walking or biking, or if you prefer hiking mountains over water activities.
– Bikini and flip flops. You really don’t need much else.
Belize is much cheaper than North America, especially for accommodations and food. It is quite a bit more expensive than Belize’s Central American neighbours and they use the US dollar so for us Canadians whose dollar can have a volatile relationship against the US dollar, this can make things even more expensive.
Belize is a small country. If you have more than a week or two consider doing a multi city itinerary and flying into Guatemala City to check out Antigua and Tikal (Mayan Ruins) or flying into Cancun and checking out Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen and Tulum (Mayan ruins) on your way down to Belize. Although it looks close to Honduras on the map, now is not the best time to be crossing a border into Honduras – keep an eye on current events and check Honduras out when it is no longer amongst the most dangerous countries in the world to visit. I still love Honduras though – blog to follow on my trips there.
Itinerary Suggestions for Belize:
Belize City – you will likely fly into Belize City. Unless you arrive late at night, there is no reason to stay here. On cruise ship days the city does come to life with some stands and restaurants open, however there really isn’t much to see or do and there is no beach. If you’re on a longer trip, this is where you will want to get your errands done as the islands have limited facilities. On my first trip to Belize, I made the mistake of spending some time in Belize City. Once you arrive in BZE, head straight to Placencia by plane (40 minutes) or by car/shuttle/bus (3.5-5 hours). The last time I went, there was still no public transit from the airport to the city so you are stuck paying for a taxi for the half hour ride into town to catch the bus ($25 US). If you do end up in Belize City as part of a cruise ship itinerary, make the most of your time by jumping on the first water taxi out of the city and to Caye Caulker (or San Pedro).
Placencia – 3 days.
Transportation schedules and services change faster in Central American than are updated on the internet, so it is best to confirm directions when you arrive in Belize. This should be used as a guide only.
Getting to Placencia:
Taxi from Belize Airport to Belize City Bus Terminal: 15 minutes.
Bus from Belize City to Independence: Approx. 3.5 hours where you catch the short Hokey Pokey water taxi to Placencia or you can bus to Dangriga where you can catch a bus directly to Placencia (we opted for this option). For up to date bus schedules you can check this link: here
Placencia is where you are going to find some of the nicest beaches in Belize.
Accommodations: There is a fantastic selection of accommodations from super basic (we paid $30/night for a private basic, but nice room for 3 people) to luxury places. There is no shortage of restaurants, or tours.
Things to do: Although we knew we’d be doing a snorkel tour later in our trip on Caye Caulker, we did sign up for a snorkel tour and it was completely worth while, especially seeing the dolphins just off the little island we stopped at for an outdoor BBQ lunch. I typically do not recommend group tours but unless you have your own private boat and knowledge of the area, there aren’t too many other options to get out and explore the surrounding reefs. Placencia is also fantastic for beach lounging and beer drinking. There are many other things to do in this area if you’re looking to be more active and one regret is that I never made it to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
San Pedro – 2 days or skip it.
It is loud, busy, and you’ll have a better time on Caye Caulker. Although the Akbol Yoga Retreat did
make this a worthwhile stop on one of my trips to Belize, I could have just as easily spent those days on Caye Caulker doing sunset yoga on a rooftop with RandOM yoga instead. Sadly the crocodile lagoon BBQ shack is no longer open but watching crocodiles swim in the lagoon while eating fried pickles wasn’t a bad way to pass the time on San Pedro between yoga classes.
Caye Caulker – At lease 2 days, but no amount of time is enough.
If you are headed to Belize dreaming of white sand beaches, you will be disappointed by the tiny strip of sand at “the split” (area where a hurricane in the 60s split the island in two) but if you are looking for a place with no vehicles, sandy walkways, locals selling seafood and desserts on the street, and a laid back Carribean attitude; head to Caye Caulker. You can spend your days drinking at Lazy Lizard the split, or one of the swing bars overlooking the water, or you can head out onto the water. There are many cool things to do on the island but you must, and I repeat must, head out on the Raggamuffin Hol Chan Snorkel Tour.
You’ll have the chance to snorkel with sharks (friendly ones), sting rays (also friendly), turtles, eels and observe dolphins riding the bow of the sailboat. They throw a great sunset party on the way back with rum punch, ceviche and great reggae music. I’ve done this tour 3 times and plan do it again on future trips to Belize. If you are looking for adventure travel with hiking and cycling, Caye Caulker is not the island for you. Go Slow is their motto and you will feel it. Nightlife in Caye Caulker can be spent at the split, the Oceanside nightclub with the sandy floor
and cheesy tourist vibe, or the I & I reggae bar which seems to have a bit more mix of locals with tourists. Keep in mind the last time I visited Caye Caulker was 2014 so this could have changed.
As far as the logistics of Caye Caulker:
– Transportation: You will likely be arriving by water taxi. The dock is fairly central and there are two main water taxi companies from Belize City. It is super easy to navigate and once you are on Caye Caulker, almost impossible to get lost. You will not need a car rental or taxi. There are no vehicles on Caye Caulker. Expect to walk or possibly cycle wherever you need to go. This means you may want to forget lugging around that large luggage through sandy roads and opt for something more practical like a backpack. To leave Caye Caulker you can catch the water taxi back to Belize City, or directly to Chetumal, Mexico to continue exploring up the coast. Flying is also an option if you want to save a bit of time as there is a small airport on Caye Caulker.
– Accommodations: I have always stayed at Yumas. It is incredibly clean, cheap, and the location doesn’t get much better. They have some hammocks you can hang out in the front area, or out on the dock. If cold showers aren’t your thing, there are several other options for slightly higher prices that you can find on various booking sites.
– Food: Some of the restaurants on the main strip are not very good (there was that chicken finger crisis of 2012 which still haunts me) but if you head further back on the island, you’ll find much better prices for better food. Your diet may consist of fry jacks, fried
chicken and friend rice from the chinese food restaurant but it is also possible to find a variety of healthier options. There is no shortage of choice for food on the island but for desserts, there is only one place to go… the dessert lady. She wheels her cart out on the main street at approx. 3 pm every day peddling her freshly baked cakes and brownies. This is always a highlight.
– Money – Bring cash. And lots of it. Although Caye Caulker might seem a bit cheaper than North American vacation spots, it is more expensive than most of its Central American neighbours. Most places do not accept credit cards, and may charge a surcharge if they do so bring your US dollars in cash to this island.
– Things to do: Raggamuffin tour to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, yoga at RandOM – especially at sunset, dive the blue hole, rent a kayak, snorkel around the split (watch the current) but you’ll most likely find that you’ll spend your time spent laying in hammocks or drinking at the swing bars.
If you have more time, and are able to pull yourself away from Caye Caulker, some places to visit in Belize I would add:
- San Ignacio
- Tobacco Caye
- Raggamuffin also does a 2 night camping trip from Caye Caulker to Dangriga which would be a fun way to travel down as opposed to taking the bus or flying.