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4 weeks and endless possibilities!

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I'm just starting to plan our honeymoon for next year and am struggling. Usually I'm a very competent planner, but these CA countries have my head spinning! Possibly I could be pointed in one direction or another?...

Us - He's Australian, she's American. We live in Australia, she's traveled quite a bit through NA, Europe, and Asia. He's done Australia and NZ. We're wanting a variety of experiences over the 4 weeks - nice beaches for snorkeling, Mayan ruins, and hopefully a volcano tour. We'd like to save money where possible, but are not willing to do things at the level of true backpackers, as it is a honeymoon! Electricity, insect netting, and airconditioning are necessities. :)

With the abovementioned in mind, we were thinking about starting in Mexico (if for no other reason than her family has a timeshare at a major Tulum hotel, and access to discounted airfare to Cancun), traveling south through Belize (Caye Caulker), west through San Ignacio, on to Flores/Tikal, and then south to Antigua. How much time would be ideal for each location? Since we have 4 weeks at our disposal, it doesn't seem to be too much traveling to me - a 9 hour bus ride here or there should be ok. Any idea how much we should be budgeting per day for midlevel accommodation and a fair amount of touristy activities? Any other suggestions for places to see or things to do? We'd like it to be picturesque and interesting, with a side of relaxation. :)

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    I know next to nothing about Guatemala, will leave that for others to discuss.

    My first question is what time of year will you be traveling? Second question is, do you need to get back to Cancun for your return flight?

    It's about four hours by bus from Tulum to the Belize border. From there, you can change buses and head to Belize City, take a water taxi from Chetumal to Ambergris Caye, transfer across the border to Corozal and fly from there to Ambergris.

    I haven't spent lots of time on Caulker. It is a nice little island, but it really is sorely lacking in beaches. None of Belize has truly world class beaches, but Caulker is lacking even by Belize standards. The main place for snorkeling is the 'split'. Really nice beach bar there.

    Anyway, my point is that since you have time, you may want to stop on Ambergris and see what you think. If it's too busy and too developed, Caye Caulker is a very short water taxi away.

    I wouldn't eliminate hotels just because they don't have air conditioning. My condo on Ambergris only has a/c in the bedroom, and we rarely turn it on. That said, we're there in the cooler months, so, time of travel does matter.

    If you're traveling in the off season, you won't need reservations, so you can adapt your itinerary as you find places you like and places you don't care as much for.

    Happy planning!

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    Congratulations!! Your plan sounds GREAT - I think Belize and Guatemala combine really well. If you can afford an open jaw ticket I'd fly into Guatemala City (GUA) and out of Belize or Cancun, saving the beachy bits for last.

    In Guatemala a few days in Antigua and some time on Lake Atitlán are in order. It's easy to arrange shuttles between and there are all sorts of lodging options each place.

    You can shuttle to Guatemala City and take a bus (the night ones are popular) to Flores, an hour from Tikal. If you want to break up the trip, Rio Dulce town (Las Fronteras) is about half way and has some interesting jungly places nearby; the boat trip to Livingston (Garifuna town on the coast) and back is beautiful. Do spring for at least 1 night in a hotel in the park at Tikal; my favorite is the Tikal Inn which has a pool: www.tikalinn.com . If you're really lucky, achaeologist Roxy Ortiz will be staying at the Tikal Inn and you could arrange an early morning tour with her; I'm not a guided tour sort of gal but had a phenomenal experience with her.

    You can head to Belize by land and there are lots of good lodging options around San Ignacio. Don't miss the ATM cave trip: http://www.pacztours.net/pages/tours/ATM.html

    Just that area and Caulker might be enough for you but if you have a few days to spare, I'm really fond of Hopkins Village.

    My photos with travelogue and blog links are here (2003, 2007, 2009 trips and Guatemala and/or Belize):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

    Read up - there are detailed recommendations and links to lodging and activity options - and let me know if I can answer more questions. Happy trails!

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    first Congrats!

    second Dec-Mar best for weather

    www.weather2travel.com Climate guide

    Starting in Cancun head for Tulum/Uxmal

    On down to Belize...visit Cayes then

    Placencia has nice beaches snorkeling jungle ruins

    www.robertsgrove.com www.cozycorner-belize.com nice there

    From there Tikal www.jaguatikal.com Atigua Atitlan

    for volcano...www.lacasdelmundo.com nice there

    then on down to Copan/Bay Islands in Honduras

    if you have time..Have done it in a couple of

    months makes a nice journey...Have fun,

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    Thanks for the replies -- so glad to see other people who have been to these places. It's not exactly a destination of choice for Australians, so not even the travel agents around here can offer any help.

    We'll be going mid-June to mid-July. I know it's the rainy season, but we can handle it. Our other destination desire was Nepal, and I reckon monsoon season there (at the same time of year) would be much harder to tolerate.

    Ambergris is definitely a place to look at - I'm just trying to avoid ridiculously touristy areas (past Tulum, that is). I suppose at the beginning of off-peak season it wouldn't be too bad...and like you said, there's always a quick boat trip to a quieter area, if we find it too busy.

    Going this time of the year, does everyone agree that reservations won't be a problem? Or are there more popular areas that will still require an advanced booking?

    I might have a bit of a play with the airfare available - would be so nice to not have to go in a complete circle in order to depart from the same arrival city. We'll be flying to the States from Australia (having weddings in both countries), and then on to CA, but plan on booking them as two separate trips. Maybe purchase the CA tickets as two separate one-way tickets as well?

    Any clue how much we should be budgeting/day/person?

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    You shouldn't have problems with rain upsetting your travel plans. Most rain will be at night, or showers during the day.

    You won't need reservations, unless while doing your research you find a place you feel you 'have' to stay at.

    Don't buy one way air fares, they're ridiculously expensive. On sites that sell airline tickets, there is a 'multi city itinerar' button, sometimes those tickets can be very reasonable. Use a site such at kayak.com and see what you come up with.

    I have such a hard time with daily budgets. On places like Ambergris, you can easily pay US$100.00 for a nice dinner for two, but you can also eat very well from local vendors for US$5.00 per person, sometimes less. I've had absolutely wonderful burritos for US$2.00.

    In Belize, beer is essentially a monopoly, so expensive by Central American standards. We pay US$2.00 a bottle at our favorite beach bar. Local rums drinks run about US$2.50, and there are several happy hour two for one specials.

    You can stay on the beach on Ambergris at Ruby's for somewhere around $40.00US, pretty basic, but I have several friends who stay there every year. Their little 'deli' has awesome cinnamon rolls. There are more cheap options on Caulker, and food is generally cheaper.

    There is little snorkeling from the beach on either Ambergris or Caulker, although there are a couple of small artificial reefs off some of the docks on Ambergris where we've seen lots of fun stuff. A half day trip to the reef by boat is around US$35.00 per person.

    If you meet some other people in your travels, it's fun to hire one of the smaller sale boats, 'El Gato' or 'Rum Punch II' and head to several snorkel spots and over to Caye Caulker for lunch. Last we did this it was US$65.00 per person, included rum punch, beers and sodas all day. (had to pay for lunch on Caulker ourselves)

    Ok, now I'm homesick for Belize.....

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    In our summer visits to Belize the rain has fallen almost exclusively at night; in August 2009 it barely rained at all. In the highlands of Guatemala the mornings are usually gorgeous and the rain often starts in the afternoons, sometimes as early as 1 or 2pm but usually later. I think it's a great time to visit!

    I don't like to make daily budget guesses, either, but I think in Belize you could get by most days on under $100 with comfortable lodging and good food; things like diving and sailing trips will add up but you could also have parts where you stayed in cheaper digs to save up. Easy to live well on half that in most areas of Guatemala.

    We often book ahead (even though you'd find something in the summer if you didn't) because we fall in love with a specific place and the very coolest, best value places do fill up ahead. Happy trails!

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