Belize Itinerary: What to See and What to Skip

Belize What to See What to Skip

I’d been longing to go to Belize in order to swim with the whale sharks. Whale Sharks migrate to the Belizian coast from March to August. The best time to go out on a tour is during the month’s full moon.

Instead, my friend and I planned a Belize trip in January, just after the new year. Whale sharks – I’ll see you in another time and place!

When researching how best to spend your time in Belize, you are told by plenty of blogs that San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, is the number one place to go followed by Caye Caulker. So we followed that advice, splitting time between the island and the jungle region of Belize.

My number one piece of advice: Skip the Cayes

Please note that I’m not the type to lounge on beaches. My skin, much like that of a vampire, cave salamander, or blind mole rat, cannot abide the sun. But to be perfectly clear: Ambergris Caye is a tourist trap.

Outside of the small town center where boats come and go, much of the island has been razed in order to make room for luxury homes for wealthy Canadians. You can rent a golf cart (50 dollars a day) and zip around the island, watching white people get progressively more drunk from 10 am on. Often, itineraries will tell you to go to The Truck Stop or Palapa bar. There, you’ll see drunk white people spanning from late thirties to people well into middle age. I’ve always found the whole spring breaker vibe upsetting, especially when the madness descends on countries outside of the US.

But if You’re There…

Are Belize's Cayes Worth Visiting?
Flying over Belize’s Smaller Cayes

One great thing we discovered was ACES crocodile tour. Run by a husband and wife team out to conserve Belize’s crocodile population, this tour is really amazing. The tour takes you out at night and, if there’s no moon, you’ll see some awesome bioluminescence on the local waterways!

The other thing I can recommend is snorkeling though the waters are crowded with people. I was there in an off season, January, so I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer months.

The reef itself was amazing though. Second largest in the world, we saw nurse sharks and all sorts of fish, sting rays, and manta rays. Be sure to wear reef-friendly sunscreen.

If you don’t want to miss out on Belize’s pristine waters, I suggest going to one of the smaller, more remote cayes. And yes, sure, fly over the blue hole. I didn’t feel a need once I got to Belize but I can understand wanting to see it for yourself.

As far as mainland beach life goes, I’d go instead to Hopkins. This is a quiet town with one main road that runs parallel to the beach.

ACES Tour in Ambergris Caye, Belize

The jungle – San Ignacio, Belize

San Ignacio was the absolute best part of Belize. We hopped off the Cayes ferry and made our way to the Belize City bus terminal. There, you can buy your ticket for a 3 to 3 1/2 hour busride that will take you to San Ignacio.

Best Food in San Ignacio

The absolute best restaurant we tried in San Ignacio was Ko-Ox-Ha-Nah aka Let’s Go Eat. The coconut rice and chicken was the best we found and their yogurt shakes are absolute heaven.

For a breakfast spot, head to Pop’s. Their fry jacks are great as is everything on the menu (we went more than once). There’s also a great breakfast spot, when open, in the San Ignacio market near the water.

San Ignacio Belize Market

Best Activities and Day Trips

Everyone does the ATM Tour but we did the Barton Creek half-day cave kayaking tour. It was a nice way to spend the day and you’ll see Mayan articafts and a skeleton on this cave tour as well!

An easy afternoon activity to escape the heat is a visit to San Ignacio’s Green Iguana Project at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. Green Iguanas aka Bamboo Chicken were hunted heavily until a conservation law was put in place in 1996. Black Iguanas are prevalent throughout Belize and were never eaten but Green Iguanas, and their eggs, were long considered delicacies. You’ll get to hang out with the iguanas and learn more about them in a small enclosure.

Another activity I’d recommend is an early evening visit to Travellers Mayan Juice for some rum and hot sauce tasting. It was a chill way to spend the evening.

Iguana Sanctuary

The Mayan Ruins Around San Ignacio

Due to continuing tensions between Belize and Guatemala’s border disputes, crossing to see Tikal was inadvisable unless with a tour group. We hadn’t the time and decided to check out the Mayan ruins around San Ignacio instead.

Cahal Pech is up a steep hill from downtown San Ignacio. We actually stayed at a hotel that was only a five-minute walk from the ruins and so were able to see them completely alone in the early morning.

The best ruins that we saw were the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins. You can take a quick 15 minute bus out of San Ignacio to a small river crossing station. You cross the river and walk 20 minutes to the ruins. In the early morning, you won’t have too many tour groups to complete with. There are plenty of quiet corners to admire the Mayan Hieroglyphs alone. You’ll also hear (and potentially see) howler monkeys in the canopy.

Q-Tip: Pack reef-safe sunscreen, a reusable water bottle, rain gear, bug spray (you’ll need it), and light sweater for night excursions.