Belize Journals

It's UnBelizeable!

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An October 2005 trip to Belize by Ben the Grate

Hi-Et Guesthouse Photo, Belize, Central America More Photos
Quote: Forget what you thought you knew. Belize is the PERFECT destination for adventure travel.

It's UnBelizeable!

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Overview

What could be better? Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
I stumbled quite accidentally upon Belize, when a long-planned trip to Costa Rica went awry. There were no seats available on any flights for almost a week, and my friends and I had to run down the airport concourse to find an alternate destination. We chose Belize because the flight was about to leave, and it had empty seats. And boy, were we surprised! I had read a few books on Belize. Heard a few stories. Something about inner-tubing in caves, some dry jungle, and a few overcrowded islands out on the reef. Belize turned out to be the most impressive little destination I've stumbled across in the past decade of travel! It's a peaceful, English-speaking country with the flavor of both Latin...Read More

Hi-Et Guesthouse

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Hotel | "Hi - Et Guesthouse"

Hi-Et Guesthouse Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
Don't let the name fool you, my friends. The Hi-Et Guesthouse has no affiliation with Hyatt Hotels. And thank God it doesn't. It's a refreshing, homey place to lay your head in the bustling village of San Ignacio, the adventure capitol of Belize. In the old edition of the guesthouse are several basic rooms with a shared bath, which you can get for around $15 single and $20 double in the high season (a little less in low season). A new addition to the guesthouse offers rooms with private bath and hot water (sometimes!), and you can get these for around $25. The hotel is basic, but there are a few decorative touches to the rooms. The best feature of the guesthouse is the large number of...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Hi-Et Guesthouse
12 West Street
San Ignacio, Belize
824-2828

Venus Hotel

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Hotel

Venus Hotel Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
It is against my personal travel policy to EVER stay at a hotel called Venus. In my experience as a professional traveler, the walls at such hotels are always too thin and the action lasts way too long for my tastes. However, as Hurricane Wilma was forcing coastal Belizeans inland, I found myself in the rare predicament of not being able to find a room in San Ignacio. The Venus Hotel was my last resort. And I was pleasantly surprised. The rooms were lovely, the loveliest I found in Belize, with tiled floors and private baths with glass-block showers. And real hot water! Unfortunately, the hot water here is provided by the frightening electrical contraptions that screw onto the shower head. I...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Venus Hotel
29 Burns Avenue
Lamanai Archaeological Park, Belize
(501) 824-3203

Reef's End Lodge

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Hotel | "Reef's End Resort"

Reef's End Lodge Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
There are only a handful of accommodations on Tobacco Caye because it's so small; you can stand in the water on one side and throw a rock into the water on the other side of the island. We chose the Reef's End because they were the only ones who answered the phones and we were visiting just 2 days after Hurricane Wilma. The Reef's End Resort is the most expensive property on the island. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's actually a RESORT. Every lodging on Tobacco Caye gets their electricity from solar power and/or generators, their cooking water from rainfall, their plumbing water from crude desalination, and their bottled drinking water by boat from the mainland. These are crude lodgings,...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Reef's End Lodge
P.O. Box 299
Dangriga, Belize
501-522-2419

Hospedaje Dona Goya II Photo, Belize City, Belize
Quote:
There are dozens of guesthouses and hotels in Flores, and all of them are dirt cheap compared to Belize. We really adored the Hospedaje Dona Goya II (not to be confused with the original Hospedaje Dona Goya, which is half a block down the street). This gleaming new structure has fun, funky architectural elements that really make it charming. The rooms are spacious and airy, with private baths and hot water. Some even have A/C! The crowning glory is a rooftop terrace with a thatched palapa roof and hammocks, all overlooking the magnificent lake and surrounding hills, and the beautifully ramshackle city below. We paid $11 per night for a double room without A/C. Add around $10 per night...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Quote:
Eva's should be relied upon more as a source of information and a reference point than a restaurant. While the food is good, the menu is extensive, and the prices are moderate, you'll get much better food and service at other restaurants in town.

Nevertheless, should you choose to eat here, you can have burgers (around $3), pizza ($8), fresh fish ($6), Mexican ($4), and traditional Belizean chicken, black beans, and rice ($3).

Eva's is centrally located on the main drag in San Ignacio and is the headquarters for Pacz Tours, which we recommend over the giant Mayawalk Tours right across the street. Pacz is cheaper, the guides are better, and they've been doing it longer.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Eva's Restaurant and Bar
22 Burns Avenue
San Ignacio, Belize
92-2267

Eva's Restaurant and Bar

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Restaurant | "Erva's Restaurant"

Quote:
Erva's gets my vote for the best restaurant in San Ignacio, though most people seem stuck on Hannah's. Erva's gets less attention because it's 2.5 blocks from the center of town, as opposed to right in the center. Please take note that this is ERva's Restaurant, not Eva's! Erva's claims to have the best pizza in Belize, and we believe them! A huge pie with lots of home-grown vegetable toppings is around $9 and will feed four if you get an appetizer. The waiter will usually tell you what's fresh, but if he doesn't, ask him. They'll usually feature something they just got in, like conch fritters and conch chowder or fresh red snapper. If you are lucky enough to visit when they're servin...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Eva's Restaurant and Bar
22 Burns Avenue
San Ignacio, Belize
92-2267

Hannah's Restaurant

Restaurant | "Hannah's"

Quote:
Hannah's got written up in Rough Guide as being one of the best restaurants in the country. And while it probably is, it's still not as good as Erva's a few blocks uphill. Still, you should eat at least one meal here. It's a small place, with only eight tables, so the wait can be long in the evenings after 7pm. Hannah's serves a good menu of traditional Belizean food (stewed chicken, white rice, and black beans) for around $3. They also have a selection of curries for around $4. The standard burgers and fish plates are also available, usually around $5. In the mornings, Hannah's offers a complete breakfast for about $4. It comes with eggs cooked to order, refried black beans, fry jack...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Hannah's Restaurant
5 Burns Avenue
San Ignacio, Belize
(501) 822-3014

Nefry's

Restaurant

Quote:
Nefry's is the largest restaurant in San Ignacio, so if the wait at Hannah's is long and you don't feel like walking 2.5 blocks to Erva's, you can usually get seated immediately here. Nefry's is right in the center of everything and offers outdoor dining and indoor dining in a room that overlooks the central square and market. Like most of the other restaurants in town, they serve traditional Belizean food, curries, American food, and pizzas. Their prices are pretty much the same as everywhere else, except for their specialty Mediterranean and Moroccan dishes, which are fabulous and can run up to $10. Breakfast is decent, but Hannah's and Erva's are much better and a little cheaper....Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Nefry's
Burns Avenue
San Ignacio, Belize

Xunantunich

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Attraction | "Xunatunich"

Xunantunich Photo, Cayo District, Belize
Quote:
Xunatunich is a fantastic Mayan ruin just a few minutes from San Ignacio. I highly recommend it as a FIRST VISIT. If you go to Caracol or Tikal first, you'll be less impressed by Xunatunich, so go there first. You can take a half-day excursion there from San Ignacio for around $15 if you don't have a car. If you are fortunate enough to have a vehicle, drive west on western highway for a few miles. You'll see a small brown sign on the right hand side just past a long line of handicraft stalls that points to the ruin. You drive down a steep gravel road to the Mopan River, where you board a free hand-winched ferry that will take your car across the river. Tip the ferry man! Another mile straigh...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Xunantunich
Belize
Cayo District, Belize

Caracol

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Attraction

Caracol Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
If you ask a historian what the biggest, most impressive, and most important Mayan site in the world is, he'll probably say Tikal (Guatemala) or maybe Palenque (Mexico). In another decade, when you ask the same historian the same question, he'll say Caracol (Belize). The reasons are simple. Caracol is bigger than any other ancient Mayan city and probably far bigger than archaeologists presently believe it is. Caracol was stronger than the other Mayan city states. They conquered Tikal and sacrificed its king. The reason Caracol isn't as widely recognized as Tikal or Palenque is quite simply because it's in the middle of nowhere. It's a good 2- to 3-hour drive down a terrible bumpy road...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Caracol
Chiquibul Road
San Ignacio, Belize

Tikal National Park

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Attraction

Tikal National Park Photo, Tikal, Guatemala
Quote:
Tikal is considered by most to be the greatest ancient Mayan site on the planet. So many of the structures are excavated and restored, and the ancient city is so vast. San Ignacio sits just a few minutes from the Guatemala border and only a few hours' drive from Tikal, which is close enough to lure most travelers who have the time and the money. There are three ways to do it: on your own, with a shuttle service, or on a guided tour. If you want to visit Tikal on your own (by far the best option), you'll need a rental car that can cross the border. The only rental company in Belize that permits this currently is Crystal Rental (http://www.crystal-belize.com/). A little Spanish will hel...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Tikal National Park
Peten Basin
Tikal, Guatemala
+502 2367-2837

Barton Creek Cave

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Attraction

Barton Creek Cave Photo, San Ignacio, Belize
Quote:
Barton Creek is the most-visited cave in Belize. It's a perfect introduction to the sport of caving, while harboring some impressive Mayan artifacts. Most people visit Barton Creek on a day trip from San Ignacio, which costs around $30, not including admission to the site ($10 per person). But if you have your own car, you can drive out to the site, pay a few bucks to rent a canoe, and tag along with an already scheduled trip. Just ask the guide; he'll be happy to pocket the extra dollars and show you around. The trip is usually undergone in a canoe, unless the creek is high enough to float in a tube. High-powered spotlights are loaded into the canoe, and you practice rowing upstream to the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Barton Creek Cave
Upper Barton Creek Village
San Ignacio, Belize

Actun Tunichil Muknal (Extreme Caving)

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Attraction

Actun Tunichil Muknal (Extreme Caving) Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
You can go around the world and never experience something as incredible and extreme as this. And you'll better do it now, because it's in danger of disappearing, but more on that later. Actun Tunichil Muknal is a sacred Mayan ceremonial cave. It translates as "Cave of the Stone Sepulchre," and there is a reason for this name... but more on that later. The cave was discovered in the mid 1980s by an archaeologist who was shell-shocked by the number of artifacts and human remains within. It was explored, mapped, catalogued, and 98% of the artifacts are still inside. The cave, in terms of natural beauty, puts any American cave to shame, and I'm a caver by hobby, so I can say that! This, combine...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2005

Actun Tunichil Muknal (Extreme Caving)
Roaring River Road
Belize City, Belize

Rio Frio Cave

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Attraction

Rio Frio Cave Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
Way down the Chiquibul Road in the Mountain Pine Ridge area, halfway to Caracol, is the forest research village of Douglas de Silva. Signs point the way to Rio Frio Cave, which lies about a mile from the village On the way to the cave you pass a sign for Twin Cave and Nature Trail. Continue ahead to the parking lot. Walk a minute down the paved path until your jaw drops to the ground; that's how you know you've arrived. The massive, yawning entrance to the Rio Frio cave is overwhelming. A trail leads up the slope and into the cave's mouth, where you can clamber around in its massive chamber, which is well-lit by sunlight. A large pool of water covers most of the giant chamber. Continu...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 13, 2005

Rio Frio Cave
Chiquibul Road
Belize City, Belize

Transportation

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Story/Tip

Quote:
When you travel in Belize, it's either by car, bus, or boat. Or, occasionally, by plane. CAR When you rent a car, it's a good idea to get high-clearance, at the minimum, and 4WD if possible. Because you were smart and took my advice to visit in the rainy season, and because you're going to USE your vehicle to get you places that most tourists can't go, you're going to need that versatility. I recommend Crystal Rental. They have an office right at the airport, and they're the only rental company that will give you a permission slip to take the car into Guatemala--a must if you're wanting to visit Tikal on your own. Gas is expensive in Belize, like $5 per gallon in late 2005. Insurance ...Read More
Mayan Ruins Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
For most first-timers to Belize, the trip is about two destinations: the jungle and the beach. All jungle-based activity is centered at San Ignacio, a lovely village in far western Belize. It has a developed tourist infrastructure with guesthouses, hotels, and restaurants, and all tour operators are based here. About 99% of jungle activities in Belize MUST be done with a tour operator. For independent travelers like myself, this was frustrating. But I found that the experiences FAR outweighed the negative presuppositions I had about having a guide. The two most popular jungle activities are visiting Mayan ruins and caving. MAYAN RUINS: Altun Ha - a small ruin in northeas...Read More
Tobacco Caye Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
The second area of interest in Belize is the beach. A chain of islands (called Cayes, or keys, locally) run the length of the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest reef in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef. Cayes are roughly divided into northern, middle, and southern sections. The northern Cayes are the most popular, with Ambergris Caye being one of the rising luxury destinations in the Caribbean. While there are still a few budget accommodations available here, consider it to be the most expensive place to visit in Belize. There are plenty of restaurants of all cuisines located in the town of San Pedro on the southern tip of the long island. Hundreds of day trips are offer...Read More

Island of Tobacco Caye

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Attraction | "Tobacco Caye"

Island of Tobacco Caye Photo, Belize, Central America
Quote:
Tobacco Caye is a tiny coral and sand islet right on the Belize Barrier Reef. It is the Belize of a decade ago, before big luxury resorts and modern amenities like electricity and running water and satellite television invaded Ambergris Caye. Tobacco Caye is the perfect getaway. It has soft, sandy beaches shaded by coconut palms, warm water, world-class snorkeling, and diving right off the beach. At the very most, you'll be sharing the island with 100 people. Now, the downside. There's no electricity or water utilities on the island. Most resorts have solar power and a backup generator, but don't let that fool you into thinking that you'll be able to turn on your lights or keep the fan runni...Read More

Island of Tobacco Caye
10 Miles East of Dangriga
Belize

Belikin Beer

Story/Tip

Quote:
I don't normally devote an entire entry to beer. Everywhere I travel I taste all the local beers. I usually bring some back for my beer-snob buddies. And it seems like most places in the world have a local beer that's light, tasty, and somewhat along the lines of a slightly better Bud Light, which I don't have TOO much of a problem with, but I like my beer to grow hair on my tongue. Belize is the first place in the Americas outside Quebec, where I finally found a truly outstanding beer. Belikin Stout is one of two beers brewed by a local brewmaster who is actually from Belgium. And it shows. Both beers are superb, but Belikin stout is dark, chocolaty, and DEElicious. Don't come...Read More