The official language of Belize is English, but don't let that fool you. This Central American country — known as British Honduras until 1973 — has just as rich a history as its neighbors. For those who want to combine Mayan ruins, jungles and Caribbean beaches, Belize is the ideal vacation spot. Catherine Motl and her boyfriend, Pete, took a two-week trip around the beautiful country and its little islands. Here, she shares the highlights and explains why it was truly an un-Belize-able experience.
Itinerary: We flew from Toronto to Belize City, and then took a taxi 70 miles to San Ignacio, a town known for its Mayan ruins and for being a good base for day trips. After four days, we went to the local airport to take a tiny, eight-seat plane to the gorgeous island of San Pedro, which inspired Madonna's song "La Isla Bonita." After lots of snorkeling, we took a water taxi three days later to spend the night on another island, Caye Caulker, which is also where we embarked on a wonderful three-day sailing trip with Raggamuffin Tours. The boat's last stop was Placencia, a quiet town where there isn't much to do aside from boating and relaxing. After three days there, we went to the small local airport and flew back to Belize City to begin our trip home.
Most Memorable Day Trip: The highlight of our time in San Ignacio was a tour we took to Actun Tunichil Muknal (aka ATM), a cave that contains multiple chambers and is believed to have been a Mayan sacrificial temple. To arrive at the cave (pictured left), first we took a bus for 45 minutes and then we hiked for 45 minutes through the rain forest.
We then spent about three hours in the cave — the tour was quite challenging since the cave is full of water and you have to swim during parts of it. It was also a little bit creepy as skeletal remains from the Mayan Civilization are found inside, including the infamous Crystal Maiden, a fully intact skeleton of a 14-year-old girl (pictured right).
Favorite Hotels: To kick off our vacation, we spent four nights in downtown San Ignacio in a lovely inexpensive inn, Casa Blanca Guesthouse. It was the perfect place to take in the local flavors, as we weren't too far from Eva's, which serves fabulous Belizean food in a slow-paced atmosphere, or Hannah's, which served excellent breakfasts.
We also loved the last place where we stayed — a cabana owned by Dianni's Guest House — in Placencia. It was very private, spacious bungalow with a little kitchenette, all for a very reasonable price. They also had laundry service and took care of booking our flight to Belize City for us.
Favorite Bars: After spending a few days on San Pedro, which we found to be tad too touristy, we really welcomed the Rasta vibe in Caye Caulker. We had a blast at two of the most popular bars there: Lazy Lizard and the I&I Reggae Bar.
Seeing Belize by Sea: Our three-day sail with Raggamuffin Tours was definitely the highlight of our entire trip. We sailed and snorkeled during the days and spent the nights camping on the tiny islands — first Rendezvous Caye and then Tobacco Caye (pictured below). We also fished from the boat and the amazing crew would cook our catches for us.
Biggest Surprise: Placencia was destroyed by a hurricane a few years back and is only starting to rebuild itself — some of the palm trees are only two feet high! We were also quite pleased by the quality of the restaurants that we found there.