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cramming it all in

North Oaks...
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cramming it all in

We are a family of four, two kids 13 and 8, going to Belize for the first time. Our trip is in March and we will be there for 7 nights. After hours of research, Cayo for three nights, South Water Caye for two nights, and Ambergris Caye for two nights are emerging as our anticipated best combination for a diverse Belize experience. (though I have been distracted by Chanchich, Chaa Creek, Glover's Atoll, Placencia and Hopkins!)

1. Is this a good diverse destination combo for jungle/ruins, beautiful beach/snorkeling, and lively local culture?

2. Currently targeting Mariposa Jungle Lodge in Cayo and Pelican Beach on SWC. The Phoenix in Ambergris looks incredible, but is really expensive - would probably rather spend the money on the unusual experience of being on SWC.

3. Should we consider renting a car? Transfers, taxis and boats/ferries to all locations (airport to Mariposa; Mariposa to Dangriga; Dangriga to Ambergris Caye ferry) are adding up. We thought we might like to be able to drive ourselves to Maya ruins, or into San Ignacio for dinner from our jungle accommodations. If we had a car, it seems like renting at airport, leaving it parked in Dangriga while we are on SWC and then dropping it off at the airport before we take a taxi to the Ambergris Caye ferry dock might be a plan. does this sound reasonable?

4. Caracol, ATM and Butterfly winery are sticking out in my mind as peak experiences in the jungle - any additions in the time we have, such as hikes or waterfalls? We would like some time to "just be" and to cherish the experience of spending time in a jungle setting with our kids.

Thank you!

Saint James City...
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for San Pedro
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1. Re: cramming it all in

Personally, with only a week, I'd choose two destinations. Even though Belize isn't large, you're going to lose significant time to travel.

There is no boat service between Dangriga and Ambergris, you'll have to return to Belize City and either fly or take the water taxi from there.

Placencia, Belize
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2. Re: cramming it all in

This is too much, I agree.

Car rental does give you flexibility, but it's expensive, gas is US$5.50 per gallon, and you would need to hire a vehicle you are allowed to take off the paved roads which costs more.

If you are determined to hit the popular and well know highs, then split your time between San Ignacio and Placencia or Hopkins. Ambergris Caye is lively, but to me has no feel of Belize, more like an English speaking Mexico. The Phoenix has just been voted one of the top hotel in the world on TA.

You could consider a more unique and less stressful holiday by staying down south in Toledo, the hidden jewel within the Jewel. Fly to Punta Gorda and choose from a variety of unique and lovely accommodation which can organise some wonderful trips for you. My favourites are Hickatee Cottages, which specialise in offering you a true insight into local culture, some very unique cultural experiences, and Machaca Hills Rainforest Resort, now renamed Belcampo, breathtakingly beautiful, breathtakingly expensive. There are other resorts in the area worth a look.

The only thing Toledo can't really offer is the big stand out Mayan sites. So you could consider an overnight visit to Tikal to top or tail your visit. I still find it the most exciting of all the Mayan sites, although I love the intimacy of Lubantuun and Nim Li Punit in the south.

belize
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for Belize, Placencia, Ambergris Caye, Cayo, San Ignacio
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3. Re: cramming it all in

ATM, Caracol, butterfly farms, waterfalls and more in Cayo. SWC is great, as is Ambergris, but two totally different experiences and I would choose one or the other as you'll need 4 nights in Cayo to visit Caracol, ATM, waterfalls and butterflies.

San Ignacio, Belize
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4. Re: cramming it all in

While you could easily do all 3 since travel times in Belize are measured in minutes rather than hours, I'd also stick with just 2 since Cayo has so much, and the cayes are similar. But if you were wanting your high end nights on SWC, then stick with your original itinerary, and let your Cayo days be the busy, scenic ones.

I don't think you'll get much of a taste of culture(although AC does have an interesting Belizean Cancunian Key West mixture of culture), but if you're in Cayo on a Saturday, then you should definitely check out the market, and the Iguana Hatchery. You could also do a local ruin on that day, like Cahal Pech or Xunantunich.

Did that say butterfly winery? That would have an odd taste...

Best of luck!

NC
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for Raleigh
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5. Re: cramming it all in

We just got back from Belize, 8 day trip with two 9 year olds and a 13 year old. We did 4 nights in Cayo (Mariposa....which I can highly recommend). 1 night in Hopkins (great place to get to hang out in a village, wish we had stayed longer), and three nights in Placencia (Roberts Grove, would not recommend really, but it was fine).

We did not rent a car, but let Mariposa pick us up and hit the Baboon Sanctuary on the way. Lots of fun. We did ATM, Caracol (including Rio Frio cave and Big Rock), and one day did horseback riding (Wow!) and Calico Jack's ziplining. All amazing amazing amazing. My kids would be hard pressed to tell you their fav.

A driver/guide from Mariposa also drove us to Hopkins, stopping for a quick dip in the Blue Hole on the way. Hummingbird Highway is incredibly beautiful.

You could drive yourself, but trust me when I say that unless you are a VERY good off road driver, you don't want to drive on the road to ATM, Mariposa, Carocal, etc. It is Very bumpy, changes with weather and the Carocol road particularly you can get stuck. WIth kids, we found it much easier to just get up, eat breakfast at the lodge, have the lodge van/guide take us to our outing, etc. Plus, we sometimes went with others from the lodge, so our kids (and us) got to meet the other kids. (Not that Uno games didn't start about 20 minutes after we entered the main lodge anyway....and conversation was no problem for the adults at the bar). We had the same though about driving into town for dinner...but although it is only 7 miles, it takes about 45 minutes of bone jarring bumps...and after your outings, you will be wet and muddy, so all you will want to do is take a hot shower, walk to the lodge for a cold drink, or relax for a bit in the hammock in your room, and not get back on that road.

I believe that will be the situation at all the jungle lodges. As Sharyn at Mariposa said "you will see why when you get here). The best way to not pay the lodge meal fees is to stay in San Ignacio, which is an option we looked at....but we opted to stay in the jungle for that experience.

I will tell you that ATM was the highlight of the trip for all of us. I know it is pricey, but it will be worth every penny.

I admit we avoided Ambergris for the same reasons that the above poster suggests, we wanted to be a little off the beaten path. Although there are plenty of tourist and the people in Belize are about the nicest most helpful people I have met ANYWHERE we have traveled, so even off the beaten path is easy there. Placencia is a lovely little town and we enjoyed hanging there so much. Even though the weather was cold and rainy, we still had fun.

As it sounds like our travel goals and kids ages are very similar, feel free to PM me with more questions.

North Oaks...
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6. Re: cramming it all in

Many, Many thanks. I have been pulled away from this for a couple weeks and was so pleasantly surprised to find your responses. I could swear I read a post somewhere in a forum that mentioned an incredible happy hour experience at a butterfly farm. I guess butterfly winery does sound pretty strange. Ha!

As much as I am drawn to SWC and its pure remote beauty, my husband is questioning the financial and time investment to get there. He is also concerned the kids in particular may feel "marooned" after the initial "desert island" excitement wears off.

Our trip is very soon, so I will focus my research on spending our four remaining nights in either Placencia or Hopkins. Is one more incredibly beautiful than the other? My thirteen year old son has expressed excitement about seeing and swimming at a beautiful, white sand, turquoise water, Caribbean beach, which explains my attraction to SWC.

I appreciate any input and the time you are willing to spend providing it. Thank you.

7. Re: cramming it all in

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