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Advice for first time trip to Belize?

Bloomsburg
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515 posts
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Advice for first time trip to Belize?

Hi. Can anyone recommend from the voice of experience a good "sampling" of Belize experiences? I am beginning to research for a possible first trip to Belize, March 2013. We would like to spend some time visiting a rainforest and staying there (3 or 4 nights) then stay at either Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye. We are in our mid to late 50's, in good physical shape, like to do birding, hiking, nature related activities. I dive on occasion, and am an avid snorkeler. We really do not need "night life", but prefer to be in places where we do not have to be concerned about safety because it will be just the 2 of us traveling alone. Also, is there "no beach" on Caye Caulker? I think I read that somewhere.

The Dalles, Oregon
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for Guatemala, Belize
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1. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

A split is a good way to go - I'd choose Cayo district with an overnight to Tikal in Guatemala and Caye Caulker; the beaches aren't fancy but that wasn't a priority for us. I've pasted some of my favorite Belize links below. Happy trails!

Guidebooks I like: Moon Handbook, Fodor’s Guide, and Explorer’s Guide.

Budget to midrange lodging site: http://www.belizeexplorer.com

Great island and lodging downloads: http://www.belizefirst.com

Informative transportation blog: http://www.belizebus.wordpress.com

My photo collections with blog, travelogue, and review links: flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections/

Shuttle recommendation: www.parrot-nest.com/belize-shuttle.html

Zoo: http://www.belizezoo.org

Great jungle camp in Cayo: http://www.belizecamp.com

Great budget lodging in Cayo: http://www.thetrekstop.com

Great value hotel with pool in Cayo: http://www.aguadahotel.com

Don't miss cave trip: http://pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/

Lots of adventures: http://www.cavesbranch.com

Great inn in coastal Garifuna town: http://www.hopkinsinn.com

Garifuna drumming center: http://www.lebeha.com

Apartment on the beach on Caye Caulker: http://www.staycayecaulker.com/sailwinds.html

Great day snorkeling trip: http://raggamuffintours.com/hol-chan-snorkel/

My favorite hotel at Tikal: http://www.tikalinnsunrise.com

Fabulous, fun tour guide: http://www.tikalroxy.blogspot.com

Favorite midrange places in Flores: http://www.corpetur.com

Good value budget option in Flores: La Mesa de los Mayas

Here are the places we’ve decided to stay this summer, all new to us but carefully researched:

Another Caye Caulker option: gocayecaulker.com/accommodations/maxhapan-ca…

Another, less-visited cave option: http://www.actunchapatadventure.blogspot.com/

Highly reviewed jungly place near Punta Gorda: http://www.hickatee.com

Off the beaten track diving and snorkeling, Sapodilla Cayes: http://www.reefci.com

Rental apartments in the heart of Placencia: http://www.oneworldplacencia.com

Secluded resort on N. Ambergris Caye with snorkeling from shore: http://www.tranquilitybayresort.com

Bloomsburg
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515 posts
260 reviews
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2. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

Wow!! Amazingly helpful. Thank you. I don't really know much about Belize, so when you are first starting to research and investigate a new place it can seem very daunting!

The Dalles, Oregon
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for Guatemala, Belize
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3. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

That's what guidebooks are for. ;-)

Bloomsburg
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515 posts
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4. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

I have soooooooo many guidebooks from previous adventures! I do most of my researching on line, and copy/paste many, many tidbits of advice into a self-made guidebook of sorts. I find you can find out more about a place from people who have actually been somewhere. That is why I like TA; most individuals will tell you the truth about their experiences. You do have to watch out for people who are using the forums to advertise; (often they give themselves away by the fact that they refer the same place again and again and have done few if any reviews if you search their contributions). Same thing for people who have an axe to grind. But it you see that the majority of the reviews are positive and learn to read between the lines, TA is a very helpful device.

Anyway, you are almost a "walking-talking" guidebook of sorts hopefulist - I have read many of your posts! Thanks!

eastsound, wa
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5. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

We recently returned from 2 weeks in Belize, staying in Caye Caulker, Flores, and Placencia. We didn't go to San Pedro and from what I heard from people who did, was glad we didn't (way too hectic).

Caye Caulker is a small walking or biking place with sandy streets and bikes or golf carts for transportation. Very safe and friendly. No problem walking around at night. It's a very international and fairly young crowd (we're in our 50's and 60's), but still fun and friendly for people our age. The only real beach is at the split at the north part of the island. It's sandy with water deep enough for swimming and snorkeling (but watch out for the stinging coral). There are shade trees, massage tables (my wife got a massage and said it was the best ever!), and, of course, the lazy Lizard which serves the world's best pina coladas and surprisingly great meals at good prices. Unfortunately, I got the flu while I was there and wasn't able to do many of the things I wanted like snorkel the reefs or take the Ragamuffin sailboat trip to Placencia, but still had a great time soaking up the sun and meeting lots of interesting people. We stayed at Tree Tops, Mara's, and Ocean Pearle Royale. Ocean Pearle was by far the best value. It was only $25 US per night, located near the split, has a wonderful shaded courtyard, clean and well maintained rooms with a good breeze. No air conditioning but we didn't find that necessary. The owner, Gertrude, is friendly and helpful and provides free drinking water. Not a fancy place but very nice, comfortable, and quiet. If I visited Caye Caulker again, I'd spend more time snorkeling the reefs. Rose's restaurant served wonderful shrimp kabobs.

Next we took a direct bus from Belize City to Flores in order to visit Tikal. I think the bus was $50 BZ. It was quick with an easy transfer at the border. I loved Guatemala. We only stayed 2 nights and if I visited again I'd say longer. Guatemala feels very authentic. Very little English spoken but still possible to communicate with a bit of Spanish and international pointing and gesturing. Flores is a beautiful hilly town in an island on a lake. Small cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a church at the top of the hill. It too felt very safe. We did the early morning tour of Tikal getting up at 4:30 AM, leaving Flores around 5 AM, and getting to Tikal around 6:30 AM. The morning is definitely the best time to visit as it's cool (relatively speaking), quiet, and not crowded. We took a tour with an absolutely wonderful English speaking guide (Luis Oliveros - luistours_65@yahoo.com). A guide is really necessary as Tikal is so large with so many trails and very little signage, that without a guide you could easily get lost and not learn much about the place. Luis was fun, funny, friendly and extremely informative. He speaks English like he was born in the US (with a mix of New York and Australian accents) but has lived in Guatemala all his life! If you have time, I’d recommend taking a day or two to explore around Flores.

Next we took the "chicken bus" to Placencia. It was mostly an all day trip but fun and a great way to see the country. The Hummingbird highway was beautiful with small isolated villages, mountains, lush forests, and rolling hills planted with fruit trees. We didn't spend any time there other than what we viewed from the bus, but if I returned to Belize I'd spend a few days in that area.

Placencia is a fairly nondescript town with wonderful sandy beaches. Like Caye Caulker it's mostly a walking and biking town but there is some traffic from taxis and a few private vehicles. It's more laid-back than Caye Caulker with an older, mostly US and Canadian crowd. I was not as comfortable walking around Placencia at night though did not have any bad experiences, just a different feel than Caye Caulker. We took a tour of the Monkey River which was okay but I'd probably not do again. Bring lots of bug repellant for the walk through the jungle. The best part of the Monkey River tour was eating at "Alice's Restaurant" which looks like a shack but has great chicken and fish with beans and rice. We tried to do a snorkel tour with Nite Winds but were unable to due to winds and choppy water. The snorkeling reefs are further out at Placencia than at Caye Caulker. So, we had to settle for sunning on the beach and swims in the lagoon. The Barefoot Bar is the place to hang (Tipsy Tuna was pretty good too), and "Above Grounds" is the place for great coffee pastries. We stayed at "One World" which was a great place with air conditioning, a small kitchen, internet (though we went dark for the entire trip which was wonderful) for a good price ($50 US per night - Placencia is more expensive than Caye Caulker). It was fun renting bikes and riding north toward the airport. We flew back to Belize City by Maya airlines.

If I did Belize again, I'd send less time in Placencia, more time snorkeling and staying at some of the small islands at the reef (friends stayed at Glover's reef for a few nights and said it was fantastic), more time in Guatemala, some time along the Hummingbird Highway, and definitely back to Caye Caulker. I'd probably skip Placencia.

Have a great trip.

Placencia, Belize
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6. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

If you want to spend time along the Hummingbird, there are actually not too many places to stay. It is a FABULOUSLY beautiful area. There is however a new lodge called the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge which I haven't visited yet but looks very well positioned for exploring that are. Also you can get hostel type accommodation at St Margarets village, again, I haven't visited this but might be wroth exploring. You could also check out Macaroni Hill Hotel which is right at the south end of this area, once again, I haven't stayed there but it is quite nicely located for exploring some of the more off the beaten track parts of Belize. Finally, I have to put in a plug for the very south of Belize, Toledo, which is very lovely and offers great snorkling, with some of the prettiest reefs, and some terrific cultural experiences, lovely scenery, and again, excellent off the beaten track exploring.

One point about the dawn tour in Tikal, it's quite often foggy so you miss the spectacle of sunrise, sunset is more reliable. I also think it is a fantastic place and has good wildlife too.

7. Re: Advice for first time trip to Belize?

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