Belize is SO Different: And Here’s Why…
Belize is Not Just “Some Caribbean Island”…Waterfalls and Coral Reef and Amazing Culture and FOOD and Welcoming Belizeans and….
Maybe you have never been to Belize. Maybe right now you are dipping your toe back into travel planning or you have a bag backed and are READY NOW. You are trying to decide between a couple of places…a few different Caribbean islands where you can get some sun and just getaway!
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 if you did…and you got a cheap ticket..you got super lucky. I mean honestly? You hit the jackpot because Belize is SO special. So different and soooo NOT an island. It’ll hook you. I promise.
We’ve got beaches, 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 20 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.
Many visitors arrive by sea and vacation by the seaside 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. The bulk of Belize is “the mainland” and it. is. amazing.
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 reef fishing and deep-sea fishing. Or maybe spearfishing? Lobster hunting? You can do it.
For you fly-fishermen/women/adventurers, check out this amazing video by Bote Board of a fishing spot on the backside of Ambergris Caye (aka “the camp’). Gorgeousness.
Photo from Jody at Lady Leslie Belize – awesome people! I didn’t have a photo of my own – I am USELESS at catching lobster.
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
General rule of thumb. The food that you get at all-inclusive resorts around the Caribbean is generally…not good. And it is almost certainly not a reflection of the local culture.
Belize has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. Seriously. I am not exaggerating. Whether you are eating at a local stand (like this lobster griller on Caye Caulker)…
or in a sit-down restaurant, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Belize.
Here’s the Lobster Bread Pudding at Maya Beach Bistro in Maya Beach, Placencia – I sometimes just think of it when I’m feeling low. It’s heaven.
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. (It is the most exciting trip I’ve ever done. EVER)
And there are many many MANY more. You can get as daring as you like.
(Note: This blogger is a certified chicken and I’ve trekked/being swimming nto the ATM cave – AWESOME, I’ve repelled into the Black Hole – AWESOME – I snorkeled the Blue Hole with a reef shark or two – so AWESOME – but I did chicken out once…)
8. The Holidays and The Festivals
Even as an almost 14 year full-time resident of Belize (HOLY CRAP!), 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.
Belize is an absolutely heart-wrenchingly beautiful country. And the more I travel it, the longer my bucket list becomes…and the more I love my home.
Sure you can lay on the beach for a week and perfect your tan. (I’ve done that too and it can be bliss.) But please don’t lump Belize in with other Caribbean islands.
I know my snorkeling friend, the manatee at the Caye Caulker north cut, would not appreciate it one bit.