7 Belizean Festivals Worth Flying Down For In 2018

Belize is home to hardworking but fun loving people who always know how to turn a party up, of those, here are the 7 you can’t miss while you’re here.

Belize is a charming little country nestled in between two Latin-American giants to the north, west, and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

This positioning makes us primed to be a cultural meeting point, and gives the ability to boast being both Central American and Caribbean interchangeably depending on what we might be doing or eating.

Geographically smaller than almost all US states, many are inclined to ask ‘Where is Belize?’ well, Belize is where the party is at!

1. September Celebrations


September is widely accepted to be one of the most important months in Belize’s history because it’s home to the day of the only naval battle to occur off our shores between the British and Spanish, and the day on which we became a sovereign nation.

The entire country becomes patriotic and festive nearing this time as they hand up red white and blue banners, posters, literally anything that can be colored in that scheme gets posted up. The people become abuzz with preparations for parades and carnival, arming floats, costumes, party trailers all for the big blowout that the 10th, 20th, and 21st will be.

Each town, village, and city has their own parade going for each celebration, all gathering up on the streets and hopping about happily celebrating Belize’s independence and Battle of St. Georges Caye day, but the real kickers happen in the old capital, and up north in Orange Walk. Not to be outdone by one or the other, Belize city and Orange walk town have their carnivals on the 20th and 21st respectively so for those of you who really want to get down Caribbean style have double the opportunity in the span of 36 hours.

The parades themselves leave the town centers after an official ceremony to commemorate the day and a singing of our national anthem and take long routes that cover most of the main streets in town. Colorful, loud, and electric is the best way to describe the event as onlookers are delighted by dancers “wining” to soca music and different groups put on their own displays for the crowds entertainment while locals set up their own block parties on the street sides and proceed to party just as hard as the carnival girls.

The September celebrations are a must see if Belize is your destination around then, and never fear about being foreign, Belizeans are happy to share their celebrations with anyone, it’s a guaranteed great time!

2. Cashew Fest

Belize-Crooked-Tree-Village-Cashew-Festival-2013-Vendor

Before we get into the finer details on cashew fest, let’s clarify a bit. Most people hear cashew and they think of the buttery crunchy nut they seek furiously in their tin of planters mix. To us here in Belize the cashew is so much more than the nut. In fact, there’s an entire fruit attached to it. it’s hard to describe the taste of cashews to someone who hasn’t tried one.

Biting into a cashew is like doing so to a soft plum, the skin is a little rubbery but not exactly firm and the insides are tangy, sweet and tart – really a treat! At cashew fest, the point is cashew fruits more than cashew nuts and as always there is more to the festival than just the point itself. There’s a Cashew Queen (Appearing in Lewis Carroll’s upcoming book) there are dances and exhibitions and we’re slightly surprised there isn’t a cashew lambada or something of the sort yet – not that anyone can imagine what that may be like, hah.

Cashew Fest is held in Crooked tree village, about 35 miles north of Belize city and our best advice is bring your appetite with you and moreover, your sweet tooth because while this fruit is savory in its natural state, the sweets and jams made from it are phenomenal.

Everyone loves a good food festival, and everyone loves a destination that’s off the beaten path and this attraction is both.

Pro tip: Try the Cashew wine – It’s phenomenal!

3. Lobsterfest

lobstersbbq

Some of you may be thinking ‘did I just read the name right?’ and I must say, yes, you did.

Lobsterfest in Belize is as you’d imagine it, a giant party with lobster as the main dish. The season for this beloved shellfish starts June 15th and that is usually when these parties kick up to celebrate the opening of the season.

There is a total of four Lobsterfest parties (crazy right?) San Pedro kicks it off in typical fashion as the party central and goes for an entire week, until Caye Caulker and Placencia take up their grills and put on in a similar manner followed all by Belize City in early July.

Even though San Pedro shrugs off an entire week of partying, the real meat of the event (no pun intended) is in its birthplace, Caye caulker where the prices are always better, the boat rides are cheaper and the local teens have a pageant to win the coveted “Miss Lobsterfest” title.

Placencia, not to be out-done, boasts the best beaches in Belize and gets in on the action in a big way.

Anywhere you go for Lobsterfest you’re going to be met by live music, happy locals and you’ll be guaranteed to get amazing prices on all manner of lobster dishes, from grilled to lobster thermidor, kebabs, ceviche, chowder, you’ll not feel the need to go to Red Lobster in quite some time.

4. Garifuna settlement day

Belize Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations

Garifuna settlement day is celebrated on November 19th in commemoration of the first dory (dugout canoe) with Garifuna people arrive in then British Honduras in 1802.

Today it is a cultural public and bank holiday in Belize recognized by all, the entire country celebrates by cooking their own take on authentic Garifuna food like Sere and Boil Up, but the real celebrations are of course in the south where they as a culture still make their primary home.

In Stann Creek, Toledo and even Belize City processions, live music, drumming and traditional dancing punctuate the day. If you happen to be here for this you must certainly try the Sere which is a starchy coconut milk based soup accented by ground foods, green plantain balls, fresh fish and of course peppers to give it that Caribbean kick.

On this day also, the Garifuna perform renditions of their traditional drumming music, which is an earthy percussive beat composed to get your hips moving and the rhythms certainly keep you on your feet until you drop, as intimate as the celebrations seem to be the locals are always happy and proud to share their culture with others making Garifuna Settlement day a must if you like connecting with people and cultures.

5. Costa Maya Festival

Belize Costa Maya International Festival on Ambergris Caye

The Costa Maya festival, starting every first Thursday of August was originally named the sea and air festival started in 1991 in San Pedro has since then evolved into being a multi-national cultural festival featuring Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Belize.

The Thursday kicks off with the selection of Miss Costa Maya who is chosen from the pageant queens representing each country and Friday is punctuated by the grand opening which sees official ceremonies, opening speeches, dignitaries, ministers and officials from all over.

Saturday is called “Noche Internacional”, it’s usually the biggest event night which consists of a regional Latino music or dance group performing for the delight of all who attend the festival. Sunday is the closing day, but that’s not to say it’s all speeches and thank you notes, live music, comedians and cultural performances bid farewell to the official festivities.

Elsewhere on the island, to entertain those less interested in the Costa Maya itself and just want to be near the “costa” the festival includes lobster cookouts, beach volleyball, mechanical rides, football marathons, a big all night fair and night club parties all weekend to entertain the wilder of us.

San Pedro’s Costa Maya festival is certainly a treat and will never leave you bored or without something to do, a perfect time and place to meet locals and party like Belizeans!

 

6. Chocolate Festival

belize-chocolate festival
photo courtesy Travelqueentips

The Toledo Chocolate festival is a literal celebration of all things Cacao and the history of arguably one of the western hemisphere’s most beloved export.

Late May every year on Commonwealth day The southern district in conjunction with many businesses who produce chocolate related products flock south to put their innovations on display for all Belizeans to see. Belgians may be hailed for their “Chocolate making” skills – and we aren’t trying to discredit that, but, Toledo is hailed for the superb beans grown there and Belizean artisan chocolatiers mix traditional with modern and produce Tropical organic gold.

At the Chocolate Festival, you will see not just bars, or drops or hard and melted candies as one would expect, Belizeans have gotten oh so creative with the preparations and usage of the bean that it goes into skin treatments, wines, drinks and practically anything you can think of!

At the Chocolate Festival, you will see not just bars, or drops or hard and melted candies as one would expect, Belizeans have gotten oh so creative with the preparations and usage of the bean that it goes into skin treatments, wines, drinks and practically anything you can think of!

Not only is this a food festival – but as you’d expect from Belize it’s a cultural festival too! The main ethnic groups of the south are the Kriol, Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo and East Indians who all come out and set up booths to display who they are as a people and of course how chocolate has influenced their lives.

It’s interesting to see that something, as grounded as chocolate, could have been made into such an ethereal product, though not as much as the ancient Mayans who used it as a currency and to imbue strength and a drink for royalty. Xocolatl still holds a dear place in the hearts of Many Belizeans and maybe none more than those who live and grow it down south.

7. Mangofest

belize-Hopkins-Mango-Fest-07
Madi from i Travel Belize enjoying Mangofest

Slightly less south is Hopkins, a sleepy fishing village that we’ve told you about before in another blog that makes no assumptions of what it should be or who you are. Once per year (a lot more than just once for all we really know) the town lights up and becomes almost electric in its energy – full of life and people and, you guessed it, FOOD.

Mangos are a common summertime snack in Belize, every Belizean, be them elderly, middle-aged or anything younger than that will tell you that their favorite thing about summer, other than the islands is Mango season. There’s no real set date for Mango season – they don’t exactly need time to reproduce like lobster does, but usually, the dawning of summer means the same for Mangos.

At Mango festival, as you could imagine, food and drink stalls are urged (or maybe required?) to serve up some manga related or incorporated goodness. People tend to get rather creative and come up with the most scrumptious mango infused platters or drinks that you can imagine.

This may be coincidence or design but Mangos are the color of sunshine and the village beach backdrop with the sea breeze and summer sun scream tropical paradise. How could it not be considered that, though? A mango smoothie, with Mango sauce chicken wings on a warm afternoon under palm shade by the beach? That may have been a mouthful to say but the response from you was most likely instantaneous… Right?!

 

Maybe it’s in our nature as Caribbean people to throw big parties about things we like – perhaps it’s just our nature as humans to do this. Whatever the subconscious reasons be, it certainly is a good time attending any of these. While pictures never seem to match up to the smells, tastes, sights too quick for your shutter and memories only your mind can perceive, it’s probably good to have a camera with you, and we’d definitely love to see what you caught!


Been to one of these cool festivals before? Tell us about your favorite part!

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