Punta Gorda, Belize
Punta Gorda, Belize

I just received the newest version of The Toledo Howler, a newsletter dedicated to the promotion of Belize tourism in the southern-most district of the country, based out of Punta Gorda, Belize. It’s been a long time since I received a copy of The Howler, but I am so happy to see they are still publishing. This is always a very comprehensive and varied collection of articles put together by Rob Hirons, the owner of The Lodge at Big Falls, located just outside of Punta Gorda town.

Belize is divided into districts (think states or counties), and Toledo is the least-visited and most-like-the-way-Belize-used-to-be. Those of you who have read this blog in the past know that I am always talking up Toledo. I love Toledo.

This issue has articles on:
-A conclusion of the reminiscences of Don Owen-Lewis who first arrived in Toledo from England in 1953
-The health and healing properties of ginger in Arzu Mountain Spirits
-An introduction to the new zipline canopy course at Blue Creek
-The 9th Annual Chocolate Festival of Belize (May 22-24th)
-Commercial overfishing in Belize, and other threats to the coral reef ecosystem
-An interview with Bruno Kuppinger, owner of Toledo Cave and Adventure Tours
-2014 Belize Christmas bird count results
-Craft markets of Punta Gorda
-Training Toledo tour guides
-Developing local artisans of Toledo

Not to mention these handy documents:
-Recipe: Banana Cream Pie
-Book Review: How to Cook a Tapir
-Detailed maps of Punta Gorda town and of the Toledo district
-Punta Gorda bus schedule table

If you are planning to explore Belize’s most remote district, don’t leave home without it!

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.