Belize - May 2023 - First Draft Itinerary

Old Aug 15th, 2022, 03:30 PM
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Belize - May 2023 - First Draft Itinerary

We have finally decided - we are going to Belize in May 2023! I am putting together the first draft of our itinerary and looking for input. It will be just my husband and me and we will have 2 weeks. Neither one of us has been to Belize before. We are interested in a good mix of sightseeing and relaxation. We like to do active things, but nothing extreme - hiking, biking, climbing, ziplining, swimming, whatever, but no blackwater rafting or things like that. We are also experts at doing nothing and enjoy that immensely, so we like to make sure that there is time for that. We also like eating local food, drinking local beer, listening to live music, exploring archaeological and other historical sites, visiting galleries and art installations, going to local markets. Overall, we're pretty low key. Both of us speak English and Spanish.

Here is our plan so far:

Saturday: Fly into Belize City, rent a car, drive to Hopkins (4 nights in Hopkins)

Sunday-Tuesday: In Hopkins - chilling out at the beach, exploring the town, doing some sightseeing in the local area. Maybe visit Bocawina national park, Cockscomb wildlife preserve - I'm just starting to compile a list of things to see and do.

Wednesday: Drive to San Ignacio (4 nights in S.I.)

Thursday-Saturday: Sightseeing in and around San Ignacio. On the list are: Cahal Pech and Xunantunich archaeological sites, canoeing in Barton Cave, hikes, etc. Again, just starting to compile a list of things to see and do.

Sunday-Monday: Overnight tour to Tikul (1 night in Tikul, then another night in S.I. before heading to our next destination)

Tuesday-Friday: Undecided where to go for our last area, so I am looking for ideas. We have 4 nights to fill and I'd like to be in another beach/coastal area - just not sure where. I figure we'll have plenty of inland forest and jungle around San Ignacio and on our side trip to Tikul, so it would be nice to round out the trip with more beach - maybe one of the cayes to be a little different. Placencia looks nice too. I'd like an area with good scenery and a good atmosphere for hanging out and relaxing, where we could do something or plenty of nothing.

Saturday: Fly home from Belize City
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Old Aug 15th, 2022, 10:34 PM
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Have you taken a look at Lamanai Outpost Lodge? That's one of our favorite places we've ever been. If you really want beach time, we really enjoyed Ambergris. Hol Chan is excellent for snorkeling.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 05:21 AM
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Hi november_moon,

Your plan looks like fun. I went to Caye Caulker, which you will probably read about in your investigations. I loved the island and appreciated that it was a short water taxi ride from Belize City where Iíd spent a few nights but donít know if I would pick it if what you want is beach. Said to be popular with the backpacker crowd, I really appreciated CC for the exceptional snorkelling reasonably close to the coast and its chill festiveness. There is swimming off the Split which was good to cool off, but beach lovers tend to head elsewhere (like Placencia?).

Other than the phenomenal reefs near Caye Caulker one of the most memorable, life-enriching activities was seeing the howler monkeys at the Baboon Sanctuary near Belize City. If you happen to be in Belize City your last night prior to a flight, may be worth investigating.

Best wishes

Daniel
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 01:40 PM
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Thanks both of you.

Volcanogirl - I had thought about Lamanai Outpost Lodge as a potential place to stay and visit the archeological site there. The package with meals included and a choice of guided activities each day looks fun and relaxing - plenty to do and see, but not a whole lot of decisions to make or logistics to deal with - plus swimming at the waterfront there and plenty of opportunity to sit out and just enjoy the view. If we wanted to add that to out itinerary, I think it might make sense to visit there first, then San Ignacio and Tikul, then go to Hopkins after. We'd basically be trading a beach location for a lake location. Something to think about.

Daniel - I had been looking at Caye Caulker quite a bit. We're not divers or snorkelers, and that seems to be a major draw of the cayes. I've been snorkeling, and it's fun, but I can take it or leave it - honestly, I am just not great managing the whole mask and air tube thing and do better just swimming around. Chill festiveness is right up our alley though. We aren't really party people, but we like a good festive atmosphere. I read about the Baboon Sanctuary - I'll look into that more.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 06:33 PM
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Your itinerary looks great, and two weeks is a nice, long time to get to know some different regions of the country.

May is the hottest month of the year. (I was just in Belize this past May.) It's certainly doable, but be prepared for the heat and humidity.

I would do Hopkins or Placencia, but not both. You say "explore the town" in reference to Hopkins. The town itself doesn't offer much to explore. It's a grid of streets where most of the budget places are. The nicer lodgings string along the beach south of town. So, time in Hopkins is a matter of enjoying the beach and enjoying a great dining scene. (Chef Rob's is one of the top restaurants in the country, and I like Driftwood [in town] for its pizza. There are many other good dining spots too. You won't go hungry.) Then partake of the area offerings. Hopkins is the closest town to Cockscomb, and I think that's a must-see if you're in that part of the country. You'll probably get more out of a visit to the reserve with a guide. Anyone in Hopkins can fix you up.

San Ignacio is a splendid place. I love it. You won't lack for things to do in and around San Ignacio, and "exploring the town" is an option there. Your challenge will be to pick and choose from all there is to do.

Pssst. It's Tikal, with an A.
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Old Aug 17th, 2022, 04:34 AM
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Yes we loved the guided activities at Lamanai. The ruins are literally right next door, and we had them all to ourselves. Also saw howler monkeys very close every day, did a night cruise, etc. It's located on a river, not a lake. There are crocs in the river so probably not great for swimming.
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Old Aug 17th, 2022, 07:55 AM
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Jeff - For time of year, I am trying to avoid the high prices of high season, but not be too far into the rainy season, which is why I picked May. Do you think June would be better - I think it would be rainier, but maybe not as hot? We are pretty open for time of year that we can travel, but this coming year it just needs to be April or later, and Easter is in April, so prices are pretty high then. Regarding Hopkins, I didn't expect that exploring the town of Hopkins would take very long - and I envision is to be a bit of general wandering, buying fruit from a fruit stand and going to eat it on the beach, finding a bar or restaurant and having a beer and a snack, wandering around some more... we are very easily entertained.

Volcanogirl - Yes, river rather than lake. Either way, it is nice to be on the water. Some of the photos showed people swimming, so that's where I got the idea, but maybe those people were flirting with death
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Old Aug 17th, 2022, 08:46 AM
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No, no. Go in May. It'll be hot, but it'll be fine. Prices and visitor numbers will drop dramatically the first of May. The rainy season won't really have kicked in, and (here's a plus) neither will hurricane season.

What you've described is the perfect way to explore Hopkins.

Also in Hopkins is GariMaya, easily the biggest souvenir outlet in the south. They have a good selection of quality arts and crafts and t-shirts. It sits at the southern entrance of the village. The building is huge; you can't miss it.
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Old Aug 17th, 2022, 09:56 AM
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Haha yes, those people were up for some adventure. They actually had crocodile tagging when we were there; you could go out and help with a research study on the crocs.
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Old Aug 18th, 2022, 09:58 AM
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Glad to know that May is an ok time to go for what we are looking for. I had thought about fall time frame - after the rainy season - but figured that since hurricane season seems to be expanding and that at the end of the rainy season, roads are likely to be in worse shape than at the beginning, May was probably a good time.

volcanogirl - when you went to Lamanai Outpost, did you drive in or take the transfer that is offered as part of the package? We are leaning toward renting a car for this trip and I am considering whether we should rent a car from the beginning and drive to Lamanai Outpost, or if we should take the transfer that's offered as part of the package and get a car after we leave Lamanai.
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Old Aug 19th, 2022, 12:07 AM
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We came in via riverboat - we really enjoyed that. All the activities are right near the lodge, so we didn't need a car while we were there.
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Old Sep 7th, 2022, 07:52 AM
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Here are some hidden gems in the Cayo (San Ignacio) area:
  • The Belize Raptor Center is on the Macal river just outside of San Ignacio. It's free (a non-profit that accepts donations)
  • Two Maya Cooking Experiences that include the meal (5 min & 15 min drives from San Ignacio) You would pass both on your way to Mountain Pine Ridge
  • You can visit Oxmul Coffee. (in San Antonio). They grow, harvest, dry, roast and sell their coffee onsite. Tours are @ $25 U.S. per person and include a free cup of coffee. Also on the way to Mountain Pine Ridge
  • Iguana Conservation Project at San Ignacio Hotel. Super fun, where you can hold iguanas, and baby iguanas can crawl on you!
  • Hands-on Chocolate Demonstrations in San Ignacio. They also offer a cocao farm tour if booked in advance.
  • There is a cave tour in a canoe with no hiking or swimming involved. It is dark with just headlamps. That would be Barton Creek Cave.
  • Jungle Pontoon Water Adventure (45 min drive from San Ignacio), that takes you to 5 different waterfalls (involves some walking to at least one of the waterfalls).
  • Mountain Pine Ridge (FREE) - specifically .....
    • Big Rock Falls
    • Rio On Pools (15 min beyond Big Rock Falls)
    • Rio Frio Cave (15 mins beyond Rio On Pools)
  • Several butterfly farms near San Ignacio
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Old Sep 12th, 2022, 05:16 AM
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We enjoy Toledo District in the south but as you'll have plenty of mainland time, I think one of the northern cayes or an atoll would be a good choice. That calculus is partly budget - the atolls are more expensive in general - and also whether or not you want a town where you're going as opposed to a more isolated experience. We prefer Caye Caulker to Ambergris Caye - more laid back, a cute town without so many dang golf carts as San Pedro.

We made our 9th visit to Belize in March/April this year. My photos with blog links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there. Happy trails!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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