BELIZE was a port of call on one of our ROYAL CARIBBEAN cruises, the Western Caribbean itinerary. With such a shallow harbour, making for some of the best and most beautiful beaches in the world … the ship stayed out in one time-zone while we tendered ashore into a different time-zone. That in itself made for an interesting day onland.
Of course, upon entry to the port (typical of any cruise port) you’re consumed in the world of tourist-haven where you can find any and everything your heart desires … and for those deeper desires, you simply have to head back a few streets into the REAL city-scape.
There have been plenty of claims of the country (BELIZE) and city (BELIZE CITY) being “crime-ridden”, over-run by drug cartels, under military curfews, and even some governmental “confusion” when it comes to exact borders. It “is” a city of gangs, prostitution, and unrest – typical of any other “3rd-world” country but there are SAFE ZONES, just like any major metropolitan city in the “modern” world.
… don’t let that stop you
Like any foreign country you explore to, there are issues you have to suddenly become more atuned to. I have family and friends who love going to Cuba, and I tell them the same three things …
- never travel alone, always in groups
- never travel at night
- stay close to your resort
Even though Belize is such a small and poor country, some major brand resorts have taken anchor here. Inside the confines of these resort walls your vacation goes on like any other. You lay by the pool, you eat in fine restaurants, are catered to by OVER polite staff and in general it can be the dream vacation you always wanted, especially since the majority of these resorts are right on some of the best beaches in the world. You can even “extend” you vacation BEYOND the beaches by staying in one of the many signature ocean cabana resorts or boutique hotels where your accommodations are beyond the reaches of sand surrounded by the clearest of turqouise waters of the south Atlantic Ocean.
… maya still lives
Scattered throughout the countryside of Belize are numerous sites of Mayan Ruins. One of the more popular and easily accessible sites is the Mayan City of Altun Ha.
We ventured aboard a skiff with sixteen (16) other individuals, spotting numerous manatee at the mouth of the Belize River for an hour long journey into the rain forest. While our guides enthusiastically monitored for crocodiles, we were entertained by the screeching holler-monkeys howling from distances up to a mile away. Eventually, we pulled ashore for a quick lunch at the Iguana Stop Cafe.
As one would assume with the abundant population of Iguana (some measuring up to 4′ in length) — road kill takes on a different definition than from home … but, they say it tastes just like chicken! We opted for the Taco’s and Ceviche with a side of the traditional dish – rice and beans. About the only thing that was not normal for lunch was the uninvited guest, an eight (8) foot snake slithering above us in the weaves of palm leaves that created the roof of the cafe outdoor pavilion.
MOST tours come with an air-conditioned coach/bus, though smaller groups do travel in a typical van from point A to point B. No matter when you travel to Belize, air-conditioning IS A MUST. Remember, you ARE in the southern tropics and weather here is VERY unpredictable. Typical HURRICANE SEASON has storms generating June though November, followed by their dry season until April. Typical temperatures range anywhere from a very rare 16C/60F – 30C/86F.
I know, most people never consider a place “worse than home” when considering a vacation. But I have to admit … I believe, BELIZE is a place I will go back to. ■