Tell me about Belize....

Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 06:12 PM
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Tell me about Belize....

My wife and I are planning our first-ever trip to Central America and Belize for next Marh (2010) and were wondering if there are any thoughts on visiting the country.

What are the must-sees and must-dos? What are the absolutely don'ts?

We are planning on staying at a rental house in Dandriga. Is that a good move or not?

Renting a car and driving in Belize. What are the main concerns? Tips?

Any other things you might want to include will be of help. Thanks
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 08:18 PM
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I can't imagine anything more exciting and unique than visiting the ATM cave in the Cayo District and Tikal. These were truly the highlights of our trip last month, along with some excellent snorkeling off Ambergris. We typically drive in Costa Rica and Panama and I wouldn't hesitate to do it in Belize, but perhaps not over near the Guatemalan border.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 09:32 PM
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If you're staying near then Dangriga then you'll have easy access to the cayes, as well as the Cockscomb basin, and slightly longer trips to, say, Caracol for a great Maya site, and the Toledo District for jungly-trips. Dangriga (like the Toledo District) seems to be all too often overlooked - it's not a traditional tourist destination, but should give you a great flavour of the real Belize.

In terms of driving, then drive cautiously (Belize has a fair few road traffic accidents) and remember to pull over to the hard shoulder when turning left across traffic, until you have clear passage. Also watch out for the several speed bumps on the Hummingbird Highway to Dangriga, entering and leaving villages, and before and after bridges.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 06:33 AM
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Nearly all rental car companies do not allow you to drive their cars in Guatemala when rented in Belize.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 07:13 AM
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Dangriga is a small town which we did the drive through in 2007. I don't remember any thing touristy about it. That can be good and bad. It is in the heart of orange country so drink lots of orange juice and eat lots of bananas. There the best when so fresh. It is central and easy access to the Hummingbird highway. Basically Belize has 2 paved roads, one east to west and one north to south. I would really recommend you rent a truck or SUV if you decide to go anywhere. The road to areas like Hopkins( not my favourite place becuase of the masssive sand fly bites we received), Placenca, Caracol and Barton Caves are all dirt and subject to weather conditions. Some of our fire roads or quad trails are better. I would highly recommend Carocol as it is most amazing, the Rio Frio pools are always good for a dip after the day in Caracol. The Rio Frio Caves are very big and would take about an hour of your time to see before Caracol just remember to check in at the army base as it is on their land or some nice soldiers with machine guns will ask you nicely to do that next time you visit.( I have experience in this) Swimming at the BIG ROCK is very nice as is 5 Sisters which is on the same river. Big Rock is secluded and free you just have a little climb down to the river. 5 Sisters resort may make you pay especially if you use their tram to get to the river. Tikal is even better if you want to see a very large site(1.5- 2 days)We have seen most of the Mayan ruins in the region but next year will travel to a few more sites, hopefully Mirador if I convince my wife to take a 2 day donkey ride or find a good deal on a helicopter tour. My wife and I have thought about renting a house in Belize instead of buying and using it as a centre location. We would do several overnight trips. Caye Caulker is a small island and very inexpensive compared to her sister Ambergris Caye(Caye is pronounced "Key") Placencia is a very nice little town with an awesome ice cream store, everytime we walked past it we got an ice cream sometime 4 times a day. Beaches here are not that great however a boat trip out to Laughing Bird Caye is a great way to spent a day snorkling and sunning on a sandy beach. Another easy to reach Mayan ruin is Laminai, the boat ride down the Laminai river is wonderful, the ruins are not a spectacular as others but each ruins is different and important in its own way. The Howler Monkey sanctuary is also a good way to pass a day. And like the other guys said watch out for those speed bumps usually near a bus stop, I have hit quit a few going full out or hitting the brakes at the last minute to the amusement of the people waiting for the bus. Have a great time and wave to us when you see us as we will be down from the middle of Feb. to the middle to end of March next year.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 10:11 AM
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So, if you can't drive into Guatemala, how do you get there? I suppose public transportation of some kind?

Is there any America down there? By that , I mean, chain restaurants, motels, etc.? Not that that's important, but I don't want to starve. I don't mind trying some of the local quisine, but I also want something to fall back on just in case....

I realize that's a stupid question, but don't berate me too much.

We are going to be staying at a private residence we have rented, so I guess we could get groceries and cook at home. That would be OK, too.

So driving conditions are rough at best? With only two roads, it must be hard to get lost? GPS does no good?

Thanks and keep the replies coming.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 11:39 AM
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All I know of in the way of American franchises are a Radisson and a Best Western in Belize City. Someone said there used to be a Subway, but, I heard it was closed.

My husband says when the first McDonald's comes our place in Belize goes up for sale.

I'm just curious how you chose Dangriga as your first trip to Central America. I've not spent any real time there, just walked around a bit after coming back to the mainland from Tobacco Caye. There really doesn't seem to be much there for the average tourist.

Back to food, the local food in Belize is very good. Lots of basic rice and beans with stewed chicken. Fresh fish, shrimp. Lots of burritos and such, but don't expect the types/amount of cheese that you get in the US.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 01:02 PM
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Don't really like cheese that much. That's not a bad thing.

Actually, wasn't knowing where we could go, received an e-mail about Belize and started looking into it. The flights right now are pretty high, but maybe will come down a bit.

I checked Craig's list for houses for rent in Belize and there you have it. I don't really know what's there, but we want a private residence with some essentials of every-day living, washer/dryer, kitchen, private bathroom, etc.

I have been offered a good deal to stay in Dangriga, which is still along the ocean. That's a good thing.

Any other info would be appreciated.

Thanks
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 04:33 PM
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Can you let us know how long you will be there? That will help us help you form an itinerary. The highways are good, but to get to any of the "sights", you will drive on bumpy dirt roads. I don't think it's very easy to get lost. GPS might be a fun toy, but probably not necessary, and one more thing to pack and keep an eye on. No chain restos, thankfully, but lots of fresh food and all the touristy places have American-style food available. My only disappointment with Belize is that it's almost too easy-people speak English and the tourist track is well developed.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 06:10 AM
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Dangriga is on the coast, but I didn't see any beach when we were coming and going from there to Tobacco Caye. If a beach is important, you should ask the right questions before you book.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 07:53 AM
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I guess I'll stick in my 2 cents' worth. SusanSDG is right, my recommendations would certainly be different if you have a week as opposed to 2 weeks or a month. Also, we'd need to know more about what interests you (hiking, hammocking, ruins, villages, shopping, fishing, diving, sailing, snorkeling, caving, rappelling, jungle, art, etc.) and your general budget level to make more specific recommendations. In general I'd say split your trip between inland activities (I like to do that part 1st) and blue water time, either on the coast or on an island. Tikal, a few hours over the border in Guatemala is worth at least 1 night (though it's possible to cram it into a long day trip if you don't mind heat and crowds). The area around San Ignacio is popular as are Ambergris Caye (maybe a good pick for you since it's the most developed?) and Caye Caulker in the north. The outer atolls provide incredible diving and fishing but tend to be more expensive and are a bit tougher to get to.

Frankly, Dangriga isn't a town I'd choose - we were only there for an hour or 2 enroute to the airport there and that was plenty for us. It's interesting but awfully gritty and not the most picturesque place. We spent nearly a month in Belize in 2003 as a family and are heading back this summer to a few favorites from that trip and to some places we missed the 1st time around.

Please give us more information if you're wanting more specific help. My photos and travelogue are linked below in case you'd like to check them out. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 03:17 PM
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Unfortunately, we have only a week. That is all we get on our vacation that time of year.

We would like to see some ruins, villages, shopping. Not into the water stuff (I know that sounds stupid), but neither of us can swim a lick, although we would like to be close to a beach. Caving sounds interesting, have been to numerous caves in North America. Even the jungle sounds like it would be an adventure.

As for budget, we're far from being the Rockefellers, meaning we have more of a beer budget. Hopefully, there will be some things for us to do.

If you can give us some ideas, that beats nothing at all.

Would perhaps like to do some of this in another country--Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc. But I've read on here that travelling in a rental car to another country might not be allowed.

Any hints on itenerary would be magnificent. You guys have been there, done that. You know what can be done and what cannot.

Thanks
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 03:55 PM
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I may be mistaken but I thought that most of the Belizean coast is mangrove wetlands - eg, no beach, and little water access. So, if you want to be near the water, Dangriga may be geographically near it, but you may not be able to enjoy it.

here's some info on Dangriga - you may have already seen it:

http://www.stanncreek.com/attract_dangriga.html

http://www.belize-vacation.com/belize/dangriga.htm

http://worldstogethertravel.com/beli...r-dangriga.htm

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/belize/s...elize/dangriga

also do a search here for more info:

http://www.belizeforum.com/belize/
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 04:41 PM
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There are beaches in Dangriga, just not good beaches, but that can be said about much of Belize.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 06:06 PM
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Even with a week, I'd split your trip. Fly into Belize City, either take the bus or arrange a transfer to San Ignacio.

Lots of reasonable places to stay, good restaurants, other travelers, and several options for tours.

If you happen to be there on a Saturday, the local market is fascinating.

Then, make your way to a beach destination. Ambergris, Caulker, Hopkins, or Placencia.

Go to your local libary or book store and get a couple of guide books. Do some reading, see where sounds like the best fit.

Belize is easy since it's English speaking, but you will certainly know you aren't in the States.

I do swim, but not well, can easily spend weeks just walking the beach and not get in the water.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 08:10 PM
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As Jean says I'd head to the San Ignacio area. Here are 2 of my favorite places there:

The Trek Stop www.thetrekstop.com ($24 to $38 double)
Great budget place, nice cabins, really helpful, friendly owners, Judy, John, and Tino, who will help with tours. You can hike to the ruins of Xunantunich from there or visit Tikal in Guatemala as a day trip (long, hot, crowds) or an overnighter (much nicer). You can shop in the village and cook your meals in the share kitchen or eat at the little restaurant.

The ATM cave http://www.pacztours.net/pages/tours/ATM.html is easy to connect with from there, or consider Chechem Ha if you're not up to the ATM level of adventure.
___________

Macal River Jungle Camp www.belizecamp.com ($55/person/night that includes dinner and breakfast)
Wonderful jungle setting on the Macal River - we saw parrots, toucans, aracaris, motmots and iguanas from our hammocks. Sweet tent cabins and delicious food served in an open air palapa and the camp host, Dolcio is wonderful.

It's not right on the bus or taxi lines so a bit more challenging (or expensive) to connect with tours but not much. It's the jungly cousin of Chaa Creek www.chaacreek.com which is a very nice place nearby and you can use the pool, internet, butterfly house, tours, etc. at CC if you stay at MRJC.
______________

So stay 3 or 4 nights (with an overnight to Tikal?), then head to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker (less developed, generally cheaper, beaches not as nice) for the last 2 or 3 nights before heading home. That's my 2 cents' worth.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 08:16 PM
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In addition to the travelogue linked with my trip pictures in my 1st post, there are Tikal photos in the Guatemala 2007 collection. You might also want to follow this thread on the Thorntree Forum if my itinerary sounds interesting to you. It's written by a mom who stayed on Caulker and at MRJC recently, then headed to Tikal and other points in Guatemala:
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...52806#15652806

Keep us posted!
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Old Apr 27th, 2009, 05:21 PM
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For us, we would have had a hard time finding a better itinerary than the one we had. We started out on Ambergris, 3 nights (selected Ramon's, enjoyed being right in town with a nice little beach in front of the hotel). We finished up with 4 nights at Chaa Creek. We thought it all just about perfect.

Ambergris--2 full days; husband fished reefs one morning, we rented bicycles and rode in the afternoon. Next day we did the Hol Chan/Shark Ray Alley combo snorkeling trip, rested in the afternoon.

Chaa Creek--3 full days;
day 1--ATM cave tour--phenomenal!
day 2--Tikal (it wasn't too hot, dusty, or crowded--great day)
day 3--canoeing in the a.m., spa in the afternoon, relaxed all day

Transportation: Flew into BZE, hopped Tropical Air flight to Ambergris Caye (local air booked by Ramon's); flew Tropic Air back to municipal airport (different airport closer to bus station), took taxi to bus station (10 min), grabbed bus to San Ignacio (2.5 hours), followed by 15 min. taxi ride to Chaa Creek.

As for hopefulist's remarks--I wouldn't hesitate to stay at MRJC for the discounted rate. It looked like a lot of fun. We enjoyed the little bit of luxury Chaa Creek offered at the end of our trip. Next time, we'd choose to break the bank a little less. But we did have a fabulous time!
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Old Apr 28th, 2009, 06:30 AM
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I've been to Belize 3 times and shillmacs itinerary seems about right although a week does seem short and ambitious.
A must is Ambergris Caye. Great snorkeling, great restaurants and great people.
Ambergris Caye has a fun little nightlife and access to many day trips.
My favorite place to stay is just a bit out of town. Check out Xanadu. Beautiful little condos with kitchen right on a pretty spot of beach. It's not too far out of town. And besides, we rented a golf cart for the week and my son and I enjoyed our rides into town. I recommend getting a golf cart and zipping around as it's part of the experience.
Don't forget to go to the chicken drop. That's a total hoot! (Sorry, I'm blanking on the name of the bar, but everyone on the island knows about it. Just ask) Nice for a For snorkeling, ask for Alfonso.
He'll take you into shark alley and even show you how to hug a shark!
From Ambergris we also took a cave tubing/zip line day trip. Do not miss out on cave tubing as this was a total hoot and unique experience. You can do this from up North as well.
As far as going to Tikal, we stayed in Flores, Guatemala for 4 days then went Ambergris Caye. I enjoyed this as I got more of a taste of Guatemala and didn't feel so shuttled in and out of Tikal. Actually, we hired a private guide to take us to Tikal and were able to go at our own pace. It's an absolutely spectacular place, so why rush? We also visited Yasha (I'm spelling that wrong) Overall, I felt it was a more enriching experience and I enjoyed walking around Flores.
Good luck on your travel plans.
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Old Apr 28th, 2009, 10:09 AM
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Try to be a little realistic folks. We have a beer budget, not a caviar budget. I know it's asking a lot, but please keep that in mind.

I appreciate all the input, but some of this seems to be completely out of our budget. How much are flights from Belize City to Ambergris Caye?

We don't go in the water, except maybe a cruise, but even that's a bit of a question.

I will read anybody's ideas, but please keep in mind our budget, although not a shoestring, might not be much bigger than that.

Thanks and keep sending replies.
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