Country Review & Recommendations: Belize

My Belize Review

As mentioned in my Mexico travel post, I wanted to write about Belize first, since we started our trip off in Belize (makes sense right?). But I chose to inverse the order, as one of my friends was interested in visiting Mexico this upcoming summer and I wanted to provide her with some information.

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The Split – in the distance, you can see that the boardwalk connecting both parts of the island is destroyed (Caye Caulker, 2016)

So here we go with Belize. Before heading out, I did a lot of research on San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) and Caye Caulker, to decide on which, or both islands, we would stay. In the end, I settled for Caye Caulker, for its laid back and relaxing atmosphere (it has an interesting mix of English (everyone in Belize speaks English), Latin American (lots of immigrants) and Jamaican vibe which makes it special). I decided that we could visit San Pedro for the day instead (we didn’t make it out, as our flights got changed and we lost a day in Belize). Caye Caulker is a beautiful island, which was unfortunately hit with the biggest tropical storm in the last decade, a few days before we got there. But, you could barely tell that a storm had passed by. Many of the habitants told us that after the storm had passed, everyone went to the streets and started cleaning up together, as there is a strong sense of community and togetherness on this island. We spent three beautiful days here, relaxing, taking in the sun, enjoying the beach and doing some snorkeling (with sharks!). I loved this peaceful and relaxing little island.

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Toucan at the Belize Zoo (2016)

Afterwards, we took a ferry back to mainland Belize, to Belize City. Before going, I had read a good amount of reviews on Belize City, which all had the same consensus: avoid if possible (or stay for one night). Sadly, this was true. Belize City does not have much to offer and is pretty sketch at night. We stayed for the night (when we got back by ferry) so we could head out to the Belize Zoo the next morning. That very same evening, we took an overnight bus into Mexico and said good bye to Belize.

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Nurse sharks in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize, 2016)

The overnight bus can be taken from the main Belize City bus terminal. The bus leaves at about 7 p.m. and can take you all the way to Cancun, Mexico (we got off in Tulum at about 4 a.m.). The journey is pretty cheap, but don’t expect to get much sleep as we got off the bus 3-4 times (for customs and then we had to buy a new bus ticket for the Mexico leg of the journey – which no one tells you about when you buy your ticket in Belize). Make sure to buy your ticket ahead of time, as the bus may be full if you just show up at 6:30 p.m. (we bought ours the day before).

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Caye Caulker beach (2016)

My Belize Recommendations

6. BELIZE sign (Belize City)

 

There isn’t much to do in Belize City, so if you’ve got some time to kill, head to the water front (right by the ferry docks) for a view of the ocean, the lighthouse and the colorful BELIZE sign.

5. Belize Zoo

 

Wow, what an adventure this was. From the Belize City bus terminal, catch a bus to the Belize Zoo, which is about an hour outside (this was the easy part). Once there, make sure to apply loads of sunscreen and insect repellant, as the zoo is surrounded by trees and plants (feels like you’re in the jungle). There is a ton of wildlife here, like parrots, toucans (Alex almost lost a finger to this guy), a puma and many others and all of the animals are in their natural habitat. There are also a few options where you can pay to “meet” some of these creatures, however this was not available to us when we were there.

To get back to Belize City, we were told, all you need to do is stand on the highway and wait for a bus to come by, they all go back to BC. Almost two hours later, we finally caught a bus back. A few tips: (1) make sure you’re standing at the beginning of the shoulder and not the end, where the bus stop sign is (or else the buses won’t stop – we figured because they didn’t have room/it was too late, but that’s kind of dumb since we’re obviously standing in the middle of the highway waiting for a bus…), (2) bring water (we waited almost two hours for a bus in the blistering heat and no shade, trust us, you’ll get thirsty) and (3) if you can afford it, get a private car from BC to take you to the zoo and back. Had we known it would such a struggle to catch a bus back (at some points we thought we’d never make it back) we probably would have gone with the private car option. Nevertheless, the zoo is worth the trip outside of BC, just make sure you’re prepared for the journey back!

 4. Explore Caye Caulker by bike

 

In Caye Caulker, there are no cars; the only modes of transport are golf carts, bicycles and your own two feet. Luckily there were bikes awaiting us at our Airbnb, which allowed us to bike around everywhere. The island isn’t very big (you could bike from East to West in 20 mins and from North to South in 10 mins), but our accommodation was in the “residential” area, about a 7 mins bike ride from the “center of town”. So, the bikes were very useful for getting around. My recommendation would be to explore the island by bike, which we did on our first day. We went from West to East, lopped up towards the North, then came back down South. It was an excellent way to explore the island.

 3. The Split (Caye Caulker)

 

Caye Caulker is technically split up (hence the source of the name “the split”) into two parts; the North which is inhabited and the South part that is habited. Unfortunately for us, the tropical storm that hit this small island took away the boardwalk that linked the two parts, as well as some of the infrastructures that were previously there (there’s a bar/restaurant that used to have a section that goes into the water). Nevertheless, there were still other bars and restaurants operating nearby, where you could enjoy a nice cocktail overlooking the ocean, or a beer on the concrete path whilst dipping your feet into the water.

 2. Sail to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve & around Caye Caulker

 

Many companies in Caye Caulker (located along the water) offer full day sailing tours to the reserve (including the snorkel gear, lunch and booze) for about $70USD per person. We opted for Raggamuffin Tours, as I had read good reviews of them online. We set sail by around 11 a.m. and headed towards the shark and ray alley. First, I’d like to specify that these are nurse sharks, which we were told are harmless to humans (however, according to National Geographic, this isn’t always the case. I’m of the opinion that any animal can be harmful, if you are disrespectful towards it). Second, they seemed much more interested in the fish and seafood our ship’s crew was feeding them with. Third, I stayed a few meters away from them when in the water (always practice safe behavior). From the comfort of the boat however, it was pretty cool to see all of these sharks (even in Australia I had never really seen any – and wouldn’t have wanted to). We saw lots of fish too, which I would show you in photos, if my iPhone 5s (at the time, I’ve now graduated to a 6s) was waterproof.

After a delicious lunch of seafood rice, we sailed on to our next destination, the Coral Gardens. Here, we snorkeled some more with the fish and other exotic underwater creatures. On the way home, we had an array of alcoholic beverages available to us, as we sailed back to Caye Caulker as the sun was beginning to set. Overall, a great day spent out on the waters, with a superb crew.

 1. Caye Caulker Beaches

 

My primary reason for wanting to visit Caye Caulker was to relax on its many beaches. I’m not certain any of them have specific names, as there is ocean/beach access across the South part of the island. This gives you many options, where some beaches had a few tourists and others were empty. You can also swim at the split, where the waters were very still.

UP NEXT: my foodie adventures & highlights in Belize and Mexico!

*All photos are my own (or taken by someone with my device)

 

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