Belize 101

I have heard great things about visiting Belize from a few of my friends. To be honest I had to look on the map to discover were the country was. Belize is also the only country in Central America where English is the official language.

What happened next was a planning party on Friday night while listening to The Best of Anita Baker and drinking our favorite boxed red wine. Yes boxed wine, we save money that way.We used my new favorite online tool, Trello. If you are not familiar with Trello, I highly suggest you check it out, it makes any type of planning a piece of cake. 

Here are accommodation, food, cultural experience and day trip suggestions to make your trip to Belize one to remember.

Food in Belize City

Belize is a foodie country. Be prepared to indulge. You cannot go wrong with picking any restaurant, but I do suggest that you try the traditional meals while visiting.

For breakfast Belizeans eat eggs, beans and fry jack. Fry jack is basically lightly sweetened fried dough. You dip the fry jack into the beans – delicious! Most breakfast stands will also give you bacon or ham with you meal. We were able to walk to a stand near our AirBnB and had two breakfast plates for $10 BZD, which equals to $5 USD! Five bucks!

The seafood in Belize is delicious and fresh. We visited during lobster season. We made sure to get lobster anytime it was on the menu.

Another great restaurant to try is Celebrity Restaurant near downtown Belize City. There is nothing you can order that is not delicious, but I had seafood pasta and my partner had the curry chicken. You will see a lot of pasta options in Belizean restaurants. Be prepared for carb overload. 

Midtown Restaurant & Bar is more on the upscale side located near the nightlife in downtown Belize City. If you are looking to have dinner before stepping out for the night this is your place. You will hear music playing at various nightclubs & bars as you walk up.

Accommodation in Belize City

AirBnB was our choice for this vacation. I did extensive research on resorts and hotels, but I did not want the inflated prices nor did I want to be near all the tourist. I wanted a real Belize experience.

I found a remarkable AirBnB and our host Dominique was spectacular. When I return to Belize I will stay here again. Not only did she provide us with an amazing list of activities, but directly across the street from the property is a full restaurant, Belamari Pier Restaurant, which sits overlooking the water. Full bar, full service establishment and delicious!

It was very convenient for us to just cross the street and sit on the pier and enjoy a delicious meal while sipping the local rum.

Another perk to staying at this location was that it is walking distance to a grocery store, Brodies. The first thing we did was get some things for our 4 day/3 night stay. Walk the other way and you will run into one of the Belize signs. You can’t leave with out that instagram-worthy opportunity.

With us vacationing like locals, we had to rent a car. This made it easy for us to get around. But beware, driving in Belize is very different than driving in the States. It did make for a great adventure. A lot of the roads do not have lane markings and locals tend to drive with only themselves in mind. Be cautious. 

Cultural experiences in Belize City

As mentioned, our AirBnB host, gave us a wonderful list of things to do. They ranged from Sip & Sit pedal tours, visiting the Belize Zoo to see animals in the their natural habitat, Mayan ruins, visiting rum distilleries, zip lining and cave tubing tours. 

Zip lining through the jungle was something we really wanted to do. But we did not realize is that you needed to reserve at least 1 day before. Bummer. But instead we took a 2-hour road trip west to visit the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins.

There are closer ruins to Belize City, Altun Ha. Read the reviews and compare the two, Xunantunich is a clear choice if you have the transportation to get there.

In order to get to Xunantunich you have to cross a ferry. It is a pretty neat experience. You drive onto a floating bridge and it takes you across the river to the other side where you drive one mile up to the ruins.

Before crossing the bridge you will be approached by locals stating they are licensed tour guides for the ruins and they will try to convince you to hire them as your personal tour guide. You do not need this. You will be just find navigating solo throughout the ruins.

After you pay the $10 BZD per person entrance fee, you are in a world of nature. After walking a 1/4 mile gradually up a hill, you will come to a clearing that is remarkable. My mouth dropped once I saw how beautiful these ruins were.

I recommend you wear sneakers that have a good grip and clothes that will not show perspiration marks. Belize is warm most of the year, so just be prepared. To get the full experience you want to make sure you climb the ruins and if you have shoes that do not have gripping you are going to be risking a lot.

The tallest ruin is 130 feet. And some parts of the stone structure do not have handrails. You will be ascending up into the sky’s carefully, but at your own risk. But it is worth it once you get to the top and just look out and see mother nature.

After you are done in Xunantunich, stop in San Ignacio. It is on the way back to Belize City. A quaint town with lots of shops and more delicious food about 15-20 minutes from the ruins.

We stopped at one of Dominque’s recommendations – Guava Limb Café. We fell more in love with this country after eating at this restaurant. I had a Greek salad with flash fried tofu and Julian had a simple dish – fried fish, shrimp, chicken and fries and it was delicious. The flavor and freshness of my vegetables were mouth watering. And Julian’s simple fried meal was even more delicious.

And let’s not get started on the drink choices. At this café I indulged in several Caipirinhas, while Julian tried their local beer – Belikin. It was good, but after tasting my cocktail he switched over to join me.

Even if heights and heat are not your thing, I still recommend you venture out to San Ignacio. You wont be disappointed. 

Day trips

Belize is a popular vacation destination, but most people do not stay in Belize City. They venture to one of the many islands like San Pedro or Caye (pronounced key) Caulker. I had zero idea that any islands even existed. But this also explained why we did not see many touristy looking people roaming around Belize City.

There are two ways to get to the islands, a small chartered plane or ferry boat. If you choose the small plane it is a 7-10 minute flight depending which island you are visiting. It will cost somewhere between $80-100 USD round-trip per person. If you choose the ferry option, which is what we did, it will cost $28 USD round-trip per person and it is 45 minutes to Caye Caulker or 60 minutes to San Pedro.

We chose Caye Caulker for our day trip. We wanted a smaller island experience. Population in Caye Caulker is 1,600 to San Pedro being upwards of 17,000 people.

If I was to do this again, I would choose to spend one night in Caye Caulker because it was so much to see, drink and eat. We took the 9AM ferry over and the 3:30PM ferry back to the city.

One of the best features of Caye Caulker is the main mode of transportation – golf carts. Visitors can rent a golf cart from various companies on the island. It is the best way to see the entire island. You can rent by the hour, which is $25 USD or for 8 hours you can pay $100 USD. They also have 12 hour or overnight options.

During our golf cart adventure we were able to see kids playing in the school yard, locals engaging in normal Wednesday behavior and even stumbled on a mini reserve.

In Caye Caulker the split is where most people hang out at. Apparently this area is famous because one of the bachelors brought his flock of ladies to this island during their country hopping quest to love. The split has a peaceful energy to it.

The island that is directly across the water is desolate, but you can rent kayaks and venture over for more exploration. If you sit out and water watch like we did, you will see boats from the other islands drop of excursion crowds who have limited time to spend on this beautiful island.

For lunch, I was hoping to visit one of the various local restaurants that were recommended to us, but on our golf cart ride Julian caught the eye of a local who was grilling on the side of the road. The impromptu chef said to Julian “Whatever you want boss, I got you”. At that moment we were committed. I was disappointed because this was not the “restaurant” that I wanted to eat at.

But was I wrong. This meal that was cooked for us on a grill on the side of the road was the best meal I ate my entire trip. I had 2 shrimp skewers, 2 lobster skewers and Julian had BBQ jerk chicken. Both meals came with coconut rice and plantains. And we had 2 fresh cut coconuts to drink with a shot or 2 (maybe 3) of local rum.

I ate my entire meal. Rice and all. I could not stop eating it was so delicious. We paid $85 BZD for our entire meal including drinks. That is $42.50 USD! If anything, everyone needs to visit just to eat good for less than half of what we pay in the states.

Moral of this story – don’t judge the restaurant by the lack of a building and a real kitchen. We ate on two tall bar stools out of styrofoam to go containers.      

I did expect to go swimming or walk on the beach while I was in Caye Caulker, but it did not appear that this was an option. As we were driving around we did see signs that pointed towards swimming areas, but it also stated that there was an additional ferry we had to take. I was content with just sitting out in the sun getting a tan in my bathing suit.

Belize is a beautiful country. Just like any place you visit, there isn’t going to be enough time to do it all. But hopefully this guide will help you start your planning journey.

Below are some final tips as you plan your visit:

Think about traveling during the week over a weekend. We visited Monday- Thursday and it was the perfect relaxing getaway. Attractions and sites were not crowded. Be cautious however, a lot of restaurants and businesses are closed on Sundays & Mondays.

If you want to visit for the reggae-filled nightlife, the best days to hit the streets are Thursday – Saturday.

If you plan to spend your entire trip on one of the islands, plan ahead for timing to get through the airport. It will take you an hour to get out of the airport on a non-high traffic day. To speed up the customs line, you can visit the duty-free shop to pick up some local rum, or White Hennessy, and you get to cut the long time. 

Belize is a 2 hour flight from South Florida. We flew to there in between a wedding in Miami and a work trip I had in Daytona Beach. If you are traveling to South Florida for anything, consider hopping over to Belize even if it is for a night or two. We got a great deal on Southwest. Two tickets for $390 – round-trip! 

Pack your sunscreen and bug spray. The mosquitoes are out in Belize. The town we stayed in sprayed the neighborhood each night. On windy days you do not have to worry as much. We forgot the spray when we went to Caye Caulker and we paid for it.

Visit a grocery store and take home the Belizean coffee and spices. On our way to the airport we made a final grocery store run. In our AirBnB we had the most delicious instant coffee. I had never been a fan, but I bought the biggest container I could fit into my bag to bring back with me.

You do not need to change your money over. Just about everywhere takes USD or your debit/credit card. They even do split payments between Belizean dollars and CCs. The exchange rate is $2 BZD to $1 USD.

Happy Planning 🙂

~ JY

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