A January 2005 trip
to Belize by fionademp
Quote: Six months of living and travelling Belize has given me a unique insight into the country and culture, my journal will recount the best bits.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 19, 2007
De Real Macaw
Caye Caulker, Belize
Restaurant | "The Happy Lobster"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 19, 2007
Caye Caulker, Belize
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 22, 2007
Attraction | "Mayflower National Park"
Mayflower Bocawina National Park
Stann Creek District, Belize
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on February 19, 2007
Belize City, Belize
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 19, 2007
Attraction | "Belize Zoo"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 21, 2007
Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
Mile 29 Western Highway
Belize City, Belize
Take a trip to see Belize's waterfalls and you'll not be disappointed. They may not be grand in scale but they are still a great day out. We took a trip organised by a company based in San Igancio. There are loads around so I would say just go with the one you like best and if there is somewhere specific you want to go get them to tailor it to you.
We started our trip with a visit to some caves and a walk through the jungle. The walk isn't too intense. There was amazing thunder that day which gave a really charged atmosphere, we'd also been warned before hand about wild pigs so we spent a lot of time looking out for them. If you are interested in wildlife there are some really good sights, look out for it though as it's easy to walk past some amazing creatures. Once out the jungle we drove to Rio Frio Pools. Our guide, decided that we were all young and fit, so dropped us at the bottom and got us to walk up. Rio Frio is made up of lots of water pools with two large pools at the top for swimming. Lots of locals come here and it's generally a good laugh. Unfortunately for me I slipped and fell into a pool covering myself in green slime, other than that it was a good visit.
After that, we visited Francis Ford Coppola's lodge, Blancaneaux, a world apart from the places I'm used to. The lodge is lovely inside and if you fancy a spot of luxury then see about stopping for lunch. We then headed for the Five Sisters. The Five Sisters is a waterfall that runs down through pools, there is a lodge overlooking the falls which serves lunch. The food is good and relatively inexpensive and the views are spectacular. We were going to visit thousand foot falls but as the weather had been so dry our guide advised us that it wasn't worth a trip. We visited one final fall, a more obvious waterfall but less interesting, unfortunately I cannot recall its name. This trip is a full day fun and if you get a good guide it can be really interesting. We broke down on the way home but it didn't dull the day and we soon managed to hitch a ride back to town. There are lots of places to stay in the Mountain Pine Ridge area great for nature buffs. If you fancy something a little more lively head to San Ignacio - see separate review.
Attraction | "Tobacco Caye "
Tobacco Caye is a tiny eco Island of the coast of Belize. It can be reached from Dangriga, I would recommend arranging transport in advance, as being such a small island there are not regular crossings. The Riverside restaurant can normally advise but if you book your accommodation in advance they can arrange transport for you. We stayed at the Gaviota resort who arranged our transport. The boat costs $30BZ each way and takes about 40 minutes. If you’re lucky you might see dolphins on the way out. The lodge is made up of small cabins on the sand, which are very basic and good value. There are shared bathrooms and showers and a main eating area with hammocks outside.
Being an eco island, the toilets are all fitted with sighs stating ‘flush the brown, keep the yellow’ in order to save water and you are advised not to have the lights on for any longer than necessary and if you do they will be turned off. Environmentalism is taken very seriously here and dinner for new arrivals starts with a chat about how to conserve energy and making sure that you do not overuse the lights or it will causes the fridges to shut down meaning no food. The food here is good and served on 4 large tables giving you a chance to meet other guests. There is a set mealtime and the menu is fixed so if you are a fussy eater or have dietary requirements let them know in advance.
The island is very small and has no shop as such. There are a few places where you can get drinks but if you want booze I would advise taking your own, same goes for snacks and water. Snorkeling is popular on the island and just sitting back reading a book is good entertainment. We headed out in a group and really enjoyed days on relaxing, reading and playing cards followed by nights drinking rum. If you can bring yourself to get up early to watch the sunrise it’s beautiful, check out my pics, and well worth it. There isn’t much to do on Tobacco Caye other than chilling so if you get itchy feet quickly only plan a one or two day stay.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 22, 2007
Island of Tobacco Caye
10 Miles East of Dangriga
There are lots of places to take snorkeling trips in Caye Culker, but I would recommend using the company opposite Da Real Mccaw hotel. It's run by a friendly Canadian woman, with the trips being led by a local called Ian. The trip is really good fun and no where near as scary as it sounds. The trip starts with snorkeling around a reef, where lots of fish and different types of coral will be pointed out. Ian will tell you about the fish and coral and the names of them.
Once the boat arrives at the alley, a short journey, food will be placed into the water attracting nurse sharks and stingrays. Then you just get in swim around and marvel at being so close to these creatures. It sounds pretty scary but once you’re in the water and see how unbothered they are by your presence, it's not so bad. The worst bit is getting in when you can see fins circling the boat. I saw a nurse shark trying to feed from a shell. Ian gets into the water so he’s always on hand and you can get out when you want. Ian lifted some stingrays to show them to us. I took this trip twice and cannot say how interesting it is. There are also plenty of diving trips in Caye Caulker. My friends did their PADI here and really enjoyed it. A few of them also dived the blue hole and loved it, seeing reef sharks, and stalignites.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 22, 2007
San Ignacio is a place you can truly come to love. It provides a vast change from the beaches of Belize and provides a completely different array of trips. There are trips to suit all people, from caving and waterfalls (see separate review) to the medical trail and botanical gardens. The mountain pine ridge with its lush trees and great history is a short ride from San Ignacio so it provides a great base for day trips. San Ignacio itself really comes alive at night. I stayed in a couple of places but would recommend by far Cahal Pech. It’s at the top of the hill about a 15-minute walk from town. Taxis are cheap so if you can’t face the walk then this is a good alternative. The rooms are clean and have everything you need including a fridge, air conditioning, and TV. There is a pool with a bizarre looking bird/dinosaur over it. It’s a great place to spend the day sunbathing and swimming and if you have a good book can provide a perfect day of relaxation.
There is a small restaurant that over looks the pool that serves good quality food. The best thing here though are the cocktails. I had a frozen chocolate cocktail filled with choc, Baileys and all sorts of other stuff. It was lush, a true treat after all the Belkin Beer and rum (not that they are not good). There are loads of restaurants in town; we tried Martha’s, which I thoroughly recommend. If you can, get a table outside. I liked Martha’s so much I revisited it twice on other trips to San Ignacio and it never disappointed, the breakfasts are especially good. There are lots of places for drinking we tried the Culture Club, which had karaoke, not sure how my rendition of ‘I touch myself’ normally goes down but the locals loved it! We met a few locals who took us out to the Blue Angel. It's slightly further out but was full of locals and provides a good night out. There was plenty of punta dancing going on and the people in San Ignacio always seem up for fun and chatting to visitors. On separate occasions we also tried the stork club, which is nicer inside and has some seating areas and a DJ who takes requests if you ask nicely. I also stayed at the Hi-Et, super cheap but had everything we needed for the night, i.e. A bed and a shower. Good if you are planning to only use your room as a base.
San Pedro is the liveliest island in Belize and full of passing travellers. If you are travelling round Belize and have time to spare a couple of days then take the trip but if you are not up for meeting fellow travellers, drinking, partying and basically doing everything you could do at home then steer clear. San Pedro itself is a lovely island and had has some good beaches. The water off the coast is full of seaweed and not the clear blue of Caye Caulker but it’s definitely a better place for sunbathing. The main street is full of bars, clubs, and restaurants, and there are plenty of places to stay for all budgets. We stayed at Ruby’s, not in the beachfront ones though, there is separate accommodation past the airport.
The accommodation was cheap and not luxurious in any way, but provides a decent base and has chairs outside if you want to sit and drink. There are loads of places to eat, basically find something that suits your tastes, beachfront, quiet, busy, etc. You will be spoilt for nightlife and can visit lots of places in one night. We tried Sandels Bar, which was good, but we were there too early so it was very quiet. We then moved on to the Travellers Cantino and finished up in the Barefoot Iguana. The Barefoot Iguana is good, mostly due to its size and air con. They have live music and are open late.
I liked San Pedro but there isn’t anything there that I couldn’t get at home and it's full of travellers rather than Belizeans. I know lots of people visit here for the diving, but Caye Caulker provides just as good diving and quite frankly it’s nicer. San Pedro can be reached from Belize City in the water taxi terminal they cost about $25BZ each way and take about an hour and a quarter.
Caye Caulker is wonderful. It’s the most relaxed, chilled out place possible. You cannot fail to have a good time here. There are loads of places to stay, check out my review of De Real Maccaw or try the Mirramar if your on a tighter budget. The Mirrimar offer some good cheap rooms upstairs which are pretty sparse and some more upmarket rooms downstairs with TVs. The yard outside and upstairs balcony are good for hanging out or eating if you get food from one of the local barbecues. The nightlife is generally quite chilled, there are some bars on the main street, one offers live music. I&I is at the opposite end of the street from the Spit (the main swimming and beach area). It has a nice upstairs bit with hammocks and is good for chilling. If you fancy something a little livelier, try the club of the back of the main street, ask locals to direct you because my memories of this place are tainted by alcohol. The bar by the spit is nice but very quiet at night, so don’t expect much action here.
There’s a good bakery behind the main strip, so try that out, and the Internet café offers a book exchange where you can buy, sell or exchange books. There is normally a pretty decent selection. For food see my review of the Happy Lobster or try Rasta Pasta which serves great breakfasts, particularly the eggs and granola with yogurt. There are barbecues along the main road that offer good value food, normally rise, beans and chicken, or fish. Caye Caulker is easily accessible from Belize City. Water Taxis leave from the terminal across the swing bridge. They run daily but the last one is 5pm. It takes about 40 minutes to get there. You can also head onwards from here to San Pedro – see separate review.
Belize City probably doesn’t have the best rap for places in Belize. There is no beach, no diving trips, there is a high crime rate, the streets are dusty, and local men might hiss at you. Despite what you may have heard don’t be put off. I lived on the north side of Belize City for 6 months and it holds a very special place in my heart. I lived with a local family sharing the upstairs of the house with the grandparents, while their children and grandchildren lived downstairs.
They had a house load of pets, including 4 dogs, some turtles and birds, and served food to people from the local community so there was never a dull moment. I was doing volunteer work in the city, which there are plenty of opportunities for. My job was arranged through Challenges Worldwide in the UK, which matches people’s skills with a job. Volunteers here are treated as proper employees, or I was, so don’t expect a doss around. Had I not been working in the day I’m not sure what I would have been doing but I’ve listed some things you might want to visit.
There is shopping on the north side past the swing bridge. It’s very geared towards tourists and sells local goods, jewellery and art. On the south side there are lots of indoor style market stalls selling clothes but these are generally cheap rip offs of American brands so steer clear. In terms of places to visit, the Baron Bliss Centre puts on a range of performances. I went to see the Orchestra De La Papaya here. It was amazing, be warned though the upstairs seats are very, very high.
The House of Culture runs exhibitions, there isn’t much here though and generally the house itself is more interesting than anything in it. The Courthouses run along regent street and the Family Court is housed in the covered market. In the shopping district there is a handicraft centre and the image factory. The Image Factory houses some great art and occasionally has exhibitions. Be careful going out after dark and don’t walk anywhere along. Taxi’s to pretty much anywhere in the city cost $6BZ so folk out for it. For info on eating and drinking check out my separate review.
Hopkins can be reached by bus from Dangriga at 12:15pm and 5pm. We stayed at Kismit, which I would thoroughly recommend. We stayed in the main house, as there was a large group of us. They also have cabanas and offer camping. The house is a beautiful wooden structure on the beach, it contains two bedrooms and the front room also has beds. The rates were very reasonable, we paid about $20BZ each for the night and also had dinner and breakfast there. It is trying to be ecological and the shower is outdoors with views towards the sea. There is also a lovely garden. The food is wonderful, the best food I ate in 6 months in Belize. Tricia, the owner, does all the cooking and uses local food to prepare healthy meals. We had silver fish and the flavours were absolutely beautiful. There are hammocks on the veranda for chilling and being on the beach you can pop into the sea for a swim whenever you fancy.
The hosts are very helpful, complete hippies. Nearby in the evening we went to listen to local drummers performing, singing, and dancing. The music was incredible. You can also hire boats and have massages at Kismit. We used it as a stop over for visiting Mayflower but it would be a perfect weekend retreat. We went for a late lunch at Iris’s on our first day but when we got there it was closed. Thankfully Iris was around and very kindly opened up for us and cooked us lunch, this is the kind of hospitality you can expect in Hopkins.
Hopkins has Garifuna culture and is very proud of it. They have a Hopkins day and the town has built their own website to promote local business and accommodation. If you want to learn more about Garifuna culture you can also try the Garifuna museum in Dangriga.
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