Belize is one of those places most have heard of but couldn’t easily locate on a map (it’s on the south-eastern end of the Yucatan peninsula ;)) The one thing any traveller who has managed to find it will tell you is to go! It’s an unexpected gem surrounded by its more popular neighbours like Guatemala and Mexico. I have been to a few spots in Belize but here are my two top picks: Caye Caulker and Placencia. I will preface this by saying that unlike some of its more well-known neighbours, Belize is also a touch more expensive so be prepared for this with your budget.
This island is a backpackers dream. It is located about an hour water taxi ride from Belize City ($25 return with Belize Water Taxi). This laid back island is popular with backpackers and offers a huge variety of water based activities. Or if you’d rather relax, rent a bike and explore the island and its ‘slow-pace’ that is always encouraged by the locals. There aren’t a large number of amazing beaches, but the clear turquoise waters make up for it and then some. Belize boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world, making this a hotspot for the following activities:
The great Blue Hole & Diving
The great blue hole is a sinkhole within the reef, creating a bucket list dive spot for many divers. This dive will usually run you about $200-300. There are also cheaper options to simply snorkel the blue hole. I didn’t actually dive here since I heard it is very much a cave dive and there isn’t a lot of wildlife to be seen. I was more interested in this so opted for diving the reef instead. For about half the price I got to see some nurse sharks, a moray eel, lobsters, and awesome canyon formations. Another great way to see the blue hole is to do a fly-over. After my research I found that this is actually the best way to get the full picture and decided to treat myself to this. Depending on how many people you can gather, the price drops significantly per person. I wasn’t so lucky and ended up paying $400, so this is definitely a treat on the high end of the budget. But I will also say, the views and incredible colors of the reef made it absolutely worth it.
Snorkeling & Spear Fishing
There are a lot of options on the island for this. You have shark and stingray alley where you can snorkel with the local wildlife, as well as take a snorkel tour of the reef and explore some of the nearby islands. Fishing is also a fun activity and I decided to try out spearfishing. The fish were safe though since they were just too fast for me (definitely not my lack of skill…ok, no I was terrible). Depending on who you go with these full day activities will run you on average between $60-$70.
Placencia is a quaint town on the south end of Belize, only a couple of hours (2-3) from Belize City. You can easily get here by bus, shuttle, or plane (Tropic Air), depending on your schedule and budget. It is a bit more low key of a place with basically one main bar and one nightclub. Food prices are much like in Caye Caulker – above average for the region, so I made sure to cook at home as often as possible in both. The main reason to visit?
Swim with Whalesharks
You have the option of diving or snorkelling. I went with snorkelling ($195) versus diving ($265) and it turned out to be the right decision. No whale sharks had been spotted that season yet, but on our 2nd dive/snorkel of the day we got very lucky and saw a younger one surface. So in the end the divers came back up, put snorkel gear on, and jumped back in. It was a once in a lifetime experience and such an incredible one to tick off my bucket list. Unlike some other places in the world, they are pretty strict here about not touching or getting too close to the animals, so it’s a great place to do it. Plus, lunch on the reef offers some amazing clear ocean as backdrop.
The other more well-known places include Belize city, but there isn’t much to see or do here. It is mainly a hub for taking ferries, buses, or flights to the other nearby destinations. A lot of people also tend to visit San Pedro, an island about one and a half hours from Belize city by water taxi. This is a much more populated island with a greater western influence and honestly not my favourite. It felt very busy and faster paced than I generally look for.
Overall, Belize is still a fairly unknown vacation spot, but it is definitely getting a great reputation. Lodging is comparable to its neighbors with hostels starting at $12 per night for a dorm bed, and hotels or Airbnb’s are averaging about $90 per night. Obviously this all depends on time of year and season you go. There are lots of happy hour deals with drinks between $1-$2 and meals will generally run between $10-$20, so I did cook at home for most meals. But that being said any country where I can get a fresh grilled lobster with sides for $10 is a winner in my book. It may be slightly more expensive than say El Salvador or Guatemala, but in my opinion, it’s a must see and one of my favorite spots in Central America.