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?

Long Caye, Belize, dining hall

Our dining hall is the largest building on our private Belize island, Long Caye at Glover’s Reef. The center of island life, it is complete with solar-powered lights, propane stove and refrigerators (cold beer and soda!), and our ever-growing library and game selection. It is a huge space with fantastic views of the lagoon and a neighboring island. There is no dress code, and you don’t have to wipe your feet. (The floor is coral sand.)

We spend hours in the dining hall; all meals are served here buffet-style. Nightly talks on the coral reef, fish identification, tropical weather, pirates of the Caribbean, and other topics also take place here. At night we play games and listen to Reggae music before retiring to our cabanas.

Coral House Inn
View from the upstairs balcony

I spend all day helping people plan their Belize vacation, and I love telling people about Punta Gorda, the southernmost town in Belize. They are still largely “undiscovered”, and it feels like you have ventured back 30 years before Belize was a well-known international travel destination.

Located right in downtown Punta Gorda you will find one of the best places to say in the area, the Coral House Inn. This tasteful B&B is a wonderful place to base out of. They have only 4 rooms, so they fill quickly. Each room has air-conditioning, wifi, television, and a private bath. Here you will feel right at home when you return after a full day of exploring. And there is a lot to do! Ruins, caves, jungle rivers, and deserted islands are all just a few miles from downtown.

The owners of the Coral House Inn are a good resource for planning daily activities. The home is located right on the sea, but there is no beach. They have a very nice lap pool and common area. Rates start at $90/night. They also manage a cottage just down the coast. The cottage has a full kitchen and at $125/night is a screaming deal. Contact them at coralhouseinn.com.

For more information on other things to do in Belize, visit our website.

Hickatee Cottages

The Punta Gorda area of Belize is all the way south. When I’m not talking about our island or inland program, I am likely talking up southern Belize (called “Toledo” by the locals). I have only been there two times, but it’s my favorite part of Belize (next to our island, of course). “PG” just hasn’t really been discovered yet, and it feels like the Belize I remember when we first started guiding kayak tours there in 1986.

There are many good options of places to stay in PG, and Hickatee is one of my favorites. It’s only 1 mile from town, but feels like it’s further. So it’s quiet and remote-feeling, but easy to get to town on one of the free bikes they provide to their guests. They have only 7 cottages, and all are very nicely decorated. Their clapboard exterior is rare in Belize lodges. It’s quite charming.

There are many activities in Toledo: ruins, caves, canoeing, but also this is the only part of Belize where you can stay in one spot and access both inland and island activities. The jungle comes all the way to the sea there, unlike northern Belize. Many wonderful islands are 20 miles away or less.

They will gladly help you arrange tours in the area, although there is no in-house tour company like many lodges have. To quote their website:

Whilst one of Toledo’s major attractions is that it IS off the beaten track, this also means that tourism is in its infancy and that tours are not always available at very short notice. If you have specific activities in mind, please let us know so that we can make either provisional arrangements pending your arrival, or a firm booking ahead of your stay.

As non-Belizeans we are not a registered tour operator, so arrange tours through registered tour operators, who are committed to responsible tourism, and who use only Belizean, fully-qualified tour guides to give you a quality experience. We do not receive ANY commission for tours, and payment for tours should therefore be made direct to the tour operator on the day of your trip.

More on Hickatee itself: their tiny pool is about the size and shape of a hot tub but without the hot, thank goodness. The owner used to teach horticulture in the states, and the grounds reflect this interest. They have a howler monkey monitoring program that guests often assist with. Airport transfers, breakfast, wifi, bikes, drumming lessons once a week, and a discount on flights from Belize City are all provided free. Rates during high season are $80-120 for a double, http://www.hickatee.com/. You won’t be sorry if you make sure your trip to Belize includes several days here.

Marguay in Belize

The internet never ceases to amaze me. Via our friend’s Facebook posting, Barb of Barb’s Belize we were so excited to see this image of a marguay crossing the Hummingbird Highway in Belize. Hidden Valley Inn’s guide and guests saw this kitty cat on tour a couple of weeks ago. You can view the full sequence of images on their Hidden Valley Inn’s Facebook page.

Belize has three spotted cats: jaguars, ocelots, and marguays. What I would give to have seen this cat! What lucky guests they were!

Last week we served lionfish on our Belize island. Our island is in a Marine Reserve, and fishing is prohibited by guests except for catch-and-release sportfishing. But lionfish are the exception. Lionfish are a Pacific fish and only recently got introduced to the Caribbean. They have no predators are are voracious eaters. They are a problem. We have blogged about this before: http://belizeadventure.com/2011/07/lionfish-an-invasive-species-in-belize/

We are doing our part, and dang it was tasty!

Lionfish for breakfast!

Our Belize vacation packages are all-inclusive; and we regularly put specific trip dates on sale. All of our prices are per person because we are selling a sports package, not just a room in a hotel. Our packages include just about everything except airfare, so when a specific date is discounted 10 or 15%, you will go from about $230/night to $195-205/night, which adds up to over $200 per person for the full package. You can see which Belize vacation deals we are offering at any given time by visiting our website.

Belize group

If you can’t fit your schedule to our sales calendar, you also might qualify for a group discount. If you are traveling with one other person for example, all you have to do is find two more friends to join you. Our group discounts start at four persons traveling together, go up again at nine, and for larger groups there are even larger discounts. You can view our discount group travel rates on our site.

If you have kids, they also might qualify for a deal. Kids 11 and under receive discounts, see our family vacations page. Kids under 6 receive a larger discount than kids between 7 and 11. Sometimes, for a family of four, you might get a lower rate if you call your kid and “adult” to receive the group discount for all, rather than receiving the kids discount for only one member of your group.

The other piece of the puzzle is your air to Belize. We watch Belize airfares closely and update our Belize flights page weekly. When we see a great deal, we blog about it here, or post it on our Facebook page. So if you subscribe to this blog or “like” our Facebook page, you can stay updated when Belize flights drop in price: http://www.facebook.com/belizeisland.

One month ago tomorrow I turned 55. Somehow, the double number made a bigger impression on my psyche than even the big five-o did. That, combined with the fact that in the past year I’ve developed a few chronic aches and pains, got me thinking that maybe this was it – life was beginning to leave me behind, whatever new and exciting experiences I’d had in my life were now becoming things of the past.

Then I stumbled across this article in the Poughkeepsie Journal about this guy, James Curran, who discovered the sport of scuba diving as he turned 60 and in the three years since has made 167 dives. The article featured a picture of him diving off the coast of Belize.

James Curran dives off the coast of Belize, Central America on a recent trip. / Courtesy photo

That brought back memories of my last dive. It was eight years ago off Long Caye in Belize during a week’s stay at Adventure Island. We took a five minute boat ride from the rustic, island resort, out to a site they call “The Wall,” one of the top-rated Belize dive sites. We flipped over the side of the boat and suddenly, 40 feet below loomed one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen — an underwater cliff dropping 2600 feet into the depths. We cruised along the rim of the cliff exploring the extravagant corral formations and gazing out into the abyss as huge sea turtles swam into view. It was the dive of a lifetime.

Recalling that adventure reminds me that despite my age, new experiences still await if only I remain open to them. It’s never too late.