Belize Book of Lists
Best of the Caribbean Coast
Visiting Belize is confusing, isn't it? There are so many choices,
and they all sound good in the brochures.
At BELIZE FIRST, we're trying to help by providing our lists of
the best of Belize and the Caribbean Coast. The best jungle lodges,
restaurants, and beach resorts. The best itineraries, the best
sources of more information, even our choices for the best honeymoon
We've gone out on a limb to give you our opinion. And it is just
that -- OPINION.
Our little "Book of Lists" contains informed judgments based on
many visits by BELIZE FIRST staff, on sharing notes with leading
guidebook authors covering the region, and from comments from
hundreds of BELIZE FIRST readers and other Belize travelers.
If you disagree with our conclusions and our rankings, tell us.
Give us YOUR opinion, and the reasons for it.
One thing, however, you don't have to worry about. The opinions
expressed here are NOT based on the influence of advertising dollars
or politics or Belize boosterism. BELIZE FIRST is independent,
ad-free, and obligated to no one. We tell you what we really think
... even if it hurts to say so. While we love Belize, we're not
in the business of promoting it. We're in the business of candidly
reporting on it.
Finally, a word of caution: Things change. What was wonderful
yesterday may, with the loss of a key person or other untoward
event, take a turn for the worse today. Especially in Belize.
5 Reasons to Visit Belize
Belize isn't for everyone. But what it does offer, it offers in
# 1 Diving/snorkeling
Regardless of your level of ability or physical condition, there's
a place and mask for you in Belize. Diving around the atolls is
world-class, excellent on the reef off Stann Creek and Toledo
districts, and not bad even around the more-visited parts of the
barrier reef such as near Ambergris Caye. Snorkeling is also excellent,
though except from the cayes directly on the reef such as Tobacco,
Goff's, and English, it requires a short boat ride to the reef.
A caution, though: The Caribbean here can see rough seas, making
snorkeling iffy on windy or stormy days. Long dive boat rides
can be a very queasy experience.
# 2 Mayan ruins
Belize was the heart of the Maya world, and today dozens of ruins
can be visited without the hordes of tourists common in Mexico
and elsewhere in the region.
# 3 Ecotravel: Birds, wildlife, and nature
Most of Belize remains lightly populated by humans and untouched
by developers, so it is a paradise for wild critters and birds.
More than 500 species of birds have been spotted in Belize. Animals
rare or extinct elsewhere still thrive in Belize's bush. Nature
is still natural here. A surprising number of Belizeans have a
real commitment to protecting the environment.
# 4 Adventure
Belize is a great place for adventure, soft or otherwise. Come
for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, and caving. Indeed,
Belize offers some of the best spelunking anywhere, with huge
cave systems, some yet unexplored, in the Maya Mountains and elsewhere.
# 5 Culture
No, not the kind you get from museums; Belize offers the visitors
a laboratory of human culture, all in a small and accessible space.
Belize is a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual
society. Far from perfect, with dangers as well as pleasures,
a trip to Belize can be an education. Come with your eyes, and
5 Reasons NOT to Visit Belize
If you love Cancun, you probably won't like Belize.
# 1 Golf
Although the British played golf here in British Honduras days,
there are now no links in the country (except for a private driving
range on Caye Chapel and a few private holes north of Belize City).
# 2 Shopping
Shopping in Belize may remind you of Hobbes' description of working
class life in olde England -- nasty, brutal, and short. While
there are several modern supermarkets and stores in Belize City,
and a few shops of visitor interest in San Pedro and Cayo, prices
for almost everything but rum are high and selection is limited.
Neither does Belize have the rich craft tradition of nearby Guatemala.
# 3 Great beaches
Those coming to Belize expecting the wide white sandy beaches
of Anguilla, the BVI, or parts of Mexico's Yucat\'87 n are likely
to be disappointed. The barrier reef all along the coast of Belize
provides for rich underwater life but also blocks the sand deposits
of less-protected shores. Seagrass is common off most beaches.
Ambergris Caye has some small, human-helped beaches, the small
ribbons of sand at Hopkins/Sittee Point and Placencia/Seine Bight/Maya
Beach can be pleasant, and a few of the remote cayes have postcard-style
strips of sandy beach, but no beach in Belize would make the world's
top 100 list.
# 4 Nightlife
If you like to party hard, consider going elsewhere. Even Belize
City shuts down early, and only the animals walk at night. San
Pedro has the most action, what with the chicken drop at the Spindrift
Hotel, and about 20 bars, some of which blast 'til the wee hours.
At the jungle lodges and remote resorts, guests are usually in
bed by nine or ten, tired from the day's activities.
# 5 Gourmet dining
You CAN get a satisfying meal in Belize, but Guide Michelin will
not need to come to Belize anytime soon.
10 Most Commonly Asked Questions about Belize
Here are the questions we get most often from first-time travelers
to Belize (other than questions on specific hotels), along with
abbreviated versions of our answers.
# 1 "Is it safe?"
Yes, with routine precautions, Belize is as safe as most vacation
destinations. Drugs, unemployment, the large percentage of Belizeans
in the high-crime teenage and young-adult years, and the influence
of U.S. television contribute to crime in Belize City and elsewhere,
but Belize police do their best to stop criminals and solve crimes,
which is more than you can say for many other countries in the
# 2 "What's the cheapest way to get to Belize?"
In most cases, the cheapest way to get to Belize from North America
or Europe is is to fly into Cancun (which gets about 20 times
as many visitors as all of Belize and thus a lot of charter and
low-fare air service) and then take a bus for the five- to six-hour
ride to Chetumal at Belize's northern border.
# 3 "We want to relax at the beach but also see some of mainland
Belize -- where should we go?"
The classic "surf and turf" in Belize is a few days on Ambergris
Caye (or Caye Caulker for budget travelers) and then a few days
in Cayo. That's still a good option, especially for those with
limited time, but there's plenty to see in most areas of Belize.
The quintessential Belize experience may be a week on a remote
caye. For travelers who like to get a bit off the beaten track,
Corozal and Orange Walk districts in the north are well worth
exploring, and Placencia and the Hopkins areas south are pleasant
without being touristy. Toledo is Belize's frontier and a jumping
off point for Caribbean Guatemala and Honduras.
# 4 "Should we rent a car?"
Yes, if you can afford to do so, having your own wheels gives
you the chance to see areas of Belize you can't easily reach by
# 5 "Where's a good place to snorkel directly from the beach?"
Belize has world-class snorkeling, but in most cases it requires
a boat ride to the barrier reef. Among the exceptions are cayes
such as South Water Caye and Tobacco Caye which are directly on
# 6 "Where's the best diving in Belize?"
The best diving is around the atolls far off the coast of Belize
-- Turneffe, Lighthouse, and Glovers. The second-best diving
is along the barrier reef from around Dangriga south. Recreational
divers will enjoy the diving off Ambergris Caye.
# 7 "We want to see a Mayan ruin -- which one should we see?"
If you don't have much time, see Xunantunich or Altun Ha. If
you have more time, see Caracol or Lamanai. If you have at least
a full day and preferably longer, do Tikal in Guatemala.
# 8 "Is summer a bad time to visit -- how hot and rainy is it?"
It depends on where and when you're going. In general, the farther
south you go, the more rain you'll get, and the more months the
wet season lasts. It's hotter inland than on the coast, where
there's usually a trade wind or breeze blowing (though the winds
occasionally die down.) The "green season" in Belize isn't like
the monsoon season in Asia. It's more like southern Florida where
you may get rain or intense storms for a few hours, and then periods
of beautiful sunshine. The main effect is on dirt roads especially
in the south, which at times become impassable. We actually prefer
the off-season in Belize. There are fewer tourists, and prices
are lower. If we had to pick a single time to come to Belize,
it probably would be right after Easter, when prices drop, water
viz is excellent, the tradewinds still are blowing, and it's still
too early for hurricanes or severe tropical storms. Belize averages
about one hurricane every ten years, usually hitting in late
# 9 "Is Belize a good place for kids?"
Yes, if your kids can make their own entertainment and enjoy the
water and the outdoors.
# 10 "Do we need shots to come to Belize?"
None is required, and in fact most tourists heading to the cayes
or to a posh jungle lodge don't get any. However, malaria is
present in Belize, and if you're spending any time outside the
main tourist areas, it's better to be safe than sorry, with chloroquine.
Any traveler should be up-to-date on polio and tetanus, and
sticks for Hep A and B can be a good idea for some. Dengue fever
is present in Belize, although there's no pretentive for it except
avoiding the Aedes aegypti mosquito. For the latest word, contact
the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
10 Best Jungle Lodges
Here are our picks for the best jungle lodges in Belize. There
are so many good ones, and the difference among several of them
is so small, that we're probably fools to try to rank them. You'll
be happy at any of these spots. And, as well, at the ones that
didn't quite make our top 10 this year.
# 1 Chan Chich, Gallon Jug, Orange Walk District
Barry Bowen's little lodge is smack dab in the middle of nowhere,
which is exactly how guests like it. Jungle all around, birds
above, Maya ruins underneath, a class operation in every direction.
# 2 Chaa Creek, near San Ignacio, Cayo
Beautiful grounds, nearly bug-free, superbly trained staff, savvy
owners, delightful for guests.
# 3 Lamanai Outpost, near Lamanai ruins, Orange Walk District
The late Colin Howells built this one right and ran it like a
pro. Although it's now under new management, we expect it to continue
to be one of Belize's top ecospots.
# 4 Duplooy's, near San Ignacio, Cayo
This lovely small cottage colony inn should be renamed Belize's
Arboretum, thanks to Ken Duplooy's wonderful plantings of trees,
shrubs and flowers.
# 5 Blancaneaux, Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo
Francis Ford Coppola's inn has a lot going for it -- good food,
lovely setting, luxurious villas.
# 6 Hidden Valley Inn, Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo
The Bull Headley paradise on 18,000 acres offers waterfalls, streams,
peace and quiet, and comfortable digs.
# 7 Jaguar Paw, near Belmopan
New and luxurious, with 16 air conditioned and rooms, large caves
and river next door.
# 8 Mountain Equestrian Trails (M.E.T), Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo
Marguerite and Jim Bevis (now sadly back in the States) have
treated the land with great respect, and established a good place.
# 9 Ek'Tun, near San Ignacio, Cayo
Very small but very nice.
# 10 Maya Mountain, near San Ignacio, Cayo
Good value, run with concern and care.
Other wonderful jungle lodges which could have made our Top 10
list, and may next time: Banana Bank Ranch, Warrie Head, Pook's
Hill, Five Sisters, Nabitunich, Windy Hill, Black Rock (all in
Cayo District), Chau Hiix (Orange Walk District), Fallen Stones
Butterfly Ranch (Toledo District), and Santa Cruz (Corozal District).
10 Best Mainland Seaside Resorts
Mainland beaches aren't Belize's strong point, but you'll have
a great seaside vacation at any of these small hotels.
# 1 Kitty's Place, Placencia
Informal, barefoot spot; not fancy, but just about perfect.
# 2 Rum Point Inn, Placencia
The most luxurious -- and perhaps most eccentric -- lodging in
Placencia; the best guest library in Belize; unusual free-form
cabins; the owners are highly knowledgeable but with a reputation
for being reserved.
# 3 Green Parrot, Maya Beach (Placencia)
Hard-working on-site owners make the difference; more a cabin
colony than a full-service resort.
# 4 Turtle Inn, Placencia
Relax, kick-back, and enjoy a little bit of the South Pacific.
# 5 Jaguar Reef Lodge, Sittee Point/Hopkins
The first real resort in beautiful setting at what eventually
will be another Placencia.
# 6 Nautical Inn, Seine Bight (Placencia)
Rooms, in octagonal prefab units, are not at all Belizean, but
the setting and service make up for it.
# 7 Serenity Resort, Placencia
Florida-style cottages and a new 10-room hotel building and a
conference center; now, there's even a bar.
# 8 Tony's, Corozal Town
An old favorite, with a great beach bar and some of the coldest
air conditioning in Belize.
# 9 Hotel Seine Bight, Seine Bight
One of the most architecturally interesting contemporary buildings
in Belize, with a good restaurant, and a casual atmosphere.
# 10 Pelican Beach Hotel, Dangriga
Many visitors don't care for Dangriga, but the Raths' hotel just
to the north of town has an "Old Florida" look and atmosphere,
and it makes a great jumping-off spot for the offshore cayes.
10 Best Ambergris Caye Hotels
Ambergris Caye is the most-popular destination in Belize, with
close to one-half of international visitors heading here. While
it's developing rapidly, and prices generally, and regrettably,
aren't competitive with those at many resorts in the Yucatan
(but are well under resort prices on most Caribbean islands),
Ambergris Caye remains a fine place to vacation. There are more
cars now, but the streets are still sand, and development is mainly
low-rise. Much of the new development on Ambergris Caye is taking
place to the south of town (a golf cart or taxi ride away) and
on North Ambergris (a ferry or water taxi ride). These resorts
offer more privacy and often a secluded tropical atmosphere.
Properties in or at the edge San Pedro Town will appeal to those
who want to be close to restaurants and bars.
Three other facts you should know before making a decision to
visit Ambergris, besides the fact that prices aren't cheap, at
least by Central American standards: 1) Snorkeling off the beaches
is at best fair -- you'll need to pay US$10 or $15 per person
for a boat to take you the few hundred yards to the reef -- once
on the reef, snorkeling is wonderful, 2) Swimming off the beaches
is also only fair, due to sea grass, and 3) On some days, rough
water and strong winds will make it difficult or uncomfortable
to go out on the water.
# 1 Villas at Banyan Bay
If you're in the mood for a condotel rather than a full-service
resort, this Belizean-developed project is one of the newest and
most luxe in all of Belize. St. Matthews University Medical School
has temporary facilities in this area.
# 2 Caribbean Villas
Not the most luxurious hotel, no beach to speak of, no pool, but
friendly management by Wil and Susan Lala makes all the difference
in this comfortable suites/apartment-style resort south of San
# 3 Victoria House
Lovely beach-front setting about two miles south of town; potential,
not always realized, of being one of the best resorts in Belize;
variety of accommodations, some very pricey and indeed overpriced.
We've had some recent complaints that some facilities are getting
# 4 Belizean Reef Suites
Just at the south end of San Pedro Town; beautiful luxury suites
at a fair price. First-floor units open on the beach.
# 5 Captain Morgan's Retreat
In many ways, this is what visitors to Belize come looking for
-- thatched cabanas on a stretch of beach; on the north end
of Ambergris Caye, next to the Essene Way. Captain Morgan's is
now for sale.
# 6 Belize Yacht Club
Originally mainly a real estate project, new management is taking
these Mexican-looking condos more towards a suites hotel concept;
beautiful pool. South of town, but within trekking distance.
# 7 Coconuts
Friendly, casual spot with big attractive rooms, good beach bar,
south of town.
# 8 The Palms Condominiums
Attractive condos, with small but beautiful pool (NOT Royal Palms,
which is a timeshare). At the south edge of town in the same
area as Ramon's, Belizean Reef Suites, Mayan Princess, and Sunbreeze.
# 9 Mayan Princess
Another attractive condotel at the south end of town.
# 10 Essene Way
An Orlando food-supplement magnate has poured millions into what
was the former The Belizean resort on North Ambergris. The result
is a lavish but, some think, kitchy resort-cum-New Age/religious
retreat. Originally, the idea was that the Essene Way would be
a place for terminally ill adults to enjoy a last vacation, but
the hotel and restaurant are now open to the public.
# 10 Sunbreeze (tie)
A recent makeover including pool has turned this Holiday Inn-style
motel into one of the better, and best-located, choices on the
island. Big sparkling rooms, with all the modcons.
Other recommendable spots, some in medium to budget price ranges:
Ramon's Village, Capricorn, El Pescador, Rock's Inn, Paradise
Villas, Changes in Latitude B&B, Mata Rocks, Green Parrot, Barrier
Reef Hotel, Ruby's (budget spot, one of the best values on the
island), San Pedro Holiday Hotel, Paradise Resort Hotel, Caribe
Island Resort, Aquarius, Green Parrot, Emerald Reef, Casa Caribe,
Caye Villas, Tropica
5 Relaxin' Getaways on Remote Cayes
Some of Belize's most appealing resorts are on remote islands
and atolls. Most are oriented to divers or anglers. You'll have
to make your own entertainment, and shopping is non-existent.
# 1 Lighthouse Reef Resort, Northern Two Caye
Glorious isolation on 1200 acres; great diving and fishing around
the atolls; good beaches; even A/C -- three types of accommodations
of varying luxury and privacy.
# 2 Turneffe Island Lodge, Caye Bokel
Fish-camp style lodge on Little Caye Bokel.
# 3 Blue Marlin Lodge, South Water Caye (tie)
Simple, pleasant fish/dive lodge with cabanas.
# 3 Pelican Beach Resort Cottages, South Water Caye (tie)
The Heron Cottage is what many believe Belize should always be.
SWC offers fine snorkeling just off the beach.
# 5 St. George's Lodge, St. George's Caye (tie)
Dive resort with good food about 8 miles off Belize City.
# 5 Cottage Colony, St. George's Caye (tie)
The other resort on this historic caye -- colonial-style cottages.
5 Best Hotel Libraries
For sophisticated travelers, hotel libraries are important. Even
some of the best resorts in Belize have remarkably poor libraries
for their guests. One reason is that books are expensive in Belize.
Here are five hotels with good libraries, most heavy on nature
and ecology titles.
# 1 Rum Point Inn, Placencia
Superb book and video library, easily the best hotel library in
# 2 Hidden Valley Inn, Mountain Pine Ridge
Like the library of a country home in England.
# 3 Colton House, Belize City
Oriented to ecovideos and books.
# 4 Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Lamanai
Good selection of nature and other books.
# 5 Chan Chich, Gallon Jug
Comfortable corner nook with books.
6 Hotels with Old British Honduras Atmosphere
Hurricanes, termites, and time have destroyed most of the British
Honduras colonial architecture. Here are some remaining jewels:
# 1 Four Fort Street Guest House, Belize City
One of the few places in Belize City with old-time atmosphere.
# 2 Barrier Reef Hotel, Ambergris Caye
Wouldn't it be great if all the buildings on Ambergris looked
like this? This classic is now for sale.
# 3 Colton House, Belize City
A 1920 West Indies style home, one of the most charming in all
# 4 Manatee Lodge, Gales Point
A beautiful setting on the Southern Lagoon.
# 5 Pelican Beach Resort, Dangriga
On the water, with verandahs.
# 6 Cottage Colony, St. George's Caye
Collection of colonial-style cottages.
5 Most Luxe Digs
Most resorts in Belize are comfortable rather than luxurious.
Here are five that are both.
# 1 Villas at Banyan Bay, Ambergris Caye
New condos, with tasteful furnishings, whirlpools, full kitchens,
# 2 Jaguar Paw, Belmopan Area
Rarity of rarities: air conditioning in the jungle.
# 3 Blancaneaux, Mountain Pine Ridge
The villa units are huge and luxurious (and pricey), with original
art and appealing furnishings.
# 4 Belizean Reef Suites, Ambergris Caye
The suite life at the south end of San Pedro Town.
# 5 Radisson Fort George Hotel, Belize City
The recent renovation helps keep this hotel in a class of its
own among Belize City "international-style" hotels.
10 Great Lodging Values
These are not the least-expensive places in Belize by any means,
but all offer relatively low prices and solid value for what you
Cahal Pech Village, San Ignacio
Great views and a good value in either the cabanas or hotel
Cockscomb Jaguar Sanctuary Cabins, Maya Centre, Stann
New rooms (shared bath and common kitchen) offer true jungle experience.
Deb & Dave's Last Resort, Placencia
Clean, comfortable, friendly.
Glover's Atoll "Resort," North East Caye
Very basic, but you can spend a week here for what a night costs
at many Belize resorts, and transportation to the island is included.
Hok'ol K'in, Corozal Town
While not in the budget category, rooms are new and attractive,
and tour prices are among best in Belize.
Tom's Hotel, Caye Caulker
One of a number of Corker digs offering clean, safe budget sleep
(also check out Marin's, Rainbow, Tree Tops, 1788 Motel, Jiminez
Cabanas, and Tropical Paradise)
Ian Anderson's Cave's Branch Camp, Belmopan Area
Range of accommodations and outdoor adventure aplenty.
Parrot's Nest, Bullet Tree Falls, Cayo
Stilt houses in the trees.
Ruby's, Ambergris Caye
Squeaky clean basic rooms, some with water views, a bargain on
this expensive island; for budget with a pool, Hideaway is a good
Seaside Guest House, Belize City
Favorite budget spot, run by the Friends, a Quaker service group.
10 Green Hotels
These are hotels where the owners seem highly interested in maintaining
the environment. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and
most members of the Belize Eco-Tourism Association appear dedicated
to sustainable tourism.
- Banana Bank Ranch, Belmopan
- Chaa Creek, Cayo
- Colton House, Belize City
- Dem Dats Doin' Maya Homestay Program, Toledo
- duPlooy's, Cayo
- Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Lamanai
- Maya Mountain, San Ignacio
- Mountain Equestrian Trails (M.E.T.), Mountain Pine Ridge
- Pelican Beach Resort, Dangriga
- Pook's Hill, Belmopan Area
Belize First Editor's 10 Favorite Places to Stay
These are some of the favorite spots of Belize First Editor Lan
# 1 Chan Chich, Gallon Jug
A class act all the way, and a remarkable place to stay.
# 2 Kitty's Place, Placencia
We could stay for weeks in one of the beachfront cabanas.
# 3 Chaa Creek, Cayo
Run by real professionals, and nearly bug-free to boot.
# 4 Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Lamanai
Anyone opening a lodge in Belize ought to study the design of
this place, built by the late Colin Howells.
# 5 Hidden Valley Inn, Mountain Pine Ridge
A large private estate with remarkable discoveries at the end
of every trail.
# 6 Caribbean Villas, Ambergris Caye
Hands-on management makes the difference.
# 7 Blancaneaux, Mountain Pine Ridge
Italian/Scots/Belize hospitality in the Mountain Pine Ridge.
# 8 Colton House, Belize City
One can only wish all of Belize City were as nice as this.
# 9 Tony's, Corozal Town
We can't explain exactly why we like it, but we like it.
# 10 Victoria House, Ambergris Caye
Would that we could afford to stay in one of the owners' villas
Honorable Mention: DuPlooy's, Cayo; Fallen Stones, P.G.; Captain
Morgan's, Ambergris Caye; Jaguar Paw, Belmopan; Jaguar Reef Lodge,
Hopkins/Sittee Point; Turtle Inn, Placencia; Rum Point Inn, Placencia;
Green Parrot, Seine Bight; Hotel Seine Bight, Seine Bight; Nautical
Inn, Seine Bight
3 Dependable Car Rental Agencies
These are three Belize City rental agencies which have proved
to be reliable. We've had good luck with some of the other renters
at the international airport, too. Regardless of which car renter
you choose, always check out the car carefully, as the roadability
of the specific cars available can be as important as the reputation
of the agency. Be sure the tires are good, and that there's a
usable spare and a jack with all necessary parts. Ask for the
lowest-mileage vehicle available. A Belize car with 50,000 miles
is the equivalent of a car in Canada or the U.S. with at least
100,000 miles. Confirm that the company will send someone to
service your car if it breaks down.
# 1 Budget
Good selection of late-model Suzuki vehicles; well-run operation
with generally dependable cars and country-wide service
# 2 National
Suzuki and other vehicles, mostly in top shape
# 3 Jabiru
Vehicles may not be as new as at the two "majors" above, but usually
they are still in good shape, with (sometimes) lower prices
Other recommendable places: Crystal Auto Rental
10 Can't-Miss Places to Eat
It's not true you can't get a good meal in Belize. While the country
has no five-star restaurants, you can enjoy excellent seafood,
and sometimes nothing tastes better than a plate of rice and beans.
This list does not include resort or jungle lodge restaurants
which cater primarily to guests. Some of these, such as the
restaurants at Blancaneaux, Pretty See Ranch, and Jaguar Paw,
are excellent. (If the restaurant attracts many who are not guests
at the hotel, such as the Hotel Seine Bight, it qualifies as a
"stand-alone" restaurant for this list.) In Belize, as elsewhere,
restaurants can change overnight, so always ask locally.
Four Fort Street Guesthouse, Belize City
The atmosphere is as enticing as the food.
GG Cafe and Patio, Belize City
Creole food and burgers.
The Grill, Belize City
Steaks, pasta and other dishes; more upscale than most restaurants
Jade Garden, Ambergris Caye
Chinese, and more, in a quiet and pleasant setting.
Rasta Pasta, Ambergris Caye
They'll take good care of you.
Lily's, Ambergris Caye
Fresh and family-style seafood.
Little Italy, Ambergris Caye
Italian and seafood.
The Reef, Ambergris Caye
Local food, cheap and cheerful.
Sandbox, Caye Caulker
Popular spot, with seafood and other dishes.
Hotel Seine Bight, Seine Bight
Eccentric and interesting.
Other recommendable spots: Barracuda & Jaguar Inn's Pickled Parrot
Grill, Placencia; Bellevue Hotel Caribbean Room, Belize City;
Bullfrog Inn Restaurant, Belmopan; Celi's, Ambergris Caye; Duke's
Place, Ambergris Caye; Elvi's Kitchen, Ambergris Caye; Flamboyant,
Placencia; Lagoon, Ambergris Caye; Green Parrot, Maya Beach;
Macy's, Belize City; Serindib, San Ignacio; Tentacles, Placencia;
Tropical Paradise, Caye Caulker; Martha's, San Ignacio
6 Most-Scenic Drives
Belize does not have the drop-head breathless scenery of highlands
Guatemala or Costa Rica, but Belize's small population, uncut
forests, and diverse ecosystems provide a uniquely Belizean brand
of beauty. Emory King's Driver's Guide to Beautiful Belize and
the ITMB Traveller's Map will keep you from getting lost.
# 1 Hummingbird Highway
Hands down, this road from Belmopan to near Dangriga is the most
beautiful drive in Belize, and beyond the first 19 miles near
Belmopan, it is also the best road in Belize. (The remaining 19
miles are due to be resurfaced "soon.") The beginnings of the
Maya Mountains, green and lush, are interrupted by the occasional
citrus farm. You can't see them, but these limestone hills are
laced with vast networks of caves.
# 2 Road to Caracol
The road to Caracol begins with the bone-jarring routes from Georgeville
or San Ignacio into the North Georgia-like scenery of the Mountain
Pine Ridge. But once beyond Augustine/Douglas DeSilva, the real
beauty begins. It is a vast and unpopulated area, close to Guatemala,
and the road, though improved, is still no superhighway. When
the butterflies are flying and the sky is blue, this is a magical,
if rough, trip to the ruins of Caracol.
# 3 Road to Sarteneja and Progresso Lagoon
This little-traveled area of northern Belize provides glimpses
of beauty to make up for the unpaved roadway. En route from Orangewalk
Town, you'll enjoy seeing the Progresso Lagoon, prosperous Mennonite
farms, and the isolated villages of Chunox and Sarteneja, on the
Bay of Chetumal. On your return, if past the Progresso Lagoon,
you turn right instead of going back to Orange Walk, you can visit
the village of Copper Bank and, in good weather, the ruins of
# 4 Road to Chan Chich
Most people fly to Gallon Jug, but driving is a better way to
see some of the real Belize (advance permission is needed to travel
the private parts of this route). This part of Orange Walk District
is a country of Mennonite and other farms, small rural villages,
and wild bush. As you drive through Programme for Belize and Gallon
Jug lands, you'll likely see oscellated turkeys and other rare
wildlife. This is also one of the region's last remaining mahogany
forests. The road to Lamanai, which turns off at San Felipe Village,
is also a great drive.
# 5 Road to Gales Point and Southern Lagoon
The new coastal highway, or "shortcut" from Democracia to Stann
Creek, is mostly an awful road, dusty in the dry season and muddy
or flooded after rains. But the short section of unpaved road,
from around Melinda about 10 miles north of Dangriga, to Gales
Point, ending at the Colonial-style Manatee Lodge, is loaded with
simple charm and unexpected beauty. The charm comes from the small,
unspoiled Creole village of Gales Point, and the beauty from the
Southern Lagoon, home to crocodiles, jabiru storks, and manatee.
# 6 Roads to Maya Villages near PG
While not an area of tremendous scenic beauty, the roads off the
Southern Highway to the Maya villages near San Antonio and beyond
are an education in history and culture. In rainy weather, the
roads can become impassable even for four-wheel drives. Regrettably,
some timbering activity by a large Malaysian company is going
on in this area.
5 Must-See Mayan Ruins
Belize has literally hundreds of ruins, many still undiscovered
or unexcavated. Of the dozen or so "major" ones, the wonderful
thing about them is that they are almost totally untouristed.
Unlike in the Mexican Yucat\'87 n or even at Tikal, where hordes
of visitors swarm over the ruins, in Belize you may be alone with
the caretaker, or one of only a handful of visitors, at an ancient
# 1 Caracol
The largest known site in Belize, and larger in area even than
Tikal, this Classic Maya city-state was rediscovered in the 1930s
but only since 1985 has excavation been underway. With an improved
access road, and less bureaucratic red tape, it is now easier
than ever to visit this awe-inspiring place. Caracol's highest
pyramid is still the tallest man-made structure in Belize. The
drive to Caracol is beautiful and not difficult, except in wet
# 2 Lamanai
Lamanai was an important Maya community for three millennia, and
this site has buildings dating back to 700 B.C. The setting is
beautiful, at the edge of the New River Lagoon. You can drive
here, via a newly improved all-weather road, though the approach
by boat is inspiring.
# 3 Xunantunich
This Late Classic site is small but impressive. Don't miss the
view into Guatemala from El Castillo, a 135-foot tower that is
the second-tallest structure in Belize. A plus is its easy access
from the Western Highway -- you cross the Mopan River on a small
hand-cranked ferry. A new visitor center is open.
# 4 Lubaantun
Not by any means the largest, most important, or most impressive
site, Lubaantun has a mysterious appeal. One reason is its setting,
near the remote villages of Toledo with their population of present-day
Mayans, some of whom may shyly offer to sell you crafts or small
trinkets at the Lubaantun site. Another is the famous Crystal
Skull, which may or may not have been discovered here in 1926
by the daughter of archeologist F. A. Mitchell-Hedges, and which
may or may not be authentic. A third is the style of construction,
of carefully hand-cut limestone blocks laid without mortar. Lubaantun
is on an isolated ridge near the village of San Pedro Columbia
off the Southern Highway.
# 5 Chechem Ha Cave
Many caves in Belize contain Mayan relics. This one, on private
land in Cayo District, can be visited on a guided tour. Most who
make the effort to see this come away awed by the pottery which
dates to the time of Christ. One access is via a long drive on
the "hydro road" from Benque Viejo.
5 Good Museums and Such
Belize doesn't have much in the way of fancy museums, but here
are five of interest:
# 1 Belize Zoo, Western Highway near Belmopan
Absolutely fantastic place! See jaguars, April the mountain cow,
and more, all in a natural setting.
# 2 Natural History and Blue Morpho Butterfly Centre, Chaa Creek,
Privately operated center with growing collections of materials
and displays, plus butterfly breeding centre.
# 3 Maya Centre, Cockscomb Preserve
Small but informative displays on Cockscomb Preserve area.
# 4 Maritime Museum, Belize City
Newly opened, devoted to marine and local history.
# 5 Ix Chel Farm/Rainforest Trail, Cayo
Adjoining Chaa Creek, this private project of Rosita Arvigo highlights
Honorable Mention for effort to date: Ambergris Museum
6 Wonderful National Parks and Reserves
Belize is making a terrific effort to preserve its natural land
and sea resources for future generations. Here are six national
parks and reserves which won't disappoint you:
# 1 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve, Stann Creek District
The world's first jaguar preserve, this lush jungle reserve of
more than 100,000 acres is a must-see for anyone interested in
natural Belize. New trails are open to Victoria Peak, one of the
highest points in Belize.
# 2 Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Cayo District
More than 300 square miles of nearly unpopulated land in Western
Belize. Controlled logging is allowed.
# 3 Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, Orange Walk District
More than 150,000 acres of jungle, including mahogany forest,
in Orange Walk District, privately managed by Programme for Belize.
# 4 Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, Lighthouse Reef
Belize's first nature preserve, Half Moon Caye is a beautiful
island on Lighthouse Reef, with 10,000 acres of surrounding reef.
# 5 Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Crooked Tree
This is bird city in Belize. The sanctuary boundaries include
several large lagoons, including Crooked Tree (which unfortunately
has been partly drained) and Revenge.
# 6 Community Baboon Sanctuary, Bermudian Landing
More than 1,000 black howler monkeys are now safe in the eight
villages making up the sanctuary.
Other highly recommended parks and preserves:
Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Ambergris
Blue Hole National Park, Belmopan Area
Five Blues Lakes National Park, Belmopan Area
Hol Chan, Ambergris Caye
Great Honeymoon Destinations
Belize is a popular honeymoon spot. With some prior planning,
visitors even get married in Belize. Here, in no particular order,
are our suggestions for great honeymoon destinations in Belize.
For Soft Adventure in the Jungle
Here are four jungle lodges where you can enjoy nature with creature
comforts and privacy:
- Chan Chich Lodge, Orangewalk District. In the middle
of the bush, with cut trails for easy jungle access and good local
guides to share their knowledge with you. Cabanas are single
units for privacy. Very safe, very good.
- Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Orangewalk District. Beautiful
setting on the New River Lagoon near Lamanai ruins. Take a spotlight
nature tour at night. Thatch cabanas aren't fancy but well
designed and private.
- Chaa Creek near San Ignacio, Cayo. For privacy, choose
the new honeymoon cottage, as most other accommodations are in
- Jaguar Paw, Belmopan Area. Ride the river and explore
caves by day, enjoy good food and air conditioned comfort by night.
For a sybaritic honeymoon, consider one of these options:
- Villa units at Blancaneaux, Mountain Pine Ridge. You'll
live like a movie star at Francis Ford Coppola's place. Swim in
the river, visit nearby waterfalls, tour the ancient city of Caracol.
- Beachfront owners' villas at Victoria House, Ambergris
Caye. Luxurious designer villas directly on the water.
- Condo units at Villas at Banyan Bay, Ambergris Caye.
New and nicely furnished condos with jacuzzis and other modcons.
\bullet Stay in a tent at a "safari" camp at Chaa Creek near
San Ignacio, or at M.E.T. in the Mountain Pine Ridge
Honeymoon in a "tree house" at Parrot's Nest near San
Rough it on the reef in a cabin on Tobacco Cay, Ranguana
Caye, South Water Caye, or other small caye
Camp at Cockscomb Preserve -- common kitchens are available
to cook your own meals
Kickback and Relax Honeymoon
For a low key, no-pressure honeymoon, try one of these:
Get Away from It All
- Beach cabana at Kitty's Place, Placencia
- Thatch beach cabana a at Turtle Inn, Placencia
- Thatch cabana at Captain Morgan's Retreat, North
Ambergris Caye. You may be able to use the chapel at The Essene
Way next door to get married.
- Private cabana at Lighthouse Reef Resort
- Charter a sailboat and visit your choice of more than
200 islands in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize -- the 84-foot
catamaran "Rendezvous" is one that does crewed charters.
- Rent your own private island -- French Louis Caye is
one that's available for around US$150 a day. It has a wooden
house, snorkeling right off the beach, and no mosquitos. (Reserve
through Kitty's Place, Placencia.)
10 Delightful Denizens of the Wild
# 1 Jaguar
Panthera onca, often called tiger by Belizeans, is the largest
cat in the Western Hemisphere. Both the spotted jaguar and the
black jaguar are the same species. Although there may be more
than 1,000 jaguars in Belize, youneed extraordinary luck to see
one of these incredibly beautiful nocturnal animals, except at
the Belize Zoo, which has both spotted and black jaguars. Belize
has four other species of wild cats.
# 2 Mountain Cow
The tapir, or mountain cow, the national animal of Belize, though
large, eats only veggies and is shy and nonaggressive.
# 3 Jaiburu Stork
This is the largest bird in the New World, which can grow to a
height of five feet with a wingspan of 12 feet. It can be seen
at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and the Southern Lagoon.
# 4 Manatee
The West Indian Manatee, a distant relative of the elephant, is
a gentle herbivore. It is an endangered species, but there have
been recent reports of the slaughter of families of manatees in
Toledo District by Guatemalan fishermen. Manatees can be seen
in the Southern Lagoon and along the coast and lagoons near Placencia,
Hopkins, Punta Gorda, and elsewhere.
# 5 Black Howler Monkey
Howlers, sometimes called baboons in Belize, are rare, found only
in parts of Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. Almost wiped out by
disease in the 1950s, they are making a comeback in Belize, thanks
to efforts at protection, such as at Community Baboon Sanctuary,
and through reintroduction in Cayo and Stann Creek districts and
# 6 Blue Morpho Butterfly
Belize has thousands of types of butterflies and months, but the
Blue Morpho is perhaps the most beautiful.
# 7 Keel-billed Toucan
This is the national bird of Belize and, like the jaguar, appears
on T-shirts and hotel logos everywhere. You can spot it in the
wild in many parts of the country.
# 8 Iguanas
Several species of iguanas make their home in Belize. An effort
is underway now to promote the raising of green iguanas, locally
prized as a chicken-like dish. The "Jesus Christ Lizard," a basilisk,
is so called because it can literally walk on water.
# 9 Ocellated Turkey
This rare bird, one of more than 500 birds sighted in Belize,
can be seen around Chan Chich Lodge, on Programme for Belize Lands,
near Caracol, and elsewhere.
# 10 Quash
Coatimundis, relatives of the racoon, are cute as the devil. They're
smart and have a keen sense of smell.
10 Wild Things to Watch Out For
As a sub-tropical and tropical country, Belize is rich in life
forms, including some that are not very nice to human beings.
Fortunately, most visitors to Belize aren't bothered by these
denizens of the wild, save for the occasional mozzie or no-see-um
# 1 No-see-ums (sandflies, sandfleas, midge gnats, purrujas)
These buggers are twice as mean as mozzies -- watch out for them
near mangrove swamps and on a windless day on the coast or cayes;
Avon Skin-So-Soft may help some.
# 2 Mozzies
Some mosquitoes in Belize do carry dangerous diseases including
malaria and dengue fever. Many visitors to Belize are surprised,
though, that mosquitoes are not as bad as they feared. The nearly
constant winds on the cayes keeps mozzies at bay, and much of
Cayo District escapes the plague of these bugs. They are worse
in the late summer after periods of rain, and in southern Belize,
which gets more rain than any other part of the country.
# 3 Botfly
This little horror, happily not a problem for most visitors, gets
the help of a mosquito to place its egg under your skin. The
larva then grows to the size of your thumb-- yecch! Lure the "doctor
fly" out with a slab of fatback or bacon placed over the entrance;
kill it by smothering it to death with vaseline or glue; or apply
the sap of the bot killer tree, or some say, a piece of tobacco.
# 4 Yellow-jawed tommygoff (fer-de-lance)
This highly poisonous snake attacks aggressively. It has heat-seeking
fangs and can strike accurately even in the dark. Avoid it, and
if by rare chance you are bitten get medical attention immediately.
Belize has about 20 types of poisonous snakes of which "only"
nine are deadly.
# 5 "Alligators"
Called thus by many Belizeans, but Belize actually has only crocodiles,
the larger American and the smaller Morelet's. Occasional attacks
on humans are recorded in Belize.
# 6 Scorpions
These are common all over Belize. They are often present in the
walls of buildings (avoid leaving wet towels out) or in thatch
roofs. For most species in Belize, the sting hurts, but not too
much worse than the sting of a wasp, and isn't fatal.
# 7 Warries (White-Lipped Peccary)
Peccaries are related to pigs. White-Lipped Peccaries, now rare
in Belize, travel in large herds. If you hear loud bellowing,
screeching and tooth-clacking (and don't happen to be in Big Daddy's
late at night), climb the nearest tree, as warries can be hazardous
to your health.
# 8 Killer bees
The stings of Africanized bees hurt no more than those of ordinary
honeybees, but killer bees are far more aggressive and ill-tempered.
They have killed many cattle and other livestock in Belize, and
in Costa Rica at least 16 human deaths have been attributed to
killer bee attacks. Virtually all the honeybees you see in Belize
are now Africanized and are present in most areas, even Ambergris
Caye. If you stumble on a hive, try to get under a roof (bees
usually won't follow you under a shelter) or into water.
# 9 Tarantulas
You may see one of these furry balls of fun on the rainforest
floor or even on a village sidewalk. Their bite can be painful
but isn't serious. Some people keep these as pets.
# 10 Jaws and other sea critters
Belize has all the usual denizens of the deep -- sharks, stingrays,
barracuda, moray eels, fire coral, etc. Most of these are as harmless
as sheep dogs, as least according to the guys at the dive shop.
Belize does have vampire bats, whose bite may cause rabies, but
unless you sleep outside a lot without clothes on, don't worry.
Belize's many species of bats do worlds of good, from eating mozzies
to pollinating fruit.
These ratty looking bats love to make their home in the attics
of houses. Many -- if not most -- homes in Belize at some time
will have bats in the attic.
5 Friendliest Places
Belizeans, by and large, are warm, open, and welcoming to visitors.
You can make friends easily anywhere in Belize.
# 1 Corozal Town
Generally safe town with Mexican influence and very nice people
# 2 Hopkins/Sittee Point
Small and unspoiled Garifuna area with warm, friendly folks
# 3 San Ignacio
Relaxed community with a Maya and Mestizo heritage
# 4 Punta Gorda
Population is a mix of Maya (especially in areas outside PG),
Garifuna, Creole, Mestizo -- generally hassle-free except at bars
# 5 Belize City
Belize City has a well-deserved reputation for crime and hassle,
but it also has some of the hardest-working, friendliest people
in Belize -- too bad the rascals are what most visitors hear about.
5 Best Belize Guidebooks
# 1 Belize Handbook, by Chicki Mallan, 3rd ed., Moon Publications,
It's beginning to get a little long in the tooth, but this Moon
guide remains the best-organized, most thoughtfully designed,
and well-researched guide to the country.
# 2 Rough Guide to Guatemala and Belize, by Peter Eltringham
and Mark Whatmore, 3rd. ed., Rough Guides/Penguin, 1996
Solid, reliable research and especially good coverage of less-expensive
options mark this guidebook, one in a wonderful series put out
by self-described "English eccentrics." Peter Eltringham first
came to Belize with the Royal Air Force.
# 3 Emory King's Driver's Guide to Beautiful Belize, Tropical
This mile-by-mile guide, by one of Belize's best-known personalities,
is a must for anyone on a do-it-yourself trip to Belize, even
if you're not driving.
# 4 Belize, Adventures in Nature, by Richard Mahler and Steele
Wotkyns, 1st ed., John Muir, 1997-2001
Excellent on the natural side of Belize. Up-to-date and refreshingly
different from other guides.
# 5 Guide to Belize, by Alex Bradbury, 2nd ed., Bradt, 1996
At present the most up-to-date general country guide to Belize.
Some inexplicable omissions but its currency and candid coverage
makes it a worthwhile traveling companion.
New Key to Belize, Stacy Ritz, 2nd ed., Ulysses Press, 1995
Insight Guides Belize, Tony Perrottet, ed., Houghton-Mifflin,
Adventure Guide to Belize, Harry Pariser, 3rd, ed., Hunter Publications,
10 Best Belize Web Sites
Possibly no destination in the world -- and certainly no other
country the size of Belize -- has so many informative and interesting
Web sites as Belize. In fact, Belize may soon have more Web home
pages than actual homes ... or tourists. Out of fairness, we
didn't include our own Web sites at
# 1 (tie) Belize by Naturalight (http://www.belizenet.com)
Tony Rath has put together a terrific site, with stunning graphics,
beautiful photos (but what else would you expect from one of the
Caribbean Coast's premier shooters?) and tons of good information.
Even the ads are informative. Live chat area and newsgroup. Also
excerpts from a daily show from Love-FM Radio in Belize. Tony
uses a Mac, and it shows.
# 1 Belize On-Line (http://www.belize.com)
Although a commercial site, Belize On-Line is packed with news,
facts, figures, links, and other help. The Belize newsgroup is
fairly active. Susan Garcia and Manolo Romero were early pioneers
of the use of the Web to promote Belize, and the professionalism
and experience are evident.
# 3 You Better Belize It (http://www.belizeit.com)v
Belizean-owned site with something of a mish-mash of information
and promotion, but lively and with frequent visits by Belizeans
living outside Belize. Now has the most-active Belize newsgroup.
# 4 Ambergris Caye (http://www.ambergriscaye.com)
Everything you always wanted to know about San Pedro.
# 5 Belizean CyberWeb (http://www.belizeanweb.com)
Technically advanced site with all kinds of bells, whistles, java
juice, and frames. For British Honduras buffs, Neil Fraser's collection
of old photos is posted here.
# 6 The Reporter (http://www.belizenet.com/reporter/reporthp.html)
Tony Rath's approach to putting The Reporter on the Web is a beautifully
simple and intelligent design solution. Excellent archiving of
past issues. The Reporter is also on the Belize Online site.
# 7 San Pedro Sun (http://www.ambergriscaye.com/sanpedrosun/)
Like the newspaper, this home page is friendly, chatty, informative,
# 8 Xibalba (http://www.xibalba.com/xibalba/belizeca/)
Eclectic site by Shawn Brisbin, with varied and extensive information
Belize (some of it a bit hard to read due to the backgrounds).
# 9 Belize Audubon Society (http://www.belizeaudubon.org )
Wonderful new site from Belize's premier conservation group. Another
tremendous design job by the Belize by Naturalight folks.
# 10 Belize Tourist Board (http://www.turq.com/belize.html)
Good "official" overview of what to expect in Belize.
Amandala On-Line (http:belizemall.com/amandala/~)
A Web edition of the weekly newspaper Amandala
Belize Culture Group (http://184.108.40.206/)
This, along with Ian Cawich's home page, are tied to the Belize
Internet Mailing List, an active mailing list. (To subscribe to
this mailing list, send to firstname.lastname@example.org the message:
This site is run by Belize Telecommunications, Ltd., Belize's
Lonely Planet - Destination Belize (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/dest/cam/belize.htm/)
Lonely Planet's well-regarded site has an informative section
5 Best Newspapers
# 1 The Reporter
Improved design and an independent stance make this the best weekly
# 2 Belize Sun
The new entry by the owners of the San Pedro Sun is just what
Belize tourism needed.
# 3 San Pedro Sun
Chatty and cheerful island weekly.
# 4 Amandala
Opinionated, independent weekly.
# 5 Caye Caulker Village Voice
Good effort by young publisher; benefits from a woman's touch.
6 Best Places to Live in Belize
Many North Americans and Europeans have a dream of living where
the water is blue, the air is warm, the rum is cheap, and the
living is easy. Belize may, or may not, live up to your expectations
in those regards. Many who do make the leap to Belize end up frustrated,
unhappy and broke, so investigate thoroughly before you decide
to move to Belize. Expats in Belize are now clustered mostly in
San Pedro, the Belize City suburbs, Placencia, and near Corozal
Town. Here are our own picks for the best places to live and buy
# 1 Corozal Town/Consejo
Most visitors to Belize either never get to Corozal or pass through
quickly en route somewhere else. But the Corozal Town area and
nearby Consejo offer a lot for those staying awhile -- low prices,
friendly people, a generally low-crime environment, the beautiful
blue water of the bay, and the extra plus of having Mexico next
door for cheap shopping.
# 2 Rural Cayo District
Cayo has a lot going for it: wide open spaces, plenty of land,
few bugs, and friendly folks. This might be just the place to
buy a few acres and grow some oranges.
# 3 Hopkins/Sittee Point
This is what Placencia was 20 years ago, almost as pretty and
even friendlier. If you want a place on the beach, prices are
still relatively affordable here, but as anywhere in Belize, do
your "due diligence" before putting out cash.
# 4 Ambergris Caye
This is the most-popular, but most-expensive, place for expats
to live in Belize. For some, it's too touristy, but others love
the fact that there are other North Americans in residence.
# 5 Southern Toledo District
If you can stand the rain and the mosquitos, the far south of
Belize has some of the lowest land prices and nicest people in
the country. When the paving of the Southern Highway is finally
completed, it will open this area up to a new blush of tourism
# 6 Rural Orangewalk District
Orangewalk Town isn't such a wonderful place, but out in the district,
around August Pine Ridge or beside a lagoon, you may find your
little piece of isolated paradise.
Sarteneja: If you don't mind being near the ends of the earth,
this is a beautiful area
Caye Caulker: Corker's fans are legion
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