Belize will always have a special place in Melissa's and my heart, for it was our honeymoon trip. When many people think about the diving in Belize, often Ambergris Caye, the "big Island," is thought of, but there are many other outer atolls or islands that should be considered. We opted for the more populated Ambergris Caye because we wanted a little more civilization for a honeymoon. We also chose Ambergris because one can travel there at any given time of the week. The outer atolls generally can be traveled to and from on Saturdays only (some have Wednesday travel available but they were closed in September).
Indeed, there are many opportunities that should be looked into when traveling to Belize both for diving and land adventures. Belize main land has a lot to offer deep into the country side. We opted to spend some time there as well. A caution about traveling to Belize: September is their low season and most resorts are closed. This will severely limit your options in accommodations. On the upside, our tours were very intimate, consisting of just the two of us and a tour guide.
For the diving portion of our trip, we stayed at Portofino resort. This resort was among our top choices, regardless of time of year. The resort turned out to be charming. It was very laid back with extremely nice employees. It had no fresh water pool, but it did have a sea water pool and a great beach to relax on. The raised bungalow style rooms we stayed in were fabulous. The food there was good, but there was the option to travel to town or other resorts/restaurants for better meals. I highly recommend their local barbecue. There was also a fabulous Asian/French fusion restaurant and winery that was quite good.
Since it was low season, only a handful of couples were staying there; most, like us, were honeymooners. The fellow guests were all very friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed their company.
It is an absolute must that one rent a golf cart (primary mode of transportation on the island) and go exploring, be it to town or bar/pool hopping at other resorts. The dirt cart path to town is an adventure of its own, complete with mud bogs and hand pulled barge to get you into town. (Please note that the barge stops "running" at 8pm). The town, San Pedro, is big for such an Island. There are many choices for places to eat and stores to shop. The locals were all very nice. Never once did we feel unsafe roaming the streets.
The dive company we used was Belize Academy of Diving. They were very nice, knowledgeable, and safety conscious. The waters around the dive sites were rougher then we were used to but nothing too bad. The sea life was a hair of a let down. We just expected more. I highly recommend if you stay on the island, take a day trip to the Blue Hole or Turneffe Reef. We went to the Blue Hole, which in itself is mildly interesting geographically--its origin is a collapsed cave. It is basically a sheer wall down to 100 ft., then it expands out to a overhang environment with stalactites and stalagmites down to around 150 ft. There are some large groupers and sharks around, but other than that, there is not much there. The best parts of the dive are the second and third dives at Lighthouse Reef and Aquarium. Those were some of the most beautiful dives we have been on to date. The water there is also much calmer then Ambergris Caye. We did not have time to do Turneffe Reef. I think if you are looking for the best diving, go to an outer atoll.
On the main land we went to the Cayo district. This district is deep into the country and gives great access to many ruins, caves, and Guatemala. We stayed at Windy hill Resort. This was not one of our top choices, but all our other choices were closed for September. I cannot say too much about the resort. It reminded us of summer camp. We never even saw another guest while we were there. Our tour guide through the resort, Hugo, was a great guy and we both enjoyed his company. He was very personable, knowledgeable, and taught us a lot about the area. The bartender there had the distinction of teaching us how to play dominos. If we had our way, however, we would have stayed at Blancaneaux Lodge. But it wasn't meant to be. Try and hang with the locals; they are very nice. We took a cab into town to eat one night. There were lots of options for restaurants, and in town we did feel safe.
When inland, I highly suggest taking some excursions. Definitely take the day trip to the Mayan ruins at Tikal in Guatemala. Traveling in that country puts a lot in perspective and makes one thankful for what one has. The second must do is the cave excursion at ACTUN TUNICHIL MUKNAL cave (check out the photos bellow). This was an adventure. First, you hike into the forest, then you swim into a cave, then you hike, wade, and climb for hours in the cave only to come across an ancient Mayan sacrificial site complete with skeletons. This cave was featured in National Geographic on two occasions. Make your reservations far in advance. Tours of the cave are highly regulated.
The reader might have picked up on that feeling safe is an issue here. Belize, more specifically, Belize city, has a reputation for being a dangerous place. We did not go to Belize city for this reason. We did, however, drive through the city. It did not look like we missed anything. Also, fair warning about traveling to Guatemala: this, too, can be an unsafe place to travel. The political climate is always changing. One does not want to be there during political upheavals.
Bottom Line: We would love to go back to Belize, both inland and island hoping. Next time we go, however, we will stay on one of the outer Atolls.
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Melissa's Kodak Camera Pictures
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This site was last updated 07/09/07