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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.