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Belize or Costa Rica?

Old Mar 30th, 2010, 07:31 AM
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Belize or Costa Rica?

For two older women (world travelers) who have never been to Belize or to Costa Rica and want to spend the 2010 Christmas holidays in one place or the other (about eleven days), which is likely to offer the better experience? We're not into luxury accommodations, but comfortable upper level facilities, preferably with swimming pools or swimming possibilities. We're interested in swimming, snorkeling, boating (sailing, canoeing, kayaking), inshore fishing, and birding. We had in mind dividing the time among three locations.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 09:13 AM
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That's an easy one for me - BELIZE! Although I'm sure it's beautiful or 90% of the visitors to Central America wouldn't flock there, Costa Rica isn't on my wish list because 3 of my travel priorities in CA are powerful, diverse cultural experiences, ancient ruins, and easy access to great diving/snorkeling, not CR strengths. On the other hand, Belize is AMAZING in each category.

I think I'd split between Hopkins (fascinating Garifuna culture, an ocean for swimming, kayaking, etc.), the Cayo district (for great hiking, birding, canoing, and amazing caving plus an overnight visit to Tikal in Guatemala), and Caye Caulker (for a laid back Caribbean vibe, great snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and food).

My photos and travelogues are at the link below if you're interested in checking them out. Please keep us posted!
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 12:35 PM
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We've been to Costa Rica several times and love it. The Manuel Antonio area is really pretty - great beach inside the park and lots of wildlife like monkeys and sloths. Tons of hotel and restaurant choices in the area. The Arenal area is wonderful - an active volcano, big lake, boating to see wildlife on the Cano Negro tour, and you can kayak there as well, natural hot springs like Eco Termales and Tabacon, and a beautiful waterfall where you can swim. If you want something wilder, the Osa is wonderful; we saw toucans and scarlet macaws there amongst other really interesting birds. The Dominical area is popular too. shows a great CR video to give you an idea.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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Tough choice...

CR for me probably better wildlife

volcanoes hot springs adventure cloud forest

Belize wins for better beaches and ruins


my favs there but a little dodgier

not as much variety as CR but

really you will be fine with either...
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 03:07 PM
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"Not as much variety" depends on what you are looking for - in some ways Belize has much more variety than CR. ;-)
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 03:30 PM
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I think if water activities are important, then you'll be happier in Belize. I prefer Ambergris to Caulker, it's way busier, but also has way more options for food, lodging and drinks. Also a much larger island, I love riding bikes on the beach. On the north end of the island, you can go for miles.

The Cayo districts has lots to do and see as well, hiking, caving, ruins, canoeing, kayaking.

We were just in Placencia a couple of weeks ago. Fun little village, we enjoyed our very short stay.

Next on our list, is far southern Belize, the relatively untouristed Toledo district.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 04:23 PM
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Thank you everyone. I'm reading your replies. One thing that I didn't mention at the beginning is that one of us is very adverse (not allergic) to mosquitoes. She has read posts about voracious mosquitoes and doesn't want any part of it.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 07:46 PM
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In coastal and island Belize the sand flies can be bad, too, though in 6-7 weeks in Belize total we've only had part of a minute of bites, thanks at least in part to steady breezes. In the Cayo district bugs aren't usually a problem. On the islands it hasn't been bad for us, either. Where we've had the most trouble with mozzies is in the Cockscomb area and Sittee River Village.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 09:02 PM
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I'd probably go Belize. You could do the snorkeling/water thing and then do the birding thing in an area like Lamanai or Crooked Tree. Belize is probably a better 2-3 day birding area, whereas Costa Rica is better for a solid week of birding.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 05:01 AM
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If water activites are what you're looking for, I'd think Belize would be the better choice. CR is not know for snorkeling, although it does have some nice beaches.

I really enjoyed both countries and would go back to both - but I think you'd like Belize for what you're describing.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 05:30 AM
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Snorkeling is the one thing we haven't found in CR; we've done it, but the visibility wasn't great. If snorkeling is a huge priority, I'd pick Belize, but we still adore CR.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 06:30 AM
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I live in Costa Rica and find it easier to travel from one destination to another than in Belize, but both countries are beautiful and offer the same level of mosquitoes. So much depends on weather, temperature. Just bring repellent and long-sleeved shirts for hiking. Don't let mosquitoes keep you out of the forests. Wherever you go, be sure to choose a lodge that is trying to be sustainable: protecting the environment and helping local communities. Here's a Web site that will help you find the perfect, sustainable lodge: Buen viaje!
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:44 AM
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We haven't found mosquitoes to be much of an issue in Belize, particularly in the winter months. We've found sand flies on the coast and cayes to be more of an issue but that time of year should be breezy and keep them down. Sometimes it can be too windy when a cold front moves in. Weather Nov-Jan can be somewhat unsettled.

Consider a few days at Chan Chich or Lamanai Outpost Lodge or both for birding. Both are excellent with different habitats/birds and sunrise canoeing on the lagoon at Lamanai was one of our favorite activities. Then choose one of the coastal/caye locations for the rest of your time. The atolls and southern cayes have more pristine snorkeling than off of Ambergris/Caulker but less other things to do as these are mostly one resort islands but you may find that to be fine if you just want to snorkel, fish, kayak. The southern coast gets farther and farther away from the reef and isn't as convenient for snorkeling.

If you click on my screenname, I have a trip report from last year and includes Lamanai, Chan Chich and Caye Caulker.

Some place that I haven't been yet but is also on my list that's supposed to be good for birding is the Toledo district in southern Belize.

Happy planning!
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:56 AM
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I loved both CR and Belize (I'm a mozzie hater too and got bitten more in CR) and will say I enjoyed the water activity more in Belize. Spent some time on Ambergris but found it a touch too touristy. REALLY enjoyed Caye Caulker and found plenty of variety in dining and loved the relaxed environment. We stayed at Iguana Reef and it was great!

Here's my Belize trip report:
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 11:08 AM
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I'm still reading and getting lots of ideas that I am checking out. You are an amazing gang. Thank you. ZZ
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