In May of 2019, Autumn and I had the pleasure of visiting the small Central American country of Belize. What we found was an adventurous tropical paradise – home to beautiful beaches, reefs for snorkeling/ scuba diving, dense jungles, Mayan ruins, caves for exploring, and so much more. If you are planning your next exotic getaway, I highly recommend Belize as a port less traveled.
The following suggestions are based solely on my personal experience and trip, so there may be some additional locations and attractions that are worth seeing. Be sure to do you own research as well – that’s half the fun of traveling!
Belize - Brief History and Influence on Tiki:
The history of Belize is equal parts mysterious, unique, eclectic, and downright chaotic.
Belize was early home to the Mayans, who built a powerful and sophisticated civilization throughout Central America and in neighboring countries of modern-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Mayan civilization peaked in the 6th - 8th century, but mysteriously vanished around the 14th century (not long before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century).
For a brief period, Belize was inhabited by the Spanish as they explored the new world and established ports throughout the Caribbean and central Americas, however, English and Scottish privateers posed a challenge to this rule in the 17th century, settling in Belize for its rich resources and fruitful jungles.
In 1789, Britain officially gained full control of Belize from Spain after defeating the Spanish Armada off St. George's Caye. While the United States was embroiled in Civil War, Great Britain declared Belize to be the colony of British Honduras. This colonization lasted for nearly 200 years, with self-governance being granted by the British government in 1964, and Belize gaining full independence in 1981.
With its long history of colonization, Belize was heavily influenced by foreign cultures in the way of language, social structures, politics, trade, and agriculture. Today, the country draws from the lifestyle and palate of many of its Caribbean neighbors – including language (Creole, English, and Spanish), rum (cane juice and coconut rums), fruits, and spices. Belize arguably has more in common with its Caribbean island neighbors than its bordering Spanish-speaking countries. Known for its laid-back island lifestyle, vast jungles, and an underwater world of neon fish and twisted coral, Belize is a true tropical treasure.
When to Go
Many travel websites and experts will tell you that the best time to visit Belize is between the months of November and April, during the country’s dry season.
We suggest taking your trip in May, that way you can avoid the April crowds and potentially score lower prices on hotels/ activities. Beware though, there is a slightly higher risk of rain in May, so be prepared for some potential weather.
Additionally, the following local festivals occur annually in Belize. You may want to consider planning your trip around one of these events:
Where to Stay
Where you stay heavily depends on the type of trip you are looking for: Escapist/Relaxing or Culturally Stimulating. We were looking for a more relaxing and tropical atmosphere, opting to stay on the island of Ambergris Caye (about 35 miles off the Belize mainland). Ambergris Caye is the largest of the Belize islands, and is known for its relaxing vibe, blue lagoons, and exquisite snorkeling and scuba diving just offshore (as the reef is less than 100 meters off the East shore).
In terms of hotel, we stayed at the Costa Blu Adults Only Resort and couldn’t have been happier with our choice. This resort was slightly off the beaten path, as it was about 45-minutes by golf cart away from the main town of San Pedro. We also had the chance to visit many of the resorts a bit closer to town (which were also wonderful). Here is a list of places we would recommend on Ambergris Caye:
Alternatively - if a tropical, beach-y resort is not your cup of rum, there are many amazing destinations to stay along the mainland Belizean coast that provide easier access to the cultural sites and jungles that Belize has to offer.
If you go this route, I would recommend looking for hotels/resorts in Placencia, Belize. Though it is relatively far away from the country’s capitol (Belize City), Placencia is known for having some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches in the country and is a car ride away from the lush jungles, Mayan ruins, and intricate cave systems that Belize has to offer.
What to Do
If you are anything like me, you prefer your getaway be a mixture of relaxing, stimulating, and slightly educational. Luckily, the country of Belize feels well-suited to answer all these needs. Here is our list of “can’t miss” activities to do while on your trip:
Where to Eat
Before taking our trip, Autumn and I were cautioned that Belize is not well-known for its cuisine, and that we should visit with lowered expectations. Interestingly, this was not our experience, and we were able to find a variety of restaurants that provided delicious, local dishes.
I will caveat this by saying that nearly all the meals we thoroughly enjoyed were seafood based, so having an aversion to fish or seafood may make finding a suitable restaurant a bit more difficult. Here are some our favorite restaurants and bars on Ambergris Caye:
Where to Drink
Like the cuisine, Autumn and I were pleasantly surprised by the variety of cocktail offerings we discovered in Belize. Though relatively simple in structure, the cocktails we had were refreshing and tasty, and found their way into our home bar recipe books.
Belizean cocktails play heavily on ingredients and flavors found in many traditional Tiki drinks: fresh fruit or fruit juices, pineapple, coconut, citrus, mint, and rum. Since the weather in Belize is typically hot and humid during the summertime, many of the drinks we enjoyed were flash blended to give the cocktail a “slushie” texture.
Here are some of our favorite bars from our trip (all based in Ambergris Caye):
Hope you enjoyed our guide - please share your own travel tips for Belize in the comments!