If You Like …
Deluxe duvets. 1,200-thread-count sheets. Your own villa on a private island or a jungle hideaway with fine wines and gourmet dinners. You may be traipsing around Mayan ruins or diving the Blue Hole during the day, but at night you can look forward to pampering at Belize's luxury jungle lodges and beach resorts.
Azul Resort, North Ambergris Caye. It's all top-of-the-line at this hip and exclusive beach resort. Kick back with a frozen mojito at the Rojo Lounge and Market. Blancaneaux Lodge, Mountain Pine Ridge. Francis Ford Coppola's riverside jungle lodge hints of Beverly Hills. Caye Chapel Island Resort, Caye Chapel. Super-size beach villas sit next to a challenging seaside 18-hole golf course on a private island. Cayo Espanto, near Ambergris Caye. Really want to splurge? A stay on this small, private island will cost you, but you'll have your own butler, chef, and gorgeous views of the sea. Inn at Robert's Grove, Placencia. Imported steaks, a wine cellar, tennis, and hot tubs on the roof—who needs Hilton Head? The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Cayo. Soak up the carefully tended landscaping, deluxe garden suites, spa, Cuban cigars, and expensive cognac. Turtle Inn, Placencia. Francis Ford Coppola hand-picked the Balinese furniture and art in these thatch cabañas, but that's not even the best part. Just wait until you see the garden showers. Victoria House, San Pedro. Two beautiful pools, an excellent restaurant, and some of the best service in Belize await you at this stylishly barefoot resort south of town.
Some of the world's most exciting sport fishing lies off Belize's coast and cayes. Go for the "grand slam" of tarpon, bonefish, permit, and snook on the shallow flats between the mainland and the reef. Sailfish, wahoo, marlin, and barracuda abound farther out to sea. Several specialty resorts and fishing camps, such as Turneffe Flats and El Pescador, cater to the angler, but most hotels can help you organize excellent fishing trips.
Ambergris Caye. There's surprisingly good saltwater fishing on the northern cayes—look for bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Glover's Atoll. Shallow tidal flats around the atoll make for plenty of bonefish; there's also permit, jack, and barracuda. Placencia. If you don't want to pay the big bucks that the resorts charge farther north, head here. Budget hotels start around BZ$50 a night. Permit's the number one catch inside the reef, or cast a line in the lagoon or the deep sea beyond the reef. Punta Gorda. If you're serious about fishing, this is the place to be. There's world-famous permit fishing. Turneffe Atoll. Bonefish, tarpon, permit, snappers, jacks, barracuda, wahoo, dorado, and billfish all ply the waters.
One of the most exciting ways to tour Belize is to head underground—there are hundreds of caves all over the country. You can canoe down subterranean rivers in some, ducking under low-hanging rock stalactites while keeping your eyes trained for Mayan artifacts. The easiest caves to visit are in the Cayo; you don't need a guide to visit open caverns such as Rio Frio and St. Herman's. Before you head out to cave, make sure to find out if it's open to the public, if you need a guide, and, if the cave has a river, if the water level is low enough for visitors.
Actun Tunichil Muknal. Go here for amazing limestone formations, many undisturbed Mayan artifacts, and calcified human remains. It's the top caving experience in Belize. Barton Creek Cave. Canoe about a mile on an underground river through Barton Cave, which has some Mayan artifacts and skeletal remains. Caves Branch Caves. The Caves Branch River cave system has become a popular place for cave tubing. Che Chem Ha. This cave, once used by the Maya for grain storage and ceremonial rituals, is on private land about 25 minutes from San Ignacio in the Vaca Plateau. Rio Frio Cave. Though it's more a natural tunnel than a cave, it's still worth a visit for its large entryway and path above the Cold River.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Don your scuba or snorkeling gear and soak up the cast of aquatic characters offshore and around the Barrier Reef. One moment you may come upon an enormous spotted eagle ray; the next you may find the feisty little damselfish, a bolt of blue no bigger than your little finger. Bloated blowfish hover in their holes; barracuda patrol the depths; and queen angelfish shimmy through the water with puckered lips and haughty self-assurance. Graceful sea fans and great chunks of staghorn coral add to the exhilarating underwater experience.
Blue Hole. The underwater sinkhole, one of the most famous dives in Belize, forms a perfectly round, deep blue circle. Glover's Reef. This is probably the least visited yet arguably most pristine dive and snorkel area in Belize. You can see nurse sharks, and manta rays, and go wreck diving. Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Snorkel with nurse sharks and stingrays at Shark-Ray Alley and keep your eyes peeled for moray eels in the reserve. Sapodilla Cayes. Fringe reefs and patch reefs in shallow water around the cayes support tropical fish like spadefish and parrot fish. South Water Caye. If you want to shore snorkel, come here. The beach is sandy, and the island is one of Belize's most beautiful. Turneffe Islands. Mangroves line a shallow lagoon, creating a rich nursery for sea life where snorkelers and divers alike can see reef sharks, dolphins, eagle rays, moray eels, and turtles.
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