The 9 Best Day Trips from San Ignacio, Belize: Tours & Excursions You’ll Love

Deep in the Belizean jungle close to the border with Guatemala is the beautiful town of San Ignacio. The Macal River runs right through town, and it’s a popular place for exploring by canoe or kayak.

San Ignacio is at the heart of the Cayo district of Belize. It’s a great jumping-off point for exploring Belizean nature, culture, and history. 

It’s also the perfect counterpoint to relaxing on the beaches of San Pedro or Caye Caulker, and mixing some adventure and culture in San Ignacio is a great way to round out a beachy Belize itinerary.

San Ignacio is located in an area of Belize where many Mayan ruins are located. It’s quite easy to visit many of these caves on a day trip!

Best Way to Do These Belize Day Trips

Allison in the Rio Frio cave complex on a guided tour
Inside the Rio Frio cave — part of a tour of Caracol from San Ignacio!

You can rent a car for Belize if you want to do these day trips on your own, or you can opt for a guided tour. 

Personally, I’ve never rented a car in Belize and have always gone with guided tours, as I like the expert touch you get from a licensed tour guide. 

I learn more about the history and the culture this way, as your professional guide has to have a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of the history to be a guide in Belize!

It’s also a lot less stressful, especially for me as I often travel solo, since they handle pick up, drop off, and often a meal as well.

I tend to book my tours in Belize via Get Your Guide whenever possible, because they offer the best cancellation policy if my plans change (free cancellation within 24 hours of the tour!).

However, if you are traveling as a family or in a large group, you might find that renting a car is better suited for your needs.

If you are renting a car, I suggest picking up your car at Belize City International Airport for the best price. I use and love Discover Cars whenever I’m traveling outside of the United States. 

Discover Cars searches through over 500 different car rental providers in order to find the best price for your rental. Check what’s available from Belize City Airport here!

Where to Stay in San Ignacio

The Cahal Pech ruins in San Ignacio town

I’ve written a full guide to the best eco-resorts and jungle lodges in San Ignacio, but here are my quick picks!

BUDGET | Cahal Pech Village Resort:It’s a testament to how green Belize is that you barely have to leave the city of San Ignacio to feel like you’re in your own personal jungle paradise!

There are lush trees planted everywhere and an infinity-style pool overlooking the river valley below. The Mayan ruins of Cahal Pech are located right nearby the eco-resort, a couple of blocks away!

>> Check availability and prices on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia

MID-RANGE | Mystic River Resort: This resort offers some of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. It’s located in the jungles of Belize, up on a cliff with stunning views over the beloved Macal River.

Located 7 miles away from San Ignacio, all you need is at your fingertips, including an open-air restaurant, an inventive bar specializing in fun cocktails, a full-service spa, a pool with rainforest surroundings, and a yoga deck.

>> Check availability and prices on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia

LUXURY | The Lodge at Chaa Creek: If you are after a once-in-a-lifetime stay in an eco-lodge in Belize… look no further. Chaa Creek is a next-tier incredible resort that’s known for its beautiful natural surroundings. 

The rooms are incredibly airy and spacious, with high-ceilinged thatch roofing and thoughtful details like beautiful textiles and local flowers. Outside your bungalow, you’ll find countless trees and plant life surrounding you and wake up to the sounds of birds and monkeys in the jungle.

Located on the Macal River, Chaa Creek offers activities like canoeing and kayaking down the river. You can also go for a swim in their infinity pool, try some “jungle cuisine” in their dining room made from local organic produce, or admire the butterflies at their butterfly exhibit.

>> Check availability and prices on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia

Best Day Trips from San Ignacio, Belize

Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave)

a room in the ATM cave as part of a tour with MayaWalk
Photo Credit: Maya Walk

Of all the day trips in Belize you could possibly choose from, this is my absolute favorite. In my mind, a trip to Belize without visiting ATM Cave just isn’t a Belize trip at all.

The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (called the ATM Cave for short) is an incredible cave system that you can only traverse with a licensed guide in a small group.

Permits and cave access to tourists are strictly limited in order to keep these caves preserved for future generations, as some parts of the cave were damaged in the past by tourists, unfortunately.

This is not an activity for the faint of heart! Doing an ATM Cave tour involves using a headlamp as your only light source, swimming through the cave, squeezing through some narrow parts of the cave system, and climbing up into the main cave atrium. 

While I loved visiting the ATM Cave so much, if you have severe claustrophobia, this is not the San Ignacio excursion for you! The cave is dark and narrow in some places.

Despite some moments of trepidation, though, I found the ATM Cave absolutely worth it! Read my full review of the experience here.

Inside the cave, you’ll find ancient pottery fragments as well as skulls and skeletons. These are the remains of human sacrifices that the ancient Maya people left in the cave. The cave was considered part of the Mayan underworld, where people could connect to the gods who ruled over death.

Archaeologists believe this was done to appease their gods as their civilization faced challenges such as drought and fighting between rival groups. It seemed not to work: not too long after the sacrifices were left, the Mayan civilization would slowly disappear.

Book this full-day tour of ATM Cave here!

Caracol

Allison sitting atop a pyramid in the Caracol Complex of ruins
Sitting atop the tallest Mayan structure in Belize at Caracol

Another fantastic place to visit near San Ignacio on a day trip is the Caracol Ruins archaeological site. 

These are the largest Mayan ruins in Belize, and they are relatively under-visited compared to many other ruins in Central America.

The ruins of Caracol are beautiful and impressive, and one of the coolest things is that you can climb the pyramids there, unlike many pyramids in Mexico which have closed off the climbing to tourists.

From the top of the largest pyramid in the Caracol complex, you can even look over the border into Guatemala!

A trip to Caracol is easily paired with some incredible nature as well. On a guided tour to Caracol, you can also hike through the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, visit the Rio Frio Cave, and check out either the Rio-On Pools or the Big Rock Falls — all in a single day.

Trust me — you’ll relish a dunk in the waterfalls after spending the morning and early afternoon visiting the ruins in the hot Belizean sun!

Book your trip to Caracol and the Rio-On Pools here!

Barton Creek Cave Reserve

The Barton Creek Cave, a popular day trip from San Ignacio

Another fascinating cave system near San Ignacio is the Barton Creek Cave Reserve. Like ATM Cave, there is ample evidence of use by the Maya people.

Barton Creek is interesting, because the town itself is home to a Mennonite (Amish) settlement! There are actually a large number of Mennonites in Belize, over 10,000 of them actually — most of whom live in Cayo District.

Once you arrive at Barton Creek Cave, you’ll be able to explore it by canoeing through it! This is a great way to experience the caves in a peaceful way while learning about the history of this ancient Maya site — as well as Mayan traditions, rituals, and ceremonies — from a knowledgeable local guide.

Book a half-day canoeing tour here!

Belmopan

parliament building in belmopan belize with trees and flowers and steps
The Parliament Building in Belmopan, Belize

Belmopan is the capital of Belize and it’s an easy day trip from San Ignacio.

For a capital city, Belmopan is rather small — the tiniest capital city in the Americas by population, in fact, with a population of under 20,000 people!

Belmopan is a good gateway to outdoor adventure, as you’ll find Guanacaste National Park right within the city. 

This national park has some hiking trails and the beautiful Belize River runs right through the heart of it.

Belmopan is also close to other places you might want to visit: Ayala’s Natural Pool, St. Herman’s Cave, St. Herman’s Blue Hole, etc.

You can drive to Belmopan easily via rental car or take any of the buses heading towards Belize City, all of which will stop in Belmopan.

St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park

Swimming hole in belize surrounded by jungle flora and leaves
Belize’s other Blue Hole is smaller but still beautiful!

Belize is known for its Great Blue Hole of course… but it also has a lesser-known inland blue hole, located at St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park!

This tour of the Blue Hole is combined with Crystal Cave, a beautiful limestone cave system. The cave system is only accessible through a rainforest hike which ends at the entrance to the cave, so it feels very remote and magical.

The tour involves spelunking through the cave to discover all the beautiful geographic features of the cave, as well as artifacts from Mayan ceremonies that number some thousands of years old — including pottery, fire pits, and even human remains!

One of the coolest parts of this tour is visiting ‘Wonderland’, a room in the cave system that is completely covered in sparkling crystals, for which the cave gets its name!

After exploring the cave system, you’ll have a chance to swim in the beautiful Blue Hole to cool off and feel refreshed before heading back to San Ignacio in the evening.

Book your Blue Hole and Crystal Cave tour online here!

Tikal

Allison wearing a black camisole and printed shorts,  looking at a pyramid in Tikal, Guatemala
Exploring the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala

If you’re looking for a full-day excursion from San Ignacio that will also get you a new stamp in your passport, be sure to save a day for a day trip to Tikal from San Ignacio!

This is one day trip for which I strongly suggest a tour. Navigating a border crossing by car is an experience many travelers have not have had before, and if there are language barriers it can be intimidating. 

Personally, I have done the border crossing solo when traveling from Belize to Guatemala, but I am an experienced solo traveler fluent in Spanish. 

I’ve also spent several months of my life in Central America and feel super comfortable traveling around. If you don’t have that sort of experience, booking a Tikal tour from San Ignacio is a much better idea.

The trip to Tikal takes about 2-2.5 hours by car, with some time for the border crossing, which your guide will help you navigate. 

Tikal is located in a beautiful national park, and so you’ll see wildlife everywhere you look: everything from monkeys to iguanas and more. 

Tikal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s perhaps better-known as being a filming location for Star Wars!

This guided tour of Tikal includes all the main sightseeing of the ruins complex. With over 3,000 structures in the Tikal area, having a guide to help you narrow down the key things to see is really helpful. 

You’ll get to see temples, ball courts, plazas, palaces, and pyramids — the largest of which is over 200 feet!

Book this day trip to Tikal from San Ignacio here!

Cave Tubing and Ziplining

dark cave entrance with lots of water and trees visible through the mouth of the cave
Views from cave tubing in Belize

Cave tubing in Belize is a popular outdoor activity to do from San Ignacio, and there is no shortage of tours offering it! 

Cave tubing is basically what it sounds like: floating on a river through caves in an inner tube! You’ll have to hike to the cave systems before hopping in your tube, but the hike to the river and caves in the Caribbean heat is what makes the dip into the waters so refreshing!

For people who want to pair cave tubing with something a little more adventurous, add a zipline experience! This combo tour of cave tubing and ziplining is the perfect option.

Xunantunich

the largest stone structure at xunantunich surrounded by grass, trees, etc
The pyramid at Xunantunich – the second tallest Mayan structure in Belize

The Mayan archaeological site of Xunantunich is located a short distance from San Ignacio Town, practically on the Guatemalan border. 

Xunantunich enjoys a beautiful location on a ridge, looking over the scenic Mopan River. Its name means “Maiden of the Rock” in the Mayan language, but this is a modern name; the original name is unknown. Supposedly, this name comes from the ghost of a woman who haunts it!

Xunantunich was an ancient city, which takes up about one square mile. Its best-known feature is the 130-foot-tall pyramid ‘El Castillo’, which is the second tallest Mayan structure in Belize (after the temple pyramid at Caracol).

If you want to book a guided tour, this tour is highly rated and you can customize it to meet your interests, adding on either cave tubing, river tubing, or horseback riding for a full-day tour, or just visiting Xunantunich for a half-day trip.

Book your Xunantunich tour with optional combos online here!

Cahal Pech

smaller pyramid at cahal pech ruins surrounded by trees and shaded
The smaller but lovely ruins of Cahal Pech in San Ignacio town

This is not so much a day trip from San Ignacio town as an activity inside it, but it’s so important it deserves a spot on this list!

The ancient Maya site of Cahal Pech is about 10 square miles and includes nearly three dozen buildings, the largest of all being about 80 feet tall! 

It is believed by archaeologists to be one of the oldest Mayan settlements in Belize, and that the people who settled Cahal Pech likely came from Guatemala, perhaps around the Tikal area.

The Maya Ruins of Cahal Pech are a must-do while visiting San Ignacio, and it pairs well with a visit to Xunantunich above, since the two Mayan sites are only about 6 miles apart.

If you want some additional info, can hire a local guide to give you a private tour at the ruins themselves — a guided tour including pick-up and drop-off is not necessary here, as the ruins are within walking distance of town!

What to Pack for a Trip To San Ignacio

Entering San Ignacio via the Hawksworth Bridge

Mosquito repellent: San Ignacio has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Protect yourself with mosquito repellent. As a backup, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming.

Bug bite aftercare: It’s also inevitable that you won’t be able to get away totally scot-free in terms of bug bites, so bring some after-bite relief too. This is hard to find in Belize, so definitely bring it from home!

Full-size travel towel: Many of these San Ignacio day trips involve water — cave tubing, kayaking, swimming, waterfalls, etc. You’ll definitely want to bring a small, foldable, quick-dry towel on any day tour with water activities. This travel towel is full-size but compact, and it dries super quickly even in Belize’s humid climate.

A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception.

Reef-safe sunscreen: Reef-safe sunscreen isn’t just for reefs! The chemicals in sunscreen are bad for every natural ecosystem, like caves and swimming holes. When I know I’ll be in any natural body of water, I use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one.

GoPro: If you go cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! The GoPro Hero 9 is the newest, best option in the action camera landscape. Be sure to consider whether you want GoPro accessories like a chest harness or head mount.


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

Get your free quote here.

17 Sun-Soaked Things to Do in San Pedro, Belize

For my 26th birthday, I took myself to Belize for a short 4-day trip after finding a $300 return ticket on a whim. 

Since I didn’t have much time in Belize, I decided to stay in one place and make the most of it. After some Googling, the most idyllic place to spend a weekend quickly emerged: San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.

Although Belize is an expensive destination, there are ways to travel Belize on a budget – and the Cayes are some of the best places to do so! 

I decided to spend my time in the small town of San Pedro, located on Ambergris Caye — the largest island in Belize, a short distance from mainland Mexico.

Nestled along the Caribbean sea, San Pedro boasts brilliant blue waters, incredible marine life (particularly along the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef system in the world), and plenty of cool things to do in San Pedro both in and out of the water.

Since my first visit to San Pedro, I’ve been back twice and also visited more of Belize, like Caye Caulker and San Ignacio. I just can’t seem to stay away from this part of the world! 

This list of the best things to do in San Pedro is the work of hours of research planning for three trips to Belize — so I hope you enjoy!

a red house built out on the dock with the beach and a boat
PLANNING SAN PEDRO AT A GLANCE:

Best Time to Visit: Dry season runs from November through April, which also coincides with colder temperatures up in North America -- bringing Americans and Canadians to Belize in huge numbers. Prices are higher and availability is lower, particularly over the winter holidays, but the weather is pretty much perfect.

Best Places to Stay: I've stayed at three different places in Belize over three different trips -- all representative of very different budgets. For luxury, I'd pick Victoria House (boutique hotel with casitas and suites), for families I'd pick White Sands Cove Resort (mid-range bungalows), and for solo travelers or travelers on a budget, Sandbar (hostel with great amenities).

Best Activities: Snorkeling in Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan on a sailboat snorkeling tour, spending the day at Secret Beach, and taking a day tour to the mainland to go caving in the ATM Cave.

Don't Forget to Pack: Bug spray and after-bite care for the inevitable insect bites. Reef-safe sunscreen (I like Sun Bum SPF 30 with Vitamin E) for snorkeling and swimming, to protect Belize's beautiful marine life. A large travel towel that doubles as a beach blanket without taking up space. 

Travel Insurance: I use and love World Nomads for travel in Central America! If you're diving, be sure to pick the Explorer Plan which includes coverage for dive-related incidents.

Where to Stay in San Pedro, Belize

casitas at victoria house
The small casitas at Victoria House with the larger pool suite villas behind them

LUXURY | I had the wonderful privilege of staying at Victoria House on my second trip to Belize on a hosted stay. It was absolutely marvelous and I can’t express enough how magical it was. 

From the pool that looks out over the Caribbean Sea to the well-manicured grounds shaded with palm trees, Victoria House is an oasis of peace and quiet in San Pedro. 

The Victoria House offers a private beach of sorts, with hammocks and loungers spread between the palm trees overlooking the ocean. While the water and marine life are stunning, the islands of Belize are not known for their sandy beaches. That said, Victoria House has created something out of nothing, with a sandy ‘beach’ giving way to a seawall.

We stayed in the Infinity Suite, a two-story apartment-style suite with a full kitchen, en-suite bath, outdoor shower, patio, upstairs balcony, and a massive master suite. It was the definition of luxury and I miss it terribly.

But there are also more reasonably priced statehouses and casitas, so there is something for all along the budget spectrum.

>> Check availability and prices on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia

a fancy suite with a four poster bed, high ceilings and flat screen tv
The master suite!
a bright sunny day at victoria house looking over the palm trees, grass, and pols
The view from our gorgeous pool villa

MID-RANGE | On my third trip to San Pedro, I was traveling with family and we wanted a mid-range place to stay, and we ended up at White Sands Cove. It was an extremely beautiful location and the amenities were fantastic for the price. 

We stayed in a bungalow-style two-story house with a patio and small kitchen, and it was a really beautiful place. It’s not quite as luxe and fancy as Victoria House, but you do get a lot of space for the price.

The staff was really kind and wonderful and we loved the pool and restaurant (seriously, their food — especially their breakfast — was so good we found it hard to leave!).

The only downside is that it is a little bit far away from town, so it is a golf cart ride, taxi, or a long bike ride to town, which can add up over time!

>> Check availability and price on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia

BUDGET | I stayed at the absolutely wonderful Sandbar Hostel on my first solo trip to Belize, and it was a great place to stay. I don’t think I’ve ever been more pleasantly surprised by a hostel experience. 

It had all the little details which make a good hostel great. I’m talking privacy screens, outlets and small shelves next to each bed, and personal luggage lockers beneath each bunk bed. The cleaning staff seemed to come in almost hourly to sweep up any sand on the ground, always with a friendly smile. The bathrooms and showers were clean, and — a real bonus in this part of the world — had excellent water pressure.

The hostel had its own bar and restaurant, which was a great way to socialize and meet other travelers. Luckily, it never got too rowdy to make it hard to sleep.

>> Check availability and prices on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia

a colorful bar area with a mosaic tile counter and people sitting at the bar with the beach in the distance
The bar at Sandbar hostel

How to Get To San Pedro

I’ve traveled to and from San Pedro three times, so I’ve done it all! I’ve traveled overland to San Pedro from Mexico (and vice versa) and I’ve also come straight to Belize City from the United Sates.

On my first trip, I flew into Belize City International Airport and took a taxi into the city followed by the boat, which all together ended up being about $50 USD since I was traveling solo. 

On the way back,  I was a bit crunched for time so I decided to take the plane back to Belize City for about $75, and I was so glad that I did – the views are absolutely stunning! 

So if you’re planning on heading straight to San Pedro from the Belize City airport, you need to factor in some extra costs for either airfare to San Pedro or for a taxi to the ferry plus the water taxi rate.

Honestly, unless you really need to budget down to the last dollar, I’d just take the plane – it saves you hours and gives you amazing views to boot! 

Return tickets on Maya Island Air are about $90-120 per person if you book in advance, vs. around $60 using the water taxi (not counting the taxi from the airport).

green mangrove islands seen from above the water in a plane heading to san pedro belize

17 Best Things to Do in San Pedro Belize

Rent a golf cart and zip around town.

One of the most fun things to do in San Pedro is rent a golf cart like the locals do! Golf carts are a big part of the San Pedro culture, and it’s how locals get around the island.

You’ll want to rent a golf cart if you are visiting places like Secret Beach, the Truck Stop, and checking out the beaches in the southern part of the island!

Tip: It’s cheaper to pre-book a golf cart rental online than to book once you arrive — I suggest these golf carts which you can book via Viator.

A golf cart on the sand on a beach in Belize on San Pedro

Take a food tour.

On my last trip to Belize, I did a food tour where we got to sample our way around some of the island’s most famous eats!

It includes seven stops and 11 tastings — I was stuffed by the end of it, and I had a much better understanding of the delicious mix of cultures that created Belizean food by the end of the tour!

Spend the day on Secret Beach.

The lively, not-so-secret Secret Beach is a great place to spend a day in Belize. 

Beach bars, delicious Belizean food restaurants, picnic tables in the clear water: what else could you need to pass the time on a beachy vacation?

Secret Beach is a little out of the way of the main San Pedro town, but it’s about a 30-minute drive by golf cart on an unpaved road. It is totally worth it, though!

While it’s popular and touristy, it’s also one of the best places to visit in San Pedro, so don’t let the hype scare you off. 

Photo Credit: Stephanie Craig & her great guide to Secret Beach!

Sample chocolates at the Belize Chocolate Company.

Who doesn’t love chocolate? No one I know, at least.

The Belize Chocolate Company creates delicious artisan chocolate, “from bean to bar” in their words! They take delicious cacao grown in Belize and see it through every step of the transformation into delicious organic chocolate.

You can grab some chocolates there or even take a chocolate-making class!

Snorkel with​​​​ sharks and rays in Shark Ray Alley

There’s plenty of adventurous things to do in Belize — but snorkeling in Shark Ray Alley probably takes the cake!

You do have to take a day tour, because in Belize, you can’t just swim out to a reef. The water in San Pedro is very shallow for a long, long way out. You do have to go out in a boat a fair amount to get to the snorkeling destinations. 

Shark Ray Alley is basically a place where all the snorkeling companies in Ambergris Caye have decided to feed sharks and rays off the side of the boat so tourists can snorkel alongside them. 

The practice of chumming waters to attract marine life is not one with an easy answer. Mar Alliance believes it can be key to building bridges where humans understand that animals like sharks and rays are not to be feared, and that it builds more compassion and conservation.

Others believe chumming can be dangerous if it makes sharks dependent on humans for food. The sharks in Shark Ray Alley are nurse sharks, which are very docile creatures — very few nurse shark bites have ever been recorded, and never fatally.

It was exhilarating and only slightly scary to be 10 feet in the water, completely uncaged, from huge sharks about 10 feet in length! 

I kept myself calm by telling myself I was much more difficult prey than the fishes being fed to them off the side of the boat. Huge sting rays undulated alongside the sharks, trying to get their fill too. 

Sharks in the water at Shark Ray Alley

Go diving or snorkeling in Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Booking all the different diving and snorkeling tours in Belize can get expensive, but oh, is it ever worth it! 

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is probably one of the best places to snorkel in all of the Americas, and it’s certainly the best place in Central America. 

The reef is teeming with brilliant color, and its coral reef restoration projects have been wildly successful. 

I found an eagle ray while snorkeling

I’m terrible with identifying fish (which is something I actually really want to work on, because I’m a nerd like that) but they really ran the gamut: I saw everything from electric blue tiny fish to sea turtles to spotted eagle rays and clownfish.

Honestly, I’ve been to the Great Barrier Reef back in 2012 and I found Hol Chan to be just as exciting and colorful in terms of marine diversity!

This full day sailing tour covers both Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, so it makes it easy to hit two of San Pedro’s top attractions in a single day trip.

Book your sailing and snorkeling trip online here!

On a snorkeling tour in Belize

Go scuba diving.

If you’re PADI Open Water Certified, go even deeper under the water with a dive led by a divemaster!

There are one-tanktwo-tank, and three-tank dives you can book that will take you to different scuba sites all over the Belize Barrier Reef for a half or whole-day adventure!

Have a beer on the water.

If snorkeling or diving isn’t your jam, and you’d rather just take in a beer and enjoy the scenery, Palapa Bar & Grill is a great place to enjoy a beer over the water and relax. You can imagine you’re in your own private overwater bungalow for a fraction of the cost!

They also have a bunch of floating inner tubes at the back of the bar, where you can float with a beer and enjoy the sunshine.

Belikin beers – the local beer of Belize – are about $2 USD and go down a little too easily! Perhaps that’s why they’re often sold in a bucket?

Part of that is because they’re the thickest bottles I’ve ever drank out of. Seriously, they’re practically weaponized. Each presumptive “bottle” is probably actually half glass, half beer. Still, when in Belize, you gotta at least try a Belikin!

fullsizerender-67

Take a spin on a bike.

If the weather’s nice and you fancy a spin on a bike, you can rent a bike from Joe’s for the day for $15, which is a fun way to see more of San Pedro! 

The town of San Pedro is small and pretty walkable, and you really get to see just how small it is on a bike! 

I enjoyed biking towards the northern area of San Pedro, and seeing a more wild and less developed side of the island as well.

Relax on the beach.

Of course, the best thing you can do in San Pedro on a budget is relax in the sand and take in the views! 

San Pedro’s beaches aren’t your typical ocean beach. There aren’t really any waves to speak of, and the water is very shallow. There are some sandy beaches, but they are scattered around the island. 

Mar de Tumbo is probably the prettiest beach near San Pedro town, with lots of sandy shore line to stroll on and beautiful palm trees. 

Another pretty beach is Boca del Rio, which is right at the mouth of where the river passes between San Pedro town and Northern Ambergris Caye. The water here is electric blue and super beautiful!

Enjoying our private beach at Victoria House

Take a helicopter tour over the Great Blue Hole.

One of Belize’s most impressive sites is the Great Blue Hole, a natural sinkhole that spreads over 1,000 feet in diameter. 

It’s a brilliant, well… deep blue hole in the middle of a bright turquoise sea, ringed by a coral reef in the shape of a question mark.

You can dive in it, but you should be at an advanced level to do so. However, people I know who did dive the Blue Hole said it wasn’t as impressive as they hoped it would be, and that approaching it by boat, it was impossible to see the deep blue phenomenon.

Better yet is to take a helicopter if you really want to experience the beauty of the Great Blue Hole! This helicopter tour will take you right over it on a scenic 80-minute helicopter flight.

The blue hole in belize, as seen from above, a sinkhole surrounded by a reef

Catch a beautiful sunset.

Most of the developed side of San Pedro is on the east side of the island, not the west, so sunsets aren’t as big of a thing in San Pedro (they’re better on Caye Caulker, to be honest, if you want to take the boat ride over!).

Find a place on the lagoon (west) side of the island if you want to see a spectacular sunset, with mangroves and calm water. 

The Truck Stop is a good place, with a boardwalk around the back where you can walk out and watch the sunset.

Another good spot to see the sunset is the area by the docks, near where the water ferry to Chetumal departs from. Type in Chetumal Express Water Taxi into Google Maps and head over to that general area for a sunset view!

You could also go for a sunset sail on a 40-foot sailboat for a more romantic and unique way to catch the sunset!

A sunset on Caye Caulker
Pro Tip: Caye Caulker has better sunsets than San Pedro, so try to visit it for at least one sunset!

… but better yet, wake up for sunrise.

Listen, I love a good morning sleep-in just as much as the next person, if not more. 

But due to the geographic positioning of San Pedro, with most of its hotels and attractions on the east side of the island (since this is the side that faces the reef), sunrise is actually way better on San Pedro than sunset!

Every time I’ve been to San Pedro (three times now!), I make sure I wake up for sunrise at least one morning of the trip. It’s always been worth it.

Person sitting in front of the sunrise in Belize
Sunrise in San Pedro is always worth it!

Take a day trip to the ATM Cave.

The ATM Cave is located on mainland Belize, but it’s absolutely possible to visit the ATM Cave as part of a day trip from San Pedro.

If you are visiting other places in Belize, such as Belize City or San Ignacio, as part of a longer Belize itinerary, then there is no reason to make this day trip as it is a bit out of the way and you will be much closer at another point in your trip.

However, if you’re only visiting San Pedro on your Belize trip, definitely save a day to visit the ATM Cave. It’s absolutely worth the journey — it was the most magical thing I did in Belize!

Stalactites and stalagmites form an incredible cave system, and there are all sorts of Mayan artifacts such as pottery in there…. as well as the skeletal remains of several human sacrifices which were left in the cave hundreds and hundreds of years ago!

If I haven’t scared you off with that tidbit, it’s absolutely worth the trip. There’s nowhere else like it.

Book your day trip to ATM Cave here!

Photo credit belongs to Maya Walk, as after an idiot tourist dropped his camera on an ancient skull, cameras are no longer allowed in the cave!

Eat some tasty food at the Truck Stop.

One of the coolest places to hang out in San Pedro is at The Truck Stop, which is located north of the bridge in Northern Ambergris Caye.

There are a few different places to eat here, ‘food truck style’ (though actually run out of shipping containers, painted in bright colors!).

Options include pizza, tacos, Asian food, and cocktails! I personally love the food at Rasa and Sol Fresca best.

They also host a movie night every Wednesday!

Try some tasty salbutes. 

Belize and Mexico are neighbors, and a lot of the tastiest food of the Yucatán peninsula can also be found in Belize!

I had these delicioussalbutes, which are a famous Mexican antojito that’s also popular in Belize, at Sandbar, but you can find them in other places in San Pedro Town as well.

I would compare it to shredded chicken tostadas (if the tostada was a little thicker), topped with tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and lettuce. 

Go to the “Chicken Drop”.

One of the more… unique things to do in San Pedro, the Chicken Drop is a bizarre weekly gambling game that takes place at Wahoo’s Lounge and involves betting on where a chicken will sh*t on a board full of numbers.

That’s literally the game.

The Chicken Drop takes place at 7 PM every Thursday and involves a lot of drinking and raucous cheering and yelling to try to coax the chicken to crap on the number you bet on.

It’s a very strange, very uniquely San Pedro thing to do at night!

Have dinner at Elvi’s Kitchen.

I’ve eaten at more restaurants in San Pedro than I can count, but my favorite has to be Elvi’s Kitchen… I’ve been twice and would go back in a heartbeat!

My favorite dishes are the esquites (street-style roast corn) and the fish steamed in Mayan adobe in a banana leaf. I could eat that over and over again and never get bored!

Eat some delicious pupusas.

In the main town, I took advantage of Belize’s proximity to El Salvador by indulging in one of my favorite Latin American foods of all time: the humble pupusa. 

Made of masa and stuffed with delicious bits like pork, beans, chicken, cheese, squash, you name it, pupusas can be vegetarian or meaty depending on your tastes.

Once stuffed and griddle-cooked, pupusas are then topped with cabbage slaw, a mild tomato sauce, and as much Marie Sharp’s habanero hot sauce as you can stand! 

Salteados <3
Pupusas <3

7 Things You Must Pack for Belize

I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think you must pack!

  • Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
  • Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
  • A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen: If you are planning to do any water activities, such as diving or snorkeling or even swimming, please use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one. The active ingredients in sunscreen are killing off coral in huge numbers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and is under threat. So please don’t use normal, chemical-laden sunscreen in Belize’s fragile ocean ecosystem!
  • Filter water bottle or Steripen: Belize’s tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. I recommend traveling with a water bottle with a built-in filter that filters out nasty bacteria and viruses like this awesome LifeStraw bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Alternately, you can use a Steripen which sterilizes water using UV light. A great investment if you travel frequently and want to reduce your plastic bottle consumption!
  • GoPro: If you go snorkeling or cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
  • Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, ziplining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!  It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly!

6 of the Most Incredible Eco Lodges in Belize (For All Budgets)

If you’re into sustainable tourism, it’s likely that staying in a jungle eco lodge in Belize is high on your bucket list. And with good reason – Belize is becoming one of the world’s premier ecotourism destinations for its dedication to .preserving biodiversity, reducing waste, and living in harmony with nature.

I stayed in an eco-lodge during my time in Belize and it was a great experience. There’s nothing that quite compares to waking up in the middle of the dense jungle, awoken by the other-worldly alarm of a chorus of howler monkeys. Well, to be frank, howl is putting the noises they make lightly, but I digress…

There are countless eco resorts in Belize, many of which are well worth a visit. Picking the right eco lodge in Belize is a matter of considering your budget and what level of luxury you like. Belize is not a cheap destination the way its neighbors are — but it’s also not an insanely expensive one, either.

Budget at least $100 a night for a comfortable, clean eco lodge in Belize, but keep in mind that if you want a luxury eco lodge experience you’ll be looking at closer to $300 a night, on par with luxury experiences elsewhere in the world. Still, no matter what your budget, you’re sure to get a memorable experience: beautiful accommodations in the middle of the Belizean jungle, supporting eco-friendly practices while staying in comfort, a stone’s throw from countless adventurous activities ranging from caving to horseback riding to tubing and beyond.

Things to Consider When Picking an Eco Resort in Belize

The majority of the eco lodges in Belize are centered in Cayo District, nearby the town of San Ignacio. San Ignacio is a popular tourist destination for its proximity to several adrenaline-pumping adventure activities, from cave tubing to exploring the ATM cave to climbing the Mayan ruins of Caracol to horseback riding in the mountains. The Macal River winds through the Cayo District and it’s a popular location for many of the eco lodges in Belize.

There are two major considerations you should keep in mind when picking which eco lodge in Belize is right for you. Number one: your budget. I’ve sorted my recommendations into 3 tiers: budget (around $100 a night), mid-range (between $100-250), and luxury ($300 and up). I still do recommend looking at each hotel individually as prices truly depend on seasonality and availability and you may be able to find a steal, according to the time of year. Conversely, if you are traveling during the most popular times of the year, you may find that the eco lodges I’ve recommended don’t correlate to the prices I’ve given… so take these recommendations with a grain of salt.

Prices in Belize are at their highest between December and April, which correlates to both the holiday season (when prices are their highest) and the dry season. You can get a great deal with likely-to-be excellent weather by traveling in the shoulder season, especially in May and early June when the rainy season hasn’t fully started yet but spring break and winter getaways have ended.

The other thing to consider is transportation. Staying in an eco lodge often means getting quite ‘off the grid’ in Belize, and if you don’t have a car rental, this can add up to serious taxi or shuttle costs over the course of a stay. I recommend looking for places close to San Ignacio if you don’t have a car while you are in Belize. Cahal Pech Village Resort and San Ignacio Resort Hotel are both located right in town. However, the nicest and most authentic jungle lodge experience in Belize will be found outside of the city (of course), so it’s a matter of balance.

My Top 2 Budget-Friendly Eco Lodges in Belize

Keep in mind, again, that Belize is not the cheapest destination in Central America. That said, many properties do still offer a great value, blending economy and comfort in a way that is not fancy or fussed-over, while benefiting the environment around it.

I consider budget-friendly in Belize to be around $100 per night for a simple double-room at an eco lodge; however, be aware that prices will vary based on time of year and availability!

Pine Ridge Lodge

Located within the natural wonder of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the Pine Ridge Lodge offers a comfortable stay in an eco lodge in Belize at a reasonable price. Close to the ancient Mayan city of Caracol, an ancient city that archaeologists believe once had a population of 185,000 people, this simple but beautiful resort is perfect for a stay focused on appreciating the outdoors and comfort over luxury.

Their accommodations consist of a number of charming little bungalows that provide beautiful forest views. Nature lovers will find plenty to love about Pine Ridge Lodge’s location: surrounded by many waterfalls and natural pools that are perfect for swimming, excellent hiking trails nearby, and plenty of opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife. The lodge also has its own orchid garden for guests to enjoy, and there is an in-house restaurant, where you can order meals with fresh ingredients which are gathered from their own organic gardens.

The nearby Rio-On Pools

Note that it is located quite far outside the town of San Ignacio, so you will need to either have a car rental (recommended) or arrange for a transfer from town or the airport, which could add on some expenses given the distance. 

Check prices, reviews, and availability of Pine Ridge Lodge here.

Cahal Pech Village Resort

It’s a testament to how green Belize is that you barely have to leave the city of San Ignacio to feel like you’re in your own personal jungle paradise.

Cahal Pech Village Resort is actually located within the city of San Ignacio but you wouldn’t know it from the environs: lush trees planted everywhere, and an infinity-style pool overlooking the river valley below (perfectly oriented for sunset). The name Cahal Pech comes from the Mayan ruins located right nearby the eco resort: a couple blocks away is the Cahal Pech archaelogical site, where you can find Mayan ruins quite literally in your backyard.

Cahal Pech is well-known for its thatched-roofed cabanas that offer incredible views of the Belizean countryside. Each one has its own personality and comes with writing tables, private verandas, and hammocks. This resort also features three different fresh water pools, which makes it a great spot for swimming and lazing away in the Belizean sunshine. The eco resort also has a spa and a restaurant serving authentic Belizean cuisine — or you can simply walk into town and enjoy one of the many excellent restaurants in town (I recommend Ko-Ox Han Nah or Serendib on the main street for excellent  – and quite spicy – Sri Lankan cuisine!)

You can organize a tour into Caracol, the biggest Mayan ruins in Belize

Of course, if you want to explore the Cayo District, Cahal Pech Village Resort has some amazing tours available, which you can organize through their front desk. There are multiple ruins you can explore, including the homes of former Mayan kings. You can also go horseback riding through the jungle or canoeing down the Macal River. I recommend the ATM Cave tour (be sure to book places in advance as it can sell out due to limited places).

Check prices, reviews, and availability of Cahal Pech Village Resort here.

Mid-Range Eco Lodges in Belize

As I’ve defined it, mid-range in Belize will get you a private room in a gorgeous setting for somewhere between $100-250 per night. These are not quite exactly the top offerings in the country, but they offer amazing amenities at affordable prices. They’re perfect for a special stay while still remaining budget conscious and saving money for activities and enjoying Belizean cuisine.

I tend to prefer traveling in the mid-range because I enjoy spending more of my money on experiences rather than accommodations, but of course, your preference will depend on what kind of holiday you’re after and what is a comfortable amount to spend on your budget.

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

San Ignacio Resort Hotel is an award-winning resort (it won the Best Hotel in Belize award in 2016) that’s located within a 17-acre private estate, right in the heart of San Ignacio town proper — perfect if you don’t have a car rental during your time in Belize.

The team at San Ignacio Resort Hotel has been providing some of the highest quality accommodation in the country since 1976. This resort features a 5500 square foot conference room that’s perfect for weddings or special occasions. For those just looking to relax, there is also a gorgeous pool with plenty of loungers to relax around, a luxe spa, and a tennis court. Don’t forget to try some Belizean cuisine at the Running W Steakhouse and Restaurant, which received the Best Restaurant of the Year award from Belize’s very own tourism board — a high accolade!

Despite its proximity to the city, San Ignacio Resort Hotel can easily help you get out into the Belizean nature by organizing tours in and around Cayo District. Birdwatchers will enjoy their birding tours, where you can spot hundreds of different bird species.

If you’re lucky you may spot a toucan in Belize!

Or if you’re looking for a little more excitement, you can go on a ziplining tour through the canopies of the Belizean jungle. This resort also supports the Green Iguana Conservation Project and has won awards for its participation in helping support Belize’s wildlife. You can learn more about these amazing creatures while supporting their conservation by participating in projects at the eco-friendly resort.

Check prices, reviews, and availability at San Ignacio Resort Hotel here.

Mystic River Resort 

As you might expect from a place called Mystic River Resort, this resort offers some of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. It’s located in the jungles of Belize, up on a cliff with stunning views over the beloved Macal River.

Along with its gorgeous rainforest surroundings, Mystic River Resort also specializes in weddings and honeymoons. Located 7 miles away from San Ignacio, you’ll find all you need at the Mystic River Resort, including an open-air restaurant, an inventive bar specializing in fun cocktails, a full-service spa, a pool with rainforest surroundings, a yoga deck, and an “adventure desk” which can help you book tours in the region.

Caracol – one of the best tours in the region!

Inside the room, there’s plenty of luxury to be had as well: we’re talking king-sized beds, patios, and gorgeous forest and river reviews. The rooms come in a range of options, varying from sensible studios to two-bedroom suites with private pools and outdoor showers.

On top of all this, there are also a great number of adventures you can have when you stay at Mystic River Resort. They have everything from kayaking and birdwatching to exploring ancient caves and ruins.

Of all the eco resorts in Belize, this resort goes above and beyond when it comes to protecting the environment. They generate their own electricity, purify their own water, and continuously replant trees that have been cut down in the surrounding rainforest, in addition to contributing to several local conservation projects. 

Check prices, ratings, and availability at Mystic River Resort here.

The Top 2 Luxury Eco Lodges in Belize

For a truly special occasion, a luxury eco lodge in Belize is the way to go. These resorts offer superb hospitality and ultimate tailor-made luxury in lush jungle settings. They’re the perfect way to commemorate special events like a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday.

Most of the top eco resorts in Belize are located just outside the city of San Ignacio, combining the convenience of being close to the city while also providing so many luxury amenities that, frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave.

Ka’ana

Appropriately nicknamed “the Heavenly Place”, Ka’ana is one of the top luxury hotels in Belize. As a result, this eco lodge has a great number of amenities available, more than most of its competitors in the area. They have a pool in a lush jungle setting, a spa with luxurious cocoa and coffee treatments, a rave-reviewed restaurant, and a yoga deck where you can perfect your asanas surrounding by the chorus of the jungle. The food from the restaurant is sourced from their own organic farm, and their creative cocktails also take inspiration from the jungle settings.

Impressive trees in Belize’s jungle

Ka’ana also has tour packages available that allow the visitor a closer look at its magnificent surroundings, including the Mayan ruins which are quite literally right next door. You can also enjoy its many surrounding adventure activities, in particular, exploring the fantastic ATM Cave which is among the best things you can do in Belize. You can even take a Mayan cooking class during your stay and learn how to use tropical Belizean produce in traditional yet innovative ways.

In keeping with its eco lodge status, Ka’ana has a strong focus on combining sustainability and comfort. The resort hires locally, sources much of its food from its own organic farm on the premises, and uses energy saving techniques to minimize waste.

Despite its luxury offerings and multiple 5-star awards, you can actually stay at Ka’ana for affordable prices during the off season. I recommend checking it out and seeing if it suits your budget during your stay. At the same time, if you’re after a more luxurious, once-in-a-lifetime kind of stay, Ka’ana also offers private pool villas fit for a honeymoon or special occasion.

Check prices, availability, and reviews of Ka’ana here.

Chaa Creek

Welcome to the top option for luxury in Belize: it doesn’t get any finer than Chaa Creek. If you are after a once-in-a-lifetime stay in an eco lodge in Belize… look no further (but then open your wallet to match — accommodations here do not come cheap!)

Chaa Creek is a next-tier incredible resort that’s known for its beautiful natural surroundings. The rooms are incredibly airy and spacious, with high-ceilinged thatch roofings for an authentic Belize eco lodge experience. The rooms are tastefully decorated with thoughtful details like beautiful textiles and local flowers. Outside your bungalow, you’ll find countless trees and plant life surrounding you and wake up to the sounds of birds and monkeys in the jungle.

The Macal River in Belize

Chaa Creek is perfectly situated on the banks of the Macal River, offering activities like canoeing and kayaking down the river without even leaving the property. There are many things to see and do at this resort, that you would never even need to leave: you can go for a swim in their infinity pool, try some “jungle cuisine” in their dining room made from local organic produce, admire the butterflies at their butterfly exhibit, or learn more about the history of the Cayo District in their natural history center.

That said, if you’re itching to leave and explore Cayo, Chaa Creek also offers numerous tours of the beautiful Belizean countryside. You can visit the nearby Mayan ruins, go snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef, or explore the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves.

They’re also well-known for their commitment to sustainable tourism. When you stay at this resort, 10% of your revenue goes toward projects dedicated to protecting the environment. They also follow Green Globe practices, including reducing harmful emissions, reducing electricity usage, employing Belizean nationals rather than foreigners whenever possible, purchasing products and produce locally, and countless other practices too numerous to list here. 

Check prices, reviews, and availability of Chaa Creek here.

The Ultimate Belize Itinerary: 1 Fun-Filled Week in Belize

Belize is one of my favorite countries in Central America. It’s small enough that you can easily see the best of Belize in one week, whereas in other countries like Guatemala, you’ll need at least two at a bare minimum and still just barely scratch the surface.

Belize is also a bit of a microcosm of all the different things you can get from Central America. You can get Caribbean sunsets and beachside coconuts and dive one of the world’s biggest reefs one day and then be in the middle of the jungle just a few hours later.

This Belize itinerary has you visiting two different islands: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, though certainly you could pick one or the other if you prefer to move around less (here’s my guide to choosing between the two, if you have to).

Afterward, it brings you to Belize’s interior, where you can see Mayan ruins, go caving, and stay in an eco-lodge in the jungle. You’ll get a good sampling of a bit of everything, while still having an appetite to revisit this beautiful country.

7 Things You Must Pack for Belize

I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think you shouldn’t miss.

  • Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
  • Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
  • A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen: If you are planning to do any water activities, such as diving or snorkeling or even swimming, please use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one. The active ingredients in sunscreen are killing off coral in huge numbers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and is under threat. So please don’t use normal, chemical-laden sunscreen in Belize’s fragile ocean ecosystem!
  • Filter water bottle or Steripen: Belize’s tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. I recommend traveling with a water bottle with a built-in filter that filters out nasty bacteria and viruses like this awesome LifeStraw bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Alternately, you can use a Steripen which sterilizes water using UV light. A great investment if you travel frequently and want to reduce your plastic bottle consumption!
  • GoPro: If you go snorkeling or cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
  • Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, ziplining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!  It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly. I’ve included a way to get a free quote below.

One Week Belize Itinerary: Day by Day Guide

Day 1: Arriving in Belize and heading to San Pedro / Ambergris Caye

You’ll likely start your trip at Belize City International Airport, and it’s pretty easy to get to San Pedro from there.

There are two choices, by air or by land and sea. If you are traveling alone, the difference between the plane and the ferry option is not that great, due to the fact that you’ll need to take a taxi from the airport to the ferry terminal.

If you are traveling in a group, the ferry option is cheaper per person for sure.

However, flying to San Pedro is pretty freaking amazing, so I recommend flying one way if you can make room for it in your budget — and at around $65 USD for a “Maya Bargain Hopper” fare, it’s not that insane of a splurge…

Especially considering that a taxi costs $25 USD and a one-way ticket to San Pedro is another $18 USD. Consider it sightseeing as well as transport!

The flight is in a tiny, super informal-feeling plane, going over water in the most beautiful shades of green and blue that you can imagine.

It came close to my amazing Maldives seaplane ride — but the price of a flight in Belize is a small fraction of what a seaplane will cost you there.

Alternately, if you’re coming from Mexico overland, there are water taxis from Chetumal or you can go to Belize City by bus first and then take the ferry (much cheaper).

Depending on when you arrive in San Pedro, you might not have a lot of time to get oriented and take advantage of all there is to do there on your first day in Belize. Check into your hotel (see above for recommendations on where to stay in each part of your Belize itinerary)

For your first day, I recommend getting acquainted with the town of San Pedro, which has a lot to offer. Stop off for local chocolate turned into delicious milkshakes at the Belize Chocolate Company, or if you’re hungrier, I highly recommend the local papuseria for delicious Salvadorean treats.

You could rent a bike from Joe’s and bike around the island, stopping to take photos of the colorful houses and gorgeous water as you go.

Or, if you just want to float in an inner tube while drinking a bunch of beer…. check out Palapa Bar, just a short walk from the pier.

Day 2: Spend the day enjoying the Caribbean – on land or sea

Now that you’ve settled into San Pedro, take the next day to explore the beautiful Caribbean sea laying just a stone’s throw from your accommodations.

If you are PADI-certified, you will likely want to spend the day diving in the amazing Hol Chan Marine Reserve, or if you are an advanced diver you may want to check out the Blue Hole.

There are several dive shops, and Belize Pro Dive Center has the best reputation of them all.

When I visited Ambergris Caye the first time, I didn’t have my PADI certification; on my second trip, I was traveling with a non-diver, so unfortunately, I haven’t tried it for myself just yet.

Finally, if you’re not interested in snorkeling, then I recommend spending the day at Secret Beach. You’ll need to rent a golf cart for the day or take an expensive cab there.

Not really a secret in much but name only, Secret Beach has a taco truck, a restaurant, bars, kayak and paddleboard rentals, people offering massages, lounge chairs, etc.

Day 3: Take the boat over to Caye Caulker

Just a short distance away from San Pedro is its smaller sister island, Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker is more budget-friendly than Ambergris Caye and has a quieter, more low-key vibe.

Whereas San Pedro is a proper city (albeit a small one), Caye Caulker is a true sandy, no-shoes-no-news island.

On your first day in Caye Caulker, I recommend walking around and getting your bearings with the island, perhaps renting a kayak to paddle your way around the island if you’re up to it.

Or, if you’re up for a more relaxing day, head on over to The Split, where you can alternate between lounging in perfectly blue water and drinking mojitos and margaritas at the nearby Lazy Lizard.

I’m also partial to Sip N’ Dip Beach Bar, where I admittedly spent about 70% of my waking hours on Caye Caulker, hanging out on the swings, inner tubes, and water hammocks while alternating between buckets of Belikin and layers of sunscreen.

Animal lovers will want to stop by the Caye Caulker Animal Sanctuary, where a local man takes care of the island’s stray population and works tirelessly to find them homes, keep them fed, and get them medical treatment when needed. It’s entirely self-run and funded, so donate some time or some money if you can.

Be sure to catch the sunset on the west side of the island – Caye Caulker is way better than San Pedro for sunsets due to the geography of the islands.

Day 4: Swim with manatees and rays off Caye Caulker

One of the best things to do in Caye Caulker is meet the resident manatees who live just off the island!

Manatees are around all year long, although they can be a little shy and fickle and don’t always appear.

However, with some luck this tour will let you meet them up close and personal — from a respectful distance, of course, and never touching the manatees!

Just look at those guys!

This tour also includes a stop snorkeling in the famous Shark Ray Alley, where you can swim with friendly nurse sharks and sting rays.

Don’t let flashes of Steve Irwin or Jaws scare you away from this – both rays and sharks are incredibly docile and only attack when provoked.

The sharks and rays in this area are quite used to seeing tourists in their calm waters. If you follow your guide’s instructions, you will be completely safe.

Book your 7-stop snorkeling tour online here!

If you don’t want to snorkel, you can take a walk around the island, kayak or paddleboard through the crystal clear waters, laze around at one of the many beach bars, sample delicious jerk chicken and coconut curries at one of the local eateries… there’s plenty of things to do on Caye Caulker (but doing nothing is also acceptable).

Day 5: Head over to San Ignacio for a taste of the Belizean jungle

After you’ve had a solid four days to enjoy the beach and work on your tan, I highly recommend heading to Belize’s beautiful interior.

This will be a bit of a long travel day, but ending up at an eco lodge in the middle of the Belizean jungle is a pretty good reward at the end of the day.

To get to San Ignacio, take the water taxi back to Belize City, where you’ll disembark at the ferry terminal. I recommend taking a taxi from the ferry terminal to the bus terminal as Belize City is a bit rough around the edges.

However, if you are alert and keep ahold of your belongings, it is also possible to walk between the ferry and the bus.

Once at the bus station, you’ll want to board a chicken bus bound towards Benque, which should cost around 8 BZD ($4 USD). It’ll take about 3 hours to get there as the bus will stop every few minutes to let people off.

It is possible to arrange private transport but it is insanely expensive so I definitely recommend taking the chicken bus instead – it’s fun, it’s safe, it’s local– and it’s one hell of an experience!

When you arrive in San Ignacio, if you’re hungry I highly recommend eating at Ko-Ox Han Nah, which is the best restaurant in town! It has delicious Belizean food (as well as some really good Western food if you’re craving a burger like I was… I’m a horrible traveler, I know!)

Following that, check into your accommodations for the next 3 nights in Belize. I’ve written a complete guide to the best eco lodges in San Ignacio for every budget to help you pick the best eco resort in this part of Belize.

Day 6: Wake up in the Belizean jungle and go adventuring

There’s something so incredible about waking up to the sound of tropical birds and howler monkeys stirring before the sun has finished rising.

Enjoy an early breakfast and then get ready for one of the most exciting parts of your week-long Belize itinerary: a trip to ATM Cave.

Photo credit belongs to Maya Walk, as after an idiot tourist dropped his camera on an ancient skull, cameras are no longer allowed in the cave!

The ATM Cave (which is short for Actun Tunichil Muknal… do you see why it’s abbreviated, now?) has been named the #1 most sacred cave in the world by National Geographic — a publication that knows a thing or two about travel superlatives.

So, what is the ATM Cave and why is it so special?

The ATM Cave is a combination between natural wonder and archaeological site: a cave that stretches at least a kilometer into the earth, winding through a series of narrow slips in the rock until you reach a massive, glittering atrium of crystallized stalagmites and stalactites.

But that’s not the most interesting part: ATM Cave is the resting place of the remains of several human sacrifices — 14 to be precise, including the “Crystal Maiden” – a crystal-covered skeleton in near perfect condition in the heart of the cave.

In addition to the human remains, there is also countless pieces of pottery which was ceremonially broken into pieces as part of the sacrificing ritual.

Photo Credit: Maya Walk

The ATM Cave is highly protected due to its historical significance and fragility. Entering without a tour is strictly prohibited, and tour spots are limited to 125 places per day, meaning that it’s strongly recommended to reserve your spot in advance – once those 125 slots are filled, there’s nothing you can do. Book in advance here!

If you don’t want to or can’t do the ATM Cave due to claustrophobia or mobility issues, then I recommend finding another outdoor activity that takes advantage of your prime position in Belize’s jungle. Go birding, horseback riding, hiking, etc.

Day 7: Enjoy your last day in San Ignacio

Save something epic for the last day of your Belize itinerary by reserving today to visit some of the least crowded Mayan ruins in the Americas.

I highly recommend visiting Caracol, the largest ancient Mayan city in Belize, complete with pyramids that you can climb and have sweeping views of the jungle canopies around you. On a clear day, you can ever see well into neighboring Guatemala!

Unfortunately, Caracol is not well-served by public transportation, so if you don’t have your own car rented the only way to see it is by going with a guided tour.

The good news is that these guided tours will also include a stop at the lovely Rio-On Pools, a series of mini-waterfalls and natural pools that you can enjoy while baking in the Belizean sun.

If you want to visit Caracol, you can book a guided tour here.

If Caracol is a bit far afield for you, you could also visit the ruins of Xunantunich which are just a short cab ride from town.

Alternately, there are also the even closer Cahal Pech ruins which are within walking distance from San Ignacio town. This is definitely the cheaper option if you are on a budget, too!

Where to Stay in Belize

Belize is one of the more expensive countries in Central America – closer to Costa Rica and Panama in terms of prices than neighboring Mexico and Guatemala. However, that said, you can still find quite good deals on accommodations (tours, on the other hand, are typically the most expensive part of visiting Belize).

I recognize that everyone’s budget is different, so I have broken my recommendations into three tiers for each destination on this Belize itinerary.

As a rough guide, budget accommodations are typically hostels and a dorm should cost you less than $15 per night. Mid-range hotels are typically around $50-100 per night. Luxury here is defined as $150+.

However, these prices are just a rough estimate, and it will depend on a variety of factors — time of year being a big one — so use these as estimates and check prices for your actual dates.

San Pedro

Budget: The excellent and affordable Sandbar Hostel is my personal favorite and where I stayed the first time I was in Belize. It’s walking distance from the pier and has an excellent in-house restaurant that you can enjoy whether or not you’re a guest.

The hostel is literally steps from the beach and my favorite bar on San Pedro, Palapa Bar, as well as a nearby snorkeling and dive center. The dorm is ultra-clean, as the staff comes in seemingly every hour to sweep up sand, and it has nice amenities like privacy curtains and outlets next to each bed.

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

The view from Sandbar

Mid-range: San Pedro has plenty of good mid-range options for travelers on a budget who want a little more privacy and comfort than a hostel will give. Ocean Tide Beach Resort is one of the highest-rated middle-of-the-road hotel options on the island.

Ocean Tide is located right on the beachfront with gorgeous Caribbean views – but is only a 5-minute walk from central San Pedro with its shops, bars, and restaurants. Rooms are comfortable and clean and include air conditioning, and some come with balconies for an incredible sea view.

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

Luxury: I had the opportunity to stay at the magnificent Victoria House when I was in San Pedro and it’s hard to think of a more luxurious place worthy of a special occasion if that’s what you’re celebrating while planning your Belize itinerary.

We enjoyed a two-story villa with four outdoor areas, an outdoor shower, a massive kitchen, a luxe master bedroom with Caribbean Sea views, and we overlooked what felt like our very own infinity pool!

Victoria House also gives free bike rentals which is perfect for exploring Ambergris Caye at your own pace.

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

The view from our gorgeous pool villa at Victoria House

Caye Caulker

Budget: Caye Caulker is one of the most budget-friendly places in Belize! People on a tight budget will want to pick one of the island’s hostels.

I recommend the excellently-rated Go Slow Guesthouse, which is a colorful, friendly hostel located in the heart of Caye Caulker not far from the main road. There are fan rooms for a cheap price or AC rooms for a slightly higher cost. Solo travelers enjoy the friendly vibe.

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here. 

Another choice for people who want a little more privacy is Sea N Sun Guest House, where I stayed in Caye Caulker and can’t rave about it enough. The WiFi was excellent, the shared bathroom was clean, and the rooms were well-ventilated and spacious.

We appreciated the free bike and kayak rental (even if we were usually too sloshed from our time at Sip N Dip to actually take the kayak out for a spin… whoops). I’d definitely stay here again.

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

Paradise views are everywhere in Caye Caulker

Mid-range: If you want the privacy of your own cabana without paying an insane price, Colinda Cabanas is an excellent mid-range choice. Stay in a joyful yellow and turquoise cabana just a minute walk from the sea!

Free bike and kayak rental, free coffee in the mornings, and other perks will help you feel welcomed and at ease here in Caye Caulker.

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here!

Luxury: While San Pedro definitely has more luxury options than Caye Caulker, you can still enjoy a bit of luxury on this more budget-conscious island. The nicest hotel in town is Weezie’s Oceanfront Hotel.

With spacious studios and one-bedroom cottages, a lovely pool, friendly staff, and balconies with amazing sweeping Caribbean views, you’ll never want to check out of paradise. And with relatively affordable prices, it’d be easy to overstay!

>> Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

San Ignacio

I’ve written a comprehensive guide to the best eco-lodges in Belize here, so I refer you to read that if you are interested in staying in a jungle lodge during your time in Belize (which I highly recommend). 

For budget travelers, I stayed at Bellas Backpackers for a portion of my time in San Ignacio, and while it wasn’t anything special, it offered good value for money.

Nearby Caracol

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Planning a trip to Belize? This Belize itinerary helps you plan the perfect week in Belize, from the Caribbean islands of San Pedro & Caye Caulker to the Belizean jungle, where you can stay in eco-lodges, see Mayan ruins, and go caving! Your 7 day Belize adventure road map awaits.

Did you enjoy this Belize itinerary? Do you have any recommendations for someone visiting Belize for the first time?

San Pedro or Caye Caulker: Which Belize Island is Right for You?

Given the mega-popularity of my post on all the amazing things there are to do in Belize, I get countless requests from people to help them plan their Belize vacation. Probably the most frequent question I am asked is which island is better for a first-time traveler to Belize: San Pedro or Caye Caulker?

I’ve been to San Pedro twice and Caye Caulker once and after I’ve written so many emails about the pros and cons of each island I figured I’d save myself the trouble and list them all out here. So, in case you’re weighing your options between San Pedro vs. Caye Caulker, I’ve got your back.

San Pedro

San Pedro is actually the name of the town on the island of Ambergris Caye. San Pedro is a big town by Belizean standards… in fact, it’s the second-largest town in Belize district (the first being Belize City).

It’s a favorite amongst divers and people in search of a relaxed beach holiday, and it’s my top pick for families and couples who visit Belize – though I can definitely also say it works great as a solo trip or a girls getaway.

Living my best life in San Pedro (Victoria House)

Pros of Staying on San Pedro

It’s more local. Being a somewhat large town, San Pedro has a bigger mix of locals, expats, and tourists. If you’re looking to settle down for a bit and have the feeling like you “live” somewhere, San Pedro can definitely deliver that in a way that Caye Caulker cannot; there’s simply more to do there. As a result, you can have some interesting experiences like the “world famous” Chicken Drop gambling game in every Thursday night.

There’s more diversity of food. Being a bigger island, there are more choices of what to eat, with a wider variety of food. I had delicious Salvadorean pupusas in town (if you haven’t tried them, you’ve simply got to!) and some of the best jerk chicken of my life at Randy’s near Victoria House. The wood-fired pizzas at Sandbar are also fantastic, and there’s a taco truck at the ‘secret beach’. Meanwhile, the food on Caye Caulker was just fine, but I found the choices to be much more limited than on San Pedro.

The best goddamn jerk chicken I’ve eaten (and I used to live in Flatbush, aka Little Jamaica)

There are more upscale accommodation options. If you are looking for a luxury experience, San Pedro is definitely the choice for you. It doesn’t even come close — there are virtually no luxury digs on Caye Caulker and even the nicer guesthouses won’t have a luxury feel. It was fine for me as a pretty low-key traveler, but if you are going to Belize for a special occasion I’d recommend San Pedro hands down. I stayed at the amazing Victoria House hotel and it was easily one of the top 5 hotels I’ve ever stayed in in my life.

There’s an airport. If your time is limited or you just hate boats, it can be really convenient to fly into San Pedro with Maya Island Air. The prices are relatively reasonable and honestly, I think it’s worth it because you get amazing views as you fly. I recommend doing it at least one way if your budget allows. When I visited San Pedro the first time, I flew into Belize City, took a taxi to the ferry and took the ferry to San Pedro, then when I went back I took the plane to Belize City airport. It caused me less anxiety that I’d be late and meant I didn’t have to deal with Belize City again. Also, these views:

Being a human drone is totally worth the extra bucks.

Cons of Staying on San Pedro

It’s more crowded. San Pedro is busier, which means that you’ll actually encounter real cars on the island (but mostly you’ll find golf carts). While I found this to dilute the island atmosphere just a bit, many people won’t mind this, and with the crowds come benefits like more restaurants and bars.

It’s pricier. Ambergris Caye is generally a tad more expensive than Caye Caulker, which caters to a more backpacker crowd. While this is fine if your trip to Belize is a splurge or for a special occasion, if you’re looking to save money this is not the island for you. However, if you do want luxury — definitely pick Ambergris Caye!

It’s harder to see the sunset. Most of the accommodations in San Pedro are located along the east side of the island, making it fantastic for sunrise…. but you tell me if you want to see the sunrise after an afternoon spent in an inner tube guzzling rum punch?  Meanwhile, because of how big San Pedro is, it’s kind of a pain (though not impossible) to get yourself to a good sunset spot, so despite spending more than a week of my life on San Pedro, I’ve still never seen a sunset there. Meanwhile, I forced myself up for two sunrises #forthegram.

Read Next: Your Complete Belize Packing List

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is one of the smallest islands I’ve ever been on. It’s so narrow that you can walk from one edge to the other in about five minutes, and you can walk end to end in less than an hour. While both islands are touristic, Caye Caulker’s smaller size means that the entire island runs off of tourism, whereas there’s more of a mix in San Pedro.

I love Caye Caulker’s relaxed vibe (its motto is “Go Slow” and the locals take it as more of a law than a suggestion, quick to tell off anyone who they deem to be walking too quickly) and its gorgeous sunsets. It’s a place where time can just melt away a little too easily.

Pros of Staying on Caye Caulker

There are better tours (with better prices). Caye Caulker is set up to be the more touristic of the two islands and as a result I found more tour and activity options there, though you can certainly find plenty of activites to do in San Pedro as well. I did an amazing snorkeling and sailing tour in Caye Caulker (check availability and prices here). While unfortunately, I didn’t have the budget at the time to swim and snorkel with the manatees, I wish I would have splurged and done it on my last trip, as it looks like a truly amazing experience to get to swim with these gentle giants. There are precious few places in the world you can swim with wild manatees that is ethical and done with an eye on conservation and preservation, so I’d jump at the chance to do it when I return. Check tours and availability here.

Taking all-you-can-drink rum punch a little TOO literally on a day trip….

It’s a younger crowd. Caye Caulker is generally a more backpacker-friendly vibe than San Pedro, which is also great for couples and families. I enjoyed the laidback vibe, though I get how other people could find it obnoxious. It isn’t a crazy party destination, but it definitely is more set up for backpackers than any other kind of traveler.

It’s cheaper.
While Belize on the whole is not a great budget destination, I found Caye Caulker to be way more affordable than San Pedro. Accommodations in Caye Caulker offer an especially good deal – you can find a decent guesthouse for $30-40 a night pretty easily, which is hard to find on Ambergris Caye. My default choice when I travel now is low-key but private, and Caye Caulker was perfect for my needs.

Sunsets couldn’t be easier to get to. Given that the island is probably 500 meters wide at its widest point, you can easily get yourself over to the west side of the island to take full advantage of the gorgeous sunsets. Grab a Belikin, sit in the sand, and enjoy that view.

Better bars. Sip n’ Dip Bar has got to be one of my favorite bars in the world. While I enjoyed Palapa Bar in San Pedro quite a bit, I loved that I could swing in the water (and drink), sit in an inner tube in the water (and drink), and sit in a hammock over the water (and drink). Plus buckets of beer were cheaper here. The Split is also a great place to drink and while away the time.

More beach dogs. I guess this could be a con for some people, but I loved all the beach dogs running around owning the hell out of Caye Caulker. Most of the dogs have homes, actually, but their owners just let them hang out and be dogs during the day. There’s also a great animal shelter that does excellent work at keeping the dogs well-fed and in good shape and helps adopt out dogs and cats to forever homes.

Cons of Staying on Caye Caulker

It’s a younger crowd. While the median age at Caye Caulker ended up being fine for me and what I was in the mood for, if you’re not into partying and lounging at bars, I can easily see how you’d run out of things to do in Caye Caulker after some time. Meanwhile, San Pedro is bigger and has a more diverse age range it serves, so it’s easier to find a vibe that’s more suited to what you’re after. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for families, and while it’s fine for laidback couples I wouldn’t think of it as a romantic destination the same way I would think of a resort on Ambergris Caye.

The catcalling is slightly worse. Both San Pedro and Caye Caulker are annoying to travel on if you’re a solo female traveler, as you will inevitably get harassed every few minutes by the local men. While I didn’t feel like my safety was threatened, I was annoyed constantly at how much the men talk to you and get annoyed when you don’t respond.

It’s more sales-y. In addition to the catcalling, people are more likely to call out to you to try to sell you a coconut, get you to look at their tours, etc. than on San Pedro. While it’s easy enough to ignore, sometimes you just want to walk unimpeded – it’s easier to do this on San Pedro (although sales-y pitches still happen, it’s less frequent and easier to avoid).

I definitely got guilt-tripped into buying this disgustingly strong rum coconut

The food is fine but nothing special. You’ll have better choices in San Pedro (and San Pedro also has its very own local chocolate shop!)

Read Next: The Belize Bucket List: 21 Epic Things to Do in Belize

Overall Verdict: San Pedro vs. Caye Caulker

While I don’t think there’s one better island, I would say that San Pedro is better for families, couples, and people who prefer a bit more of a town vibe than a beach vibe. Meanwhile, Caye Caulker is perfect for solo travelers, backpackers, and young couples on a budget.

San Pedro is also better if you have limited time due to the fact that they have an airport which can speed up transfers; Caye Caulker is better for people counting their coins.

Where to Stay in San Pedro

If you’ve decided on San Pedro, I have two excellent recommendations that I’ve stayed in firsthand, which span pretty much the entire gamut of prices you can expect in Ambergris Caye.

For travelers on a budget, Sandbar Hostel is an excellent choice. The hostel is impeccably clean (they sweep the sand out of the dorm rooms seriously every few hours, which is a really nice touch for people like me who really dislike sand) and it has a nice downstairs bar to socialize at. The restaurant is good, though slightly overpriced, and it has a sandy beach in front with some nice sun loungers, although the water is really shallow and not good for swimming.

The view from Sandbar

For travelers who want something truly special, I can’t rave enough about Victoria House. The villas are insanely luxurious, the staff is wonderful, and the views of the Caribbean couldn’t be more spectacular.

I also loved the two pools and found it an amazing place for sunrise. If you’re looking for a special, romantic place, this is the best place to pick in Belize. Check prices, reviews, and availability here, and be sure to book early as rooms here often sell out. It is pricy, but there are often good deals on the cabaña rooms.

The master bedroom at Victoria House, which takes up pretty much the whole second floor
The view from our gorgeous pool villa

Where to Stay in Caye Caulker

If you’ve settled on Caye Caulker, I have some thoughts.

I stayed in Sea & Sun Guest House and loved it. The wifi was excellent (for an island), the rooms were spacious and clean, although my room didn’t have its own bathroom but rather a shared one. There is no AC but it wasn’t too hot with the fans. I loved that the guesthouse included free bike and kayak rentals, which is a really nice touch. However, they don’t have dorms so if you are a solo traveler it’s not a great choice.

If you’re looking for a hostel there are a few, although I can’t say I’d recommend all of them. Go Slow is what I recommend people, having heard stories of the aptly-named Dirty McNasty’s, which I didn’t stay at but in full disclosure, I did gate-crash their free rum punch night after being invited by some guests…. though if you’re truly in search of a party hostel with questionable hygiene standards, Dirty’s your place. Bella’s also gets mixed reviews, though I did stay at their San Ignacio location and thought it was just fine, so I’m not sure how their Caye Caulker branch would be.

Read Next: The Best Snorkeling in Belize

7 Things You Must Pack for Belize

I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think are the absolute essentials.

  • Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
  • Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
  • A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen: If you are planning to do any water activities, such as diving or snorkeling or even swimming, please use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one. The active ingredients in sunscreen are killing off coral in huge numbers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and is under threat. So please don’t use normal, chemical-laden sunscreen in Belize’s fragile ocean ecosystem!
  • Filter water bottle or Steripen: Belize’s tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. I recommend traveling with a water bottle with a built-in filter that filters out nasty bacteria and viruses like this awesome LifeStraw bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Alternately, you can use a Steripen which sterilizes water using UV light. A great investment if you travel frequently and want to reduce your plastic bottle consumption!
  • GoPro: If you go snorkeling or cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
  • Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, ziplining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!  It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly. I’ve included a way to get a free quote below.

Note: I received a complimentary media stay at Victoria House, but all opinions are entirely my own.

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Belize Packing List: What You Definitely Need to Pack for Belize

Belize is a gorgeous country with a lovely subtropical climate, making it a joy to visit year round. As a result, figuring out what to pack for Belize isn’t rocket science. The average high temperature year-round is 84° F (29°C), though it is possible to get slightly cooler in winter, with temperatures as low as 60°F (16°C) possible at night.

Both times I visited Belize I visited in the “winter” – once in December and once in late February. Both times, the weather was extremely pleasant, about 80° F or 27° C all day and a bit cooler at night.

Like most subtropical and tropical countries, Belize has two main seasons, not four: wet and dry season. The dry season is from January to May, with far less rain than the rest of the year. June through December is the wet season, with frequent rain and a potential for hurricanes.

For most travelers, Belize is ideal from January to May, but this also the most crowded. If you travel in June or December in the shoulder season, you’ll have the benefits of fewer travelers, but the rainy season shouldn’t be in full swing yet.

There is some regional variation in temperatures. The cayes of Belize will be hot and sunny, with a bit of an ocean breeze and incredibly high humidity. Meanwhile, the interior will be far cooler but also a bit more humid due to all the lush vegetation. The interior is more likely to rain than the islands. Depending on where you go in the country, you may want to adjust your Belize packing list accordingly (more cool weather clothes and sneakers if you go inland, more sandals, dresses, and coverups if you stay on the islands of beaches).

Belize Packing List: What You Need for Your Trip to Belize

What to Pack Everything In

Trust me, I’ve been traveling nearly nonstop for the better part of the last 700 days, and you’re going to want a well-organized system for packing or you’re going to lose your mind. You will likely need to unpack and pack again several times, unless you are just staying in one place for your vacation.Having things that help your oganize your belongings makes the packing process a lot smoother.

You don’t need any crazy gear, but I do have a few tips for making your packing for Belize more streamlined and organized.

  • Travel Backpack (carry on size or check-in size): While I do occasionally use a rolling suitcase when I travel in places with good sidewalks like Western Europe, a rolling suitcase just won’t work with Belize, especially if you visit the islands. The island roads aren’t paved – they are literally just made of packed sand. The jungle interior in Cayo, around San Ignacio, is no better. I tend to pack light and prefer to travel carry-on only, so my Tortuga Backpack is what I swear by. I spent 4 months traversing Central America (including Belize) with it and still didn’t use all the things I brought in my pack. I used their original version for 2.5 years before Tortuga recently gifted me their newest version to trial, and I love it even more than the original (which my boyfriend now happily uses – in fact, he was even more excited than I was when I upgraded my Tortuga and he got my old one).
    • Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.
  • If you are going on a backpacking trip and want a bigger backpack, I’ve heard excellent things about the Osprey system and I think that’s the only brand I’d trust if I wanted to upgrade my packing capacity., I’ve been fine with just 45 liters, personally, but I do pack light!
  • Packing Cubes: If you’re going to invest in one thing for packing for Belize, make it packing cubes if you don’t have them already. These tidy cubes help you organize your clothing and makes opening your luggage a little less chaotic. Any packing cubes with a rectangular shape and a zipper will do. I personally use these packing cubes and love them. If you don’t want to buy packing cubes, some gallon size plastic Ziploc bags work similarly. But since they eventually break down and gap and need to be thrown out, I prefer reusable packing cubes, as I’m always watching my plastic consumption.
  • Laundry bag: You will sweat more than you ever thought humanly possible in Belize, so bring a separate laundry bag for all your dirty clothes. Like packing cubes, you don’t need anything fancy at all. I do like having a cute travel-themed one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical.
  • Hanging Toiletry Bag: I always bring way too many toiletries with me on my travels because I’m a bit of a girly girl. Using a simple hanging toiletry bag (which fits perfectly in the outer pocket of my Tortuga backpack, by the way) is life-changing. It has the perfect number of separators, organizers, and pockets without taking up any excess space. It’s kind of like those tents at the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter — you’d be amazed how much fits in one little pack.
  • Day pack with locking zippers : While Belize is relatively safe, petty crime is an issue (less so on the islands than on the mainland). While wearing a shoulder bag is probably the most secure option, as it’s hard for thieves to get in, it’s just not comfortable if you carry a lot of stuff with you during the day. I swear by PacSafe products and love their PacSafe Citysafe backpack. It’s actually pretty cute, and as a huge bonus it has locking zippers so you can relax a little when walking around with valuables like your camera.

Essential Things to Pack for Belize

While much of what you need you can buy in Belize, there are a few things I absolutely insist you bring from home because the options in Belize are not great or they’re very expensive to buy.

  • Mosquito repellent: Due to its tropical climate, Belize has tons of mosquitos, especially in the rainy season and just after it. Malaria is present in the country, but it is very low risk. Just avoid mosquito bites as much as possible and you will be fine. However, mosquito repellent is very expensive in Belize and you can’t always get the brands you like there. I recommend bringing two bottles of mosquito repellent but I also like to bring some mosquito repellent wipes with me if I need to reapply on the go.
  • Water bottle with built-in filter: You can’t drink tap water anywhere in Belize, so try to bring something to eliminate your plastic bottle usage. I use the Water to Go bottle because the bottle is a convenient size, and it filters out 99.9% of contaminants so that you can drink tap water safely with zero waste. I have a discount code for readers who are interested – type in EA15 at checkout to receive a 15% off discount!
  • Reusable tote bags: Like many countries in Latin America, there is plastic everywhere in Belize and the facilities for recycling it are not great. Bring your own reusable tote so that you can refuse plastic bags when you shop. I keep one or two small ones in my larger bag and bring them with me daily, plus I use them as beach bags, separating shoes in my bag from my clothes, etc.
  • Basic medicine: You will be able to find everything you need in Belize, but it’s best to be prepared. I carry Pepto-Bismol for standard stomach troubles, Imodium as a nuclear option, some sort of painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor aches, and some sort of motion sickness tablets. That usually covers the bases for me — anything else I need I grab in the country.
  • Some cash in USD: Just in case your debit card doesn’t work or gets lost, it’s helpful to have dollars on hand. Because the exchange rate is 2 Belize dollars to 1 US dollar, it’s common for establishments to accept USD as payment as well.

What to Wear in Belize

Admittedly, this is a list for female travelers — sorry dudes, but I trust you know how to dress yourselves in summer, so do that.

Women have a bit more to consider when it comes to traveling Belize — especially if you are traveling solo (which I did most of my time in Belize, and for the record, I felt safe in all the places I visited). However, cat calling is incredibly common in Belize, probably with the most frequency of anywhere in Latin America. At the same time, I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable or unsafe, as compared to prior experiences in places like New York City and Marrakech where men were a lot more aggressive or physically touchy. The worst cat-calling I experienced was in Caye Caulker, whereas in inland Belize (San Ignacio), cat-calling was less frequent.

Belize is predominately Catholic, though on the islands the Catholic presence is less noticeable. Culturally, Belize is a bit of a conservative country, but the hot and humid weather means that you should wear what you need to be comfortable without showing excessive skin. On backpacker-heavy islands like Caye Caulker and San Pedro, though, you’ll see lots of people walking around in bikinis and shorts, so don’t swear it too much.

  • 3-5 lightweight summer dresses, preferably past mid-thigh: Dresses are ideal for keeping yourself cool and comfortable. I recommend packing 1 or 2 maxi dresses as well as they’re really comfortable in the heat.
  • 5+ tees & tanks: The more neutral the colors, the better. You will sweat a lot in Belize, so minimize your white – it’ll be yellow by the time you’re home. I suggest black, gray, and a few bright colors.
  • 1-2 sarongs: These are great for beach coverups or even for using as a lightweight beach towel. Buy them before you go or get one in Belize as a souvenir.
  • 1 pair jeans: While it’s too hot many days to wear jeans, if you’re in the interior, you’ll be glad you brought them. They’re also perfect for chilly nights or for when you want to blend in (a lot of Belizean women wear jeans all the time, even when it’s over hot as hell outside)
  • 2 pairs shorts: I bring one pair of loose-fitting linen shorts for super hot days, and one pair of denim shorts for when I want to look a little cuter or more casual.
  • 1-2 skirts: I suggest bringing one black skirt and one printed skirt for flexibility. I loved having a midi-length skirt. The extra fabric around your legs traps some cool air, making you feel less hot, and I liked the additional coverage it gave me.
  • 1 sunhat: Not just for the ‘gram, you’ll want a sunhat as it’ll give your face extra SPF and keep the rays off your face.
  • 1 pair sneakers (if you go to the jungle): If you go in the interior of Belize (Cayo District) you’ll likely want a pair of sneakers with you. I usually wear a pair of black Nikes as I find they look cute even with my dresses and I like having options. If you’re just on the beaches you can skip a pair of sneakers and maybe opt for a cute pair of flats instead.
  • 1 pair sandals: I used to buy cheap-o flip flops all the time, but now I’m obsessed with my Birkenstocks and will never go back. My feet thank me for it daily.
  • 1 rain jacket: Even if you don’t plan on traveling in the rainy season, sometimes the weather has other plans. I also used this as a lightweight jacket during the nights in the interior where the weather was a bit colder. I love my Marmot PreCip rain jacket and bring it everywhere with me.
  • 1 cardigan: For when you want a little warmth, but not as much as a rain jacket will give. Most buses won’t have AC, but if you take a private shuttle, sometimes they blast the AC and it’s good to have an extra layer.
  • 1-2 bras: I trust you’re all big girls and you know what you need when it comes to bras. I personally brought 1 regular bra and 1 sports bra and switched between the two because the humidity was crazy.
  • 7+ pairs of underwear: The more underwear you bring, the longer you can go between washes if you’re on a big trip. I don’t recommend bringing stuff to do your laundry on the road – it’s a waste of time and money. There are plenty of laundromats catering to travelers in Belize, plus it’s a way to support the local economy.
  • 2 bathing suits: You’ll definitely want it, whether you’re taking dips in your hotel’s pool, sunning yourself on the beach, or snorkeling or diving in the gorgeous Hol Chan Marine Reserve. I’d recommend bringing two as nothing sucks more than putting on a wet bathing suit.

What to Pack for Belize Hostels

If you’re staying in hotels only, you can skip this part, but there are a few specialized things you might want to bring in case you are staying in a hostel.

  • 1 pair flip flops: Guys. Athlete’s foot is no joke. I’ve dealt with ringworm before (which is basically athlete’s foot on any part of your body that’s not your foot) and it is miserable to get rid of. Save yourself the trouble. Buy a pair of cheap rubber flipflops. /end PSA
  • 1 travel towelMany of the hostels I stayed at did not provide free towels. Bring your own to avoid rental fees.
  • 1 eye mask: I swear by this contoured eye mask as it doesn’t put uncomfortable pressure on your eyes but completely blacks out any light. Great for inconsiderate roommates and early nights in when you’re beat but your bunkmates have other ideas.
  • Some earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones: I love Hearos — they’re the gold standard for ear plugs. I’ve also been eyeing these noise-canceling headphones but can’t justify the purchase at the moment. One day!

What Toiletries to Pack for Belize

Belize’s stores will have most of the things you want and need… but just in case.

  • Hand sanitizer: Many public restrooms don’t have adequate soap and towels/driers, so having some hand sanitizer is always good.
  • Kleenex packets: Like above — public restrooms may be lacking in the toilet paper department, so having some Kleenex in a portable sleeve is always good to have
  • LUSH solid shampoo: Life-changing. Just trust me. Buy online or in store from LUSH and you’ll save serious money over Amazon.
  • Sunscreen: Belize is sunny almost all year round, and even if you have a rare cloudy day, the UV will still be really high. My skin is really sensitive on my face, so I use this fancy Japanese sunscreen to prevent acne, and I use a more standard sunscreen for my body. I recommend bringing a big bottle of sunscreen from home when packing for Belize, unless you are traveling with only a carry-on, as sunscreen is overpriced in Belize.
  • Travel medications: I listed them above, but just to reiterate — stomach medicine, motion sickness pills, and some sort of painkiller are my standards, plus obviously any medication of your own from home.

What to Pack for Safety in Belize

Belize is fairly safe with the exception of Belize City, which is prone to crime and even violence, which is why I advise all travelers to Belize to avoid the port city as much as they can (there’s not much to see there). While I’ve traveled through Belize City several times and been fine, I’ve never really felt at ease there and wouldn’t choose to spend any more time there than I have to.

Besides avoiding Belize City, I’d also note that you should keep your valuables with you and in your sight if you take a public chicken bus, as they’ll often tie your backpacks to the roof of the bus or put them far away from you on the bus. This isn’t to be sketchy; it’s because the buses are usually quite crowded. That said, I do recommend adding these to your Belize packing list for increased safety.

  • Combination locks: In Belize, you’re probably at the greatest risk of theft from your fellow travelers if you stay in a dorm or hostel. Prevent crimes of opportunity with simple measures like having a combination lock and keeping your valuables locked away. If I’m staying in hostels, I always check the reviews on Hostelworld to ensure they have lockers available because I travel with so many valuable electronics.
  • Daypack with locking zippers: Backpacks are easy targets — I wrote above about how much I love my PacSafe Citysafe backpack. After nearly being pickpocketing while wearing a different backpack in Vietnam, I now carry no other kind of daypack.

Don’t bother with a money belt. Thieves know about them, plus you’ll likely be wearing so little clothes in Belize that a money belt would be pointless anyway. You’re better off carrying your wallet deep in a slash-proof backpack (like the one mentioned above) or in a shoulder bag that’s tightly zipped.

One other thing I recommend is to have a second checking account and two debit cards if possible. Keep them in different spots in case you get pickpocketed or in case one of your debit cards gets compromised (it is not uncommon for ATMs in Belize to ‘skim’ your details). This way you won’t be screwed while you wait for your bank to send you another card!

Electronics to Pack for Belize

There are really no special considerations when it comes to packing electronics for Belize except for the one: do not bring a drone. They require permission from the government to fly, and you can only get permission if you have been commissioned from an approved local business or organization in Belize. Your drone may be confiscated if you do not have permisson.

Other than that, bring whatever you’re comfortable bringing. As a travel blogger, I bring my entire life with me on the road, which includes a laptop, camera, multiple lenses, smartphone, GoPro, and more. Though these days I prefer to stay at hotels, when I stay at hostels, I always make sure that I stay at hostels with lockers so that I can lock up my valuables. People who are more paranoid/responsible than I am may want to bring a portable safe for peace of mind, but I don’t personally.

  • Laptop, if necessary: I bring my Macbook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook. I work on the road so a user-friendly, lightweight laptop is a must.
  • Kindle Paperwhite: I love the Kindle Paperwhite because the screen is glare-free, making it easy to read at the beach or in direct sunlight, and I can never find books I enjoy at airport shops or in tourist destinations.
  • Travel camera: I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone. You may want to replace this or add a GoPro too, especially good for adventure activities like cave tubing and diving (just check to see if you also need an underwater house for your GoPro if you dive, as many of the newer models are only good to 10m — not nearly enough for divers)
  • Portable charger: As someone who’s constantly on her phone, I’m always running out of battery, which can be a pain. Bring a portable charger to save yourself the headache! Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use.
  • Adaptor, if necessary: Belize uses the same plugs as America and Canada, so if you’re coming from Europe or the UK, you will need an adaptor.

***

Well, that’s a wrap – I’ve finally exhausted what you need to pack for Belize. While I know this all sounds like a lot, I swear that I was able to fit it all into a 44L backpack (carry-on size) and daypack, because I chose lightweight fabrics and packed carefully (rolling my clothes and then putting them in packing cubes)

Is there anything I’ve forgotten on this Belize packing list? Is there anything else you’re wondering if you should bring? Let me know in the comments!

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Wondering what to pack for Belize? This guide to what to wear in Belize will be your ultimate Belize packing list! Tips on what to wear on Belize's beaches and islands, what not to forget to bring to Belize, and other Belize packing tips.

21 Unique Things to Do in Belize: The Ultimate Guide

For a tiny country, Belize punches well above its weight.

The Caribbean coastline is home to the second-largest coral reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef, naturally), while its lush inland is filled with dense jungle.

If you’re adventurous and nature-loving, there are countless exciting things to do in Belize.

Belize is a true melting pot, which reflects in the language, culture, and food. Though English is its official language, many speak Kriol, Spanish, Maya, or Garifuna. 

Recent immigrant groups – primarily the Chinese and, oddly, the Mennonites – as well as American and Canadian retirees add to the diversity of Belize that make this beautiful country such a special place.

With its diverse culture and cuisine, dedication to preserving its history and biodiversity, and insane natural wonders, Belize is a bucket list must for every traveler.

Keep reading to see the variety of diverse options for what to see and do in Belize, Central America’s most unique country!

Read Next: What to Pack for a Trip to Belize

21 of the Best Things to Do in Belize

Go caving in the world’s #1 most sacred cave

National Geographic knows a thing or two about travel, wouldn’t you say? Since it’s consistently voted for Actun Tunichil Muknal as its #1 sacred cave in the world… I’d say it’s worth checking out.

Tours aren’t cheap, thanks to permit requirements and the fact that everyone needs to be accompanied by a licensed guide in groups no larger than 8.

But trust me, even this cheapo says it’s well worth every dollar you spend: it’s one of the best excursions in Belize for a reason.

Photo credit belongs to Maya Walk, as after an idiot tourist dropped his camera on an ancient skull, cameras are no longer allowed in the cave!
Photo credit Maya Walk

Expect to spend about $100-120 USD per person for an 8-hour cave tour, depending on the company you go with.

Yes, it’s expensive, but for a reason: only 125 people are allowed to visit daily, tour groups are capped at 8 people per guide, and all tour companies must pay a large fee to pay for the preservation of the cave.

Important note: I strongly recommend booking in advance due to the strict limit of people allowed in daily: this company offers the best price and best rating. Click to check prices, availability, and traveler reviews!

For a full review of my day caving in ATM, read it here.

I strongly recommend booking activities in Belize online in advance rather than waiting to arriving in Belize to book, as hotels will often overprice them so they can make a commission — not to mention, with sites with limited daily availability like the ATM cave, there may not be space for you if you book when you arrive.

Meanwhile, GetYourGuide, the online tour aggregator I always use, has a best price guarantee, so you can rest assured you’re not paying more for the same tour just by booking online. Click to learn more and book your spot in advance.

Pro Tip: Never travel without travel insurance – especially if you’re doing crazy activities like caving! I use World Nomads Explorer Plan to cover me from anything from caving to scuba diving at very affordable prices. I buy travel insurance every time I travel – it’s the one thing I never leave home without.

Where to Stay:  Bella’s Backpackers is great for solo travelers on a budget, with a great location and a good social atmosphere.

I’ve written a full guide to Belize eco resorts here, but here are two of my favorites.

A great mid-range option is Maya Mountain Lodge, which has a beautiful garden and pools and hammocks with jungle views. It’s located a bit outside the center of San Ignacio, so it’s a great area for hiking, bird watching, and other outdoorsy adventures.

For ultra-luxury, there are also super upscale options like Ka’ana Resort & Spa, which offer 5-star treatment with a decidedly eco twist in a pristine jungle setting.

Drink in an inner tube at a bar

One of my favorite things to do in Belize is to chill in an inner tube outside of a bar, baking in the Belizean heat.

Sip ‘N’ Dip is a cute little beach bar right by the Split on the north end of Caye Caulker, and it’s the perfect place to meet new friends, have some drinks, and hang out in a tube (or swing, or hammock!).

There’s also Palapa Bar on Ambergris Caye, but I’m partial to Sip ‘N’ Dip!

Where to Stay: Caye Caulker is one of the most relaxing places I can think of. We stayed at Sea N Sun Guest House and thought it offered excellent value (and great wifi, which can be hit or miss on the island!). We especially enjoyed that it included free kayak and bicycle rental.

For a hostel, I’d recommend Go Slow — the backpacker favorite on the island, Dirty McNasty’s, pretty much lives up to its name and doesn’t come recommended.

Stay in a luxurious beachfront hotel 

Victoria House is the nicest boutique hotel on the beach in Belize, and you can see the stunning turquoise water from pretty much every room in the hotel.

As a bonus, you’re just steps away from unreal sunrises. These cabañas will cost you a fraction of the cost of bungalows in the South Pacific — but with gorgeous Caribbean blues and access to one of the world’s largest reef systems.

Accommodations in Belize offer a great bargain in comparison to other countries, so take advantage of Belize’s best hotels if you have the budget for it! Check out my full review here.

Drink way too many coconuts on Caye Caulker

Walking too fast on Caye Caulker may very well be a misdemeanor for the way that random passersby will shout at you to “go slow.”

In fact, the sole occupation of some of Caye Caulker’s residents seems to be to admonish travelers for walking too fast.

But who am I to go against the locals? When in Rome, right? Just order up a coconut from one of the men on the main drag (hold the rum, trust me) and listen.

Sometimes, the best answer to the question what to do in Belize is: nothing.

Where to Stay: It’d be apropos here to recommend Go Slow again, or the Sea N Sun Guest House where I stayed for several nights.

Visit the least crowded Mayan Ruins you’ll ever see

Caracol is a hidden gem right on the border of Belize — and with none of the crowds of Tikal, the ruins made famous by Star Wars in neighboring Guatemala.

While it’s not quite as objectively impressive as Tikal, I think Caracol is more charming as you can climb the highest pyramid and see epic views over the whole landscape, including into Guatemala.

It’s definitely one of the best points of interest in Belize, if you want to see Mayan ruins in Belize without the crowds.

Plus, there are far fewer people visiting Caracol as it’s quite difficult to get to without a tour or renting a 4×4.

I recommend going on a tour — unless you have a group to defray the costs of a rental car.

As a bonus, there are amazing natural pools right outside of Caracol, the Rio On Pools, which most tours will add on at the end of your day — the perfect way to cool off in the heat that often exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity!

It’s definitely one of the places you should visit if you’re planning a trip to Belize.

Looking to follow my itinerary? This is pretty much the same exact itinerary as I did when visiting Caracol. Check out this Caracol & Rio On Pools tour!

There are also other ruins which are even more off the beaten path, such as the ruins of Lamanai, which are also worth seeing!

Where to Stay: Again, I recommend Bella’s for backpackers, Maya Mountain Lodge for people who want an affordable luxury experience, and Ka’ana Resort & Spa for those who want an over-the-top luxury getaway.

Order a bucket of Belikins and enjoy the sea

If you’re looking to just log off and enjoy some sunny holidays in Belize, get yourself to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye. I’ve never seen water bluer or calmer than off the coast of Belize’s cayes.

There’s no better drinking buddy (except for an actual drinking buddy, I guess) than a bucket of Belikins – Belize’s national beer. Be warned that Belikins are basically 50% glass and very little beer, so even a bucket of six Belikins won’t get you that tipsy!

Where to Stay: One of my favorite hostels ever, Sandbar in Ambergris Caye, is conveniently located super close to Palapa Bar in San Pedro, and has both private rooms and dormitories.

Snorkel and sail with sharks and rays

There are plenty of speedboats that will take you out to Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, but nothing beats doing it on a proper sailboat.

With refreshments like rum punch and delicious fresh lunches, taking a full-day snorkeling trip on one of the Cayes is definitely one of the best things to do in Belize. I went with Raggamuffin Tours during my time in Belize and recommend them.

A snorkel tour usually lasts the majority of the day and is inclusive of snorkel equipment, fees to access the Marine Reserve, snacks, and sometimes even rum punch, because #Belize.

Check prices, availability, and reviews of snorkeling tours in Caye Caulker here

Check snorkeling tours in Ambergris Caye / San Pedro here

Where to Stay: Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye both have great snorkeling tours available. Our room at Sea N Sun Guest House was centrally located in Caye Caulker and is my personal recommendation for snorkeling and diving lovers.

Catch a Belizean sunset

Believe it or not, a beach sunset in Belize can be a bit elusive, as most of the country’s coastline faces the east. But not so on Caye Caulker!

This island is so narrow that no matter where you are, you can walk to a prime sunset spot in under five minutes (this is not true for Ambergris Caye, by the way – sunrises are way better there, as good sunset spots can take a bit of work to get to).

Bring some rum punch (or Belikins, or wine, or rum, or anything else, really…) and enjoy with some friends and your camera!

Where to Stay: Anywhere on Caye Caulker, you’re never more than a 5-minute walk from an epic sunset.

Spend a day at the Split on Caye Caulker

The Split is the best place to chill in all of Caye Caulker – which is saying something for an island whose motto is literally “go slow.”

Since the cayes of Belize don’t have sandy beaches, The Split is a makeshift beach where the water is deeper and bluer than usual – perfect for diving into and swimming.

Luckily there are plenty of bars and restaurants around in case you need refreshments. Check out The Lazy Lizard for drinks or the pizza place for food, a great option if you’re visiting Belize on a budget.

Explore the ruins of Altun Ha

Check out the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha – one of the most important in the country – just 30 miles from Belize City.

Explore stone Mayan structures and climb up to the top of the central temple, which is not too much of a hike at only 54 feet tall.

Since Altun Ha is so close to Belize City, most tours will combine visiting the ruins with a guided tour of Belize City.

I’ll be honest: Belize City is a bit of a dump. I’ve been twice and it felt even sketchier the second time. It’s not really a place you want to walk around by yourself, especially as a female traveler. There are some cool historic landmarks and points of interest, but nothing crazy.

So, if you really want to visit Belize City,  it’s best to book a guided tour to keep yourself safe and stress-free.

To travel safely and hassle-free, I recommend this tour which also includes a trip to the Belize Zoo!

Where to Stay: You could stay in Belize City, but for safety reasons, I’d recommend staying in either Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye and making this a day trip, instead. It’s safer, and you’ll have a better time.

If you choose to stay in Belize City for convenience or personal preference, I’d say that Sea Breeze felt safe and secure and was comfortable; my one-night there was incident-free and the host was very friendly!

Visit the Belize Zoo

Before I get my head put on a stake for suggesting you visit a zoo — The Belize Zoo is different.

For one, they only house animal species native to Belize — you won’t see any polar bears suffering in humid climates here! They have 45 species of animals, all of whom have been orphaned or hurt and are unable to survive in the wild.

The Belize Zoo also works to rehabilitate animals like jaguars and wild birds and release them back into the wild. While zoos worldwide understandably hold a bad rap, I really can’t find anything to fault the Belize Zoo for.

You can take the tour I mentioned above, which hits both the Belize Zoo + Altun Ha, or you can save money by taking a local bus from Belize City towards Benque and asking to be let off at the zoo, if you feel savvy enough to navigate the chicken bus scene independently.

Where to Stay: As I wrote above, I don’t really recommend staying overnight in Belize City as it’s not the safest of cities.

I stayed there one night and it was fine, but I will admit that I had some uncomfortable moments, and I’m a pretty seasoned traveler!

I didn’t have cash after I arrived in Belize overland from Mexico, and when I asked my cab driver to stop at an ATM to get money out, I was followed by a man when getting money from an ATM. Then our taxi driver tried to extort us and double the price that we had agreed upon!

If you must stay in Belize City for logistical reasons, I stayed at Sea Breeze and found it to be quite safe and pleasant. However, I’d avoid Belize City if you can!

Snorkel with manatees 

Caye Caulker is located right nearby an amazing wildlife reserve, Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can actually swim with manatees in their natural habitat.

Of course, you aren’t allowed to touch or chase these gentle but enormous sea mammals!

Belize is doing excellent things to preserve to conserve and protect their manatees, to ensure that they live happy and healthy lives with their environment protected.

I highly recommend doing a manatee and snorkeling tour with a reputable company. Please note that you should never swim with manatees in captivity or do any tours that promise you can touch the animals – and this goes for dolphins, whales, and any other sea animal in captivity as well.

Tours are not cheap, but it is truly one of the best things to do in Belize, so if you can afford it I’d highly recommend doing it.

Note that manatees are only around at certain times of year – I tried to do a manatee tour this February and we didn’t see them. Our guide told us we would have had better luck in the summer – they like the warm water!

Where to Stay: Manatee watching and snorkeling tours leave from Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye

Enjoy your own private tropical island for a day

A short boat ride away from the beaches of Placencia is a small island called Ranguana, which is a private island only for day trippers and those who stay at the one hotel on the island.

You’ll need to take a tour to get here, but once you do, you can spend all day snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or just lazing out in sun with a Belikin in hand on one of the most pristine beaches in Belize.

Where to Stay: Placencia has a really wide range of accommodation options, from budget to midrange to the astronomically expensive. My top pick for budget travelers is Andi Di Hows hostel; for mid-range, Southern Shores Cabanas; for luxury, Ellysian Boutique Hotel or Naia Resort & Spa.

swim with turtles in Belize

Eat some jerk chicken

Belize’s national dish may technically be rice and beans, but jerk chicken is a strong contender. Originally from nearby Jamaica, Belize has taken on jerk chicken as one of its own and makes a mean – though slightly less spicy – version of it.

If you’re on San Pedro, be sure to check out Robin’s Kitchen for some of the best jerk I’ve ever eaten… and I used to live in the predominantly Caribbean neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn (and got Jamaican takeout at least weekly) so I know my jerk!

If you’re not a fan of BBQ jerk chicken (what’s wrong with you?) you’ve got to at least try a Belizean curry!

Where to Stay: Jerk chicken is available everywhere, but I had some of the best at Robin’s Kitchen in San Pedro just a few blocks from Victoria House. That said, you can find it virtually everywhere, but Robin’s is the real deal, grilled in a steel drum over pimento wood!

Helicopter over the Blue Hole

The top Belize attraction for a reason – but it’ll cost you!

If you want to see a good view of Belize’s iconic Blue Hole, you’re way better off flying over it than diving it.

People I spoke to who dove the Blue Hole said that they really couldn’t see much of the Blue Hole from the boat, and that once they started diving, there actually wasn’t much to see.

Honestly, I’ve heard some not-so-great things about diving the Blue Hole. Apparently, some of the divemasters encouraged people to go beyond their PADI-certified limits — a big no-go in my book — and one girl got nitrogen narcosis and was feeling really ill and almost passed out underwater — a huge risk!

Photo credit U.S. Geological Survey

So if you do dive the Blue Hole, make sure you stay within your limits and go with a reputable company. Luckily, you have none of those risks – and a much better view – when you helicopter over the Blue Hole!

It is expensive as hell, but if it’s on your bucket list or you’re visiting Belize to celebrate a special occasion, it may be worth the splurge.

Check prices of a helicopter ride over the Blue Hole here (just be sure you’re sitting down first!)

Explore the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich

While not quite as large or impressive as the ruins of Caracol, Xunantunich is still one of the best attractions in Belize. Plus, it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to get to from San Ignacio, which one of the best places to stay in Belize if you’re looking for exciting day trips.

You can take a bus and then walk a mile or hire a taxi for cheap. The ruins of Cahal Pech are even closer, but not quite as exciting as Xunantunich.

I recommend visiting while you stay in San Ignacio, but if you’re staying in Belize City and won’t make your way into the interior of Belize, it’s possible to visit on a day trip.

To do so, opt for this tour that combines Xunantunich, the Belize Zoo, and cave tubing through ancient Mayan caves – not bad for a day trip!

Where to Stay: Again, I’d suggest Bella’s for backpackers and solo travelers, Maya Mountain Lodge for mid-range budgets, and Ka’ana Resort & Spa for blow-out luxury.

Photo Credit C. Juneau, Wikimedia Commons

Visit a howler monkey sanctuary

Howler monkeys kind of sound like demons, but they sure are cute! If you want to connect with your primate kin while in Belize, check out the Community Baboon Sanctuary close to Belize City.

Note for my fellow pendants: there are no baboons here – that’s apparently just the old local name for howler monkeys. Go figure. Eight villages have worked together to preserve the ecosystem around the river and protect the howler monkeys in their natural habitats. You can take a tour or rent a car to go to the sanctuary.

Where to Stay: Tours leave from Belize City, but as I’ve said above, I’d recommend doing it as a day trip from one of the islands and taking the ferry into Belize City for the day. If you must stay in Belize City, Sea Breeze is affordable and felt secure.

visit with howler monkeys, one of the greatest things to do in Belize

Scuba dive in one of the many reefs

If you’re scuba certified, you need to plan a diving vacation to Belize! Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are home to several scuba shops which can take you to some of the best destinations in the area: Mexico Rocks, Hol Chan, and Turneffe Atoll are all fantastic dive locations.

Bonus: if you’re in Hopkins or Placencia during the right time of year, you may even be lucky and spot some whale sharks!

Pro Tip: Not every travel insurance covers diving-related accidents, which can be incredibly expensive if not covered. One of the few plans I’ve found that covers diving accidents is the World Nomads Explorer Plan (the standard plan doesn’t cover it). I don’t ever dive without insurance.

Where to Stay: Anywhere on the coast has plenty of options, but I think Ambergris Caye has the best range of SCUBA operators. I organized snorkeling trips through Sandbar Hostel and received a discount for staying with them.

Stay in an eco-friendly jungle lodge

San Ignacio Belize is somewhat of a hub for eco-lodges. I stayed at Table Rock Jungle Lodge, which is almost entirely solar powered and 100% off the electrical grid (don’t fear though — there is wifi, just not in your room!), and I absolutely adored it.

I mean, how many hotels can say they come with their own donkeys and that you’re free to pick any fruit on their farm at any time (the staff will even give you free coconuts from their trees!) You can also borrow canoes or tubes to coast down the beautiful Macal River nearby.

If you want a little more luxury in the jungle, there are a few higher-end options, with a higher price tag to boot. Chaa Creek and Ka’ana are widely recognized as some of the most luxurious Belize jungle resorts. If you crave a little more glamor with your eco digs, check out one of those two options: Ka’ana or Chaa Creek.

Read More: 6 Most Incredible Eco Lodges in Belize (For All Budgets)

Play with ALL THE DOGS at Caye Caulker’s only animal shelter

Okay, I’m probably the only person who thinks that laying around in the sand with a bunch of homeless dogs is an essential thing to do in Belize, but stay with me, here. A sweet local guy named Kenny runs this humble little animal shelter that takes in and helps rehome dogs and cats in need of some TLC.

Caye Caulker Animal Shelter is entirely run by donations – so if you can, donate either your time to love on these dogs (or take them for a walk around the island) or a few extra dollars to help support Kenny’s mission.

Pray to spot a jaguar in Cockscomb Basin

Did you know Belize is home to the world’s only jaguar preserve? These endangered beauties can be found if you’re incredibly lucky in Cockscomb Basin (check prices for tours here), though I wouldn’t count on a spotting — there are only 200 of them in this wildlife preserve spanning 150 square miles. Still, countless other species call this protected area home, including other wild cats like the ocelot and the adorable jaguarundi.

For the less patient and less deep-pocketed: if you simply must see a jaguar, the Belize Zoo has a jaguar rehabilitation program that does excellent work. I normally don’t support zoos – I find them unethical and cruel – but the Belize Zoo is a notable exception as it houses only A) species native to Belize and B) animals who are not yet able to be released into the wild for health or socialization reasons. No polar bears sweating in the humidity here – it’s one of few truly ethical zoos in the world.

Looking for jaguars in Belize

7 Things You Must Pack for Belize

I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think are the absolute essentials.

  • Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
  • Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
  • A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen: If you are planning to do any water activities, such as diving or snorkeling or even swimming, please use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one. The active ingredients in sunscreen are killing off coral in huge numbers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and is under threat. So please don’t use normal, chemical-laden sunscreen in Belize’s fragile ocean ecosystem!
  • Filter water bottle or Steripen: Belize’s tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. I recommend traveling with a water bottle with a built-in filter that filters out nasty bacteria and viruses like this awesome LifeStraw bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Alternately, you can use a Steripen which sterilizes water using UV light. A great investment if you travel frequently and want to reduce your plastic bottle consumption!
  • GoPro: If you go snorkeling or cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
  • Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, ziplining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!  It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly. I’ve included a way to get a free quote below.

 
The ultimate list of things to do in Belize. From scuba and snorkeling adventures to honeymoon resorts or eco lodges, suggestions for what to do and where to stay in San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), Caye Caulker, San Ignacio, and beyond!

The Underrated Mayan Ruins of Caracol, Belize

Allison sitting atop a pyramid in the Caracol Complex of ruins

Tikal and Chichen Itza get all the glory when it comes to ruins. Guatemala and Mexico are just fame hogs like that. But deep in Belize’s jungle, about two hours out from the nearest large town, you’ll find pyramids just as impressive — and far less crowded.

Because of the off the beaten path location of the ruins, you can’t get to Caracol by public transport. You’ll have to take a tour or rent a car — and since at least an hour is basically off-roading, unless you have a rugged car or balls of steel, you’ll probably want to opt for the tour.

After loving my ATM cave tour with MayaWalk, I decided to go with their company again to see the ruins of Caracol. And good thing too, as it ended up being yet another amazing day in Belize, a country that’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

We started the day with yet another cave — although I must admit that after ATM, no cave will ever come close. It was pretty cool though – just look at how massive it is!

The coolest thing about this cave, though, is that there is an actual beach inside the cave – yes, with sand and everything!

How many countries can say that even their caves have beaches? Belize, you freaking stunner.

 

After frolicking on this cave-beach, I allowed myself to be corralled back into the van to see the ruins. After all – they were what I came to see.

Another hour of bumpy roads later, we arrived at the site of the Caracol ruins, one of the coolest things to see in Belize. Caracol is the highest and largest Mayan structure in all of Belize, and its position on the border of modern-day Guatemala means that from the top you can see two countries at once, something that this geography nerd always loves (my record is 7 countries at once from a mountaintop in Montenegro!).

Another amazing thing? Just look at how empty this place is. This completely unedited photo literally has one other human being in it. One. Just try getting that lucky at Tikal or Chichen Itza… you’ll have to do some early morning trespassing, a lot of waiting, or some Photoshop wizardry to get a picture this clear of people.

The ruins of Caracol span about 15 square miles, though they’ve definitely faded from its glory days – both literally and figuratively, as the stone structures were once painted vibrant colors. In fact, the main pyramid used to be painted red. Just imagine a red pyramid matched up against a lush green backdrop — now that would have been a sight to take in.

This wasn’t too bad, either.

The site of Caracol was first settled perhaps even 3,000 years ago, though the structures are mostly from the period between 600 and 900 AD. At its peak, over 120,000 Mayans lived in this city.

Despite its smaller size than nearby Tikal (in modern day Guatemala), the Mayans who occupied Caracol bested them in war and marked the occasion with a celebratory obelisk which, thanks to colonialism, is now housed at the British Museum. Don’t worry, though, they were kind enough to leave behind a plaster replica!

The sun was just starting to beat down with its typical pre-noon intensity, the kind that wouldn’t let up until well after 4 that afternoon. We walked through a bit of shade, our guide pointing out a trio howler monkeys napping in the trees along the way.

Luckily, they were too tuckered out by the heat to make their typical demonic howls.

Our guide was super knowledgeable about all of Caracol’s wildlife – in fact, it turned into a bit of a birding expedition of sorts. My personal favorite? The Montezuma oropendola, aka the most badass bird nature ever created.

Basically, the female birds make the male birds build these elaborate hanging basket-type nests for her and her future eggs. If they’re not up to par, she’ll destroy them and refuse to mate with them. Slay, lady, slay. We should all be so fierce.

After touring the ruins and getting some serious life lessons from some birds, we ate our packed lunches, broke into the rum punch because duh, it’s Belize, and then made our way to the Rio On Pools – a set of natural pools located just outside of Caracol.

And because our guide was a class act, he offered to give us some rum punch to go.

Never one to be rude, I accepted.

My clumsiness kept me from taking the best photos, as the slipperiness of the rocks all but ensured I’d send my beloved Sony A6000 plummeting to the bottom of a pool.

But in addition to a beautiful swimming hole with a view of forest and jungle, there was a natural whirlpool and waterslide of sorts, plus two waterfalls where you could make nature give you the world’s best shoulder massage.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Go and see it for yourself — you’ll be one of the only ones, I swear.

Convinced? Check out tours and availability here.

7 Things You Must Pack for Belize

I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think you shouldn’t forget!

  • Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
  • Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
  • A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen: If you are planning to do any water activities, such as diving or snorkeling or even swimming, please use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one. The active ingredients in sunscreen are killing off coral in huge numbers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and is under threat. So please don’t use normal, chemical-laden sunscreen in Belize’s fragile ocean ecosystem!
  • Filter water bottle or Steripen: Belize’s tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. I recommend traveling with a water bottle with a built-in filter that filters out nasty bacteria and viruses like this awesome LifeStraw bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Alternately, you can use a Steripen which sterilizes water using UV light. A great investment if you travel frequently and want to reduce your plastic bottle consumption!
  • GoPro: If you go snorkeling or cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
  • Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, ziplining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!  It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly. I’ve included a way to get a free quote below.

Note: I was provided with a complimentary tour from Maya Walk. All opinions are entirely my own.

Table Rock Jungle Lodge: The Most Sustainable Eco Lodge in Belize

Off a dusty road a few miles out of the town of San Ignacio, Belize, you’ll find Table Rock Jungle Lodge.

This is this nature-loving girl’s kind of place: orchards packed with ripe oranges greet you as you approach the lodge, with a few donkeys strewn about nibbling the grass in the sun to add to the pastoral charm.

Cabañas are nestled unobtrusively between the trees, each with their own hammock and hanging lounge chairs. The only sounds are the birds — and the occasional unearthly sounds of the howler monkeys who call this jungle home, too. A short walk away is the river, where you can borrow a free canoe or tube and enjoy the persistent Belizean sunshine. Also, have I mentioned there are pet donkeys?

Honey, I’m home.

Rooms and Grounds

Table Rock Jungle Lodge is comfortable, but not fussy.

Their commitment to eco-friendliness and sustainability presides over all. You won’t find air conditioning, hair dryers, and robes here.

What you will find, however, is a thoughtfully designed room with high ceilings that keep the rooms breezy and cool, with high-efficiency ceiling fans helping to keep air flowing.

A comfortable four poster bed with soft sheets, a couch and table to lounge at, filtered water available in two giant glass jugs and a few Belizean welcome gifts — locally made cinnamon soap, hot sauce, and a mini bottle of rum.

The latter two which I, in peak genius, turned into a killer cocktail with some of the oranges on the property (a knife and cutting board is provided in each room to encourage you to pick fruit from the farm at your leisure).

Welcome to the simple life in Belize.

Sustainability

I met with Colleen, the lovely woman who owns Table Rock, and chatted with her about the sustainability practices of her eco lodge. After marveling at our similar career paths before opting for a life on the lam (we were both once special education teachers back in the U.S.), I learned about Table Rock’s 100-plus riverside acres powered by their impressive innovative electrical grid — a project many years in the making.

Nearly 100% of the energy used in the lodge is provided by renewable solar energy, which is gathered during the day and stored in battery cells for days with a little less sunlight. To keep the energy use down, the rooms don’t have air conditioning (nor do they need it, thanks to the high thatched-roof designs and ceiling fans which circulate the air).

They also don’t have regular power outlets in the room: only USBs. Power outlets and wifi are available in the hammocked palapa, where you can fiddle away on your devices if you really need to (like this blogger/admitted Internet addict does).

High-energy tasks, such as running the laundry, do require supplemental power in the form of diesel generators. The hot water showers use on-demand water pressure-activated butane power to heat, which is a far more efficient set-up than traditional water heaters. Other than that, Table Rock is virtually completely powered by the sun and completely self-sustaining.

In the spirit of self-sufficiency, Table Rock Jungle Lodge also supplies the majority of their tap water from collected rain water, uses fresh fruit and vegetables from their farm (you’re always welcome to collect any fruit anywhere on the property — I made myself fresh squeezed orange juice every day!), and fresh free-range eggs from their chickens.

Social Responsibility

In addition to being eco-friendly, Table Rock also is making a concerted effort to be “socially green,” as Colleen put it. The staff is entirely Belizean and often local from the nearest villages, like nearby Cristo Rey. The goods in the gift shop are 100% Belizean and local, and Table Rock purchases locally produced food, beverages, and supplies whenever possible.

As a result, the food is especially delicious, and fairly priced for the quality. If you don’t have a car, you’ll have to eat your meals at Table Rock unless you’re doing a tour. Luckily, I didn’t mind — at $10 for breakfast and coffee and $25 for a two-course gourmet dinner, I found it exceptionally reasonable, particularly for Belize.

I especially was grateful that they honored my bananaphobia and subbed out grilled pineapple for the grilled banana on my bacon-topped French toast!

Table Rock also contributes to Pack for a Purpose, an organization that encourages travelers to use a small amount of their suitcase to bring items specifically requested by the local community. Table Rock collects educational supplies for the village school, working in partnership with the school to understand their specific needs rather than deciding on behalf of the school what is needed.

Sometimes despite best intentions, “voluntourists” can do more harm than good, giving items of little use or things that seem benign (like gum or candy) but can actually be socially or environmentally harmful. Therefore these projects like Pack for a Purpose are extremely useful for local communities and a great way to travel more responsibly in developing countries.

5 Things You Must Pack for Belize

I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think are the absolute essentials.

  • Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
  • Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
  • A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
  • GoPro: If you go snorkeling or cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
  • Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, ziplining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!  It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly. I’ve included a way to get a free quote below.

What do you think? Can you forgo your hair dryer and in-room wifi for a few days of off-the-grid sustainability? Or do you like your creature comforts when you travel?

Note: I was a guest of Table Rock Jungle Lodge, and they provided me with two nights’ complimentary accommodation in order to review the hotel. All opinions are strictly my own.