by Rachael Dragani
Photos Courtesy Tony Rath, JC Cuellarand, The Belize Tourism Board
Photo (above) Cool light sunrise in Ambergris Caye, Belize
There are too many languages, cultures, people, foods and historic tales blended together in this tropical nation to make anyone feel like an outsider. Come for a relaxing honeymoon and leave with so much more – a taste of the beginning of civilization, the chance to have seen exotic species on land or underwater and some sun-kissed cheeks from lazy days on the picture-perfect coast.
Economic failure in the past decade and a subsequent recovery made possible by the cooperation between labor, tourism officials and the government have made visitors essential to the nation’s success. So, anywhere you go, you’re guaranteed a smile with your service, making sure that your new spouse isn’t the only thing you’re in love with when you have to leave Belize.
LAY OF THE LAND
Settled by the Mayans thousands of years ago and trampled on by everyone else in between, the history of Belize is just as rich as its landscapes. The barrier reef along the coast is the second largest in the world and home to white sandy beaches. The rest of the country is scattered with mountains, lakes, flora-heavy marshes and a dense jungle that boasts many of the world’s most exotic species. There’s something for every type of adventure sport buff, nature-lover or beach bum in Belize, the trick is deciding what you want to do or finding the time to do it all.
TOP MUST-SEE’S MUST-DO’S
Explore the Sea
Almost every tourist destination in Belize involves a beach, and if you’re stressed out from your big day and need a drink by the crystal blue water, you’re going to the right place. Take a step off the white sand, though, and explore the other wonders Belize is hiding:
Explore the Rainforest
About half of Belize is covered in a dense, well-protected rainforest. The animals and birds the jungle houses are unparalleled in the rest of Latin America, and the kinds of orchids alone are over 250. Toledo, a city in the southern part of the country, is the best place to visit. A little off the beaten path, the adventurous couple can spend days here exploring the rainforest and mountains, rivers, lakes and Mayan villages that go along with it.
If you’re a certified diver, you probably already know what Belize has got to offer – the largest coral reef in the Caribbean teeming with hundreds of species of marine life and rare aquatic plants. It’s a diver’s dream. No worries if you’re not a pro – Belize is the perfect place for beginners with countless dive locations year round. Whether you’d like to become certified or try your hand at snorkeling, Belize dive groups offer a variety of options ranging from master dives to afternoon boat tours. Make sure to ask at your hotel or shop around town to get the best rates – there is plenty of competition so it’s also a great place to get a good deal.
See Mayan Ruins
The beautiful water and bountiful rainforests you may visit are perfect tourist destinations, but centuries ago they were what made Belize the perfect place for Mayan tribes to build communities. Today, many ruins are still well-preserved for visitors and a great way to marvel at the resourcefulness and intelligence these founders of civilization possessed. Tours range from day expeditions to week-long treks through some of the villages and jungles, so decide what you’d like to do and shop around for the best deal.
WHAT TO EAT
The cuisine of Belize is as varied as its landscape. For a day of local flavor, start with a breakfast of tortillas with many types of cheeses and refried beans, munch on rice and beans with coconut milk and some tamales for lunch and dine on meat pies, escabeche (an onion soup), or a good stew for dinner. If you’d rather have a meal that tastes closer to home, most of the main cities have a wide variety of well-prepared international cuisine. The popular tourist destination Ambergris Caye offers everything from traditional Belize cuisine to pizza – and in between you can stop at Wine de Vine to sample some fine wines and cheeses. Caulker Rasta Pasta’s is a great spot on the beach, popular for its delicious yet affordable selection and great atmosphere.
WHERE TO STAY
Think about what you want before you come to Belize – pool? Beachside? Great restaurants? Opportunity for organized day trips? It’s easy to find all of the above in a package set-up, especially in Ambergris Caye, the island getaway:
Coco Beach Resort, Ambergris Caye
Belizean Cove Estates Villas, Ambergris Caye
The Black Rock Lodge
Hidden Valley Inn
Portofino Beach Resort