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.
History of The Garifuna of Belize
Picture Belize staff at Long Caye
Slickrock staff – many of us are Garifuna

Today is Garifuna Settlement Day. This date is celebrated as the anniversary that the Garifuna people landed in Dangriga, Belize for the first time.

The Garifuna people of Belize have an interesting history, having arrived and settled in Belize as free people and not former slaves. Garifuna peoples can be found in many coastal towns in southern Belize. Their primary settlements are in the towns of Dangriga and Hopkins, but also in Monkey River, Punta Gorda and others.

The Garifuna people have retained their own language and culture they brought with them to this region, which has its roots in Africa from where they originally were brought to the Caribbean. The Garifuna’s ancestors were slaves brought to the Antilles islands in the eastern Caribbean in the 1500’s and 1600’s. Several groups of these people escaped, and other groups were freed during shipwrecks, and they gathered on the island of St. Vincent which was unoccupied by Europeans at that time. They inter-married with the local inhabitants, the Carib Indians from whose name the Caribbean Sea originated. After more than a century of living on this isolated island the population grew to a considerable size, and their culture was thus preserved for these many years without interruption. The language that developed from the melding of these 2 cultures is unique, it cannot be understood in Africa, or in other parts of the Caribbean today.

In the mid 1700s the British won one of their interminable wars against the Dutch, who had laid claim to the island of St. Vincent by establishing a small colony there that was successfully co-existing with the Garifuna people on the other side of the island. As part of the peace treaty, the Dutch agreed to hand over control of the island to the British, who began a much more aggressive colonization of the island in order expand their booming sugar industry. In short order they ended up in a conflict with the local Garifuna people and a war resulted. The Garifuna held out for four years and were quite difficult to defeat, but in the end the British prevailed and won the conflict.

The British decided not to enslave the Garifuna, but instead exiled them to the far reaches of the Caribbean to the new colony of British Honduras, which they had recently wrested from Spanish control. Basically, they forced them onto ships and dropped them off on Roatan Island off the coast of Honduras, where they were left to survive by their own means, but were left by the British authorities. As they thrived and the population grew, they then spread out along the sea coasts and established new settlements, one of which was in Belize (Dangriga), which was part of British Honduras at that time.

Today the Garifuna constitute an intact society sharing a unique language, culture, customs, and history. Many of our staff have been of Garifuna heritage, as are several currently. All Garifuna also speak English or Spanish or both, as Garifuna is not spoken or understood outside of their tight-knit communities.

Finding Cheap Flights to Belize

Finding cheap flights to Belize

It’s happening, you’re coming to Belize! You’ve found an excellent destination resort, you’re ready to explore the jungle, see Mayan ruins, and snorkel in some of the best waters in the Caribbean. Now the next step: finding a flight that doesn’t break the bank. Finding cheap flights to Belize can feel like a daunting task, but we’re going to help you out by sharing a few tips and tricks that can help you find cheap flights to Belize.

1. Be Flexible With Your Dates

The key to finding a cheap flight to Belize is flexibility. If you set your dates for travel with no room for flexibility, you throw away your ability to shop around for a cheaper flight. Try searching for flights a few days before your preferred travel date, and a few days after your preferred return date. You could find a lot of cheaper flights this way. Using Google Flights, you can actually compare prices on a day to day basis.

cheap flights belize google

You can even chose the best price after you have selected your departure date.

cheap flights belize google

The best prices are highlighted in green.

Having a little flexibility in your schedule can help open up more cheap flights to you, so this is an important factor to consider when planning your Belize vacation.

2. Search For Flights From Nearby Airports

Another helpful trick is to look for flights out of a different airport nearby, and not necessarily an airport you would normally use when flying. For example, flights to Belize from New York City are $522 (flying down 11/30, returning 12/9). However, in Boston tickets for those same flight dates run $372. Bus tickets from New York to Boston start at $47, so someone living in New York can save money by choosing to fly out of Boston instead. It’s the same story out west. Someone living in San Francisco can save money by flying out of Sacramento ($746 at SFO versus $423 at SMF).

3. Book As Early As Possible

The next best step to find a cheap Belize flight is to book as early as possible. The closer you get to your intended departure date, flights become more expensive. Sometimes you can get lucky and a cheap flight can pop up less than a month away from departure, but don’t count on this strategy. As seats start to sell, prices go up and you may find that there are no flights that fit your budget after waiting too long. The best way to avoid this is to book early, around 2-8 months in advance. If you’re going to fly during peak seasons (Christmas/New Years/June-August), you may want to consider finding a ticket a year out from those dates if you want something cheap. Certain flying days are cheaper than others as well. In general, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are the cheapest days to travel. Friday and Sunday tend to be the most expensive. Take this in to account when choosing the days you wish to fly.

4. Be Persistent & Search Frequently

When it comes down to it, you simply need to be persistent in your hunt for a cheap flight. Check flight searching websites every day until you find a deal that’s too good to pass up. Our favorite websites to use for flight searches are Google Flights, Kayak, and Orbitz. In general, a “really good” fare to Belize is about $300 or less. If you ever find a flight plan that falls somewhere around that price range, don’t wait. Book it! The better the fare you find, the shorter it will last.

Flights to Belize have never been cheaper, but sometimes it can be hard to find the cheapest flight down. Being persistent and flexible is the key to finding the best flight. One thing is for sure, though: you will be happy you put in the time and effort to finding the best flight for you. Belize is a hidden gem of Central America and is a must visit. This country in simply un-Belize-able!

belize car rental

Many people assume it’s a good idea to rent a car in Belize, but in many cases, it’s not that great of an idea. It depends on several factors such as where you intend to go and what you want to do.

I rarely recommend renting a car in Belize and this is for a myriad of reasons. First of all, Belize is a small country, so it will be easy and relatively inexpensive to get to almost all locations in Belize without having to rent a car. Then, once you are there, you will likely be taking organized tours to the ruins, wildlife preserves, etc. and those tours will include transportation. Therefore, the only time you will likely use the car you rented during the week will be to go out to dinner.

So for example, let’s say you plan to fly into Belize City on a Friday, and plan to transfer to the Cayo area for a 5 night stay, and then return to Belize City to fly home on Wednesday. If you rent with Hertz and pick up and drop off at the International Airport, their smallest, least expensive vehicle will be $495 US, including taxes and fees but not including gas, which is currently about $6.00 US per gallon.

If you took a tour for the four days you are there, and spent one half-day walking around town (which you would drive to) and also drove each night to a different restaurant in town, we can safely assume you would use about 25 gallons of gas, costing an additional $150, for a total of $650.

By comparison, if you took cabs everywhere (the most expensive way to go, next to the car rental option) it would cost about $125 each way between Belize City and San Ignacio, and approximately an additional $30 each time you went from your hotel to town and back. For the same hypothetical itinerary listed above, the total would be about $430. If you instead took shuttles or buses at least some of the time, the total would be much less.

There are at least 12 rental car agencies in the country. Most of them only offer pick up and drop off at one place. Basically almost any car rental agency you can think of has a representative. On my last trip to Belize I made a definitive list of the booths at the international airport: Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Alamo, Thrifty, National, Enterprise, A-Class, Tour Belize, Jabiru, Budget, and Crystal.

If you plan to pick up and drop off at the airport, you should use one of these. However, I recommend a local agency because they are walking distance from the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel, where we stay the first and last night of our trip. This Belize car rental agency is called Car One Rental.

Because all of our guests are advised to arrive one day early to avoid missing a flight and therefore missing the shuttle boat to our island, many of our guests wish to rent a car for just a day or possibly two. The location of Car One Rental makes it an ideal way to extend your stay in Belize when you are traveling with us, because if you used the international airport agencies, you would have to return the car to the airport before meeting us.

So, if doing one of our island trips, you would take a cab from the airport to the Biltmore, drop off your stuff either in your reserved room and use the vehicle just for the day, or drop most of your stuff in the Biltmore’s locked closet where it will be safe while you are gone for the night. Then walk one block to the car rental place with your reduced luggage, and drive to an alternate hotel out of town for the night, returning your vehicle the next day in time to check into your room and be on time for our 5:30 pm orientation meeting. One great half day tour you can do on your own is Altun Ha Mayan ruin. Visit our Belize Mayan ruins map to see where it is located. Another option is a one day Belize driving tour that I detail in another blog post, which includes the Community Baboon Sanctuary, the Belize Zoo, and lunch at my favorite restaurant.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Success tips from a Belize Adventure operator

We have been working and living on and off in Belize for 32 years now, so we have a lot of experience helping people plan their trip. If you follow this advice, your vacation will be such a success that you’ll be planning your return before you even leave the country!

Slickrock Adventures’ Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef

 

  1. You need a passport, but you probably don’t have to worry about a Visa.

Your passport cannot expire less than 6 months prior to your travel to Belize. So when you decide to visit this Caribbean paradise, check the expiration date on your passport right away. You might be due for a new one.

As long as you are a citizen of the US, Canada, or the UK, you will be handed a Visa to fill out on the plane. Citizens of other countries need to check with their consulate to see what they need to do.

Kitesurf lessons at Glover’s Reef in Belize

 

  1. Special documents required when traveling with minors

Children under 18 traveling without both biological/legal parents might be required to show proof (in the form of a notarized letter) that the parent(s) not present agree to allow their child to travel to Belize. Believe it or not, you actually may be denied onto your flight to Belize if you neglect to bring this paperwork.

We have trouble convincing people of this for two reasons: First, we think Belize might be the only place in the world that has this requirement. Second, sometimes this rule is enforced and sometimes not; it depends on how conscientious your ticketing agent is.

This rule is actually a 2010 Belize law. However, no one in Belize asks for these documents. But since it is official Belize law that appears on the computer screen of the ticketing agent, the airline may dutifully require that you produce these documents. Sometimes years go by and we hear nothing about this, and think it’s not required anymore. Then suddenly a guest will call, panicked from an airport, telling us that they are being refused boarding. A notarized letter from the parent(s) not present is usually sufficient, although once someone was required to produce her divorce decree. It does seem to vary, and we do not have access to the wording of the requirement, and it might even vary from airline to airline. So our advice to all mixed family groups is to bring proof that you have permission from the other parent to travel to Belize with your children.

  1. Don’t change your money.

Belize is a cash society, and they take US dollars throughout the country. In fact, everyone prefers US dollars and you will almost always get Belize dollars in change. The official exchange rate is 2 Belize dollars to 1 US dollar, but when you try to change your money back, the exchange is much worse. So always use the Belize dollars you get as change before cracking open another US $20.

  1. Carry a lot of cash

You need to bring most or all of your cash needs with you because getting cash is a hassle. Some ATMs have a limit as low as $200 BZ, which won’t last long. To get cash from a bank, you have to go during open hours which are short, and lines are long.

If you are nervous about carrying a lot of cash, get a slim waterproof money belt and wear it under your clothes, keeping a small amount that you plan to spend that day in your regular wallet or purse.

Downtown Belize City

 

  1. Avoid Belize City

Belize City just isn’t that great. There’s not much to recommend it to tourists, so you should spend as little time there as possible. You can’t completely avoid Belize City because that is where all international flights originate. If yours arrives late or departs early it may end up making the most sense to overnight in Belize City one night at the beginning of your trip and one at the end. Know the good neighborhoods and make sure your hotel or other rental is located in one of these.

  1. Don’t book cabs in advance for a Belize City drop off

Many people are nervous when arriving in Belize City the first time, and they make arrangements for a cab to meet them at the airport. But then, what if your car driver is late, or doesn’t show up at all? The cab drivers waiting at the airport are fine, and the rates are the same either way. If you don’t have one driver you are beholden to, you can just grab the first cab that you see. If you are catching a cab to another part of the country, then this advice does not apply. You would want a reserved driver for a long, expensive ride to another part of the country.

  1. Be aware that people will always recommend their relatives

The families are large in Belize, and Belizeans are very loyal to their family. Let’s say you have the greatest caving guide in the world. When you tell him you are next going to another part of the country for the rest of your trip, he invariably will then recommend his cousin as who you want to guide you for the rest of your stay. His cousin might be great, but he might not. They will always make recommendations of family over any other trait, so take those recommendations with a grain of salt and don’t lock yourself into days with one person you haven’t met.

The great Martin Ramirez, on Long Caye at Glover’s Reef

 

  1. Support the locals

If you have a choice of taking a Mayan ruin tour with a big company, or hiring a guide right at the ruins, we recommend you do the latter. It will be cheaper, and your money will go directly to the guide in full. Some activities that have special transportation or equipment would require a tour company, but just be aware that it’s nice to spread your money around directly to the workers if you can.

Slickrock’s boat out to Glover’s Reef

 

  1. Bring your own lifejackets

Although lifejackets are required in Belize, they are not required to be worn, just on board. Therefore, the captain keeps them tucked away so they stay in good shape so that he will never have to replace them. Therefore, you could be on a long, remote boat ride, and if you didn’t insist on a lifejacket you might not get one, and possibly there could be none on board at all. There are compact lifejackets that would be easy to travel with, it just might save your life. And definitely definitely bring lifejackets for your kids as the captains likely have no kid sizes.

Surf wave at Glover’s Reef

 

  1. Don’t assume the weather will be perfect

Whatever island, lodge or tour company you choose, the photos on their website are going to show Belize at its finest. That’s logical and what you would expect. But remember, it’s the tropics. It could be astoundingly hot, or it could rain for days. It could also be “cold” (about 60 degrees). Be sure that you are packed for the extremes and that you intend to gracefully accept whatever weather comes your way.

Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize
The North end of Glover’s Reef Atoll in Belize

Like most developing countries, Belize relies on its natural resources for its economy. Oil constitutes more than a quarter of its exports, with agriculture as the mainstay. Yet tourism has increasingly become a major player in the economy, and a majority of the residents of Belize understand the importance of tourism and keeping their country a pristine vacation destination. Belize is world famous for its barrier reef and numerous nature and marine preserves, and the government has made a commitment to putting the environment first in order to preserve this most important resource.

On January 4, Donald Trump proposed oil exploration in nearly all waters off of the US mainland. If it passes, it will open up about 390 million square miles of protected areas. However, on December 29 the government of Belize announced a complete moratorium on further offshore oil exploration, as any offshore oil development would undoubtedly put its reefs in danger and sully the country’s reputation as a pristine destination for tourists.

Belize’s decision to choose reefs over oil is something that the world needs to do more of if it is serious about saving the planet’s coral reef ecosystems. Coral reef ecosystems are the most susceptible natural systems in the world, and are under extreme threat from climate change and other human-related ventures such as energy production, so it is encouraging to see such small contries as Belize taking the lead in environmental protection. We are proud of our adopted country!

[photo by Madeleine Lomont]

belize airport map

I am often asked which Belize City airport to use. There are two: the Belize International Airport (called Phillip Goldson) (BZE) and Belize Municipal (TZA), both located in Belize City. Both are usually listed on travel sites and it confuses people, because from major international gateway cities you can only fly into one of them, but both are often mentioned.

Let’s say you are going to Caye Caulker before joining our Belize Adventure Week trip. Is it better to use Belize International or Belize Municipal?

When you fly into Belize from another country, you always land at BZE. So if you plan to fly elsewhere directly upon arrival in the country, you should fly from International, there’s no point in taking a cab to Municipal to then fly to your destination. However, if you are already in the country and flying to another location in Belize, it makes more sense to use TZA.

The reason that the Municipal airport is preferred for in-country arrival is that flights are cheaper, and taxis are cheaper to get to the airport as well. International is a much bigger airport and landing fees are higher, so those tickets are always more expensive. And the government has given cab drivers permission to charge more for cab rides to or from International. So, a cab ride from International to the Biltmore (where our groups stay) is about $35, but from Municipal to the Biltmore, it is about $10. It is further in distance from the Biltmore to International, but feels closer because of the traffic encountered getting to Municipal.

Also, all flights begin or end in Belize City. You can’t fly from San Pedro to Dangriga for instance, you have to go through Belize City. If staying in the country for while, you will save money flying through Municipal as much as you can.

Belize airport
Landing in Belize City

Figuring out your flights to Belize can be complicated from some destinations. The reason is there really aren’t that many options. Only five airlines fly into Belize going out of only five cities in the US and Canada, and the vast majority of them have only one flight per day. A few of these flights are offered only one or two days a week, which do not match our adventure trip schedule. And one of the airlines flies out of an airport in Houston most other airlines don’t use, which may necessitate a cross-town bus or taxi if you can’t use that airline to get to Houston to begin with. We list all of the options to fly to Belize on our website, but basically, the only any-day-every-day options are United out of Houston IAH, Southwest out of Houston HOU, American out of Miami, and Delta out of Atlanta.

First of all… I don’t recommend you contact a travel agent. They are less motivated than you are to hunt around for the best plan, as they make very, very little off of flights. It’s simply not worth their time to investigate the options for you. You definitely should do this yourself.

We highly recommend you arrive one day early for our adventure trips, taking advantage of the extra time in the country by touring Lamanai, a Mayan ruin fairly close to Belize City. If you cannot make your flights work out to arrive the day you want, you could alternately overnight in your gateway city, which is usually Houston or Miami, but could also be Dallas or Atlanta. So instead of being a day early in Belize, you are a day early at your last connection, which eliminates most potential delays. Usually during the US and Canadian winters, delays are caused by snow slowing the whole system down, but if you are already in Houston, that won’t be an issue. This is a strategy I often use myself.

The sites I use in searching for flights:
https://www.google.com/flights/
https://www.orbitz.com/Flights
https://www.kayak.com/

Depending on where you fly from, there may be more than one airport you could start from, and also more than one trip date you are considering. Other things to think about are how long are the layovers would be and how many there are (layovers of less than 2 hours increase your chance to miss your flight if there is a small problem). Finally, you might have friends or relatives in one city which would make you favor an overnight layover there as opposed to another option.

belize-flights

So if I am trying to figure out a bunch of options at the same time I usually make a chart to print out and fill in as I do searches to help me get the whole picture of what my best option might be. So let’s say I am trying to figure out whether to drive to Grand Junction, CO and fly to Belize, or drive to Montrose, CO instead. Also, I am not sure if I want to go on the December 8 or the December 15 trips, and do I want to arrive a day early or not? In all cases, I am planning to leave Belize City at the end of the trip on the earliest date I can. Here is a sample chart, it’s complicated because I am trying out so many different possibilities.

So what did I learn? That I cannot arrive in Belize a day early for our island trip like we recommend if coming from these cities. For some weird reason, if I fly on Thursday, I arrive Friday, and if I fly Friday, I arrive Friday (except in two cases, when I would arrive Saturday, which is a day late). Flying out of Montrose gains nothing for me, and it is about an hour further from Moab than Grand Junction is. And finally, there is no advantage to going on the December 8th trip or the December 15 trip, because at this point they both cost the same (that will likely change as the dates get closer.)

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – this was my favorite of the whole day – photo by Cayo Birders Club

Last spring my BFF Kathe and I spent 5 days in Cayo, aka “cottage country” in Western Belize. We stayed in a cute cottage at Windy Hill Resort and took day trips out of there.

One of the things on my bucket list was to hire a private birding guide in Belize so that I could broaden my knowledge of Belize birds. Elmer, the manager of Windy Hill, set us up with David Hernandez… what a great tip that was!

David is a dedicated birder, and has set up an excellent Facebook page called the Cayo Birders Club. He took us to three different locations, all near San Ignacio. We spent about 4 hours with him that morning. Mostly he identified birds by sound. We started out on the grounds of Windy Hill, and then moved on to up behind Cahal Pech ruin, then to the confluence of the Macal and Mopan Rivers, and finished up under the Hawksworth Bridge on the banks of the Belize River.

While behind Cahal Pech he also showed us some unrestored ruins that no one but locals know about. We saw a stelae from 300 BC and pottery sherds all over the place. We also heard howler monkeys in the distance. What a morning! You can contact David directly: hernadav2219@yahoo.com. Here is the list of all of the birds that we saw that day.

Spotted Sandpiper
Linneated Woodpecker
American Redstart
Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
White-Fronted Parrot
Great-Tailed Grackle
Social Flycatcher
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Yello-Tailed Oriole
Clay Colored Thrush
Great Kiskadee
Plain Chachalaca
Green Jay
Magnolia Warbler
Gray Catbird
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Yellow-Throated Vireo
Turkey Vulture
Red-Billed Pigeon
Indigo Bunting
Mashed Tityra
Sulphur-Bellied Flycatcher
White Collared Seed Eater
Blue-Gray Tanager
Baltimore Oriole
Rufus Tailed Hummingbird
Keel-Billed Toucan
Female Summer Tanager
Cormorant
Green Kingfisher
Cerulean Warbler
Amazon Kingfisher