I was just reading an article talking about Caribbean vacation destinations and it states: Another major problem…is that the islands mostly offer the same thing, so they simply take tourists from one another. Today the Cayman Islands is a hot destination, siphoning off high-end tourists from Barbados and Bahamas.
And tourists travelling on a budget (my category) often search for cheap tickets and go from there
But you don’t just pick Belize based on a cheap ticket. Though TICKETS this coming season…fall and winter…are as low as I’ve seen them in 10 years.
Belize is different. WAY DIFFERENT. Sure, we are technically a Caribbean vacation destination. Well…partly. But it is SO MUCH more. We’ve got beaches and tiny sand cayes, we have gorgeous blue water and sunny, warm temperatures. But here are some reasons why I think Belize is not part of that interchangeable “Caribbean island mix”.
Here we go:
1. Most Obviously – Belize is Not An Island
But maybe not so obvious. I’m the first to admit that I didn’t know EXACTLY where Belize was until about 10 years ago…and when my friend came here for her honeymoon, the photos showed a Caribbean island – snorkeling, sunning, dancing. Ambergris Caye. I can understand why many are confused.
Most visitors arrive by sea or vacation by the sea to enjoy the famous barrier reef and some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
But as you can see, we’ve got neighbors and borders – Mexico, Guatemala…so clearly not an island.
2. The Barrier Reef
That barrier reef system that I just glossed over in #1 is spectacular. It’s the longest in this hemisphere and is home to the famous Shark/Ray Alley, THE BLUE HOLE…
…atolls, tiny cayes – some just sandbars…
some with a scattering of beach huts…
3. Belize is a Fishing Mecca
Because of the barrier reef, Belize has expansive shallow flats for fly-fishing…the reef areas which are home to snapper and groupers and tons of other fish…and deep waters. For those who like deep sea fishing. Fisherpeople? You can do it all in one week.
For you fly-fishermen/women/adventurers, check out this amazing video by Bote Board of a new fishing spot on the backside of Ambergris Caye. Gorgeousness.
4. The People
Belize is not the land of the “all inclusive vacation” – where the staff disappears out the gates at the end of the day and you are left in a sea of people…much like you. We are a small country – only about 330,000, English is the national language and the people here are just ridiculously warm and friendly.
And it doesn’t take long to realize that Belizean can mean many things. The country is made up of Garifuna, Maya, Creole, Mennonite, Mestizo, Central American, East Indian, Expat (are we a cultural group?)…
YES! Look at these super cute kids on Culture Day at a San Pedro nursery school. Can you spot the Expat culture? The white socks and sandals are hilarious.
…an awesome mix of cultures that bring us (amongst other things)…
5. GREAT FOOD
I’ve always liked good food (and was exposed to it FOR SURE living in London and in NYC) but I don’t think it became my #1 Hobby until I arrived in Belize. That blend of cultures makes for some amazingly good eats.
From the street food (here are some of my favorite picks for cheap foods on Ambergris Caye) to a gorgeous maple bacon ice cream cone at the Ice Cream Shoppe in San Ignacio to fine dining (think Lobster Bread Pudding at Maya Beach Bistro in Maya Beach, Placencia).
To fresh conch ceviche…to lobster meat pies…to coconut scented rice & beans…I could go on. In towns like San Pedro or San Ignacio, you can try a delicious new restaurant every night of the week.
6. The History and The Maya Culture
About 1000 years ago, the population of Belize is estimated to have been about 1 million people. The Maya. Who farmed the land, traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles and built great cities.
Belize is practically covered with Maya sites. Some uncovered, many still waiting to be excavated.
And in Belize, you can be hands on. You can climb the tallest temple or you can go deep into a cave to see a sacred burial site…
7. The Cave Systems
About 1/3 of the mainland of Belize is blanketed by the Maya Mountains.
Small in mountain-terms (Doyle’s Delight, the tallest is just over 3600 feet high) but amazing when you think of what is beneath it. A giant cave system. Some dry caves, most with fresh water running through them. You can gentle glide on an inner tube – half in light, half in darkness – for a few hours…
…or trek deep into the ATM Cave to visit the Crystal Maiden – the remains of a Maya sacrifice.
And there are many many MANY more. You can get as daring as you like.
8. The Holidays and The Festivals
Even as an 8 year full time resident of Belize, I do not take this one for granted. Belize loves a celebration and…so do I. Here’s a list of most of the events but I’m sure there are more that I am missing.
It just ensures that any time you visit, there is something special going on.
9. The EASE of Traveling From Beach to Jungle and Back Again
Belize is a small country with a lot going on. I absolutely love that one day I can be snorkeling at the Blue Hole at gorgeous Lighthouse Atoll and the next day, I can be making eye contact with a jaguar at the Belize Zoo (or dressed as a jaguar). Or kayaking to the Saturday market in San Ignacio or watching a toucan watching me eating watermelon.
Or cooling my feet in fresh blue water bubbling up from the limestone while listening to scarlet macaws scream overhead.