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Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

vermont
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Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

My husband and I were bumped twice traveling in the US and ended up with a lot of airline credit. Our family (4 of us, including our 22 year old daughter and 25 year old son) now have tickets to fly to Belize for 2 weeks during the Christmas holiday period. We've never been to Belize and I'm feeling somewhat confused trying to sort out how best to plan our visit. Ideally we'd like to rent an apartment for the first week and then spend the second week traveling. I've been looking at Hopkins as a possible place to stay for the first week, and my daughter keyed into Dangriga.

If we're interested in a laid back experience near a beach and with access to restaurants, do either of these towns make sense? And what other areas should we add to our "must-see" list? We're much more into outdoor pursuits, and really don't care about nightlife. Also, our kids appreciate more authentic travel, and aren't interested in staying at a resort. We haven't had the opportunity to spend this much time together in many years, so that's what we're most excited about.

Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions you might provide. I would also welcome names of people in Belize who I might contact to help with the arrangements.

The Dalles, Oregon
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1. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

Sounds awesome - our kids are in their late 20s/early 30s and spread around the globe; whenever we can get all of them together at once I'm in mama heaven.

Cross off Dangriga if you don't want a resort imo, the town isn't so great. We enjoy Hopkins - nice beaches for swimming, interesting culture, access to waterfall hikes in the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve and at the Mayflower Bocawina site; there's ziplining there now, too, I've read. Here's the (really awesome) place where we stayed (no kitchen, though):

www.hopkinsinn.com

wwwlebeha.com (Garifuna drumming - terrific!)

Caye Caulker is easy to get to and has lots of lodging and eating options - pretty tough to beat based on what you describe.

Frankly, I'd do the traveling bit more at the start and end up on a beach. Both Cayo District and Toledo District are terrific bases for inland activities but Cayo gives you access to the Tikal Maya site in Guatemala and these caves:

www.pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/

http://www.actunchapatadventure.blogspot.com/

If you give us your general budget for lodging we might be able to help you more.

My photos with blog and travelogue links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there. Happy trails! flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

vermont
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2. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

Hopefulist, thanks so much for your thoughts. I think we'd like to head for the beach first; our daughter will just be coming off 3 mos. of teaching with a gap year program in Ecuador, my husband and I will be working right up until we leave, and our son's in grad school in NM, so we'll need some time to decompress. The website for the Hopkins Inn looks great, although there's no full kitchen. The budget isn't so much a concern for me, but both of our young adult kids are frugal travelers and don't want to stay anywhere too high-end or "resortish". Would you recommend Caye Caulker instead of Hopkins?

And where would it make the most sense to base ourselves for the jungle adventure piece of the trip? Both kids are definitely into caving, wildlife, etc. Thanks again!

The Dalles, Oregon
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3. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

You have time for 3 or 4 stops with 2 weeks. Maybe start in Hopkins for beach/drumming/hiking/swimming, then head to the San Ignacio area (there are good jungle and town options) for caving, hiking, and Maya sites, then spend a few nights in Guatemala for Tikal and Yaxhá (a new favorite of mine) and then finish on Caye Caulker. If you're spending time in/around the jungle, and then picking between Hopkins and Caulker, I'd pick Caulker.

When you narrow it down a bit, we can recommend specific lodges, tours, guides, etc. Happy planning!

Prague, Czech...
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4. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

It is great that you are making good use of your airline credit with a trip to Belize. At least something good has come out of getting bumped.

Hopefulist's suggestions are great (as usual). Belize is so small that you have time to stay in 3 or 4 places during two weeks and still make it into Guatemala to see Tikal and Yaxha (the latter also being my favorite Mayan site of the 4 sites I have seen). Best to split your time between the coast and the jungle.

We stayed at Black Rock Lodge in the Cayo District. It was the perfect combination of relaxing (not on the beach but in the jungle) and adventure (beautiful hikes in the area, tours of the major sites in the region, like the ATM cave). I highly recommend it if you really want to get into the jungle and "get away from it all". Don't go there, or to any other jungle lodge far away from the city of San Ignacio, however, if you don't want isolation. It is too far to travel into the town for dinner on a regular basis, so you should be content with eating their food (which is superb). Also, don't stay there if you are only going to leave every day to take a tour in the region - that is a waste. Better in that case to stay somewhere closer to San Ignacio, where the tours start.

If you are looking for something rustic but within walking distance of the town, check out Midas Resort, which isn't a resort per se (although it has a great pool) but more like an American summer camp with its cute little cottages. We stayed there for one night while passing back through San Ignacio.

I can't help you with the coast, as we chose to spend our beach time in Tulum, Mexico, because there is actually a nice beach there, unlike most places in Belize.

Enjoy your trip and your time with your kids!

Layton, Utah
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5. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

We loved Hopkins and stayed right in the center of town at Coconut Row. The owners (an Ex-Pat and his wife) were very friendly and helpful. They have a small two bedroom apartment for rent right on the beach. The edges of town are more resortish but you really get the feel of this small fishing town being in the center. There are some great restaurants too: Iris', Innie's, Driftwood Pizza, etc. You should plan on it being fairly busy in December. We had a chance to talk to one of the restaurant owners when we went in October and she said in December there can be a 2 hour wait to get a table where we just walked in and got seated.

We drove down to Placenia which is south of Hopkins and it is nice but a little more developed (big American style houses and resorts).

Definitely plan on doing some snorkeling/scuba while in Hopkins. The barrier reef is a bit further out so you have a longer boat ride but it was well worth it. I highly recommend Dive Hamanasi.

Also check out the Bocawina Zip-line. Super fun.

I also wouldn't pass up heading to the jungle and staying by San Ignacio. We spent 4 nights at Table Rock Lodge and loved it. Its a very quite place on a fruit farm with 4 or 5 huts. Its right on the river so you can canoe or tube or just hang out in a hammock. The food is excellent there, but since we had a rental car we ate in town too. I highly recommend Erva's. Mayawalk grill was good too just don't sign up for their tours, they overbook. Edwin's Belize Adventures was great to work with for tours, ATM cave is a must-do!

If you have a sweet tooth definitely visit Sweet Ting. That was a nightly stop for us.

If you're going to be in San Ignacio over a Saturday check out the local's market in the center of town. We had some amazing native food (at locals' prices).

Since you have two weeks I'd suggest you also visit one of the Cayes. We spent our last few days on AC/San Pedro at Pelican Reef. It is a resort but was awesome. Full kitchen with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, jetted tub, and leather couches. It was nice to feel pampered after all the running around and adventures.

vermont
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6. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

Thanks, everyone, for your replies. Very helpful. Narrowing it down to Hopkins, a jungle stay near San Ignacio, and perhaps a third stop at Caulker Caye. I heard back from Hopkins Inn, which is closed until Sept. 1. Rita said to let her know if we're still in need of a place at that point, which we may be. I also have an email out to Coconut Row but haven't had a response yet. Still confused about a place to stay near San Ignacio and may look into a vacation rental. Lots going on here so I'm way behind with my usual planning. Any other thoughts would be appreciated!

7. Re: Traveling to Belize for 2 wks. Dec./Jan. & looking for help!

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