Experiencing the Very Best of Belize

Belize is the perfect country for any backpacker looking for somewhere cool, different and a bit off the beaten track.  Located on the east coast of Central America, the cheap and accessible bus and boat services make it super-easy to explore.

When I was there I loved seeing the landscape change miraculously in just a short journey. From green lands to islands to city life, two weeks is a perfect amount of time to travel Belize to get a taste of what life there is really like.

While other factors can make it anexpensive country to travel (averaging £50 a day for a backpacker), if you limit your time in the touristy areas you can keep costs a little lower. Here’s what I’d recommend you do in the main areas of Belize City, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Placencia, Dangriga, San Ignacio and Benque.

Scenery in Belize

Belize City

What to do

Two nights is plenty of time to spend in the capital, giving you a day to wander the old town and shop in the new, while photographing the whole lot to impress all your friends in their newsfeeds.

At $3, the Belize City Zoo is worth a visit. Locate a blue bus sign (they pop up almost every 50 metres) and flag a bus down from the city to get there. The official language of Belize is English, so there’s no need to worry about asking the conductor to tell you your stop.

On the way back, head to the Tourist Village on the harbour. Here you’ll find some cute shops and good food spots, but be sure to visit before 5pm because it gets a little quiet once the cruise ships leave.

Food and drink

The Smokey Mermaid Restaurant and Bar is a good one to visit with pretty views by the beach.

Life's a beach in Belize

Celebrity Restaurant is also thought to be one of the best in the city. For a breakfast treat try the traditional Belizean fry jacks. Be warned though, you’ll soon fatten up if you eat too many of these tasty beasts.

Where to stay

I couldn’t find a decent hostel in Belize but the Sea Breeze Hotel suits the backpacker budget at $30 per night. You might want to put a sarong or towel between you and those bedsheets though – I’m sure they’ve seen some action during the 100 years they’ve adorned the mattress.

Getting there

There are no buses from the airport to the city; you’ll need a taxi. Expect to pay around $50 for a 15-30 minute journey.

Caye Caulker

What to do

With no cars, you can explore Caye Caulker by bike for just $5, or rent a golf cart. This is the island for the backpackers, with cheap hostels, a cool bar scene and plenty of snorkelling trips leaving every day.

For lazing out and catching the rays, you’ll find a perfect spot down at The Split but after a day or so you should take the time to plan the tours you want to take.

Caye Caulker, Belize

Trips to the Blue Hole, Goff’s Caye and Esmerelda are the faves with lots of companies offering tours for similar prices. Frenchie’s Diving School is definitely recommended for trips and to do your Open Water PADI. I did, big shout out to Nigel who got me through those tricky theory questions.

There’s also paddleboarding, wind surfing and kayaking to keep you out on the water too.

Food and drink

If you want to eat on the waterfront try Sobre las Olas or Enjoy. At Enjoy you can get lobster and a beer for $20BZ, one of the cheapest places in the world.

The best places for a beer include the Sports Bar and Grill and the I&I Bar. They’ve got swings at the bar; surely that’s all you need to know?

Where to stay

With budget backpackers in mind, there are two places to recommend: Dirty McNasty Hostel ($32 pppn) and Blue Wave Hotel ($22 pppn). Most people move after their first night because there are many other budget places around that aren’t online, but I find it’s always more reassuring to know where you’re going on arrival.

Getting there

Caye Caulker Water Taxi has two boats a day and is the cheaper option (return $29), while the Belize Water Taxi goes more often but is $30 one-way. The crossing takes about 40 minutes and both journeys offer the same beautiful views on approach. Camera alert.

Ambergris Caye

What to do

Ambergris Caye comes with a temptation warning. Once here you may be tempted to set up home for the rest of your trip but limit yourself to two days, especially at those prices.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

As one of Belize’s top things to discover, venture down to the Ho Chal Marine Reserve at the bottom of the island to swim with more fishies and sea creatures than you could ever imagine. Afterwards you can laze on the beach or take a yoga class.

Where to stay

San Pedro Backpackers is a great option for those on a budget but there are a few fancier places you can try that may be better value if you manage to snag the private beach, food and activities package.

Transportation

Ambergris Caye is a lot more expensive than Caye Caulker and you could easily visit for a day on the boat, just so you know.

Unlike Caye Caulker cars are allowed on Ambergris Caye and after spending time away from the transport you’ll realise just how much it ruins the place, and why they won’t let cars on Caulker. You can get a water taxi to the island and then there will always be a taxi to help you get around.

Placencia

What to do

Now this is where I shed the ability to pop my self-approved stamp on the activities, as the bad weather in December meant I was merely a passer-by. However, several recommendations and research have left me realising Placencia has some of the best beaches known to man.

Placencia, Belize

When you can pull yourself way from the sands, Cockscomb Wildlife Reserve is a good attraction to visit in Placencia. Globally recognised as the world’s first jaguar preserve, it’s got waterfalls and furry mammals galore. You can also climb one of Belize’s highest points, Victoria Peak.

Where to stay

The best recommended budget hotel is Lydia’s Guesthouse where you can get a twin room for around £12 per night.

Transportation

If you’ve come from the islands back to Belize City on the water taxi, you can easily walk from the port to the bus station to get to Placencia. Don’t let the taxi drivers tell you differently!

Once there, find a guy in yellow for details on the next Placencia bus. It’s easy, trust me.

Dangriga

What to do

Marie Sharp’s hot sauce is like a national treasure in Belize, and Dangriga is home to her factory. Here you can take a tour where it’s said Marie Sharp even offers some herself.

Dangriga, Belize

The Gulisi Garifuna Museum gives you a little background on the Garifuna’s (indigenous people) history and culture; it’s always worth understanding these a little better when you’re in a new country.

Getting there

The bus takes 90 minutes from Placencia. People will probably try to sell you stuff along the way on the bus but don’t feel there’s any pressure. I would recommend making the most of it though – my bus journey turned into a bit of a food tour with all the goodies that I bought. It’s all home cooked!

San Ignacio

What to do

From caving to Mayan ruins, there’s loads to do here. There’s even an iguana conservation project.

Food and drink

This is where prices thankfully get a little cheaper. The number one recommendation is Roots Wraps and Smoothies – great for veggies, health freaks and vegans.

Where to stay

With cheaper prices you can perhaps upgrade and stay in a hotel; there are hostels for less than £10 a night though. Try Bella’s Backpackers for one that’s well located in the heart of the action.

Benque

What to do

This is where your Belizean dollars get a rest. Benque is a cool place and although there’s not much to do in the town itself it’s close to most other attractions so acts as a good base.

The town’s tourist spots are the Xanantunich Ruins, which you reach by the smallest ferry ever. Once you’ve crossed and made your way up the hill, one mile on the other side, you can play around in the ruins to your little heart’s content. 

Benque, Belize

Food and drink

Natty’s Kitchen serves amazing rice, beans and chicken for $6, and if you’re lucky she’ll have the papaya shake on for $3. Another option is Benny’s Kitchen where you’ll get a good feed for a great price too. Benque isn’t flashy, the restaurants offer the house special, which will be delicious, but that’s all there is. This is the real Belize.

Getting there

From San Ignacio take the bus from the centre of town to Benque. It’s about $1/2 and takes around 10 minutes. 


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