It seems like every week I have one more friend or acquaintance ask me some question about Belize. I guess the Jewel, as Belizeans fondly refer to their home, is becoming more popular, even though it’s still the most uncrowded earthly paradise I’ve been to.
This month I’ve had a couple of questions about spending Christmas in Belize, and since this 10 reasons format keeps me from rambling on about my favourite home-away-from-home, here we go with:
Ten Reasons Why I love Christmas vacations in Belize
One: It’s warm.
But not too warm. With temperatures lazing between 71°F (22°C) with and 80°F (27°C) for a monthly average of around 75°F (24°C) in December, Belize is like Goldilocks’ favourite porridge – not too cold, not too hot… just riiiight.
Two: It’s as festive as can be.
Like some lovely Caribbean Hallmark card with a funky backbeat, Christmas in Belize just makes you feel good. Whether you’re with your family from grandparents to toddlers, sharing an exotic Noel with someone special, or just chilling out by yourself, there’s something for everyone to leap into and enjoy. The clubs and bars come alive, staff in the resorts are smiling and humming Creole accented Christmas carols (I’m not kidding), and shop assistants are extra cheerful (an effect, no doubt, of being surrounded by those extra bright decorations much loved throughout Central America). The mix of British colonial, Caribbean cool, African rhythm, Spanish fiesta, Maya reverence, Garifuna drumming and the many offbeat contributions coming out of this multicultural mix makes for an exotic yet somehow familiar Yuletide. Most resorts offer safe, secure and friendly babysitting and child minding services, so the adults can partake of a bit of Belizean Christmas cheer knowing that the kiddies are in good hands.
It’s a unique, tropical Christmas treat, and our clan is going back next year.
Three: It’s affordable.
Compared to other Caribbean destinations, Belize is a bargain. There is just simply so much to see and do. With that lovely Caribbean coast, the hemisphere’s biggest barrier reef and atolls and some 200 tiny islands known as cayes (you say keys) and all the snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, sailing, island hopping, kayaking and everything else, the affordable fun just keeps coming. And that’s just the coast.
Inland you have one of the world’s greatest unspoilt rainforests and jungles, languid rivers, a plethora of exotic wildlife, colourful birds like toucans, parrots and hummingbirds. Just the perfect setting for horseback riding, canoeing, mountain biking, cave tubing and a quadrillion other things that don’t cost a fortune to enjoy. The casual ambience also means you don’t need a fancy wardrobe when you go out.
And with the varied, affordable, all inclusive Belize Christmas vacation packages on offer, especially the surf and turf deals, you can have the holiday of your dreams without a credit card nightmare at the end of it.
And we haven’t even got to my favourite part – the incredibly rich remnants of the ancient Maya civilisation, who were without a doubt the most highly advanced society of the Americas. Come to think of it, the fascinating Maya culture of is a reason in itself.
Four: Spending Christmas in the Heartland of the Maya – Belize
Why just have a great Christmas holiday when you can enjoy an exotic, fascinating learning experience with it? Belize is absolutely chock-a-block with Maya temples, ancient cities, Maya royal palaces (my daughter still loves to sprawl on an ancient stone bed in the royal bedroom at Cahal Pech) and there is no better way in the world to work off that holiday excess (trust me, you won’t run short of ham, turkey and all the familiar trimmings during a Christmas in Belize) than through the healthy, fun exercise you’ll get exploring the enchanting world of the Mayas.
Climbing huge stone Maya temples, wandering through surprisingly intact cities and trade centres, climbing around in (and sometimes swimming or tubing into) the incredible labyrinth of the Maya sacred caves, and generally just immersing yourself in this beautiful, enigmatic culture – as you do – will have you arriving back home with a glowing tan, a fine level of fitness and a glint in you eye as you regale you friends with tales of Belizean Maya adventures.
Now that’s a pretty special Christmas present to give yourself and your loved ones…
Five: There is absolutely nothing else like a Belize surf and turf Christmas vacation
Where else can you wake up in the morning in your breezy beach cabana, have a swim and snorkel before breakfast, and then have dinner in a beautiful rainforest lodge in the heartland of the Maya, listing to those amazing night time jungle sounds and resting up for some real fun the next day with horseback riding, canoeing, mountain biking, cave tubing, a real jungle nature walk or any one of seemingly countless things to do. Then again, there is much to be said for lazing in a hammock on you own veranda with a good book and a cool drink accompanied by the flash of colour and oddly soothing buzzing of the hummingbirds.
Only some 70 miles wide by not even two hundred miles long, tiny little Belize packs more diversity within her borders than anywhere else I’ve been. Its small size and friendly, small population makes it easy and hassle free to move about and choose from a smorgasbord of relaxing fun. With the laid back Caribbean islander vibe of the coast and the more Spanish influenced interior, you have two very different vacations for the price of one. Don’t miss those rainforest to reef packages –they can be a real Christmas vacation deal.
Six: It’s bilingual.
We go away for our Christmas vacation to relax, and it’s those little things, like being able to understand and be understood that make it all that much easier. Even with very limited English or Spanish you’ll get along fine in this multicultural melting pot.
Seven: Money is easy to work out.
This may seem like another minor thing, unless you’ve been someplace where the exchange rate is 274 to one and fluctuates daily. The Belize dollar is pegged to the US greenback at a steady two Belize dollars for one US buck, and this really simplifies things. And with the US dollar warmly welcomed everywhere working out prices is a breeze.
Eight: The many varied tours and experiences on offer
Belize tourism has grown pretty organically and nicely over the almost 30 years I’ve been going there. When I first stayed at Chaa Creek in the Cayo District, for example, it was still a family farm with a few handmade, very rustic, thatched cottages. Owners Mick and Lucy did pretty much everything along with entertaining guests until the bar closed – which was whenever everybody was ready for bed. It’s now a sprawling, beautiful eco resort on 365 acres of private nature reserve with all the modern amenities such as a spa, excellent restaurant, beautiful herd of horses, swimming pool and miles of well maintained trails. And Mick and Lucy are still the same gracious, very entertaining and informative hosts.
So from Belize’s humble tourism beginnings there are now more activities, tours and things to do that you couldn’t possibly fit everything in one Belize vacation. The scuba diving and snorkelling are among the best in the world, as is the fly and other fishing, anything to do with rainforests, jungles, rivers, Maya temples, caves, the Maya Mountains or Mountain Pine Ridge, and there are plenty of highly trained guides (hats off to the Government of Belize and resort and tour operators) to ensure you get the most out of your Belize Christmas vacation.
If you’re dreaming of a boring Christmas, better go someplace else…
Nine: Belize promotes green, sustainable travel – you can feel good about being a tourist
This is something that’s become important to me and a growing number of other people as well. Belizeans are by and large literate and intelligent, and created the sort of society that encourages people to think and express themselves. They also love the beautiful, bountiful natural world around them, and have embraced the concept of green, sustainable tourism. From tour guides to boat skippers, resort owners and their staff, Belizeans seem proud and protective of their stunning little country. Some of Belizean resorts have been consistently recognised and awarded as international models for sustainable, responsible tourism, and it shows. Again, The Lodge Chaa Creek is impressive for leaving such a tiny ecological footprint for providing so much rustic luxury and amenities. They even give guests nice souvenir aluminium water bottles to be topped off at pure, hygienic filling stations around the resort when they could be making more money selling the ubiquitous plastic commercial water bottles. Belize is that sort of place, and it is always an eye opener, and heartening, to see how even small developing countries can make a difference in protecting the environment. It’s another one of the seemingly small but very endearing things I love about the Jewel.
Ten: You get to have Christmas in Belize with Belizeans.
And that is something very special indeed. Belizeans are some of the friendliest, most easy going, best natured people in the world, and this really comes out during holiday times. Plus, they do like to have a good time. From the cayes to the interior borders, you’ll be happily inundated with lively dancing and a variety of great music. Make sure you give Punta, a vibrant, rocking national dance style, a go, and bring back some CDs of local music – they’ll be a huge hit with your friends, especially when accompanied by your duty free allowance of fine local rums and exotic liqueurs.
As I mentioned before, the Jewel is such a melting pot with the unmistakable overlay of an ex British colony that a Christmas vacation in Belize is a unique combination of the familiar and the exotic. You’ll hear the same good old yuletide carols but sung with that distinctive, lovely Caribbean Creole lilt and interspersed with lively Latino holiday songs. Brightly adorned Christmas trees and decorations are everywhere with Merry Christmas and Felize Navidad getting equal billing. There will be hams, turkeys, mashed potatoes and familiar pies, but the Belize Christmas table also features tamales, fresh fish and lobster, variations on the national dish of rice and beans as well as garnaches, panades, salbutes, cerviches, pilbe and other distinctly Belizean and Maya dishes.
I guess that’s one of the main things my family finds so attractive about our yuletide adventures in Belize – you are definitely having the best parts of the Christmas you’re accustomed to, but with this very unique, exotic flavour and vibe running through it all. Combine that with an excellent climate, stunning scenery, fun adventures that teach you something about our precious natural world and the variety of people who inhabit it, as well as ancient cultures and the timelessness of pristine rainforest and Caribbean Sea, and you may begin to understand my enthusiasm for spending Christmas holidays in Belize.
With close proximity to the US and Canada and so many affordable, all inclusive Belize Christmas vacation packages now on offer, even Scrooge himself would see the wisdom of having Christmas in Belize.
Readers, is there anything else you would like to add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below!