Belize, Your Ticket to Fun in the Sun
Belize is now open to tourism again after the recent pandemic restrictions world-wide. This small Caribbean country (70 miles wide by about 400 miles long) in Central America has so much to offer the visitor – from several hundred tiny islands called cayes and the Belize Barrier Reef on the ocean-side to the Mayan wonders in its green interior.
Here’s some quick facts for the traveler:
Current Entry Requirements & Restrictions
You will need to select Gold Standard accommodations as places to stay (required at this current time), download the Belize Health app (suggested but not compulsory), and have either a negative 48-hour rapid antigen test or 96-hour test to show as proof you are covid-free upon entry. If you don’t have a test done beforehand, you will be tested on arrival and charged for it. There are testing centers for any tests required to re-enter your own country after your Belize vacation. Your travel professional will have the current details. Hopefully all this is short term.
You do need a passport. Belize is an independent Commonwealth country. Do not carry or pack guns, ammunition, beer, or marijuana as all are illegal to import. Belize has strict gun laws. There is gang -related crime, and related crime-prone areas, but you will probably never see them during your time in the country.
If you are concerned for your personal safety, especially if traveling solo, you should employ the usual safety precautions that you would in any place. Belize is one of the safer countries to visit in Central America, safer than Mexico but apparently not quite as safe as Costa Rica according to sources. At the end of the day, use common sense and inquire of your hotel or hosts what areas to avoid and when.
Explore Belize City (Image: Bigstock)
Or relax in the cayes (Image:Pixabay).
How to Get There & More
Belize City is the usual port of call for cruisers. The main airport is the Philip S.W. Goldson Airport but there are nearly twenty others around the country. Belize City is small, relatively safe as cities go, and laid-back. After flying in, you should head to the coast or cayes for beaches and water sports, or to the interior for Mayan-based adventure. For all its small size, Belize has a lot of distinct regions each with its own topography from jungle to highlands to pasture, and each with their own attractions. Renting a car to tour on your own is a great way to explore: you must be eighteen years old, not an unusual requirement, and have a valid licence in the United States, Canada, etc. Driving is on the right.
English is the official language so no need to bring a translation guide. You may hear some Spanish but more likely, it will be the local Kreol spoken between locals.
Best Time to Visit
Belize never gets unbearably hot but if you want cooler temperatures (average 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and drier weather, consider the months between November and April which, luckily, are the times most northern North Americans get the travel itch to avoid the cold. Hurricanes are not usually an issue the same way they are in the Caribbean islands but there is the occasional one reaching the Belize coast. The best time to travel is outside of hurricane season anyway!
Scuba dive the Great Blue Hole off the coast (Image: Bigstock)
Or climb El Castillo at Xunantunich (Image: Bigstock)
What is There to Do?
Popular spots are Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye in the north islands. This is probably the area most think of when envisioning a Belize vacation. Here you will find a truly relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals. You can sun on the beach, quench your thirst at a beachside bar, or take to the water to scuba dive, snorkel, or fish. Then as the sun sets, indulge in great nightlife of bars and beachside entertainment.
Want to cave tube? Yes, it is an option! Head to Nohoch Che’en to float through the cave and perhaps swim there as well. Or perhaps you are the very adventurous, active sort. Explore the ATM cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal) in western Belize where you hike about 45 minutes into the jungle, wade through three rivers, swim through six feet deep of water at the cave entrance (optional entrance available for non-swimmers), climb ladders, walk on slippery rocks and squeeze through tight spaces. The cave is sacred to the Mayan culture and contains remains including the “Crystal Maiden”. The “maiden” is a girl’s sacrificial skeleton, the calcified remains of which shine like diamonds in the darkness of the cave.
If you are an experienced climber, your goal should be the peak of Victoria Mountain, the second highest spot in Belize at over 3600 feet. You start in the world’s only jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary , and it takes an overnight stay in the outdoors plus hours of vertical hiking from there. You must have an experienced guide as this is not a walk in the park, no pun intended. Your reward – the view of the surrounding greenery below – is stupendous.
Howler monkey (Image: Pixabay)
Shh! Don’t wake the jaguar! (Image: Pixabay)
History buffs will love the plethora of Mayan structures. It seems almost every village has one. Take a trip to Xunantunich (loosely translated as “Stone Woman”, and named for an apparition that supposedly appears there) for the ultimate exploration. Even getting to this ancient site is an adventure. Cross the Mopan River in a hand-cranked ferry. Pass agricultural fields and cattle pastures. Observe howler moneys and their young if you are lucky. A popular tour is by horseback allowing you to enjoy the views, the causal ride and being up close to nature along the way. For the less adventurous, you can reach the site by bus or rental car, about 70 some miles from Belize City near the Guatemala border. The entrance fee is inexpensive, about US$5. Currently there are no guides. You can climb to the top of the highest pyramid, the El Castillo.
Nature buffs and wildlife lovers will enjoy the many opportunities to see howler monkeys (Baboon Sanctuary at Bermudian Landing), and pumas, peccaries’ tapirs, ocelots, and deer at the afore-mentioned Jaguar Sanctuary at Cockscomb Basin – plus jaguars themselves in the wild on guided night hikes. There are many more sanctuaries too featuring crocodiles to iguanas. Belize is also home to six hundred species of birds. If visiting Belize on a cruise and you have not much time ashore, try to see the Belize Zoo, about a half hour drive from Belize City. It is home to almost two hundred animals.
Belize art: sculpture of a face (Image: Pixabay)
All different cultures here (Image: Pixabay)
Fun in Belize
A vacation in Belize can be as simple as a week on a gorgeous white-sand beach amongst ex-pats and tourists such as yourself with the odd side trip to a popular Mayan site or a cave adventure, or it can be a deep-dive into the food, culture and music of the country. Belize is home to many different cultures: Mayan, Creole, Mestizo, Garifuna, Amish & more. But the deep dive is a huge topic to be explored another time. Suffice to say, Belize has a tremendous amount to offer the visitor, either on a casual visit or more intensive stay. Contact your travel expert to plan your vacation in this Central American gem.