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Belize for Couples

The best things in life are the perfect mix of two ingredients:  strawberries and cream, jam and toast, peanut butter and jelly.  We have found the perfect combination of the carefree Caribbean and the flair of Latin American:  Belize.

We’ve put together the perfect couple’s itinerary for your visit to this paradise.  We found 10 days was ideal to relax and see the key sites.

The exchange rate with United States dollar is set at one dollar for every two Belizean dollars. This makes monetary conversions very simple. Most places take American dollars and credit cards.  English is widely spoken, it doesn’t hurt to have a little Spanish in your back pocket.

Getting There

Belize has one major airport in Belize City.  It is easily accessible from just about anywhere in the lower 48 states.  Major departure cities include: Miami, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Houston.  We elected the three-hour flight from Dallas.  It could not have been easier.

Once you arrive, take a taxi into Belize City. The airport is a ways out-of-town, about 10 miles.  It should cost US $25.  Don’t pay more than that.  (You are already paying double what the locals pay.)  Candidly, we didn’t find much to see in Belize City.  There are some rough spots, make sure you take precautions for personal safety, especially at night. Have your taxi drop you off at the boat terminal. From here you can purchase tickets and board boats to the many island locations. We elected to take a boat to Ambergris Caye.  If time is an issue you can also book a short flight from the Belize City to San Pedro. The boat takes roughly an hour and a half.  The flight will get you there in 30 minutes. The boat ride can be a little rough depending on weather.

Costa Blu Belize

Costa Blu Belize

Resort Life

We highly recommend that you start your vacation on the beach. Select from one of many resort locations along the ocean. You can get everything from simple accommodations to five-star resorts. Definitely pick one with the pool.  We elected to stay at the beautiful Costa Blu Resort at Ambergris Caye.  It is an intimate resort that focuses on providing world-class diving.  The staff is friendly, and the food on premises is really good.  We highly recommend the conch ceviche!

Snorkeling

Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world.   Definitely bring your Go Pro camera!   Your resort can help you in booking snorkeling trips. We elected to use Tuff N Nuff. We went out for two different half day excursions: shark alley, and Mexico rocks. We would recommend both to you. The excellent dive masters were so helpful and patient. Eric was especially nice to Luci who had trouble with her mask at first. They provide all the gear that you need.  They also offer insights into the flora and fauna you will see. If you are scuba certified or would like to become so, there are so many places that offer this service. Again they provide all of the equipment and excellent dive masters. On our visit to Mexico rocks, we swam with nurse sharks, turtles, and even an moray eel.  It was incredible.

 

Chill at the pool/beach

Arriving in Belize you immediately go into relax mode. Whether it’s sitting by the beach or enjoying the sun by the pool, you cannot help at leave all your worries behind.  We elected to have a couples massage right on the beach. Our resort arranged it and the cost was reasonable. We paid $90 for a 90 minute massage with the sounds of the sea and breeze tickling our faces.

Shopping at San Pedro

The major town located on the peninsula is called San Pedro. This rough and tumble beach town gives you access to a wonderful restaurants, souvenir shops, and more T-shirt shops and you can shake a stick at. We highly recommend Elvi’s restaurant for lunch or dinner. You’re not going to find high-end retail shops here. Just the sort that offer fun little trinkets to remember your trip.

Once your stress has melted away when you’re ready for adventure hop on the boat or plane back to the mainland. Here you’re going to need to rent a car. After doing our research there’s only one place that could offer the border transfer documents into Guatemala and that is Crystal Auto.  They have a solid selection of vehicles, it is not a bad idea to rent a jeep   Buy the GPS.  Cell service is a little spotty there. The main roads in Belize are fine, but you have a lot of large speed bumps and potholes the size of Texas or a German Shepherd. There is one major road running north and south and east to west.

Tikal Mayan Ruins

Tikal Mayan Ruins

Day trip to Tikal Mayan Ruins

We highly recommend a side trip to Tikal, the ruins in western Guatemala. It is a beautiful four-hour drive from Belize City. Well worth the travel. You will need to have a rental car that allows you to leave Belize and enter Guatemala. Crossing the border is a bit of an adventure.  The Belize side is fairly straightforward, the Guatemalan side not so much. You will need to trade some Belizean dollars into Guatemalan dollars. Keep in mind, border agents only speak Spanish on the Guatemalan side.  Be prepared for a lot of gestures and pointing.  There are a lot of teenage boys and men more than willing to help you figure out the border procedures, especially if you have a car. We let them help us and tipped them afterwards.

IMPORTANT:  You also need some Guatemalan dollars in order to enter in the Tikal National Park. We made the mistake of not having cash, we had to drive all the way back roughly an hour each way to get cash. Do not make this mistake.

There are two hotels in the park.  Accommodations are not stellar. Both are a bit rustic. We recommend staying inside the park as travel in and out of the park takes a lot of time. There are many guides that are available via your hotel.  Please visit with them before you book your tour. The command of good English is not widespread.  If you keep walking at a good pace you can see the entire complex in one day. You will definitely want to take pictures in the morning and evening, as the light is best. Pack gallons of mosquito spray and sunscreen: both will be an issue.  We elected to take the sunrise tour. This was a mistake. We did not check the weather. Eight out of ten days you will not be able to see the sunrise. The fog is too thick. Have your hotel check the weather forecast for the morning.

There is definitely a different feel in Guatemala. The language barrier is significant at times. The culture is remarkably different. With that said, well worth the adventure.

ATM Cave

Hands-down our favorite activity in Belize was visiting the ATM cave. You will need to book a trip in advance with a tour company that leads small groups through to Cave. You will need to be able to: swim, climb, and be ready for a significant hike.  The ATM cave complex is ancient Mayan religious site.  The cave is filled with archaeological artifacts and geological formations. Cameras and video cameras are not allowed in the cave. Sorry we don’t have any pictures. You begin the morning about 8 a.m..  Your guides will pick you up from your hotel.  From the main parking lot, your guide will take you on a short jungle hike, which includes a river crossing. There is a rope stretched across the river to use your crossing.

At the mouth of the cave you guide will give you a short introduction of what you will see in the caves and the will emphasize importance of staying together. The company will supply you with a helmet and a flashlight for your helmet. There is a moderate creek that runs through the cave. At the mouth of the cave your swim roughly 50 yards   The rest of the journey will be hiking and climbing.

Toward the end of the hike you will climb a ladder remove your shoes and walk into the main sacrificial chamber. There you will see a well-preserved skeleton of a sacrificed Mayan as well as interesting pottery and other ancient artifacts.

The entire experience was impressive.  It was unlike anything we have ever done.   We highly recommend it. It is a bit on the expensive side running roughly US$100 per person.  The guide service provides lunch, and transportation to and from your hotel in the area.

Caracol

If you’re up for another day of exploring Mayan ruins. We highly recommend Caracol ruins. Getting there is a wonderful adventure. You will need a high clearance or a jeep type vehicle to get there. There are several small river crossings as well as some jungle jeeping to get to the location. It is roughly 2 hour drive on a rough unpaved road. Toward the end of the journey you will need an armed guard to get to the ruins. Each day the Belizean army runs an armed guard service from the army base into the ruins. There’s no cost for this service but you have to be on time. There’s a sign in & out location there. Don’t let this scare you away, it is really straight forward and safe.

Caracol Mayan Ruins

Caracol Mayan Ruins

Make sure you have plenty of fuel as well as food as there are no services on the entire road into the ruins. There are guide services that can take you on this trip if you would like. Candidly, the drive in and out of Carocol is a lot of fun.  What makes the ruins better than Tikal would be the number of people.   There were only other 15 people at the entire complex during our visit. This makes for great pictures and you can take your time and seeing each of the ruins.

Enjoy your trip to Belize! The country offers something for the body and soul.  Relax on the beach, swim with schools of fish, then explore the ruins of an ancient civilization.

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How to See Machu Picchu

On top of almost everyone’s bucket list lies a very special location: Machu Picchu. This mountain fortress located just outside Aquas Caliente is just one of them most special places we have visited in our travels. The commanding views from Machu Picchu rival any vista we have taken in.

Why go?

We get asked a lot, is Machu Picchu really that cool? Take our word for it:  It is. Set your expectations high: few places live up to the exquisite beauty, intricate history, and fascinating architecture.  Machu Picchu certainly one does.   The only thing likely to ruin your visit is weather.  We will talk about that later.  So what is Machu Picchu?  The Inca Fortress of Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century. It is a collection of 150 buildings, temples, homes and bath houses. It was apparently abandoned 100 years or so after its construction due to reasons unknown. There is no evidence that Europeans ever laid eyes on it during their conquests in South America in the 1600s.

The Perfect Day at Machu Picchu

The Perfect Day at Machu Picchu

You may want to check out National Geographic’s “10 secrets of Machu Picchu.”

Machu Picchu was “rediscovered” by a Yale professor named Hiram Bingham. Bingham engaged local residents to assist him in exploring the area. They led him to the ruins that had been taken over by the jungle growth. Over the next 4-5 year Bingham led expeditions to clear the growth and uncover one of the wonders of the world.

Why go? The site is fascinating on so many levels. First you have the intricate stonework that makes up the entire fortress. The farming techniques using terraces with mud from the river below is incredible. Little is known of the ancient Inca religion, but temples and religious sites are on display in the mountain perch. Again, the views from Machu Picchu are simply breathtaking. The green mountains cut against the blue sky are something to behold in person. If you love photography, You will fall in love with Machu Picchu.

But the real reason you should go to Machu Picchu, is the spiritual energy of the place. It’s difficult to describe. Here you are in such a beautiful setting, amid architecture that is way before its time, you sense that this is a wonder of the world.

When to go

Machu Picchu is open to visitors year round. The entire area is a jungle climate zone, so rain is always a possibility. It does rain more in October to mid April. The peak visitors season is July-August. But if you select this time to visit, be prepared for hordes of people. We visited in April and it was perfect.   Always pack a sport towel to wipe down the camera.

Machu Picchu

It is hard to take a bad picture of the place.

Getting There

We must be candid, getting to Machu Picchu is not easy. It is not close to anything. With that said there is an easy way and hard way to get to Machu Picchu. Before we get to the way that we prefer, you must know that there are a number of different hikes through the sacred Valley along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This is a much beloved route of backpackers from around the world. They brag about the beauty of the trail leading to the fortress. There are many guides and travel agencies that can arrange all of the details for this kind of trip. Everything from rustic camping to full on ultra “glamping.”   We have heard some backpackers complain that after traveling the Inca Trail, visiting Machu Picchu was actually anti-climatic.

The whole camping hiking thing is just not for us.

For those who are pressed for time or want to take the easy way, We will walk you through it. Most journeys to Machu Picchu begin in Cuzco, Peru. We flew from Lima to Cuzco, then used it as our base to see the Sacred Valley and Machu.

Peru Rail now runs the main train from Cusco to Augas Calientes. There is also a luxury option called the Hiram Bingham run by the Orient Express. The train trip runs 3.5 hours one way. (Sit on the left side of the train going up. It has the best views of the river.) Overnighting in Aguas and coming back the next day is always a viable option. We were pressed for time and did the whole thing in one day, which is doable, just keep in mind the train waits for no one. The train doesn’t actually depart from Cusco, it departs from a little suburb called Poroy. It takes 20 mins or so from your hotel in downtown to get to the train station. The ride takes you along the beautiful Urubamba River. You see a number of little farms and families along the way. Simply beautiful. You can also see the hardworking Sherpa’s linking up with hikers headed out to take on the Inca Trail.

The beginning of the Inca Trail.  This is the HARD way to get to Machu Picchu.

The beginning of the Inca Trail. This is the HARD way to get to Machu Picchu.

As stated above, Machu Picchu is extremely popular. Train tickets do sell out. It is critical that you buy you tickets on the Peru Rail site as early as possible.  You will also need to purchase your tickets into Machu Picchu as well, in advance.

Once you arrive in Augas Calientes, buy water. You can secure a guide in town if you wish, but the entire site is seeable with a guidebook. We actually did both. We saved all our questions for our guide. You then board the bus and head up the switch backs. If you are at all motion sickness prone, meds would be appropriate. These bus drivers are crazy! It is a two-hour hike by foot one way.

The winding road to Machu Picchu

The winding road to Machu Picchu

There are bathroom facilities at the venue. Bring some bills or coins for the tip. There is a small snack bar there at the main gate.  Once you leave that venue, you will need you actual passport to get back in.  DONT FORGET TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT!

If you elect to see Machu Picchu’s sister Huayna Picchu, you will need a separate ticket to climb the peak. Our good friends returned from attempting the hike last year. It is rigorous, and at altitude, keep that in mind.

Fighting Couple Tip: Eat an early or late lunch and let the crowds go eat. You will get some great pictures, like this one:

Machu Picchu

The Views of Machu Picchu. Mike taking it all in. There is something special about this place.

Machu Picchu is truly one of the wonders of the world. We cant recommend it enough to you. Have you been? What were your impressions? Any tips for couples wanting to see the place? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

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