WHERE
Itinerary map here

Itinerary:
Archaeology, Nature, and Underwater Adventures – 10 days in Belize

3 nights: San Ignacio as a base for exploring Maya ruins and caves.
2 nights: Hopkins or Placencia to relax on the beach and experience local Garifuna culture.
3 nights: Caye Caulker for diving, snorkelling, and food.
2 nights: San Pedro on Ambergris Caye for cruising in your golf cart and enjoying life by the sea.



" Climb atop ancient ruins for breathtaking views of the rainforest below, then spelunk or tube your way through caves that still hold evidence of Maya sacrifices. If that’s not enough adventure, head to the second largest reef in the world to dive with whale sharks, view the endangered Manatees, and snorkel with nurse sharks and stingrays. "


Some general information:

The small size of Belize makes it easy to arrange daytrips from almost any location. For the most flexibility, rent a car to tour the interior of the country, then take a water taxi to the islands. Belize can also easily be traveled by bus, plane, or day trips through local tour operators.
The official language in Belize is English and the local people are friendly and talkative. Belizean Creole and Spanish are spoken throughout the country.
The best time to visit Belize is during dry season from November to mid-April, although the temperature is fairly constant year round. You may miss some attractions due to heavy rainfall if you travel in September or November, or brace for a higher temperature and humidity in April and May.

1

San Ignacio

3 nights

Introduction:

Depending on what time your flight lands in Belize City, you can opt to spend the night or head east to San Ignacio directly from the airport. Don’t worry about missing the sites of Belize City – you will see them when you head to the water taxi terminals.

San Ignacio is only 100 kilometers (63 miles) from Belize City, but the road has numerous few speed bumps that will catch you off guard if you aren’t paying attention! Expect a travel time of 2-3 hours. San Ignacio is a great base for visiting the Maya ruins of Caracol, Tikal, Guatemala, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, as well as cave tubing or spelunking the ATM Cave.

What to do:

* Start with the Xunantunich and Cahal Pech Maya ruins close to town
* Take a guided tour across the Guatemalan border to UNESCO Heritage Site Tikal
* Join a military escort to see Caracol, a few hours drive from town
* Cave Tubing and the ATM Cave

There are quite a few options for accommodation in the center of town. Settle in and then head out for a meal. The downtown is small and easily walkable, including a pedestrian only street. If you arrive early enough, you may be able to see a few of the nearby Maya ruins. If not, save your energy for the next day.

The two closest ruins are Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. You will need transportation (driving, local bus or taxi) to get the Xunantunich. A few miles out of town, before the Guatemalan border you will see a small hand cranked ferry on the right that will transport you to the archaeological site. Once inside, visit the courts of ancient ball games, and climb the 40-meter (130 feet) tall El Castillo for a panoramic view of the lush rainforest below.

Cahal Pech is walkable from the San Ignacio city center. Built in a different era than Xunantunich, Cahal Pech has a maze-like feel through several adjacent rooms.

Local guides are available for most of the historic sites in Belize for a reasonable price. They will enhance your knowledge of the area, although there are times when you may opt to wander the site at your own pace.

Your next few days in San Ignacio will take some planning due to the number of nearby activities, but there are plenty of tour operators in town that can help you. You are close enough to Guatemala to see Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest urban centers of Maya civilization.

Back on the Belize side, 40 kilometers away from San Ignacio is the Maya Ruin of Caracol. It is recommended to join the military convoy from Douglas Da Silva Station to this site, which leaves at 9:30 am and returns at 2 pm. You can take a guided tour from San Ignacio or self-drive.

You can also use San Ignacio as a base for cave tubing and touring the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave. These activities can also be visited from Belize City or Caye Caulker with a local guide.

If you are cave tubing, try to avoid cruise ship days as you will be subject to in-cave traffic jams. Cave tubing is a fairly relaxing adventure with a beautiful nature hike at the beginning. For all cave entries, you will need an approved guide, although it is possible to drop in and join a group.

The ATM cave is an experience not to be missed. A moderate level of physical activity is recommended as you there will be swimming (life jackets are available), climbing, and squeezing your way through the cave’s chambers. In the dry chamber you will walk among ceramic, stoneware, and skeletal remains of Maya sacrifices dating back to 700-900 AD.

Off the beaten path:

The ATM cave is a must see. It is unbelievable that tours are still allowed at this ancient site, although cameras are not allowed after one of the site’s skulls was damaged. According to local guides, other caves have been discovered nearby that contain thousands of human remains.

Next:

Head south along the Hummingbird Highway to Hopkins and Placentia, appreciating the scenic drive along the way.

2

Hopkins or Placentia

2 nights

Introduction:

Enjoy laidback Garifuna culture at Hopkins or the larger expat mecca of Placencia. Both towns are beautiful, with a decent variety of restaurants, hotels, and beaches. Hopkins is more chilled and sleepy, so if you need slightly more stimulus, head to Placentia. Reasonably priced oceanfront accommodation can be found, but it’s best to book ahead in high season.

What to do:

* Relax in Hopkins
* Hit the beach and boardwalk in Placentia
* Enjoy swimming, diving, snorkelling, and fishin,g or head to Laughing Bird Caye
* Experience culture at the Garifuna village of Seine Bight
* Visit the nearby ruins of Nim Li Punit and Lunantuum
* Scope out the wildlife at Monkey River or Cockscome Basin Wildlife Preserve

You can’t help but settle into the relaxed vibe of Hopkins. Here you can spend the day wandering around on food or bicycle, stopping to swim at the beach or eat in a health conscious restaurant. Chances are you’ll make friends with a few locals, or expats or who have chosen Hopkins as their destination to drop out of the chaos of life.

Placentia is a little more lively than Hopkins, but not by much. Here, stash your car and wander up and down the pedestrian boardwalks through the village, stopping to check out the amazing woodwork and handicrafts. For refreshments, it’s easy to find a decent happy hour to enjoy your fruity concoction from the comfort of a hammock or swing.

Belize is located on the second biggest reef in the world. Scuba diving, snorkelling, and deep-sea fishing can all be arranged from Placencia. From April to June, it is possible to dive with whale sharks – the biggest fish in the sea!

If you are in the mood for a day trip, head off in a boat to Laughing Bird Caye, a mini-atoll with protected swimming and snorkelling. Or drive to Seine Bight, a local Garifuna village just a few miles north of the peninsula for great music and food. There are also two nearby Maya ruins - Nim Li Punit and Lunantuum.

Belize is an animal and bird lover’s paradise, both above and below the water. The Placencia Lagoon hosts saltwater crocodiles, marine turtles, endangered manatees, and countless species of birds. A Money River tour will allow you to see howler monkeys in their natural habitat through the mangroves, and a visit to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve will give you the opportunity to be among all five types of Belizean wild cats - jaguars, jaguarondis, ocelots, margays, and pumas. You may not see all of them, but they will definitely see you!

Next:

Return your car to the airport in Belize City, with an optional stop at the Belize Zoo, and then head down to the Water Taxi terminal in the center of town. The Belize Zoo is en route to Belize City – the natural surroundings were left in tack for the zoo, and the focus is on education.

From the airport, you can take a taxi for about $25 USD, or if you let them know in advance, the rental car company may even arrange for you to be dropped off downtown free of charge.

There are two water taxi terminals, with slightly varying timetables and prices. The price differences aren’t too extreme; so pick one that works with your departure time. If you have extra time before your ferry, wander around the city center, cross the old swing bridge, or visit the Museum of Belize in a converted prison.

3

Caye Caulker

3 nights

Introduction:

Caye Caulker takes the idea of relaxed island life to a whole new level. The island is small enough that it can easily be navigated by food or on bicycle. You can rent golf carts here, but it’s best to save that for larger San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.

What to do:

* Eat!
* Organize a dive tour to the Blue Hole or snorkelling trip to Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark Ray Alley
* See Manatees at Swallow Caye
* Take daytrips to anything you missed on the mainland – Belize Zoo, Altuna Ha Ruins, ATM Cave, cave tubing, zip-lining

Drop your luggage off at your ocean front hotel. Being such a small island, odds are you are going to be a stone’s throw from the water wherever you stay. Golf cart taxis can help show you and your luggage the way, or find your place on foot – it won’t be far.

Caye Caulker has amazingly delicious food, especially if it’s lobster season. Locals line the street with grills offering rum punch and rum cake as sides.

If you are a scuba diver, you have made it to your underwater heaven. There is plenty of amazing dive sites, including the infamous Blue Hole. If you are a snorkeler, fear not – day-trips can be taken to Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark Ray Alley to get you up close and personal with these creatures! And don’t forget about a trip to Swallow Caye to see manatees – rumour has it sailors confused these animals with mermaids after especially long voyages.

With its proximity to the mainland, Caye Caulker is a great place to take in more tours. Cave tubing, zip-lines, the zoo, Altuna Ha Maya ruin, and the ATM cave can all be visited from Caye Caulker as part of a tour or combo package.

If you need a quick dip in the water, head to The Split – where the island was split in two after Hurricane Hattie.

Eat & drink:

The food is fresh and amazing on this island, especially if you are there during lobster season. Try a meal from one of the people barbequing on the main beach road – you won’t be disappointed. For breakfast, opt for a typical Belize breakfast including fryjacks.

Where to sleep:

If you haven’t prebooked a hotel, take a left off the ferry dock and check out the waterfront hotels that are within walking distance. Places like Popeye’s have options for all budgets.

Next:

Hop on the water taxi and head to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye – the big city island cousin of laid back Caye Caulker.

4

San Pedro

2 nights

Introduction:

You are about to experience a golf cart traffic jam! Welcome to the city of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Ambergris Caye used to be a part of Mexico until the Mayas built a channel to separate the two.

What to do:

* Rent a golf cart
* Go coconut bowling

Renting a golf cart for at least one day is a must here. That way you can explore, bumping along the sand and cobblestone streets. If your hotel is off the beaten path, you may want to consider renting a cart or bicycle for both days.

San Pedro is one of those places you just need to wander around in. Check out some shops, eat some great food, and sample the local fresh juices. If you want a healthy, but slightly boozy concoction, try a watermelon cucumber rum. Beachfront coconut bowling and life-sized Jenga are the extent of the land sports here.

If you missed snorkelling Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark Ray Alley, trips can also made from here. Shark Ray Alley was a shallow water dumping area for fishermen, so these safe beasts know what to expect when a boat nears. Jump in the water and watch them pass directly below you.

Off the beaten path:

One of the over-the-water bars just outside town has tire tubes tied to their docks. Relax in the water while they bring you fruity drinks.

Eat & drink:

Fresh squeezed juices are a staple on both islands. From orange to pineapple, to the combination of watermelon/cucumber/rum, these drinks will leave you feeling healthy and revitalized (and perhaps a little boozy)!

Where to sleep:

There is a range of accommodations for all budgets, for high end all-inclusives outside of town, to cheap city apartments inside the city. It’s best to check availability online before arriving.

Next:

If your flight departs out of Belize City, either take the water taxi back, or book a quick flight with Tropic Air – Belize’s National airline. The planes are tiny and fly low enough to offer amazing views of private islands. If you are travelling to Mexico, you can catch the water taxi all the way to Chetmul.

Conclusion

For such a small country, Belize packs a big tourism punch. Nature and archaeological enthusiasts have no shortage of sites to visits. Divers can rejoice at being on the second largest reef in the world and in close proximity to the Blue Hole. And if eating, drinking, and lounging around on the beach is more your scene, well Belize has that too!