Belize travel reviews

Chuck and Kelly Cray joined us on the island last April with their 2 daughters ages 7 and 10. I was there are the time, and it was a really great week. My favorite trips are the ones with lots of kids because the presence of kids on the island makes everyone more playful. The guides especially love the kids because they are missing their own kids, because they are gone at home for 2 weeks at a time.

Kelly sent me this entry from their youngest daughter Meriel’s writing journal. Thanks Kelly, I think Meriel had a good time!

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.

Glenn Boer joined us this December and he just sent a great video of his trip to our island, combined with his trip extension to nearby Guatemala. The first 3 minutes is about our island an includes the boat ride to the atoll, his cabana, paddling near the island, a kitesurfing lesson, and snorkeling with underwater footage! A fantastic montage! Thanks Glenn.

Carol Cashion and her family joined us on the island twice recently – in January of 2016 and then again a year later. Carol wrote this blog post for us about how great is it is return to the island for a second trip. All photos are by her, or by other members of her family. Thanks Carol!

Top Ten Things We Loved about Going Back to the Island

1. We already had all the snorkeling gear. No shopping! Huge savings!

snorkeling glovers reef in belize
Snorkeling at a nearby patch reef

2. It felt like coming home. We were greeted at the dock by familiar faces – both guests (Shaver-Watts!) and guides (Carlos and Luis!) and the unchanging beautiful sites and sounds of the island. Bob and I even got the “Love Shack” again!

Belize island cabana
Sumo Love Shack, Long Caye, Glover’s Reef, Belize

3. Widening the circle. We loved watching the first time guests discover the island, especially the Warren kids and our own addition, Jack’s girlfriend Anne.

4. Flattening out the learning curve. When you have the time to work on your kayak surf skills under the watchful eye of Carlos or Luis day after day, you slowly shift the capsize-to-ride ratio in your favor!

kayak surf belize
One of the most popular island sports – kayak surfing!

5. Night snorkel. Made impossible last year by a poorly timed “Northerly” storm. Amazing experience. Go Team Octopus!

common octopus
Common Octopus, Glover’s Reef, Belize

6. Low tide walk (see “Northerly” above). The Slate Pencil Urchin. Wow! So strange and so cool!

7. Paddle to Middle Caye (see “Northerly” above). So fun. But don’t believe MJ when he describes it as a “15 minute paddle”!

middle caye paddle glover's reef belize
On the way to Middle Caye

8. Enough time to learn something not very easy and entirely new. Luis spent hours teaching Anne how to roll a kayak. Just before sunset on their second day at it, she flipped that boat and then popped right back up. A great moment!

kayak rolling lesson
Long Caye is a great place to learn to roll a kayak – 80 degree water!

9. Hermit crab races. Not only were we there for this weekly event this year, we had the inside track on where to find the most energetic, best fed hermit crabs – down at the “West End dump”!

10. A chance to dance. We spent our last night dancing-‘til-we-dropped in the kitchen with our family and the always-game staff, who even re-hung the New Year’s Eve disco ball to add to the fun. A perfect ending to a perfect week.

belize family vacation
The Cashion family with Luis Gonzales, Slickrock guide
kitesurf instructor in Belize
Laia, Jasmine Ardeshiri (kitesurf instructor), Emily Casaretto (kayak instructor)

Laia Lanaquera Donet was one of our kitesurf instructors in Belize 3 years ago. Instructing on our private island at Glover’s Reef, at times she was our only instructor and was responsible for our entire kitesurfing program. She only worked for us for one year unfortunately, because after working for us one winter, she got a permanent position as a school teacher in Spain, where she lives. We still miss her! She was incredibly popular with our staff, not to mention our guests. Especially our Belizean staff still talks about her because, coming from Spain, she speaks fluent Spanish, which is the first language of our guides and both of our groundskeeping staff. So she fit right in.

She recently published a blog post detailing what it’s like to work for Slickrock Adventures in Belize. It will answer all of your questions about working on a private island in Belize.

hermit crab belize

When guests first arrive on our island in Belize, we take them on a tour. In about 45 minutes we show them everything they need to know about the island for the week: where their cabana is, where the bathrooms are, how to check out and return our sport gear, where to find the cold beer, etc. It’s my job to conduct the tour, and one of the odd things that happens every single week is I can’t keep the tour moving because of hermit crabs. People see a hermit crab for the first time, and they come to a screeching halt. By Day 3 they are over it, but at the beginning, they are transfixed.

As the week goes on, people start coming to us asking why all the hermit crabs are collected together, in what looks like an impromptu convention, on the path near their cabana. And the answer is surprising: it’s a potential hermit crab shell exchange.

Hermit crabs do not have the ability to make their own shells. They have to move into someone else’s’ shell. Or someone else’s anything. I have seen them in film cans, shampoo bottle caps, and champagne corks! So when they are babies, they can’t move into a huge shell. The shell has to fit them. What this means is as they grow, they get too big for their britches, as they say. They get too tight, and they have to find a new shell and move out of their current shell and into the bigger one.

It follows that when that hermit crab abandons their shell, another, smaller, crab will want that one, and they will move out of THEIR shell, creating a new home for someone else. There it goes down the line, each shell that is abandoned gets smaller and smaller.

hermit crab shell exchange

Once you know about this, you will start to notice that there are not any empty shells lying around anywhere. If you happen to find one, put it on the path near where you walk by all of the time. In less than a half a day you will see not just one, but many crabs grouped around it. For even if that shell doesn’t fit one particular crab, he knows that this empty shell will create another available shell his size eventually. Hermit crabs are ALWAYS looking for a new, slightly larger, shell.

So what this boils down to is this: the premium piece of real estate is the largest shell. One Grand Daddy shell will provide homes for everyone. So in an odd reversal of the usual order of things, it is the largest creature that is at the biggest disadvantage. All of the other crabs will gang up on the big one, and pull him out of his shell! I kid you not! He dies, for he has nowhere else to go. Then everybody else moves up.

Sometimes one of these conventions doesn’t turn into an actual exchange. If there is no empty shell, they are actually trying to decide if they are going to gang up and pull the big guy out of his shell or not. All of the crabs feel each other for a while, and then they are just as likely to wander away as to take action. In this video, you will see that Larry Staples did find an empty hermit crab shell to place by his cabana, and it is causing quite a stir.

A shell exchange takes hours and hours. Jim from the dive shop used to tell a story of one trip where the whole group pulled up chairs and watched the entire exchange, and it took about 8 hours. He had to take them snacks and drinks, they wouldn’t leave! When he would stop by they would report on the latest: “Jim! The brown striped one just moved to a white shell!”

Island well water

There are two kind of water on our Belize island: rain water and well water. Rain water is collected on our roofs and we use it for drinking, cooking, and tooth brushing. Even though we have over 15,000 gallons of storage capacity, we conserve this water. Once we run out, that’s it until the next rainy season. Right now we are just entering peak dry season.

So it’s crucial to have wells on an island. You use it for everything else: laundry, bathing, dishes, and rinsing gear. When our guests show up on the island, one of the first things we explain is the difference between the two kinds of water, and we show them one of our wells, the one that they use (pictured at left). When you open that hatch, everyone is surprised to see that a well on an inland is a 4-foot deep hole, lined with boards. That’s it. As you can imagine, the water table on a tiny island is not very far down. By digging a shallow well, you tap into the rainwater that falls on the island itself. When it rains, there are puddles everywhere for about an hour, and then they are gone. So where do they go? They soak in. This fresh water is lighter than the heavier salt water, so a lens of fresh water sits on top of the salt. Of course, there is no way to stop them mixing a little, so this water tastes salty, but feels fresh on the skin. I don’t know the percentage, but it’s probably .01% or less salt. Just enough to taste.

island shower

So our wells have a bucket next to them, and you simply dip in to get water to rinse your snorkel gear or do your laundry. Our shower has a solar-powered pump that raises the water up to a tank that sits high above ground, so the gravity feed creates the water pressure. In the kitchen, another pump on another well provides water at a sink where everyone can wash their hands before meals.

All of these systems are fascinating and people love to check it out. You can’t help but think of Swiss Family Robinson, although of course, they didn’t have solar panels!

[Photos by Kathe O’Donnelly and Cully Erdman]

starfish in Belize

Taryn McLean joined us on our Belize Adventure Week outdoor adventure trip followed by an extra half-week on the island way back in January of 2008. She just wrote us to let us know that she publishes a blog called Healthy Family Defined, and she recently recapped her favorite adventure travel vacations before they started their family. Guess what: we made her top ten list! Visit her blog to read Our Favorite Travel Destinations (Pre-Kids).

She includes their trips all over Colorado (they were living there are the time), honeymooning in Mexico, backpacking and kayaking in New Zealand, exploring the Exumas in the Bahamas and Acadia National Park in Maine, and several other adventures. I would say it’s pretty obvious that Taryn and Nathan love to explore.

From reading her blog, I think Taryn is having a little bit of wunderlust nostalgia, and as her kids are growing, she just might be planning to return to some of these places, WITH kids this time.

Thanks so much Taryn for including us in your impressive memory chain. We hope to see you and your kids out on the island soon!

Every once-in-awhile the island will be the host of what we will call “inclement” weather, somewhat beyond the type of weather that brings us excellent surf for kayak surfing…

surf kayaking in belize

… or just the right wind for windsurfing.

Windsurfing on Long Caye

And since, for Slickrock, the number one priority on the island is safety, water activities could be canceled.

If this happens, hopefully everyone has read the information provided, and brought something to entertain themselves. A good book will come in handy, if you haven’t brought one, there is a fairly good library in the kitchen area to peruse.

There are also a number of board games in the dining hall. If the idea of sedentary activities causes you to despair, or you can only take so much “sitting around”, don’t worry, be happy, your hosts will organize something!

You can play island croquet …

or volley ball …

Island volleyball in Belize

… or my favorite, a scavenger hunt.

Several years ago we found ourselves in this situation. Our trip manager announced that we could participate in an island scavenger hunt of sorts and the person with the most interesting find (as judged by all island inhabitants) will win a prize. The judging and award party would take place at the end of the week. Luckily we weren’t wind-bound for the entire week but this would give us time to do a thorough search and have something to do when (or if) we got tired of hammock surfing.

Glovers Reef hammock surfing

Like all islands and coastal areas worldwide, there is a fair amount of flotsam and jetsam to be found and the idea was to walk around the island looking closely in all the nooks and crannies for interesting items. I am an avid beachcomber and “treasure” hunter and spend not small amount of time looking down for things so this was right up my alley.

Belize beachcombing

My husband and I had already been around the island many times and he had noticed the unusual numbers of tooth brushes scattered around on the shorelines and in the mangrove roots, so he decided to do a “study”. Over the next few days we collected all the toothbrushes we could find. I believe we found 30 or so then he spent some time sorting them out into different categories (color, brand, etc.) and drew up a chart of sorts of statistics about them.

Island flotsam

The percentage of certain colors and specific brands, etc. and came to a “conclusion” about the Belizean’s brushing habits based on his study. Many people participated in the hunt and a few came up with very unique and interesting finds. My husband won the grand prize with his presentation (see it pays to keep looking down) It was all great fun, and gave people something different to do during down time. It also acted as a bit of a segue to talk about something that no one wants to talk about but everyone notices and that is the flotsam and jetsam found all around the island. Not all debris (and certainly not all toothbrushes) comes from Belize and keeping it off or away from the island is an impossible task.

In conclusion if you find yourself looking for something to do, you can; 1. Organize a scavenger hunt or 2. Grab yourself a bag and pick up some of the refuse. You never know what you might find, maybe even a Valentine message for your sweetie.

Found Valentine

[Sharon Columbus and her husband have joined us every single year since 2012. They are already scheduled for 2017. All photos are by Neil Columbus.]

photo of our belize island surf break

Are There Belize Surf Spots? Short Answer: Yes, One.

(If you want all the details, you can click straightaway to the main surf page of Slickrock Adventure Island’s website)

It is not widely known that a good surf location exists in Belize, and in fact if one inquires about a good surf break they will invariably get an answer that such a spot does not exist. However, this is not the case, for there is surfing in Belize at a prime break located at Long Caye out at Glover’s Reef.

The windward end of Long Caye is owned by Slickrock Adventures, and it is off this point of the island that a channel though the ring reef of the atoll sets up a nearly perfect surf break. Swells coming in from the Caribbean hit the point of this break in the reef, and roll on through another 200 yards of sloping shoal before dissipating. The shoal is composed of broken coral rubble, not live coral, which has been deposited in the lee of the reef. This forms a safe sea floor on which surfers can walk in the shallower zone, and falling off the break poses no danger in the deeper water since there are no sharp, protruding coral heads in the break zone.

The swells vary in size from an average of 3-4’ but often will break with a 6-8’ face when it has been windy. The NE Trade Winds blow fairly strong and are reliable, so there is almost always a break to surf. The wave begins in 8-10’ of water and rolls with a right shoulder break for several hundred yards on a good day. Surfers can thus enjoy a fairly long ride before the wave finally dissipates in the shallow water near the island.

Slickrock provides surf boards, surf kayaks, and stand-up boards as part of our surfing program, which has been enormously popular with our guests. See these links to our website for more information on the break and pictures of the action:

On the above link the page details about the wave, the level of surfer that should be surfing our wave, best time of year, what you need to bring, what Slickrock provides, and more.