Bruno Kuppinger Tours. Among other things, Bruno Kuppinger specializes in adventure tours, most definitely not for couch potatoes, including the Maya Divide hiking trip and trips to Doyle's Delight, the highest peak in Belize. Sun Creek Lodge, Off Mile 86, Southern Hwy., San Marcos, Toledo. 604/2124. www.suncreeklodge.de.
Toledo Tour Guides Association. Members of the Toledo Tour Guides Association must be Belizean citizens, go through a training course, and pass a government tour guide test. These accredited guides work for local hotels and tour operators, as well as independently. The Association is based at the Visitor Information Centre at BTIA (Belize Tourism Industry Association). 46 Front St., Punta Gorda, Toledo. 637/2000.
Boating, Fishing, and Sailing
Blue Belize Tours and Charters. Blue Belize Tours and Charters, run by fishing and tour guide Dan Castellanos, can arrange sea and inland tours and trips. Full-day fishing tours run around BZ$610 for two persons, with additional guests around BZ$50 each. Prices include boat, guide, taxes, marine reserve fees, lunch, snacks, and drinks. 139 Front St., Punta Gorda, Toledo. 722/2678. www.bluebelize.com.
Garbutt's Marine. Garbutts Marine on Joe Taylor Creek offers dependable snorkeling and dive trips to the Snake and Sapodilla cayes and to Port Honduras Marine Reserve, along with fishing trips. Garbutts also has cabins to rent. Joe Taylor Creek, Punta Gorda, Toledo. 722/0070 or 604/3584. www.garbuttsfishinglodge.com.
Cultural Tours and Homestays
A few programs offer the chance to live with the modern-day Maya or Garífuna at a homestay or village guesthouse program. You can also spend several days learning how to process cacao or learning to cook Belizean—including Mayan—recipes. Cotton Tree Lodge has a chocolate making program in connection with Sustainable Harvest International (www.sustainableharvest.org), which teaches farmers to grow food on a sustainable basis. Belcampo Lodge has programs for guests on making chocolate, rum, jams and jellies, and coffee.
Homestay and village guesthouse programs are in Toledo District near Punta Gorda. They are very inexpensive, but keep in mind that accommodations and meals are extremely basic; lodging usually lacks electricity and running water. If you’d rather invest less time but still enjoy a Mayan village learning experience, try a day of learning about Mayan crafts, cuisine, and culture in the village of Big Falls, through the Living Maya Experience. To learn more about the Garífuna culture, investigate the Warasa Garífuna Drum School, which approaches the Garífuna experience through drumming, drum making, and dance.
Barranco Village Tour. For a tour of the Garífuna village of Barranco, where famed Belize musician Andy Palacio was born and now is buried, check with tour guide Alvin Loredo, reachable by the community telephone in the Barranco. Two-hour tours of the little village (population has now dropped to under 200) include Palacio's burial site, a visit to the Garífuna dabuyaba temple, the tiny House of Culture museum, and a lunch of Garífuna food. Cost is around BZ$15, including admission to the House of Culture but not lunch. You'll have to get to Barranco on your own, by rental car, taxi, boat, or tour. You can combine a tour of Barranco with a visit to to the nearby 42,000-acre Temash-Sarstoon Wildlife Sanctuary Barranco, Toledo. Drive on the Southern Highway north to Jacintoville; turn west on the dirt road via San Felipe and Santa Ana to Barranco and go 9 mi (15 km). Figure a little over an hour from Punta Gorda, depending on road conditions. 709/2010 Barranco community telephone.
Cotton Tree Lodge. In Toledo, Cotton Tree Lodge's Chocolate Week program, held on two different weeks in the spring, lets you "work your way through the entire practical process from scratch, starting with the cacao fruit on the tree and ending with the chocolate in your mouth." Moho River, San Felipe, Toledo. 670/0557; 866/480-4534 in U.S. www.cottontreelodge.com..
German Sho. German Sho runs a homestay program in Nah Luum Cah Mopan village. The accommodations are extremely simple—you may share a room with the family in a small thatch building with dirt floor. Na Luum Ca, Toledo. 664/9419. email@example.com.
Learn about Kek'chi crafts, culture, and cuisine in an hands-on private experience in the homes of participating villages in Big Falls. You could be involved in anything from building a traditional thatch house to making corn tortillas. Call in advance for what's available, times, and charges, or ask at your hotel or the BTIA Visitor Information Centre in Punta Gorda to help arrange the Living Maya trip. Any non-express James Line bus will drop you off and pick you up at at Big Falls village (watch for Las Faldes restaurant on the Southern Highway) near the Living Maya Experience homes. Costs vary depending on which learning experiences you choose and the length of them, but most are under BZ$40.
Maya Center Women's Group. Homestays at Maya Center at the entrance to the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary can be arranged through the Maya Center Women's Group, a group of about 50 Mopan women who have banded together to sell handicrafts. Two people pay a total of BZ$82 a day, including lodging and meals, plus a one-time BZ$20 registration fee. Southern Hwy., Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary, Stann Creek. 603/9256.
Toledo Cacao Growers Association. During the Chocolate Festival in May, and by advance arrangement at other times, the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA), which represents more than 1,100 small organic cacao growers in southern Belize, offers tours of working cacao farms. Main St., Punta Gorda, Toledo. 722/2992. www.tcgabelize.com.
Toledo Ecotourism Association (T.E.A.). The T.E.A. program allows visitors to participate in the village life of the Maya while maintaining some personal privacy. You stay in small guesthouses in one of nine Mopan and Kek'chi Mayan villages in Toledo District, including San Antonio, San Miguel, and Blue Creek. Barranco, a predominantly Garífuna village, also has a guesthouse. The guesthouses are very simple, with traditional thatch roofs and outdoor latrines. There is no running water or electricity in the guesthouses. You take meals in the homes of villagers and participate in the routines of village life. The program, endorsed by the Belize Tourism Board, is a collective owned by more than 200 members and is designed to promote cultural exchange. The cost is around BZ$84 a day for two, including meals. 722/2531. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experience Garifuna culture through drumming, drum making, and dance. Ray McDonald gives private lessons in a thatch house in the Garifuna community of PG, with lessons starting at BZ$25 an hour. Call to arrange lessons or demonstrations, or you can do so through your hotel or the BTIA Visitor Information Centre on Front Street in PG.
Multisport and Adventure
Big Falls Extreme Adventures offers ziplining, river tubing, and hiking. Ziplining and river tubing are BZ$80 each, and if you do both the combination rate is BZ$100. Food is available at Las Faldas restaurant; lunch is BZ$20.
Romero's Charter and Tours. Romero's Charters and Tours, although not a tour operator, has a driver service with vans and other vehicles that can take you to any of the inland destinations. Forest Home, Toledo. 722/2625. email@example.com.
TIDE Tours. TIDE Tours, a subsidiary of the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, a nonprofit organization promoting ecotourism in Toledo, does not itself run tours but instead acts as a clearinghouse for several good tour operators. It can arrange fishing, kayaking, snorkeling to the Sapodilla and Snake cayes, as well as cultural tours, caving, and trips to Mayan ruins. Full-day snorkeling trips cost around BZ$160 per person for four persons, plus 12.5% tax and BZ$10 per person marine reserve entry fee. The cost includes lunch and snorkel equipment. 41 Front St., Punta Gorda, Toledo. 722/2129. www.tidetours.org.
Seeing the Ruins
Tour operators in Punta Gorda and nearby focus on trips by road to the ruins of Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit, and, less commonly, Pusilha. These tours usually include visits to modern Mayan villages near Punta Gorda.