Private Island Resort Belize
Adventure Island Belize – A Private Island Resort, photo by Clayton Anderson

If you are planning to visit Belize, likely you have around 8 or 9 days to spend on your vacation. Most people like to do a combination of island and inland. Then they get the best of both: incredible Caribbean island with white coral sand and tall, shady palm trees coupled with deep jungle full of tropical birds, exotic flowering plants, and Mayan ruins.

Our island packages to Long Caye are some of the best no-hassle all-inclusive adventures you can find. I find that people often like a combination of a set package with some Belize- on-your-own so that they can spend part of their week just winging it, and part of the week on our island on a no-brainer tour where everything is within paddling or swimming distance of our shore. No packing and unpacking, no figuring out where to eat or where to stay, and since it’s all inclusive, no surprises on the final bill.

Our Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef First Half package is a 6 night package, 4 on the island, and the first and last in Belize City. This will dovetail perfectly with a trip to the Community Baboon Sanctuary (Howler Monkey preserve) for 2 nights. This 8 night itinerary is mid-week to mid-week, designed especially that way so that you get the best rates on air tickets. Everyone wants weekend to weekend, so if you can do the opposite, you might save as much as $1-200!

The inland part of the itinerary takes in a wildlife preserve, a birding preserve, a Mayan ruin, the Belize Zoo, and our favorite restaurant! With this short trip itinerary, you will get to see a huge selection of the best of Belize.

map of belize one week itinerary

Here’s the itinerary with links and pricing (all rates in US$). We start out the trip by renting a car and transferring to the Howler Monkey Resort. Although simple, it’s budget friendly and in a fabulous location.

Howler Monkey Lodge
Howler Monkey Lodge

Day 1 – Fly to Belize and transfer to Howler Monkey Resort

Wednesday – fly to BZE. You will probably land sometime in the early afternoon. Go through customs and immigration and meet your rental car pickup from CarOne Rental Belize. They will drive you 15 minutes to their office which is almost directly across the highway from the Biltmore where you will be meeting us on Friday, so it will be a cinch to return the car at the end of the trip (and their airport pick-up will save you $30 on the cab ride into town). The cost for a Dodge Avenger is $60/day, and you will need it for 2 days.

Once you have your car, drive back toward the airport and beyond to Howler Monkey Resort. Located in the heart of the Community Baboon Sanctuary at the village of Bermudian Landing, you are guaranteed to see more Howlers than you have ever seen in your life! This simple jungle lodge is the perfect place to spend the next 2 nights, and it’s a great deal at $100 – $140/night, depending on room chosen, and this price includes breakfast and dinner!

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Northern Jacana, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, photo by Patti Bleifuss

Day 2 – Driving tour on your own, birding at Crooked Tree and exploring Altun Ha Mayan ruin

Thursday – Before your trip, make a reservation for an early morning birding tour with the Birds Eye View Lodge at Crooked Tree. This inland lagoon is located about 45 minutes from your lodge. Drive out past the Community Baboon Sanctuary and back to the Northern Highway and turn left (north). At the village of Sand Hill, continue on the Northern Highway (left fork). Drive another 10 miles to the turnoff to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and follow the signs to Bird’s Eye View Lodge. You’ll have to get there early, tours start at 6 or 7 am. They take you on a boat into the secret, marshy parts of the lagoon. During this 3 hour tour you will likely see 30 different exotic bird species or more. The birding tour for 1-3 persons is $125, each additional person is $35. After the tour, return to the lodge for lunch, which is $15 per person. Their food is delicious! Make sure they know that you plan to have lunch there after the tour. Visit this blog post to learn more about the best birding tour in Belize!

After lunch, drive to Altun Ha Mayan ruin. Retrace your route back to Sand Hill, then take the other fork, which when coming from Crooked Tree will be a left. Go about another 10 miles to the turnoff for Altun Ha. The entrance fee is $5 US per person. It’s possible to tour the ruins without a guide, but we do recommend you hire one right there at the gate. We don’t know the exact rate, but it will be very affordable and will increase your enjoyment of the ruins. Return to Howler Monkey Resort after the ruins.

Black Howler Monkey at the Community Baboon Sanctuary
Black Howler Monkey at the Community Baboon Sanctuary, photo by Patti Bleifuss

Day 3 – Driving tour on your own, Community Baboon Sanctuary, Belize Zoo, and Cheers for lunch!

Friday – This morning you will first move out of your rooms because you won’t be returning to the Howler Monkey Lodge. After breakfast drive just a mile or less to the museum of the Community Baboon Sanctuary. This cute little homegrown museum has a lot of great info, and it costs just $3/person to get in. Be sure to hire a local guide who is probably hanging out right there to take you to see the monkeys. They will walk you the equivalent of half a block to where the monkeys are right by the path. They are always knowledgeable about the monkeys, having grown up there with them nearby all their lives.

When you are done at the museum, drive back towards the highway, but take a right turn toward Hattieville at the village of Burrell Boom. This will take you through a part of Belize you have not seen before. You’ll pass the prison. Don’t stop there! At Hattieville you will hit the Western Highway, turn right toward the Belize Zoo, which is about 15 miles from this turn off. The Belize Zoo is internationally famous. All animals are rescues and all are native to Belize. It’s a fantastic zoo and you’ll get to see jaguar, jaguarundi, tapir, and other animals you may never have even heard of. The entrance fee is $15 per person. Before turning into the zoo, decide if you want to have lunch now, or several hours later. Cheers is our favorite restaurant in the whole country, and it’s just a few miles more on the left (the zoo is on the right). Drive past the turnoff to Dangriga (the Coastal Road) and look for Cheers, you can’t miss it. Lunch will cost you about $10-12 per person.

Spend several hours at the zoo, it’s incredible. Just make sure you have enough time (to be safe, leave by 3:30 pm) to drive back to Belize City, drop everyone and luggage at the Biltmore, while the driver turns in the vehicle at CarOne Rental just a few blocks away, walking back to the Biltmore. Check in and be ready to meet your Slickrock guide at 5:30 pm for your trip meeting, shopping trip to nearby Brodies for last minute items, and dinner at the hotel. We go to bed early because we are getting up early to catch the boat to the island! Once you meet us, everything but your bar bill is covered: lodging, dinner and breakfast the next morning at the hotel. The cost for the Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef 6 night package is $1675 per person although if you have a group of 4 or more, you will get 10% off for each person!

Belize cabanas
Belize cabanas – Long Caye at Glover’s Reef, photo by John Holder

Day 4 – Transport to the island, move into cabanas, go snorkeling!

Saturday – After group breakfast walk to our private dock two blocks away. Your luggage is driven. From here we travel three hours by boat to Long Caye (65 miles). After lunch, move into your cabana, explore the island, and snorkel right off our shore after the snorkel orientation. Every night we have happy hour, appetizers, and volleyball before dinner and socializing after.

Kayak snorkeling at Glover's Reef
Kayak snorkeling at Glover’s Reef, Belize, photo by Victor Myers

Day 5 – Sea kayak orientation, snorkeling out of the kayaks, learn to windsurf

Sunday – Our sea kayak orientation is this morning: we cover paddle strokes, entering and exiting the kayak, and rescue techniques. Both this and the snorkel orientation the afternoon before are required, as we don’t offer these again. Starting in the afternoon, the itinerary is open. Several things are offered at once and you can choose what you wish to do. After lunch one guide takes a group paddling to a nearby patch reef to snorkel from the kayaks, while another guide offers windsurfing instruction. Certified divers may also begin diving.

Surf kayak our wave at Glover's Reef, Belize
Surf kayak our wave at Glover’s Reef, Belize, photo by Bryony Swan

Day 6 – Learn to dive, kayak surfing orientation, paddle around the island

Monday – The first Discover Scuba/Resort course is often offered this morning for beginning divers. Others enjoy a morning paddle around the island or go diving. Both windsurfing and kayak surfing orientations are offered in the afternoon. You may join one or both, then continue to practice these sports with or without a guide for the rest of the week.

Snorkel Glover's Reef Belize
Snorkel Glover’s Reef, photo by Keith Fialcowitz

Day 7 – Paddle 5 miles round trip to Middle Caye, snorkel, island time

Tuesday – Paddle your kayak or your paddleboard five miles round-trip to Middle Caye to tour the Marine Research Center, home base for marine biologists. We go for a fabulous snorkel while we are there. You may also choose “island time” and stay on the island. You can sea kayak, snorkel, dive, surf kayak, windsurf, or just relax.

Day 8 – Snorkel The Wall, return to Belize City, overnight at the Biltmore

Wednesday – One final dive or snorkel to “The Wall”, where the ocean floor drops from 40 to 2,600 feet in under a mile. After lunch we return to Belize City. Our arrival time cannot be predicted since it depends on factors we cannot control. Therefore, guests should not make other plans for Saturday night. After checking into the Biltmore, guests are on their own for dinner.

Day 9 – Fly home

Thursday – Earliest day to fly home, or continue to other spots in Belize for the rest of your trip.

Summary of all costs

RT Flight to Belize $300 – 700 per person
Rental Car – 2 days $120 for 1-4
Gasoline $60 for all (estimate)
Howler Monkey Lodge, 2 nights includes dinner and breakfast $200 – 280 for 2
Birding Tour $125 for 1 – 3
Lunch Birds Eye View Lodge $15 per person
Altun Ha Entrance $5 per person
Altun Ha Guide $25 for all (estimate)
Community Baboon Sanctuary Museum $3 per person
Community Baboon Sanctuary guide $10 for all (estimate)
Lunch Cheers $12 per person
Zoo Entrance Fee $15 per person
Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef adventure tour, 6 nights, includes 6 night lodging, transport to and from the island, 3 meals/day, unlimited beer and soda, national park fees and fishing license fees, and complete use of our sports equipment, instruction in all sports, and daily guided activities all day long: sea kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, kayak surfing, sport fishing, kayak fishing, stand-up paddling, and board surfing. Scuba diving and kiteboarding are at an additional cost. $1675 per person
Total 8 nights, for 2 persons Approximately $2250 per person or about $285 per day all inclusive, including air.
belize christmas availability
Photo by Susanne Stensaas

Christmas in Belize is a wonderful way to spend the holiday. Give your family the gift of an experience rather than another “thing” they don’t need. Your kids will remember a sojourn to our island at Glover’s Reef for their whole life, long after the new phone or new shoes are lost, worn out, or forgotten.

If you want to go to Belize for Christmas, you need to start planning early! This means by May or June, but absolutely by September. After September most of the lodges in Belize are booked up. And even if you do find space in your 3rd or 4th choice, you will find that air seats are either all gone or prohibitively expensive.

Every year we turn away hundreds of people for the trip date that includes Christmas, as these dates fill extremely early. This year is no exception. It doesn’t take long for our trip dates to fill because our island capacity is only about 34 guests at a time.

However, we do still have room on the week both before and after this popular trip date. And the second of these options includes New Years Eve on the island! Below is a list of packages that still have room.

Come join us this December for the best family holiday that you will reminisce about for years to come.

December 14 – 22, flying home no earlier than the 23rd
December 28 – January 5, flying home no earlier than the 6th
Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef Full Week, Fri – Sat or Tue – Wed (flying out Sun or Thurs), 9 nights, $2425 US pp
Package includes 1 night in Belize City before the trip, 1 night in Belize City after the trip, and 7 nights on the island for sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, windsurfing, surf kayaking, board surfing and fishing.

December 14 – 19, flying home no earlier than the 20th
December 28 – January 2, flying home no earlier than the 3rd
Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef First Half, Fri – Wed (flying out Thursday), 6 nights, $1675 US pp
Package includes 1 night in Belize City before the trip, 1 night in Belize City after the trip, and 4 nights on the island for sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, windsurfing, surf kayaking, board surfing and fishing.

December 18 – 22, flying home no earlier than the 23rd
January 1 – 5, flying home no earlier than the 6th
Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef Second Half, Tue – Sat (flying out Sunday), 5 nights, $1525 US pp
Package includes 1 night in Belize City before the trip, 1 night in Belize City after the trip, and 3 nights on the island for sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, windsurfing, surf kayaking, board surfing and fishing.

December 29 – January 5, flying home no earlier than the 6th
Belize Adventure Week Full Week, Sat – Sat (flying out Sunday), 8 nights, $2825 US pp
Package includes 1 night at a beach lodge, 2 nights at a jungle lodge, and 1 night in Belize City – one in the middle of the trip and one on the last night, and 3 nights on our private island. In the jungle we go ziplining, waterfall rappelling, whitewater kayaking, underground kayaking, and exploring Mayan ruins, and on our private island we go sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, windsurfing, surf kayaking, board surfing, and fishing.

December 29 –January 2, flying home no earlier than the 2nd
Belize Adventure Week First Half, Sat – Wed (flying out Wednesday), 4 nights, $1595 US pp
Package includes 1 night at a beach lodge, 2 nights at a jungle lodge and 1 night in Belize City. We go ziplining, waterfall rappelling, whitewater kayaking, underground kayaking, and exploring Mayan ruins.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Hurricane Season
Where are hurricanes most likely to occur?

Today I received an email from our travel insurance company. When you sign up for a trip to Belize with us, you will hear our strong recommendation to acquire a travel insurance policy. We make this recommendation because we have seen so many things go so wrong for a bunch of people… if you are one of those unfortunate people, travel insurance is a lifesaver. Of course, like all insurance policies, you usually don’t end up using the protection. But you’ve got it if you need it! If you don’t buy a policy and you do have to cancel, you will suffer a loss on your vacation. Sometimes, it’s 100% of the cost (if you cancel 10 days or less prior to departure). And that’s a bummer.

So when we recommend you buy travel insurance, we do recommend where to get it, and that’s Travel Ex. We like this company, and we whole-heartedly recommend them. You are under no obligation to buy it from them, and we don’t really care, we just really want you to get some kind of protection. Because if you have a policy and you have to cancel, you call us up and say “Sorry, I have to cancel.” If you didn’t buy a policy and you have to cancel, you call us up and start screaming. We are selfish that way, we don’t like to be screamed at. This is why we make such a big deal about it when you sign up. We know you might need it.

So all of that is to explain why I received an email today from Travel Ex reminding me that Hurricane Season has started. Ugg. Now I get to worry from now until the end of October. There are negative sides to having an island, believe me.

Although we are closed during hurricane season, many people do travel to the tropics during this time of year. So Travel Ex wrote a great article about what to do if you do travel when hurricanes are a concern, and that’s what the email was about. If you are planning to go south for the summer, bookmark this article: http://blog.travelexinsurance.com/travel-safety/five-tips-for-traveling-safely-during-hurricane-season/. It’s good advice.

Where to stay in Belize City with one extra day
The Great House, Belize City

Rich Lawson has been to our island seven times. His first trip was so long ago (2006), that this was before we were using the Biltmore in Belize City for our groups. We used to use the Chateau Caribbean, which was downtown next to the Radisson Ft. George. Rich loved the Chateau, and continued to stay there each year if he arrived early or stayed late. He tells me he liked the Chateau Caribbean, not only because of it’s colonial elegance, but also next door the Radisson had a poolside bar he particularly liked (but The Chateau was a much better deal). He reports it had live blues every Thursday when he was usually there. But then this year the Chateau Caribbean burned down. We heard about it in the Belize News, and I had sent him this article, knowing he would want to know. So he wrote to me, saying what am I going to do? He’s not that crazy about the Biltmore because he says he can’t even tell he is in another country. I agree with him, there is nothing special about the Biltmore. You could be in Miami. It’s a nice, standard hotel.

So I had to think, what are the options? I came up with my top four places to stay with one extra day in Belize City. (More than one day, and I would recommend getting out of the city.)

1. The Great House is near the old site of the Chateau. It is behind the Radisson, across the street, and away from the sea. The advantages are that they are above a great restaurant, and he would still be right by the poolside bar he likes.

2. I also told him about my favorite bed and breakfast: Villa Boscardi: It’s not downtown like the Great House, it’s about a mile or so from the Biltmore, in a regular neighborhood, a block from the sea. The down side: there is no restaurant or bar nearby, it’s just a room that is nicely decorated and run by nice people in a safe neighborhood.

3. Another idea is to get out of the city, but just barely, so you don’t spend a lot of time traveling back and forth. A stay at Black Orchid Resort, which is 15 minutes from the airport north of town, would work nicely. They will pick you up and drop you off at the airport for free. They are in a rural area and walking distance (2 miles?) from the small village of Burrell Boom, and about 7 miles from the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Bermudian Landing.

4. My final idea is to fly right to Caye Caulker when you land and stay out there for a night. The flight will add significantly to your cost, but you can take a cheaper boat back the next day.

He ended up choosing The Great House. He prefers it because it is about the same vintage as the Chateau, (built in 1927), and he really liked that neighborhood. Then he gave ME a recommendation: “The blues guitar player at the pool bar always plays this rendition of “My Guitar Gently Weeps” that is so deep and bluesy you wouldn’t believe it. I think that is also what George meant it to be. You can set there with a nice view of the Caribbean.”

That’s pretty convincing! Who wouldn’t want to hear “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” the way it was meant to be played? I think I’ll make a point to go the next time I am in Belize City.

touring belize on your own
Burrell Boom, Belize

Many of our guests arrive a day or two early for one of our week-long adventure packages. We often get questions about touring Belize on your own. I have a favorite one-day loop trip that takes in the Baboon Sanctuary, the Belize Zoo, and my favorite restaurant for lunch: Cheers. Because it’s a loop, you can start anywhere on the loop and circle around and end up back in the same place. I’ll describe it here as if you are arriving in the country and continuing from there to stay at Black Orchid Resort or the Howler Monkey Resort, with the plan to do the driving tour the next day. However, the itinerary can be modified as you see fit to go in a different direction, or to stay in a different location.

So, landing at BZE, you will first rent a car. Renting a car can be expensive in Belize (about $100/day), so this is most affordable for a group or family of four or more. If you compare the car rental to a guided tour, the car rental compares favorably when you consider four people x about $75/day per person for the tour.

All of the Belize car rental places are in the parking lot at the airport, so that part is easy. You don’t have to make arrangements in advance unless you are traveling at peak times like Christmas or Spring Break. Once you have your car, drive out of the airport and turn left on the Northern Highway, going north. You will go about 5 miles to the turnoff for the town of Burrell Boom. Turn left there and continue on to Black Orchid Resort or the Howler Monkey Resort, where you have already made reservations for the night. Most flights do land later in the day, so you would not have time for this tour without having the full day ahead of you, and you will need a place to stay. Black Orchid is about 25 minutes from the International airport, and the Howler Monkey Resort is about 45 minutes away, located in the village of Bermudian Landing.

After breakfast at the restaurant at Black Orchid the next morning, you will have to decide whether you are taking all of your luggage with you, or coming back to pick it up. That will depend on what you plan to do next. It will likely be easiest to take it with you, unless you plan to spend several days at Black Orchid.

The Community Baboon Sanctuary does a great job with stewardship of the monkeys.
Crocodile skull – Community Baboon Sanctuary Museum

Continuing west, drive on into Burrell Boom Village and beyond due west to the village of Bermudian Landing. This is where the visitor center for the Community Baboon Sanctuary is located. It’s a small, semi-funky, but charming museum. Well worth the minuscule entrance fee.

There will hopefully be a guide there offering to take you to the baboons (actually they are Howler Monkeys, but the locals call them “Baboons”.) By all means hire them! The fee will also be surprisingly affordable. A young woman walked us about a block back into the trees and there were the monkeys!

When you have had your fill of the Baboon Sanctuary, get back in your car and go back to Burrell Boom and turn south (right). You’ll be heading toward Hattieville. When you are almost to Hattieville you will pass the prison! You can see the prisoners right there inside the fence, it’s quite strange, but interesting. It’s a view of the country most people do not get.

touring belize on your own
Tapir at the Belize Zoo

At Hattieville you turn right and head west toward the Belize Zoo and Cheers Restaurant. Don’t miss Cheers. If you are hungry, go there first, it’s a little bit past the zoo. Then double back to the internationally famous Belize Zoo. You’ll want to spend several hours there. They quit letting people in at 4 pm, and close at either 4:30 or 5:00. Allow at least 2 hours for the zoo, but really you need 3 or 4.

After you have finished your tour, you don’t have to go back the same way. Continue on the Western Highway back almost to Belize City, then take the brand new cut off back over to the Northern Highway so that you miss downtown Belize City. You will come right out by Brodie’s Supermarket and the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel. Continue to the International Airport to return your vehicle (which is why you might be glad you don’t have to double back to get your luggage at Black Orchid.)

black howler monkey
We didn’t feed them, I promise! We handed them fruit from the tree they were in that was lying on the ground

If you are meeting us for the first night of your adventure tour, take a cab from the airport back to the Biltmore to start your tour with us! Here’s the route.

belize one day tour map

[photos by Lucy Wallingford and Kathe O’Donnelly]

From Coral Reef and Mayan Ruins to the Cloud Forest

Picture of Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize
The Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

Occasionally we get this question… people rightly figure that if they are going south, they want to stay south and see more than just one country. What a great combination! Belize for the coral reefs and Mayan ruins, and Costa Rica for the cloud forest.

Three different airlines fly between the two, and on the quickest and cheapest schedules there is only one stop (San Salvador, El Salvador), so it’s very doable. They all share so you may actually be on one airline on the way over and a different one on the way back. The three airlines are  Avianca, Taca, and Lasca. They can get you between the two in just over four hours and they go every day. You can also fly between the two in about five hours stopping in Panama instead of El Salvador, but it costs about $200 more.

San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) to Belize City, Belize (BZE) – Leave SJO at 6:47 am, arrive BZE 9:52 am
BZE to SJO – Leave BZE 12:15 pm, arrive SJO 4:05 pm

Comparing Flight Costs: Belize vs. Costa Rica

Picture of the Santa Elene cloud forest skywalk, Costa Rica
Santa Elena Skywalk, Costa Rica

The cost between the two is currently $334 – $584 (depending on the day of the week) round trip. You will have to do a little research to figure out whether to fly from the US to Belize or to Costa Rica. On some dates it is roughly the same, on other dates we checked it was more expensive to fly in and out of Costa Rica.

  • Houston to Belize, approx. $300 round trip, 1 stop on American (Miami), or non stop on Southwest
  • Houston to Costa Rica, approx $315 non-stop on Southwest, and approx $425 non-stop on United

Costa Rica Tour Company Recommendations

There is a great travel company in Costa Rica similar to us: Serendipity Adventures. They come highly recommended, and are the only other company I have found offering as many sports as we do. Why not spend a week in Belize on our island, then fly to Costa Rica and do one of their week-long trips? For example, consider their 7-day Costa Rica Intrepid Adventure Tour which is 7 days of horseback riding, hiking and climbing trees, rafting, rain forest, cloud forest, hiking a volcano, soaking in hot springs, and a zipline canopy tour.

Wouldn’t this be a great honeymoon? Or why not a second honeymoon if you already took your first?

When you decide to join us on one of our Belize adventure packages at our island or on the Belize mainland, you do show up with some expectations. Our guests expect the weather to be wonderful, the guides to be qualified and fun, the food to be fantastic, their cabana to be super cool, and the caves to be exciting; and our guests are not disappointed. Each week I receive emails from guests re-entering their lives after their time with us, telling me that we exceeded all expectations. Even if the weather isn’t hot and dry, it’s still wonderful. A private island in the Caribbean… what’s not to like?

Last season I invited my BFF Kathe O’Donnelly to the island, and afterwards we traveled together to inland Belize for a week or so. Looking at her photos this many months later, I see things I don’t usually notice… I’ve spent years in Belize, and I take many of these wonderful sights for granted. It is so refreshing to see the country through her eyes.

Because now I see that there are a lot of other wonderful things about traveling in Belize that can take you by surprise. I see these “bonuses” in Kathe’s photos. Paying attention to unexpected views can make your trip even more memorable. Click each photo below to see how well she captured these amazing vignettes.

It starts on the plane flying down. When you are almost to Belize City, the views out of the plane can be stunning!

Mainland hotels and restaurants have some wonderful sculpture. Of course you can find galleries where this stuff is for sale, but it would be a project to get them home. But it’s easy enough to export pictures, I love all of these modern-Mayan artworks.

When you get to the island, you are expecting the underwater creatures to be astounding, because Glover’s Reef is a world-famous Marine Reserve. But you aren’t expecting the land animals to be so much fun. For example, have you ever seen a hermit crab shell exchange?

And did you know we have two super-cute bunnies on the island?

If you also go inland you will find a whole bunch of surprising bits and pieces all over the country. For example, they have wonderful cemeteries!

And tons of groovy little hole-in-the-wall diners.

And tropical flowers EVERYWHERE.

And one of the most surprising of all, lots of wonderful architectural details!

[all photos by Kathe O’Donnelly]

Cheers restaurant in Belize

My favorite place to eat in Belize is Cheers Restaurant. I am a foodie, and it’s great. It is regular comfort food, not gourmet or trendy… you will love it.

Cheers Restaurant is located on the Western Highway just a few miles past the Belize Zoo, on the south side of the road. It’s about 40 minutes from Belize City. So if you are going to the zoo, or continuing on through Belmopan to Cayo or Dangriga, try to end up going by Cheers at a meal time. I have been eating here for years, and I always plan trips to Western Belize around lunch at Cheers.

I don’t know what it is about their location, but it’s always breezy there. It can be God-awful hot out, and it will be cool at Cheers. The whole restaurant is on a covered patio, so the wind blows right through.

Cheers Restaurant patio

Above your head are hundreds of t-shirts representing tour groups from years past, where everyone in the group signed the shirt. It adds to the wonderful vibe of the place. The service is friendly and prompt.

The food is traditional Belizean plus some Mexican and some American thrown in. Rice and Beans, Stew Chicken, Burritos, Tacos, Omelets, Hamburgers & Fries, Salads, Steak… it’s a large menu, and everyone will find something they like.

Don’t miss it!

[photos by Kathe O’Donnelly]
Structure of thatch roof
Structure of thatch roof

Last April while on our Belize island, I decided I wanted to create a center where guests can store their snorkel equipment. There was no central spot, and therefore this assorted gear was strewn all over the place, including the palm-shaded picnic table where the staff likes to eat their lunch!

So I decided to turn an old SUP rack into a bunch of large shelves where people can put their mask, fins, and snorkel when they are not using them.

I started out by getting MJ to build the new structure. Magdaleno Yacab is an amazing man. He’s funny, he’s sweet, he’s a fantastic kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing guide, and he can build anything you can think of. He finished the project, and then he went home for his week off.

Cahune Palm - photo by D'Asign Source Botanicals
Cahune Palm – photo by D’Asign Source Botanicals

So, Apolitico (“Pol”), Martin, and Neri said they would roof it for me. I took a ton of pictures while they were doing it, and once I had such a nice set of images, I thought maybe others would like to see how it’s done. So here’s your step by step instruction for making a palm thatch roof!

First they collect a whole bunch of nice coconut palm leaves, which are all over the island. Normally we don’t use palm leaves for our cabana roofs. The reason is that they are too short. Instead you want to use cahune palm.

Coconut Palm on our island, Long Caye at Glover's Reef in Belize
Coconut Palm on our island, Long Caye at Glover’s Reef in Belize

Those leaves are something like 18 feet long. Every fall (in fact, in about 3 weeks) we take a whole pile, literally boatloads, of leaf out to the island from the jungle to reroof some of our buildings. We are on about a four year rotation to keep our Dining Hall and cabana roofs waterproof.

Here are some images to show you the difference between the two. See what I mean? The Cahune Palm leaves are much longer. So if you are making a roof yourself, get the longest leaves that you can find.

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Newly collected coconut palm leaves

Next you have to split almost all of the leaves in half. The number you need total, and the number you need to leave unsplit depends on the size of your roof. But you only leave a tiny fraction unsplit. For the very small roof we made, I would say we left four of them unsplit.

Spliting the leaves
Splitting the leaves in half

As you split them, you keep them separated into piles of “lefts” and “rights”. Each side of a leaf is a mirror image of the other side. This difference is important, you will see why later. You don’t want to get them mixed up.

Piles of lefts, rights, and whole leaves (called "top leaf")
Piles of lefts, rights, and whole leaves (called “top leaf”)

You will need some kind of scaffolding to stand on while doing your roof. Boards are often laid between rafters. In this case it was easy because of the shelves. The structure itself has a built-in scaffolding.

Getting ready to start thatching
Getting ready to start thatching

Next they attach the cord they will use to sew the leaf onto the structure.

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Pol ties on the sewing line

These two stouter poles lean perpendicular to the leaf plane. They support the leaf temporarily while you are tying it on.

Putting support poles in place
Putting support poles in place and tying strings are ready to go

Now Neri starts handing up the leaf. You tie on six at a time, alternating left leaf, right leaf, with the V shaped channel facing up. What this does is catch every single rain drop that hits the roof. There are so many leaves, all with channels facing up, that a drop has nowhere else to go but be directed off the roof toward the edge.

Neri passes leaf in correct order to Pol and Martin
Neri passes leaf in correct order to Pol and Martin

As more and more bundles are passed up, they are tied down higher and higher up the roof structure.

Tying down the leaf
Tying down the leaf

Neri stands by to hand more leaf up when they need it.

Each row is securely tied
Each row is securely tied

When one side is done, they switch to the other side.

Finished on one side!
Finished on one side!

The second side is sewn just like the first side.

Starting the second side
Starting the second side

Six leaves make one stack, with the leaf alternating between lefts and rights.

Six leaves to a stack
Six leaves to a stack

You can see that even a small roof like this one uses a lot of leaf!

The roof is taking shape
The roof is taking shape

It’s getting closer!

Almost done!
Almost done!

As it gets toward the end, it can be harder to tie the last leaf.

Tying the final rows
Tying the final rows

Now they get on TOP of the roof.

The final steps are done from the top of the roof
The final steps are done from the top of the roof

Two small sticks are threaded through the two sides. This is what the top leaf is tied to.

Attaching sticks to tie the top leaf to
Attaching sticks to tie the top leaf to

The top leaf is whole leaf. It spans both sides. Remember to put the channels up to catch the rain water.

Handing up the top leaf
Handing up the top leaf

After tying down the top leaf, two long, thin poles are handed up. These go on either side to hold the edges of the top leaf down. If a wind catches the edge of the top leaf and bends it up, the roof will leak.

Handing up the top poles
Handing up the top poles

The top poles are tied down and it’s done!

The final tie down
The final tie down

The finished roof is a lovely thing to behold.

Inside the finished roof
Inside the finished roof

I think it’s going to be a nice addition to our sports center, don’t you?

Our new snorkel center
Our new snorkel center
Photos of us using booties for EVERY sport we do in Belize
Booties, how much do I need thee?

We have an excellent Belize packing list for our island and jungle trips. I have been doing this a long time, and I would say that the thing people are most confused by is buying booties. I spend a crazy amount of time talking about shoes.

It seems people don’t really know much about water shoes and how to protect their feet. Foot injuries are our most common injury on the island. And I would venture to say that 95% of the problems come from bringing improper or just plain lousy footwear.

Photos of both Belize island and jungle sports where safety relies on good booties.
Let me count the ways….

Think about it: on our island trips we do ten water sports, and if you are going with us to the jungle also you can add four more to that list. All but two of our sports take place in the water. That means you need one pair of shoes to handle twelve different sports. That’s a tall order! And they will never dry out during the whole trip. Some shoes are too bulky (they won’t fit on kayak pedals or into a snorkel fin), some shoes are sandals and so don’t protect you walking around in the ocean where there are sea urchins and sting rays. And still some are too stiff, or don’t have any traction, or don’t protect your whole foot because the whole top is simply a thin mesh.

Twelve sports in Belize, one shoe. That's a tall order.
Inland and island, you need good shoes!

The answer to this problem is simple: get some neoprene booties.

Belize packing list

This subject came to me yesterday when I remembered I need to get myself a new pair of booties. I had worn out my 4th pair last spring and when I got home I suddenly realized when packing for a river trip I had left my last pair in Belize to finish off next season. I had to buy a pair locally and I really don’t like them, they are overkill. They are extremely sturdy, with a huge zipper going way up the calf. They are too stiff. I like a smaller, more flexible pair. Cully was doing an order from Northwest River Supply and I thought he would get me a pair there. But upon looking at their site all of their options had the same over-the-top features of the pair I just bought. So I went to Amazon and put in “dive booties” and found a very good looking pair with all the features I like for much less money than my river booties had always been. I wish they went a little bit higher up the ankle, but that’s the way it goes. They look flexible, and with a good thick sole, and they pull on – no zipper. And they are only $23.

[Photos, top to bottom and left to right: Robert Dunlop, Jerry Wylie, Elena Potter, Rich Mitchell, Kimi Gosney, Rick Pratt]