Ten tips on Belize
We commit to one “more adventurous” trip per year and this year we went to Belize.
Why Belize you ask? Here are the criteria we used that helped us arrive at Belize:
* Had to be less than 8 hours of flight time each way from the SF Bay Area
* Wanted excellent beach with reasonably priced accommodations
* Great nature experience
* A little bit of history and adventure mixed in (Mayan ruins)
We considered Costa Rica as well but ruled it out due to the longer flight times.
The trip was terrific and I would go back again. Here are a couple of the tips from our trip.
1. Continental through Houston had the most efficient flights to Belize.
2. If you are doing both the “jungle/ruin” experience and the beach, I recommend doing the jungle first. We enjoyed seeing the ruins and having the jungle experience first and then being able to have some more relaxing time on the beach.
3. If you stay at one of the higher end jungle lodges (we stayed at Chaa Creek) they will pick you up at the airport and arrange your flights out to Ambergris Caye and back. The service at Chaa Creek was very good. There are a bunch of great activities (nature walks, canoeing, horseback riding) included in the price of the room.
4. I highly recommend the Mayan ruins in the area. If you are more ambitious, book the day long trip to Tikal. The ruins as well as the jungle setting are supposed to be amazing. With less time and pretty young travelers, we went to see Xunantunich instead. I didn’t have high expectations for this more “local” ruin but it was in fact quite amazing and our guide, Joe, was incredibly well versed in the history. The ruins were very accessible which was good for the little people in the group and we had a spectacular view from the top of the ruin.
5. If you go to Belize during the summer, I would stay at the more northern beaches (Ambergris Caye) rather than more southern resort areas because the south gets more rain (and more mosquitoes) in the summer. That said, even in the north you’ll want to pack some bug spray.
6. If you look at the weather for Belize from the US, it will look as if it rains constantly in the summer. That is entirely inaccurate. We had an occasional thundershower in the evening or morning but in general with weather was beautiful. However, it can be pretty hot so I do recommend you get a place with air conditioning).
7. We flew Tropic Air out to Ambergris Caye from Belize City. There is also a boat but the ride is just long enough (around 2 hours but more if the weather is rough) that you may want to spring for the 15 minute plane ride. Chaa Creek made the reservations for us.
8. There are many accommodation options on Ambergris Caye. The town is a bit noisy and not super nice so I recommend you stay either a bit to the south or north. Victoria House is the nice, higher end spot on the southern side of town. This is close to the best snorkeling spot (Hol Chan) but does have more development (condos, hotels) around it. We stayed on about 3 miles north of town at La Perla Caribe which provides house rentals. We had a very tastefully done two bedroom, two bath cottage right on the beach with a nice pool on the grounds. There is not restaurant at La Perla but some good food options just minutes up and down the beach. We got a great deal on the place by booking through luxurylink. Portofino, just north of La Perla, looks like another good options for families with single rooms as well as some two bedroom houses.
9. The best activity on Ambergris Caye (besides sipping drinks on the porch of your cottage while the kids collect shells) is snorkeling and diving. With our kids we stuck to snorkeling but it was truly amazing. Pick your guide carefully so you have someone who can really show you the great spots. We saw a manatee, nurse sharks, rays, tarpon, yellow tail snapper, barracudas, and more. The kids have turned into avid snorkelers.
10. If you’re on the north side of the island, check out Rojo restuarant, at least for drinks or ice cream if not for a whole meal. The owners are former Los Altos residents who have relocated starting their own restaurant and resort (resort is called Azul). Their dinners are pretty pricey but you can sample the cuisine with their lunch and don’t forget their hand made ice cream for desert. The mojitos are not to be missed.